A bad day on the bike…
A friend recently decided to tour Orkney and Shetland by bicycle. Remembering Orkney from a childhood holiday, I thought “It’s flat. I’ll see if I can join him for a long weekend.” I did, but it wasn’t as flat as I remembered! Forty-five years between visits had led my memories astray.
The western Mainland had some long uphill drags. Hoy was the same and both islands had hills that were just a bit too long so, on occasion, I had to push. My friend didn’t – he just ground out a slow cadence on a middling gear; he was the Duracell bunny of our trip and I was the also-ran.
The sub-heading of this post comprises part of a well-known aphorism that A bad day on the bike beats a good day in the office. Once you get out there it’s true – my problem is getting out there in the first place. Nevertheless, I didn’t really have any bad days (I had great days!); it was just a reminder that I still need to lose many kilos!
We cycled on Hoy to the set-off point for a three-hour round trip walk to its most famous feature, the sea stack known as The Old Man of Hoy.
We both remembered the Old Man from our childhood when, in 1967, the year after it was climbed for the first time, three pairs of climbers repeated the feat on live TV (including the original duo). Three of the six climbers that day were Chris Bonnington, Dougal Haston and Joe Brown; legends of 20th century UK mountaineering. Apparently it’s now climbed fifty times a year on average.
It’s certainly impressive to see the Old Man up close, and as the sun was shining with no wind we could have stayed there for a long time. We didn’t because we had a ferry to catch and a café to visit. (I can heartily recommend the apple and rhubarb crumble, served with Orkney ice-cream, at the Beneth’Ill Café at Moaness).
Naturally, the trip inspired a limerick…
I thought that I’d really enjoy
A trip I once made as a boy
To Orkney, up north,
So I sallied-on forth
And became the next Old Man of Hoy’!
Postscript: A few other pics from the Islands…