Waking up in Inverness on a Sunday morning after a night at the Market Bar and I was feeling a little but worse for wear. I had prebooked a night at the Crask Inn for the Monday evening and I knew that today was going to be a shorter day. I planned to reach the town of Tain which was around 45 miles away and teh route involved a short crossing on the Cromarty Ferry.
Regardless of how short the day was going to be, it was still going to be tough!
I consumed my first McDondalds of the journey and headed off on NCN Route 1 towards the Kessock Bridge which would take me over the Beauly Firth. There was a diversion in place due to works on the bridge which meant I cycled around the Caledonian Stadium, home of Inverness Caledonian Thistle. This was only the third professional football ground I had passed over the last couple of weeks which was surprising.
After riding over the Forth Road Bridge the Kessock Bridge was a lot easier and before I knew it I was over the bridge and on to the Black Isle. I left NCN 1 which takes a more southerly route across the peninsula and after about six or 7 miles of steady climbing I was met with spectacular views across the Cromarty Firth.
Today was a relatively easy day however the wind was still strong and hitting me from the side. Cycling along the north side of the Black Isle meant that I did have some shelter.
Cycling Past the Oil Rigs and Gas Platforms on the Cromarty Firth
As a cycled towards Cromarty to catch the ferry I was met with a spectacular site. The Cromarty Firth is home to a number of old Oil Rigs and Gas Platforms. They are stored here due to the sheltered position and offer a great insight in to how big they are.
I was soon in Cromarty and had only a short while to wait for the next ferry, I grabbed a coffee from Slaughterhouse Coffee. A number of people were waiting for the ferry and it was then I noticed two american men on bikes.
Doing my usual thing and making conversation with anyone that looks remotely like they are cycle touring, it turned out they were also cycling Lands End to John O’Groats.
The two men were touring and and were taking their time to see as much of the UK as possible. Again it was great to hear another cyclists story. The ferry was soon docking on the slip way and we all clambered aboard. The ferry resembles a military landing craft with a huge metal drawbridge at the front.
The Cromarty Ferry and NCN Route 1 on the Black Isle
We set off across the Cromarty Firth and the sea was rough, the boat bobbed up and down as the waves hit and my thoughts moved towards the opening sequence of the film Saving Private Ryan. Not the most joyful of thoughts but it did get me thinking about how the military servicemen may have felt as they crossed the English Channel cowering behind a metal drawbridge door in rough seas.
The ferry docks in Nigg which is a hamlet at most however there is a huge industrial complex. The massive yard was full of towering yellow frames which I later found out to be legs to support wind turbines.
I was now back on NCN Route 1 and heading for Tain, the shelter I had cycling over the Black Isle had now gone and the wind was unreal. Luckily it was mostly a tailwind which made the next few miles easier.
My next stop was in Hilton of Cadboll which had some tremendous views across the sea, I stood up on the hill top and the wind was near gale force. The last few miles again I enjoyed the Tailwind and I was soon climbing the short hill in to Tain.
I had booked an Airbnb in Tain as I got off the ferry and again this strategy had nearly back fired. Tain is a small town and when I had looked earlier in the day there were a number of places to stay, however this was not the case when I looked again. Luckily I did manage to get an Airbnb, a bed for the night at Blackwatch House hosted by Audrey. Tain is on the North Coast 500 which is now a very popular tourist trail in Highlands.
I arrived at Blackwatch House and I have to say that Audrey was a fantastic host! With a secure place to park my bike (front room), a massive room with a bath (great after a days cycling), a very comfortable double bed and even breakfast.
I headed out in to Tain in search of entertainment which was hard to find in such a small quiet place. I had a drink at Platform 1964 which closed soon after so I headed to the COOP for food, eating out is limited in Tain.
After another couple of drinks in the Star Inn I retired to my room.
Despite the wind and the after effects of my night out at the Market Bar in Inverness, Day 18 was yet another success. The Crask Inn was my target on day 19 which meant I was heading in to the real Highlands!