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Saturday 15th June

  • From: Carlisle
  • To: Innerleithen
  • LEJOG miles cycled: 69.96 (66 planned)
  • Miles cycled: 678.04
  • Map of the Journey 

Two limericks for the price of one today as Robert is in creative mode, making up for the lack of one a few days ago!

A rest day, then back on the train
To Carlisle – the forecast was rain
A couple of hours
with quite heavy showers –
This might be a Scottish refrain.

Great valleys! And round every bend
A stranger turned into a friend
Just past Eskdalemuir
We met Helen Shaw
We'd met her before – at Land's End

Up bright and early for the 0723 train to Carlisle to restart our ride after a refreshing rest day only to find the train running 38 mins late and when it arrived full of bikes so that I had to stand in the rear with my bike for the journey.

Familiar territory for us to Longtown where, incredibly as we were passing an arch in a terrace, Helen Shaw popped out after sheltering from the rain. You may remember we had met Helen at Sennen on the first night at our B&B. She was doing a different route to us in a different timescale but because she was running 3 days behind schedule and we had had 2 rest days, this was the first place our routes intersected and amazingly we bump into her! We decided to ride on to Langham with her to provide moral support and have a tea stop there.

Poor Helen was dispirited and tired, if not exhausted, and her progress was very slow so we probably took twice as long to get to Langham as we might have. Still we stopped for tea where she caught us up – a traditional tea shop with lovely cakes and loose tea with strainer, magnificent.

At this point we decided to go on, even though Helen was sharing another part of the route. We both felt bad about this but what could we do? It looked like Helen's progress would not get her to John O'Groats in her timescale (next Friday now, the same as us) as she was doing less distance. She was tired, spending long hours in the saddle and on one occasion had reached her B&B at midnight. Poor lass had had to cancel her scheduled B&Bs, lose her deposits, and was rebooking as she went. Tough on your own. As we left Helen behind in the tea room we paid for her tea and cake on the way out so she would get a nice little surprise and a morale booster on the way out. What jolly nice chaps we are.

We had nearly an hours stop at the absolutely magnificent Samye Ling Tibetan Monastary and Tea Rooms. Robert had been here before and recommended it. Now I do too. Great gift shop, tea room and lots of other things to see including the temple and gardens. I shall be revisiting with my wife soon so I can buy some things without worrying whether I can get them in the bike panniers!

We then pushed on in the fabulous countryside, lush green and rolling. The climbs were long and steady but not too steep and the downhill sections long and fast with few tight bends – ideal cycling country.

It was by now raining and beginning to rain heavily. Somewhere between Carlisle and here I had misplaced/lost my waterproof high visibility top so needed shelter soon before becoming soaked through and cold. Providence provided this in the form of a derelict shed/sty at the road side of which we took advantage. Within minutes one of the locals called by to have a chat and it turned out to be a very nice lady who was originally from Wallsend.

By now we had had nearly two hours of stops and lo and behold out of the rain arrived Helen Shaw, bedraggled, cold and tired, so she popped into our little shelter to have a sandwich and rest. She had not stopped since we had last seen her in Langham.

The rain eased off and we pressed on to the Ettrick turnoff where Helen left us to find a B&B. At this rate she would not finish the ride but we could not convince her to push on an extra 12 miles to Innerleithen. As it turned out this was probably a lucky decision as the town was heaving from a pipe band competition and Mountain Bike event and there was no spare accommodation apparently.

Our B&B for the evening is very smart indeed – possibly the biggest and smartest so far. We showered and changed and headed down to the recommended hotel/pub for a meal only to find no spare places for food, so we then then went to an alternative Bistro said to be basic but fine. We had to book a table 40 mins later so went back to the pub for a quick Timothy Taylor's Landlord. Excellent.

The meal at the Bistro turned out to be excellent and good value and in addition we got to witness a drunken fight outside on the way in – Scotland on a Saturday night!

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