Three Halves in Three Weeks

Peterhead half didn’t really go well from the beginning. Standing on the start line in the freezing cold, I made the snap decision to run to the Run 4 It tent and give my running jacket over for safe keeping. I couldn’t help worry that I would regret that, but I knew the forecast was for it to get warmer. It sure did! It was warm and hilly and I guess my head was not in the race properly. It was my first half marathon in a couple of months, so confidence was quite low. I really don’t mind running in the heat. In fact, I probably prefer it. It was quite a long time though to the first water station, and I was already pretty thirsty when I got to it. Taking on water at each water station never really felt like it was making much of a difference. I came in on the last mile with sore legs, tired, thirsty and generally fed up.
Time: 2:11:56

Standing on the start line of Stonehaven half, I was quite worried it would go as badly as the previous week. I therefore took extra provisions for water, over and above what was on route. I took a belt with a couple of small bottles and had a hand-held bottle waiting for me at the Fetchpoint (loud, colourful, friendly group of folks dishing out water sprays and jellybabies) at 6 miles in, which I just kept topped up at future water stations. The first four mile in this race is very tough and nearly all uphill. This does nothing for your confidence when you are already unsure of the run, but I carried on with the support of my running friend Shona and I found my legs at mile 4. The rest of the race felt reasonably comfortable. I kept a slow pace though, running with Shona the whole time. With 1 mile to go, Shona finally decided on a time she wanted to try to make, so we picked up the pace and had the quickest mile of the day, finishing 10 seconds behind Shona.
Time: 2:12:34

Final mile sprint!

Final mile sprint! Shona in the foreground and me falling behind.

Catching up.

Catching up.

Next was a Tuesday evening race in the torrential rain. It was only a 5k, so I dragged myself along to the start line. Not expecting much from the evening, I decided to give it a go and see if I could get near my current parkrun times of 26-27 minutes. I ran the first mile hard and saw and 8:10 mile, the second mile felt a lot tougher but was only 10 seconds or so slower. As I felt my legs tiring and ready to give up and bring it to a slow jog, Naomi passed me. I focussed on trying to keep up with her and I picked up the pace and finished with another 8:10 mile. A very hard run 5k, so was pleased with my time.
Time: 25:29

Finally, at the start line of the 3rd half marathon in three weeks. Still not completely confident, the goal of today was simply to finish feeling reasonably good. Shona, who had also ran the previous two half marathons would run with me again. The first two miles of this race were great, through trails in a woods. This is followed by two miles of steady downhill running. Bliss! Following about the 5 mile mark, still feeling comfortable, I could start to feel my legs tiring. From here to about 9 miles, it’s just about keeping going and not letting the little voice in my head tell me to stop. Instead, I listened to the little voice at my side tell me to keep going. We got to the dual carriageway section, which is a long boring slog uphill. Fourth time doing this race and the first time I have ran this whole section. The final mile was as usual very tough. For some reason, the wind is always in your face at this point and a slight incline makes it feel much harder than it looks. A thin and bouncy bridge and a grass finish mean you just need to grit your teeth and push on through the finish line.
Time: 2:09:46

Three halves in as many weeks was quite tough going, but gave me the motivation to push and work hard. Each race was slightly easier than the last, and although I am a long way off what I can actually run I am enjoying seeing progress again. Having a wee break now and heading to the Provence area in France. Hopefully will manage some exercise while away. Next races when I return are the Dyce half Marathon and BRG both in August.

Eddie’s Beach 10K – June 9th 2015

As will be obvious to a lot of you it has been some time since I have posted here. The reason is thankfully not that I haven’t been running. The blog was at risk of getting a bit repetitive, so I skipped a few (OK, loads of) races. Since I last posted, here is a quick update:

  • Great North Run HM – 1:53:34
  • Baxters Loch Ness Marathon – 4:49:06
  • Aviemore Half Marathon -1:50:30
  • Poppy Run (Fraserburgh) 5k – 23:55
  • Fraserburgh Half Marathon – 2:19:06
  • Pisa City Half Marathon – 2:00:13
  • Lumphanan Detox 10k – 58:28
  • Inverness Half Marathon – 2:20:45
  • Run Garioch Half Marathon – 2:25:00
  • Great Edinburgh Run 10 Miles – 1:35:21
  • City of Aberdeen Baker Hughes 10k – 58:31
  • Fraserburgh 10k – 55:34

As you can see, a bit all over the place. A couple of problems in there with a sore foot, calf and achilles contributes to the inconsistency. My motivation at the moment is quite good though and I am seeing slight improvements, so just need to keep this up.

Yesterday evening was the annual Metro Aberdeen beach 10k and this year it was named after Metro runner Neil Jaffrey (Eddie) who was tragically killed in 2014 – I never did have the privilege of meeting him that I can recall, but I have never heard a bad word said about him and I think the turnout at yesterday’s race just goes to show what people thought of him.

With around twenty minutes to go, I sat in the Beach Leisure Centre with my number in hand wondering if I should run this race at all due to a tight and painful Achilles tendon which has been bothering me for a few days now and got worse on Monday night. I decided to run, but to take it easy.

Starting near the back among a bunch of bright orange shirts from Hazelhead jogScotland, I got going at a slow and steady pace. Shona, who was aiming for her second 10k PB this year pushed on ahead a little bit. I was then caught by Myles Edwards who was pacing his friend. I grabbed this opportunity and ran with them until about 2 miles in when I decided I needed to ease back the pace a little.

Mile 1 – 8:51
Mile 2 – 8:54

The rest of the southward part of the race on the bottom prom was quite windy, and by the time I reached Fittie I was feeling a bit tired. A 10k after a shift at work is very different to a 10k on a Saturday morning when I’ve prepared properly and slept well. Still, I was now past the half way point and turning back onto the top prom and away from the wind. The only problem now was it suddenly felt very warm indeed.

Mile 3 – 9:24
Mile 4 – 9:06

The route now takes us back past the start line where we got a quick drink of water, back down to the end and onto the bottom prom again. Feeling the effects of the wind more this time round but knowing I only had one final mile to go, I managed to push on in my quickest mile of the day and finished in bang on 56 minutes. Only 26 seconds slower than Fraserburgh, but feeling quite a bit more human at the end this time round.

Mile 5 – 9:11
Mile 6 – 8:49
Mile 6.2 – 1:43 (7:29 mile pace)

Very good event. Cheap to enter, no frills race with a nice little goody bag at the end. Bottled water half way and at the end too. Very well organised and supported.

Graph generated at - Pace versus miles with elevation at the bottom.

Graph generated at – Pace versus miles with elevation at the bottom.

Time: 56:00
Position: 276/360

BRG Coastal Challenge

One of my favourite events on the calendar and the third year in a row I have ran it. It’s 4 or 5 weeks before the Loch Ness Marathon, so makes for a great training run towards that, but is also a brilliant event in its own right and growing from year to year. BRG stands for Broch (Fraserburgh), Rosehearty, Gamrie (Gardenstown) and runs the 17 miles between those towns along the coast road. The race consists of several options; walking, cycling, running or splitting the run into a relay race. The walkers start 2 hours before the runners and the cyclists start an hour later, meaning that everyone gets to the finish line in the same sort of time-scale. 

With a midday event start, I had plenty of time to have a leisurely morning as I had spent the night before with family in Fraserburgh, so at around 10:30 I popped down to the 2 mile mark to watch the walkers pass by before heading home to change. Afterwards, I arrived at the beach with plenty time to spare, but the atmosphere was great. Although it was a bit cold from the wind (which appeared to be blowing against us and would be for the whole run), it was great to see the sun out for a change. Previous years have been wet, foggy and grey.

As we somehow ended up on the front line for the briefing and as battling backwards was going to be more trouble than it was worth, I set off with Craig at quite a quick pace to avoid holding anyone up. The race started prompt at midday and headed out of the beach, past the harbour and lighthouse museum and round through Broadsea (small fishing village which is now part of Fraserburgh) before heading out of the town towards Sandhaven.

Mile 1: 855
Mile 2: 8:41

Given the first two miles were far too quick and that we still had 15 to go, I asked Craig if we could slow back a bit. The next few miles were at a much nicer pace, including a brief stop for refreshments at Sandhaven and Rosehearty. The feeding stations at this event are always among the best. Lidl supplies all of the refreshments and you get an array of goodies; jelly babies, water, sweets, orange segments, bananas and of course some friendly Broch banter.

Mile 3: 9:07
Mile 4: 10:15
Mile 5: 9:08

After mile 5 as you leave Rosehearty, the hills start – and never end before the finish line. You are either climbing or speeding down hills. This is also the point where the route gets most scenic and you get fantastic views over the coast of the cliffs and caves towards New Aberdour bay. After leaving Rosehearty, you climb a steady uphill before turning right onto the undulating New Aberdour coast road. A mile along this road was the 3rd water station. As they had 500ml bottles at this point I decided it would be a good idea to take one and run with it, filling up at the various water stations. There is a generous amount of water stations on route, but despite the strong wind what was still in my face it felt very warm.

Mile 6: 10:24
Mile 7: 9:22
Mile 8: 10:50

As we turned off of the coast road at 9.5 miles, I saw the first of the cyclists and the lead car. This was about a mile further on than I met any cyclists last year, so either I was a lot quicker or the wind was affecting them a lot more than me. Maybe even a little of both. This was a great boost, as for the first time I was really feeling the legs tired. I also realised though that this year I had not so far had to walk up any hills, whereas I had last year. Still running with Craig, I listened to his motivation and continued up the hill before turning right and on to the New Aberdour – Gamrie road.

Mile 9: 9:15

As the hills got a bit meaner at this point I started to work a lot harder, keeping with Craig as much as possible. It was getting a bit tough but I wasn’t in a bad way and knew I could run a steady run for the a while yet. Rather than slow Craig down I sent him off ahead when we hit a particularly tough climb and carried on myself.

Mile 10: 10:04
Mile 11: 11:42

Mile 12 was probably the toughest mile of the day for me and I started to beat myself up a little due to the fact that I was not even at half Marathon distance yet and slowing to a walk. Reminding myself that I have a Marathon in just 5 weeks and that I should not be struggling yet. I took on water and some Dextrose tabs though and pushed on. Of course, I was not realising that I was a lot further on and a lot stronger than I was at the same time last year. Not only were the climbs tough now though, but the descents were also tough and at a 20% gradient took a lot out of the legs.

Mile 12: 12:35
Mile 13: 10:07

After the steep downhill stretch it was now time for the toughest climb of the route. A massive 17% gradient that seems to go on forever more, which is not done justice in the photos below taken in previous years. I had fancied running up the whole way, but half way up realised that was a stupid idea and walked alongside the cyclists who had jumped off of their bikes. 

Rachel In 2012 Looking Forward To The Climb

Rachel In 2012 Looking Forward To The Climb

Naomi In 2013 Looking Forward To The Climb

Naomi In 2013 Looking Forward To The Climb

Large hill on Fraserburgh to Gamrie Run

17% Incline Approaches – Taken During the 2012 Run.

Mile 14: 12:54

Shortly after this hill I started catching walkers. I had only caught the last few walkers by the time I finished last year, so to be passing large groups of them with miles to go told me I was doing well. The last few miles would be spent with short walks and bursts of running, passing and being passed by the same person a few times and passing loads of walkers. The friendly greetings from the walkers were appreciated as I aimed to just run on to the finish with anything I had left. I recognised a few of the walkers from this morning when I sat watching them at 10:30 and found this the most peculiar feeling to have been able to catch them later in the day.

Mile 15: 11:19
Mile 16: 11:22

The last mile is a very steep descent down to Gamrie harbour. I tried to get into a nice rhythm and run a quick last mile. A bit sore on the feet, but nice long strides saw me hit my quickest mile of the day.

Mile 17: 8:45
Final 0.18 of a mile ran at 7:42 pace

Again, a fantastic event that I look forward to running again and again. In fact, I may even cycle it some year to see how it is. It is great value for money, the organisers adapt at a moments notice to the needs of everyone (as shown this year by adding a bus at the last minute and re-opening the entries to allow more people to take part). The refreshments are great, a brilliant technical T-Shirt with a fantastic new design this year and a new medal design. There are hundreds of very high quality photographs taken by Broch Photo House and placed on Facebook for everyone to see for free. The runners album can be seen here, but there are a lot more albums from the BRG, other running events and also general photography from the area which is all very good too.

I was delighted to finish the race with a 2 minute course best and also an 11 minute improvement on last year. 

Position: 48/63
Gun Time: 2:56:07

Pace v Elevation - Generated at

Pace v Elevation – Generated at

Half DRAM 2014

Having ran this race twice before with varying degrees of success, I sorta knew what to expect. For example, I knew that the start gets very congested through the woods. With this in mind I started a bit further forward than I probably should have, but out of politeness for the runners around me I pushed on at the same pace as they were and clocked in a fast first two miles. That was OK though, as I knew that the third and fourth miles were downhill.

Mile 1: 8:35
Mile 2: 8:08

I always love mile 3 of this race. It’s back onto the road, and down a long and steady descent. I had ran a nice quick first two miles and although I knew there was no way I could keep that up for the whole race, I decided to take advantage of the hill and I clocked my fastest mile of the day. Hopefully it would not leave me too tired. Miles 5 and 6 are still downhill, but less steep than before. This would see me run a sub 10k within a half marathon although my pace was noticeably slowing now.

Mile 3: 7:07
Mile 4: 7:21
Mile 5: 8:06
Mile 6: 8:25

Unfortunately, this slowing trend continue. I felt like walking and was feeling tired. Counting down the miles remaining and the only thing that kept me going was knowing that I had a lot of minutes in the bank from earlier and I did not want to waste them. Even a poor performance now would see me hit a good time and my target before the race had been 1:52.

Mile 7: 8:44
Mile 8: 8:50
Mile 9: 9:37

At mile 10, the long slog up the side of the dual carriageway begins. This seems to last forever (as did the queue of traffic that we had created). However, a noticeable difference this year compared to last year was that I could run it all and did not have to walk up most of it. Another noticeable difference to last year was my time goal was a full 8 minutes quicker than my goal of 2 hours (which I could not achieve).

Mile 10: 8:59
Mile 11: 9:11

As we turned the corner into Broughty Ferry, the moment I had been waiting for had arrived. The fast downhill stretch through the residential area, under a couple of cool hoses spraying water over the fences and a bolt across a road and onto a narrow and steep bridge, where everyone but me slowed down. Argh!

Mile 12: 8:07

The final mile is seems to last forever and for some reason always has the wind blowing into our faces. A lot of grit and determination over the last mile and I pushed on to a time that I was more than happy with.

Mile 13: 9:16

Chip Position: 197/620
Chip Time: 1:50:42
Gun Position: 196/620
Gun Time: 1:50:54


Elevation v Pace

Elevation v Pace – Generated at

Heart of the Park Challenge

Do a 12k race in the heart of Braemar, they said. It’ll be fun, they said. So blindly enter, I did. I really should read these things first, then I would have known all about the swamp, river crossings and bog that we had to run through; the steep climbs involved and even a wee wall to run along the top of.

The race started in the stadium where the Braemar gathering is held every year and heads up some steep tracks immediately. You are very quickly presented with the first river crossing. Thankfully though, the sun was shining and the water was not too cold. At the other side of the river, your feet immediately get working and begin to dry out as you run downhill on grass. Don’t enjoy it too much as shortly after you come across the bog. A large, smelly, muddy patch of stagnant water and deep mud. Euch! I lost a lot of time here as I basically tried to get through this without getting dirty. Or stuck. Yeah, it didn’t work. Immediately after, there is a very steep climb before hitting landrover tracks and a nice downhill bit. Again, don’t enjoy it for too long as you are soon presented with a technical and difficult climb down a steep bit of hill.

At the bottom of this hill was roughly the half way point and things begin to change. I was now faced with thing, winding forest paths and some ups and downs. Great fun twisting and turning through the forest before coming onto a road section and more thin tracks. As you turn left out of the tracks, there was an old wall which we had to run along the top of alongside the river. Another river crossing, then the warm and stagnant water in the swamp. Ick! Thankfully there was one more final river crossing to clean ourselves off a little, a short and steep climb up a bank and then the final mile home.

A race I was not looking forward to (due to the fact I hate getting dirty or getting my feet wet), but one I thoroughly enjoyed and will probably end up entering again next year. Drat!

Position: 82/121
Time: 1:24:05



Stonehaven Half Marathon 2014

Third time I would run this race and I was excited and confident when going into it. I knew I would never hit my first time of 1:46:35, but I was confident of being able to smash last year’s time of 2:02:09. That is, until I started!

After worrying about the forecast of torrential rain and howling gales, I was pleasantly surprised to instead find sauna-like conditions of near 20 degrees and little rain. I pre-hydrated with plenty High Five Zero drink beforehand and headed to the start with everyone else. Off we went along the congested road at a slow pace, until we turned the corner and hit the first (and probably steepest) hill of the day. Immediately I knew that this was going to be a tough race.

I got a little worried in the early miles of this race as I was starting to struggle before the 4 mile mark. The hills were tough, the legs were feeling weak and the heat was… well… hot. I decided to take a walk/run strategy and would walk the steeper hills and try to make up some time on the descents.

Around the 6 mile marker I could hear a whole lot of noise and I could see an explosion of red and yellow. That meant only one thing – a Fetchpoint. Other Fetchies there playing music, cheering loudly and squirting us with lovely, cool water. Bliss! After a hyperactive run through here, waving at everyone I quickly made my way around the corner and out of site, before coming to a walk again up the last big hill.

After this point I managed to get myself into a steady 8:30 to 9 minute mile pace. The sun would now occasionally hide behind the clouds and there was a nice breeze to run into. Looking at the mileage and the time remaining, it was clear that to continue in this pace would see me hit sub 2 hours. Given the conditions and how I felt early in the race, I was more than happy with that. With 3 miles to go, it started to look like I could even manage a 1:55 so pushed on a bit. The last wee bit of the race still saw me looking for a 1:55, so I went for it. Down the steep hill we had started on, round the corner and into the park and through the finish line with an average pace of 7:35 for the last wee bit. A huge grin and sigh of relief as I had my chip taken off and my medal hung round my neck. Off to see my official time before grabbing some of the food that was laid out for us.

As usual, a brilliant race by the Stoney lot. Well ran, police and ambulance presence on route as well as Red Cross first aid. A very generous 5 water stations on the way round, and very welcome in that heat. The goody bag and medal were brilliant too. 


Position: 178 out of 338
Chip Time: 1:55:21
Gun Time: 1:55:42

Split Summary
1) 1m – 8:27(8:27/m) 157/169bpm 149cal
2) 1m – 8:07(8:07/m) 165/169bpm 152cal
3) 1m – 9:10(9:10/m) 167/173bpm 174cal
4) 1m – 11:04(11:04/m) 164/171bpm 205cal
5) 1m – 8:26(8:26/m) 167/171bpm 159cal
6) 1m – 8:36(8:36/m) 163/174bpm 157cal
7) 1m – 10:37(10:37/m) 160/171bpm 181cal
8) 1m – 9:13(9:13/m) 160/168bpm 158cal
9) 1m – 8:45(8:45/m) 156/164bpm 132cal
10) 1m – 8:33(8:33/m) 158/164bpm 130cal
11) 1m – 8:48(8:48/m) 161/166bpm 137cal
12) 1m – 8:28(8:28/m) 161/166bpm 118cal
13) 0.97m – 7:22(7:35/m) 167/176bpm 113cal

Special Edition – Cycling Orkney

I recently managed to win some ferry tickets on a Visit Scotland competition. The prize was a return fare for two people from Aberdeen to Kirkwall in Orkney. As a regular visitor to the islands from fencing training camps/social weekends for many years now, I was overjoyed. There was one clear choice of person for the second ticket. My adventure buddy Naomi, who also went to the aforementioned trips with me and similarly loves the Orkney isles. As plans unfolded, it transpired that we were both in the process of purchasing new bikes. It also became apparent that bikes can be taken on to the ferry free of charge. So, the idea of taking the bikes with us then progressed into a camping, cycling and exploration trip.

Bike Kitted Up

Bike Kitted Up

As the ferry sets sail at 5pm, I had all day to plan my gear and get ready. I charged all of my mobile phone batteries, packed up the panniers and then set off to meet Naomi at Union Square and also buy a map of the islands. Oh, and to pick up more tissues than I could possibly need due to the pricing strategy Boots have of charging 50p per individual tissue, or £1.50 for a crate of 100 or so packs. Cross the road and head over to the ferry terminal. We were off! The first exciting part of the trip was cycling on to the ferry as though we were in a car. I was expecting bikes to be taken more as luggage than a vehicle. We left the bikes and hoped that the staff there would tie them securely and headed up to the deck to take some photos and just generally be excited before enjoying fish and chips and delicious Orkney Fudge cheesecake (FOOD WIN).

No Running

No Running?😦

Owning the Boat

Owning the Boat!









Following a choppy ferry journey, we arrived in Orkney at 11PM and headed straight for the pre-booked camp-site in Kirkwall at the Pickaquoy centre. Tent up in minutes, air-mat blown up and the pillow that I hunted Aberdeen for in the morning sorted. Having been for a 7 mile run earlier in the day and had a long boat trip, I was suitably tired and ready to crawl into my sleeping bag. I say crawl into, it was more like flap about like a baby seal on land rather than a crawl. I never have gotten the hang of getting in and out of a sleeping bag with ease!

In the morning, we packed up camp (despite being fairly certain we only built it about 5 minutes ago). First night in the tent was fairly comfortable, but I had decided that my mat was too hard and that I would try putting less air into it the following night. On a brief look around the camp-site, I realised that the facilities were very good. Clean showers, sitting room, kitchen… Unfortunately, we had no use for any of these as we were heading off, but the extra facilities were shown in the price for a night’s camping. We then went for breakfast in Kirkwall before heading out of town and hitting the road.

The first journey would take us from Kirkwall heading West and the North along the coast, via Finstown. A quick stop in Finstown as we came across the workshop, gallery and shop of Orcadian artist Jane Glue. After a quick look around there, we headed to the food van to purchase what would turn out to be tastiest roll every filled with lean BBQ pulled beef (FOOD WIN). Fantastic. Carry on following the coast road to our destination of Eviesdale camp-site in the north-east of the island. Total mileage for the day was 19.27 and elevation of 258 metres.

Jane Glue's Gallery

Naomi at Jane Glue’s gallery

The notices on the fence told us to choose a side of the road, set up camp and then someone would be along at some point to take money from us. We had two choices; the camping ground near the amenities or across the road in the camping ground with the stunning views. We chose across the road to set up camp, and you will see why in the photo below. After setting up camp, we went along to find the only shop in miles. Unfortunately, it was also the worst stocked shop ever, so we just scrambled together various ingredients and hoped we could make a meal out of it. Due to the freezing temperatures that night, we found that cooking pasta in lukewarm water is actually pretty tough. some more ingredients thrown in the pot and I ended up with a plate of something that sorta resembled food (FOOD FAIL). Thankfully, near the camp-site was a private member’s bar/club which welcomed visitors. On entering, it smelled like a proper auld mannie pub, but it was warm and friendly and served alcohol.

Eviesdale Camping

Eviesdale Camping with Rousay Island in Background

On getting up in the morning, we realised that we had no breakfast at all. That’s OK though, there’s a cafe or something over on Rousay island so off we went and cycled the few miles to the ferry terminal at 8:30 in the morning where we met another cyclist who was also staying at the campsite. On asking on the boat about cafe opening times, we were told about numerous places… which would all be opening at 11. Argh! There was however a shop about 3 miles east-north-east of the ferry terminal. This would end the discussions about which way we would travel around the island and anti-clockwise it was. The first thing we saw was a garden full of animals sculptures made from old rope and other such materials. The coo in the photo below was fantastic. After cycling for about 3.5 miles and still no sign of this mythical shop, we continued to share the limited supply of snacks that I had brought with me, but let’s face it, half a Marathon bar (what do you mean they changed that name? A long time ago? Huh…) is not quite the breakfast we had in mind (FOOD FAIL). Almost given up on finding the shop, we went exploring and found a stunning 4 mile circular walk which gave us spectacular views of cliffs from afar and a lot of wildlife (from a little too close as the Great Skua tried to take my head home). Back on the bikes, ready to face the big hill that was in front of us, while running from a large group of attacking clegs, when suddenly we found the shop. Presented with all manner of goodies, we stocked up on everything from apples to sausages and Orkney Fudge. The shop was staffed by a very nice older couple, who gave us use of their private garden area to sit and have our picnic (FOOD WIN). Up the long, steep climb to reach the top of the hill, we briefly paused for a couple of photos and to embrace the long, sweeping, downhill road that we saw in front of us.

Not bad from old rope.

Not bad from old rope.

At the bottom of the hill, we met the other cyclist from the camp-site, who was circling the island in the opposite direction. We stopped and shared some tips about shops and nice walks. In return we got tips of where to see seals. We quickly headed off down the side road and found about a dozen or so seals lying sunbathing. In the cold. Bizarre animals. The next stop on our tour was a 3 mile walk up a hill to find Peerie Water and Muckle water. Unfortunately, what we found was a puddle and Peerie water, which we accidentally promoted before heading back to the bikes having never seen Muckle water. Some more exploration down here, along farm tracks and down to the beach. Starting to get hungry again, we came back to the bikes and headed along to a hotel that we knew about. Little did we know there would be all sorts of activities going on for sodjer’s day. We met another couple of cyclists on a tandem who told us of the wonders of a BBQ and cakes. Sounds good to me! In we went for what was the nicest tasting pint of Crabbies in my life before going round the back to enjoy burgers and cakes (FOOD WIN). Naomi then jumped into the back of a van and got a huge scar on her cheek from a 15 year old girl. Quite realistic too, as we would later find through other people’s concerns. A quick climb up a hill to find a chambered cairn before cycling the last couple of miles back to the ferry port. Today’s mileage was 22.32 with an ascent of 486 Metres.

As we moved on today, we gave ourselves the luxury of a bit of a long lie. On the way back to the camp-site yesterday, there was a box at the end of a driveway with a notice selling eggs at £1 for a half dozen. Naomi boiled them up for us and we had very tasty, fresh Orkney eggs and Orkney oat cakes for breakfast (FOOD WIN). Our next destination was ultimately Stromness, but we had a few places that we wanted to visit on the way there, so would be taking the long way around the coast. The first stop was at a lovely wee town called Birsay. A very nice lunch stop there with stunning views, good food and cake (FOOD WIN) before having a walk to the Brough of Birsay. Here, there is a path to the island which is accessible depending on tides. As the path was partially covered, I stood at one side of it looking while a seal decided to cross the path right in front of me. Luckily, I had the camera to hand and managed to snap the seal crossing.

Seals Crossing

Beware! Seals Crossing.

After this, we stopped at Skara Brae. If you have never visited this 5,000 year old, fantastically preserved neolithic village, then I would thoroughly recommend it. However, we have both been before so did not feel the need to pay to see something that (hopefully) will not have changed since the last time. Instead, we went in hunt of a natural arch. After a quick look, we decided to have a walk up to the tops of the cliffs and have a walk along to see if we could see it. This was a fascinating walk, as I stopped to look at vast gulleys in the cliffs and nesting sea birds all around. Watching them feeding their young and listening to the noises of all the different birds was amazing. We got up a high point of the cliffs and was treated to a brilliant view of Hoy and the Old Man of Hoy from a distance. On the way back, we climbed over rocks on the shore until we finally found the natural arch in all of its glory. Next stops along the route were the two stone circles; Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness.

Old Man of Hoy

Old Man of Hoy

Natural Arch

Natural Arch

Stromness is a beautiful, small fishing town with bars, chip shops and restaurants (complete with actual food, made by an actual real person). After setting camp, we went in search of some of this actual food and stumbled on a restaurant bragging of fresh, local food. We got a table for 9 pm and went in to find a lovely real fire burning at the side of the restaurant. We both had an absolutely brilliant meal. Huge portions, fresh ingredients and brilliant, friendly service into the bargain (FOOD WIN). Total mileage today was 28.44 with 419 metres total ascent.

The final day, we planned an “easy day.” We would pop over to Hoy, cycle the short width of the island and then nip back to Kirkwall for a curry. Yeah. We did our sums wrong. 6 miles from one end of the island to the other, followed by a 3 mile walk out to the Old Man of Hoy and then back meant the day would come in at 27 miles cycling and 6 miles+ of walking with ascent of 447 metres. Not to worry, the weather was now fantastic, and after a weekend of freezing cold winds it was a treat. We caught the 10am ferry over to Hoy and headed off along the rattly road on our bikes. At the end of the road was a rustic hostel and several museums. Also the signposts for the path that leads to the Old Man of Hoy. When we reached there, the walk was well worth the effort. Not only did we see the magnificent sea stack, but nesting in the cliffs beside it were loads of sea birds and much to my delight included puffins. One of my goals of the weekend was to see some puffins, so to see a whole bunch of them on my last day was perfect.

Old Man of Hoy

Old Man of Hoy

Final cycle ride into Kirkwall to meet some friends for curry (FOOD WIN). Here, I had the first bike problems of the weekend though as my gears basically fell apart under the bike. Thankfully, this was at the end of the weekend and the bike shop will be reimbursing me for repairs. We caught the ferry at 11pm and after a drink headed in to the sleeping pod area, for what would turn out to be a miserably sleepless nights in a loud, bright and uncomfortable room. Into Aberdeen, crossed the road to Union Square where it all began. Definitely a trip to remember and one that I would love to repeat.