Gavin Mackie Reflects on the NC 500 Charity Cycle

Nov 07 2019

Back in September, Larchfield Estate owner Gavin Mackie headed off alongside David Tobin, Roger Pannell, Keith Liggett and Donald Stone to cycle the NC 500 – a 500-mile cycle across the very north of Scotland. The team of 5 made the trip in aid of Domfounded and Action Cancer, and final donations can be made HERE and HERE.

Now that he is back in the office in one piece (and his legs have now recovered from 7 days of hardcore pedalling!) we caught up to hear about the team’s journey across the Highlands.

Monday – We flew into Inverness and picked up our bikes from the shipping depot. After putting them together, we enjoyed our final chance to relax in some comfy seats before 7 days on the saddle!

Tuesday – Heading out from Inverness in the sunshine, we rapidly (in less than 4 hours!) covered 65 miles and 2200ft of elevation. We arrived in Lochcarron in high spirits, thinking that the week ahead wouldn’t be too tough after all…

Wednesday – We woke early to find rain, alongside the realisation that our first climb was straight up Bealach na Ba which boasts the steepest ascent of any road climb in the UK (from sea level to 2054ft) at up to 20% gradient. This was a really tough grind, and we missed out on the incredible view from the top due to heavy rain and cloud cover. After a speedy cup of tea there was a rapid (translation: hairy!) descent down slippery roads to Applecross. All of us soaked through, there was huge disappointment to find the café shut… but we soon sniffed out a bar just 300m away! Five wet and frozen lycra-clad men soon crowded around the open fire, with steam coming off us as we consumed every type of cake and bun on offer. Thankfully, the weather improved for the rest of the route to Gairloch (81.25 miles and 6886ft gain).

What Bealach na Ba should have looked like!
A little bit less sunshine in reality...

We thought the worst was behind us, but quickly realised that although the weather had improved, we now faced roads that rose and fell like a rollercoaster! Views were stunning, but difficult to appreciate with 93 miles to cover on very tired legs, and strong head winds all the way to Lochinver.

Thursday – Convinced that Wednesday was the hardest day, Thursday soon proved us wrong. Struggling to stand up whilst cycling to keep forward momentum on the steepest hills - this took a huge toll on energy levels, and it was a hard slog to reach lunchtime. Thankfully, after an hour refuelling, we were able to get going again in much better form and the next cycle to Tongue was really enjoyable.

Friday – Only 64 miles to cover this day, ‘this will be easy!’ we thought. WRONG!!! We faced a strong head wind all day as we made our way to John O’Groats, with the last section offering 40mph winds – it felt like we were back climbing Bealach na Ba all over again!

Delighted to have made it this far!

Saturday – Ahhh, good news! Saturday was our ‘take it easy day’. Up to watch the rugby (Ireland vs Scotland followd by England vs Tonga) – poor Donald wasn’t too happy with the results. We then set off for a speed cycle of 45 miles (more head winds!), up long rivers and past the lakes to Lairg. Great to be away from the big hills.

Sunday – Our last day in the saddle, and only 64 miles to reach the finish line in Inverness. Most of the climbs were over and done with early, and we finished off with a pub crawl into town where celebrations continued well into the night….

Lucky to see some incredible views along the way

A huge thanks to David and the Dreamescape team who organised the itinerary and managed to reserve very hard to come by rooms on this popular route. Thanks to Clare Stone who was our lifesaver in the Land Rover. Just when running on empty, we would crest a hill to see the Defender parked up with a steaming cup of tea awaiting! Her life consisted of visiting any shops she passed and buying every banana they had along with another tub of Sudocrem! Meanwhile, Holly’s chocolate flapjacks were so good that they didn’t last long.

The bike now has been retired for the winter and as someone wise said – “Gavin, next time you have a midlife crisis it would be much easier to just buy a Ferrari!!”