Inspiring people and threatening seas

Want to meet inspirational people who are pushing their personal boundaries to the limit? Then I heartily recommend a trip to John o’ Groats or Land’s End, which are commonly regarded as the furthest pointsGeoffPilgrimage28 on mainland Britain which can be travelled on public roads.

Neither is a destination renowned for its scenic splendour, both being eclipsed by wilder and more ruggedly beautiful compass points nearby – Dunnet Point being the most northerly bit of Britain, while Lizard Point is the southern extremity in Cornwall.

But it is here that almost every cyclist you meet has a fascinating story to tell, many personifying the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, while all demonstrate that we are capable of much more than we realise.

I’ve yet to encounter another distance walker but have really enjoyed the camaraderie of cyclists everywhere; meeting them head-on as for safety reasons I generally walk on the ‘wrong’ side of the road facing oncoming traffic.

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At Dunnet Head lighthouse

Having traversed Scotland on foot from west to east, with stop-overs in Findhorn, I’d resumed my walking from John o’ Groats where I met statuesque Belgian blonde Caroline Eeckhout, 40, who’d just become the latest cycling end-to-ender. She glowed with vibrant good health but was concerned that her legs had become too muscular. Hey, Caroline, you’re looking great and will be an inspiration to family, friends and colleagues back home.

Dunnet Head is a place of spectacular cliffs, soaring seabirds and wild seas, and it was here that I photographed charismatic young Russian Natasha Krasnikova, without then knowing her story. A few hours later we met by chance in a hostel and she invited me to share her celebratory wine and cheese feast, having hitch-hiked the length of Britain on the greatest adventure of her young life. She was justly proud and exuberant and bursting to share her joy and sense of accomplishment. Life really does begin at the end of your comfort zone.

Anna Hughes

Anna Hughes who is cycling around Britain

I shared a room with charming young guys Sam and Mike, who’d completed the epic ride, but we were all awed by the quiet confidence and enthusiasm of Londoner Anna Hughes, 28, who works with a movement called Sustrans which promotes walking and cycling as a way of getting to know your local area.

Her objective is to pedal the entire 7,240km (4,500-mile) coastline of Britain, having already accomplished a third of that. “I love cycling and wanted to see the coast,” she explained. You go Girl!

GeoffPilgrimage30Some days earlier Anna had visited the Findhorn Foundation community and ecovillage, and wrote on her blog: “The whole place was brilliant and no hippies in sight! It makes you wonder why everybody doesn’t live like this. It’s comfortable, community-focused and green. I wish there were more places like this.”

Both Anna and Natasha spoke glowingly of a young artist called Frank who’d sketched and painted his way north. Why didn’t he cycle, Anna demanded? “Because I don't know how to ride a bike,” he admitted honestly, although he of all people now knows what he is capable of. Perhaps the greatest legacy of his adventure is the art he has lovingly created and posted home at regular intervals.

Bravo to all these brave souls!

Geoff Dalglish

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