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The NC500 cycling challenge – The good, the bad and the ugly. Part 1

The NC500 cycling challenge – The good, the bad and the ugly. Part 1

                                         In October –  Kirstie and I set off to tackle the NC500 to raise awareness and funds for the amazing charity –  the Scottish Assosciation of Mental Health.

SAMH is the Scottish Association for Mental Health | SAMH

We set ourselves the challenge of completing the NC500 in 5 days – covering over 500 miles and completely self suffiecient – wild camping along the way and cooking the majority of our meals on our stoves.

We knew this was going to be tough – but we did not know what we were to encounter …


Day 1

Travel day up to Inverness

By travel day … we mean travel evening. Clinging on to what annual leave we had left (classic us) – we worked during the day – to then hop on the train at 7pm from Waverley Station, bikes and all!

After packing as lightly as possible (by the look of our bikes you may think opposite) – but all this kit was honestly used and needed each day. It was time to heave all of our stuff onto the bikes and cycle up (my first taste of the hills to come) to the station.

Wobble wobble wobble I went. Up the hill – but I soon remembered this feeling from my cycle on the Isle of Skye.  The bike may be heavy BUT it is stable 🙂 I arrived at the station after being chaparoned by Duncan – aka support bike haha – to see the equally as excited and train time aware face of Kirstie!!! The team were together. And VERY READY TO GO!!

Tickets collected – and a hot drink in hand and snacks, we balanced our bikes and rolled towards the train.


Check out our bike set up above!


The train was really, really empty! Which was great. We shoved the bikes on to the train – and the bike space was sadly not up to scratch size wise (something I think train companies really need to work on – especially now!). Although the lovely Scotrail chap had a bit of a laugh with us about it and let us leave them next to the allocated bike space. Sad we didn’t catch his name to let Scotrail know about his help!

Bikes settled for the journey – we found ourselves a table.

The aim was to try and get a wee nap on the way up. No. Way. We were too excited and the adrenaline was pumping. Maybe fuelled by all the snacks en route!? We talked a bit about the route and the beastly hills we knew lay ahead. With the whole train carriage to ourselves … an attempt at some Michael Flatley moves was in order. The isle provided ample space for a ridiculous dance scene – which I am happy to say will not be published on this blog – for your own sake. I had a lot of energy.

As we drew into Inverness – we gathered up our bags and set up brief camp inbetween carriages before assembling back on the platform.

Check out that stylish high vis!


Ready to rock and rolllllll





When we arrived at around 11.30pm – it was pitch black and so so calm. The air was completely still and cool. Not a bad start! We had around 4 miles to cycle to our camp spot which had been generously given to us in kind by the lovely Ian at the Bunchrew Caravan Park –  for our brief 5 hours of sleep (or that we hoped to get!).

Now – google maps is not my friend when cycling. I said i’d navigate us to the campsite … which turned out ( and only for a brief moment!) to be the wrong direction completely. Kirstie’s phone had it’s head screwed on and we set off in the correct direction into the night.

This was a very brief cycle and we arrived to a very very quiet night on the camp site – except for the stags! I think it must have been rutting season…. they did not stop. After finding a lovely flat place to pitch our tents – we set up as quickly as possible head lamps at the ready! It was still so calm – and the odd hoot of an owl was comforting and I feel also marked the start of our wild adventure.

Our tents 🙂


The plan was to wake up at 5am – it was now close to 1am … To set off at 6am. With the limited daylight we needed the whole day ahead of us for our mileage.

Time to sleep.

Or not.

Lovely as the owls and stags were – their hooting and the continued rutting kept us pretty awake. This and the anticipation of the day ahead. I think we both managed about 2 hours sleep that night. Eeek!


What did the first day of cycling ahead hold for us? Did we manage to wake up at 5am? And how was the Bealach na Ba? Check in soon for the next instalment of the NC500 challenge blog!


SAMH is the Scottish Association for Mental Health | SAMH

Our just giving page is still open if you would like to donate and spread the word! 🙂  See the link below >


Til next time








One comment

  1. mleslie2

    I think I’d have given up at the point of having to pitch my tent at midnight! Did you know there’s a REALLY nice hotel just near where you were camping???

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