Day 57 Saturday 30 April: Avoiding major A roads is not always possible when trying to follow the coast roads between Lifeboat Stations. In the far north and west and on the Western and Northern Isles it didn’t matter. With such light traffic, single track roads with passing places are a joy and the A prefix defies the definition, based loosely on road width on the O.S. map legend. Heading south and east on today’s route, towards bigger towns and through more frequent villages brings with it a motorised population increasing at a faster rate than the programme to widen and straighten these busy roads. That’s when it starts getting scary on a bike. Should cyclists keep as far left as possible to allow cars, vans, lorries and buses to overtake without them being inconvenienced when there are vehicles coming the other way? Or should bicycle riders claim their share of the road, forcing following vehicles to wait until the coast is clear ahead and passing wide, well over into the oncoming lane? Most of you car drivers won’t like this, but as a cyclist and car driver for over 40 years, I side more with the latter. On a bicycle, riding very close to the kerb or verge can be hazardous. That first foot of road is always the most potholed, with stones, broken glass, nuts & bolts, road kill and damaged, displaced or missing drain covers. Fellow bikers, get out of the gutter! You’re only encouraging impatient drivers to squeeze through the almost wide enough space you’ve offered them. Fellow drivers, please be more patient. Hold back until you have a clear road ahead and swing wide. Does it really matter if your journey takes a few seconds more?
The last few miles to Kessock were along a peaceful minor road and cycle track, down to the dramatic setting of the big, modern Lifeboat Station, in the shadow of the huge Kessock bridge, spanning the Beauly Firth across to Inverness. Much here in common with Kyle of Lochalsh LBStn, with an Atlantic 85 Inshore Rescue Boat and a big bridge at the centre of their patch. Thanks Stan (Snr Helm/mech) for allowing me free access to the biggest supply of biscuits, choc bars and fruit cake I have seen in all of the 88 Lifeboat Stations visited so far.
Next, over the above bridge, through Inverness and down to Loch Ness ILB Station. Sometimes a well known place name conjures up images of mythical associations so far-fetched that any reference to such silliness would be unworthy of inclusion. So I won’t. The road alongside Loch Ness is not remarkable. No monster climbs. Just a few snaking curves. The Lifeboat Station half way down this long Loch is unique, in that it has the only freshwater RNLI boat on mainland Britain. Ireland also has a couple. Do you know the difference between a freshwater lifeboat and a salt water one? No? Lick one and you’ll find out. Thanks Ewan (LOM & mech), Neil (Snr Helm), Joanna (DLA, FR) and Gordon (DLA, landlord) for the welcome cuppa and illuminating chat. Good luck with the plans for a new, bigger station in the near future. You certainly need it, with barely enough room to swing a cat, or more appropriately, a mono-hull.
Back up along the lochside road to Inverness, where I now recline in the private lounge of my own deluxe suite in the AA**** rated Moyness Guest House, run by John Martin, ex RNLI Senior Crew, ret’d. Of course I’d recommend it. But you might have to do silly things whilst wearing a Lifeboats vest to be able to afford it.