Nine years ago, Laura and I set out to cycle from the Scilly Isles to the Shetland Islands. Next month, we will finally complete the journey.
In 2012, as training for our planned round-the-world cycle, Laura and I planned to ride the length of the UK. However, two days into the trip I had a bit of a breakdown and we ended up going home. Our round-the-world plans were put on hold while I got treated for depression.
In a better place a year later, we returned to Cornwall and cycled up to Scotland. The trip went well and gave us the confidence to press ahead with our world tour later that year. But, at the time, we didn’t have enough time to cycle any further north than Edinburgh.
Fast forward nearly a decade and we are returning to Scotland this week to finish our original plan and cycle to Shetland.
In 2012, we were newly weds, fresh back from a second honeymoon walking across Patagonia.
Now, in 2021, we will have two children in tow. Literally. Our boys (9 months old and 2-years-and-9-months old) will be towed behind us in a trailer, or sitting in a bike seat enjoying the views.
Our itinerary is roughly:
- Two weeks cycling from Edinburgh to Aberdeen, through the Trossachs and Cairngorms
- A week or so on Shetland
- A week or so on Orkney
- Another week to get home, possibly including a ride from Inverness to Fort William
Two children, one back injury (Laura slipped a disc in February) and 14 months of lockdown (and a corresponding lack of cycling fitness) mean that our daily distances will be a lot lower than when we started our journey shortly before the London Olympics. Think 25 miles a day rather than 75.
We will still be camping a lot of the time but a combination of kids and Covid means our itinerary has been mapped out a little more than we are used to. Camp sites may have fewer spaces available with social distancing measures and, after a year of lockdown and with no one allowed to leave the country, the highlands and islands will probably be inundated with visitors.
That said, we know from previous trips that cycle touring is much the same whether you’re recently married, riding with a baby or pedalling a rickshaw. So we are expecting sunshine and showers, elation and despair; glorious camping spots and grim accommodation; scenic picnics at beauty sites and junk food in supermarket car parks; feeling like the king of the world as we fly down a mountainside and feeling like we want to be sick as we slog up the other side of one.
But however it goes, this is what Laura and I live for. It will be harder with kids but it will be all the better for having them too.
We leave on Friday.
Wish us luck!