I remember reading previously that Scotland was one of the last great wildernesses of Europe and when you are sat on your bike amidst the careering mountains, it isn’t difficult to see why. Hours pass on occasion without other human contact. The hills are silent but for the winds and dancing thistles. The only evidence of human existence is the road you are traversing along and even then they appear to go everywhere and nowhere simultaneously. You find yourself in a very rural gulf.
After a modest breakfast, we collected our possessions to begin Day 3 of the tour and the first hills of the day. We climbed steadily for the first 40 minutes covering some 3-4 miles before the road began to show any signs of compassionate levelling. The winds seemed somewhat more forgiving however and although some enquiry was made periodically at our ears, the elements were altogether more civilised and allowed us a much more enjoyable ride.
We cycled some 30 miles before our first real break for convenience. Rafe Watson’s convenience break to be precise. Rafe Watson chooses to wear bibbed shorts, which useful as they are, are not built for functionality. Every stop for relief requires some 60-70% undressing. One imagines a toddler with his trousers around his ankles letting fly into the highlands. When Rafe Watson wears his cap, and stands naked unleashing himself, he looks like Just William.
In any case, today marked the day of our first cumulative 100 miles. As we approached the umpteenth incredibly bothersome cattle grid, we counted down the distance until 100 flashed helpfully on our screens. We highfived and flew on, safe in the knowledge that this would not be the first time that highfiving would occur on the tour and perhaps we would find other reasons to justify peculiar American actions by two Englishmen in Scotland.
The journey itself remained pleasant throughout and without too much in the way of difficulty, albeit long remorseless ascents. The sun shined sufficiently to allow for the beginnings of odd coloured patches on our skin and whilst we were well behaved for the most part, honorary bleating at sheep and mooing at cows was observed, as I imagine is the tradition in these parts. The wildlife in general remained unperturbed and indifferent. Perhaps tomorrow we will try to ride one.
We descended into Tain (pronounced TEEN – or for definitive Scottishness, try “TEEN EH???” in your most exasperated tone) after a leisurely 66 miles with an average speed of 12.8mph in 5 hours and 4 minutes, in time to watch Murray gamble with three match points at the end of a long day for him, one imagines. Fortunately, he pulled himself together and a tennis match was won. Hurrah. Someone should tell the folks in Scotland. They don’t seem to know/care eh?