So, I am back home, and beginning to pick up all the threads of normal life that were temporarily laid down. It’s maybe still too soon, but I wanted to try and reflect on the trip a bit.

The aims of the trip were two-fold: to get an overview of some of the Scottish islands, none of which, to all intents and purposes, I had visited before; and to set myself a challenge, to push myself and my stamina on the bike and see what I was capable of.

To be fair, both of those aims were successfully achieved. But I am left wishing that my aims had been slightly different. If I were to plan the trip again, I would ‘catch myself on’, as they say here, and not use the trip as a testing ground for my physical ability. Time and time again during the fortnight I felt frustrated that I had to ‘rush on’, rather than linger at some stunning view or spend more time listening to the sounds around me. Never again will I plan a trip with so many daily miles to do that I cannot afford to take advantage of the unexpected encounter, be it with people or nature.

I was glad to have experienced the different flavours of the islands that I did, and to have gained a flavour of them, so the thing to do now is to work out the logistics of returning to each (and some of the ones I didn’t see) at a more leisurely pace. Arran and Mull are fairly easy to get to, but the Outer Hebrides are harder to access, which is part of their charm, I suppose.

Wanting to cover the Cairngorms in the same trip was a mistake, and I definitely underestimated the seriousness of the challenge of those mountain roads. I still needed to get back down from the top of Scotland, and wanting to do it by bike was going to take four or five days, no matter what route I took. I could have made life easier for myself, however, with a less strenuous choice of route. 🙂 I was so glad to have cycled through Sutherland again. That area of North Scotland has a special feeling, with such vast (for the UK) open spaces. I have Philip and Ruth to thank for encouraging me to take the Strathmore road, which meant that I saw Loch Eriboll, too. Special places, indeed.

Am I glad I did it? Absolutely, and I have memories of stunningly beautiful places that will stay with me. As I was reminded on several occasions, I was once again fortunate with the weather, and stupendously lucky with the lack of midges. I saw parts of Scotland at their best, and others at their most atmospheric, which meant I couldn’t see further than ten yards!

Surprisingly, I lost no weight on the trip, but my trousers are definitely a little looser round the waist. Don’t worry, though – I am still a fat b*st*rd by cyclist standards.

I was really annoyed that my Garmin unit decided to throw a wobbler on Day 1. I have been unable to get it working this morning, so have sent a request to Garmin UK for repair. It appears to be under warranty, so we’ll see what happens. I am told that it is not under warranty, despite information on their website telling me it was, based on info gathered from the device itself. It will cost me £70 to get fixed. 🙁 My phone was able to capture basic route data, for which I was very grateful. The one advantage of not having all the data in front of me was that for the most part I was blissfully unaware of the time, or distance travelled, or more importantly, distance to go. I was therefore free to simply cycle.  The bike behaved impeccably, barring one broken spoke. It soaked up the harshness from the roughest roads, and made long days in the saddle bearable.

1/8/13 Transpires the Garmin unit was under warranty after all, so I now have a refurbished unit that works.

Trip statistics
Total miles: 1130
Feet of ascent: 88,000
Time on bike: 79h 20m
Average speed: 14.24 mph