On July 24th, my stepdad Michael and I set off on a 500-mile cycle along Scotland’s famous North Coast 500 route. Our mission? To raise money for Ignite Life’s counselling service.

 

We raised over £2,300! So I’ll start by thanking everyone who supported us. And not just by donating, but by motivating and encouraging, sharing our message and more.

 

The cycle may have been tiring, treacherous and traumatic at times, but it was rewarding, exhilarating and beautiful too. And knowing we were doing it to support Ignite was motivation enough to keep going. Even when it turned out the initially stunning Scottish weather had other plans…

 

The £2,300 raised will go towards providing more than 8 young people with 6 weeks’ professional counselling. So, THANK YOU!

Bethanie (charity fundraising and research manager). 

The North Coast 500 is famous for its beautiful landscapes, stunning coastlines and Highland cow sightings, as well as its unpredictable weather, never-ending inclines, and narrow roads. While we cycled the 500 miles, our family drove along in a motorhome to meet us after each day. We set off on day 1 from Inverness, with a reasonable 9am start for a 68mile cycle to Lochcarron. Our first day consisted of 31-degree Scottish sun, our first Highland cow sighting and a pretty flat ride. When we arrived in Lochcarron we jumped straight into the Loch to relax our muscles, ready for day 2.

Mental Health Post
Mental Health Post

Day 2 was slightly less of a breeze than our first day as we tackled the famous Bealach Na Ba, which has the steepest ascent of any road climb in the UK, rising from sea level to 626 metres. The weather was warm, and the climbs were steep, but we made it to the top followed by 5 miles down the other side. The rest of the day involved a tough coastal road with endless hills. We finished the day in Gairloch after cycling 82 miles and climbing a total of 6400 feet!

As we set off on day 3, heading the 59miles to Ullapool, the temperature dropped but the views remained exceptional. Knowing that the view would only get better at the top of each hill was motivation enough to push through. Day 4 was, no surprise here, filled with rolling hills, the toughest being a 25% incline! We pushed through but had to accept defeat, get off our bikes and walk them up the rest of the dramatic incline. Day 4 took us 66 miles to Scourie climbing a total of 3559 feet.

We woke up on day 5 to torrential rain and yellow warnings of thunderstorms and as we cycled higher up into the mountains, entering the clouds, the thunder was our motivation to not stop. Limited visibility, who knew clouds weren’t fluffy and soft but wet and cold, meant we had to take it slow and ended up finishing the day slightly earlier than planned. But we hit our target today and raised £1500!!

Only two days to go! As we set off this morning, it took a lot of encouragement to get back on my bike, bum bruised, legs aching and soaked through, we still had miles to go. But we did it and made our way to John O’Groats, the most northernly point in the UK. It felt encouraging to make it to this landmark and then start heading back down south while the weather started to improve and hills started to flatten…slightly.

Mental Health Post
Mental Health Post

Last day today! Of course, we got a puncture 20 miles from the finish line, we couldn’t have gone the whole 500 miles without one puncture I guess! Day 7 was flat and filled with more Highland cattle and more enthusiasm to make it to the end. As we cycled back into Inverness, 500 miles cycled, family and friends waiting to cheer us over the finishing point with champagne, tears and cuddles, I remembered why we set off on this journey to start with.

Ignite Life provides some of the best support for young people who have faced setbacks, mental health challenges and, too often, slip through the net. Ignite work tirelessly to offer the best possible support to vulnerable young people. Access to mental health care is vital for young people to thrive, feel safe and nurtured and support young people to cope emotionally, whilst building their skills and self-esteem. And with this in mind, I can’t believe we did it! I feel emotional, proud and like I never want to look at a bike again (well for at least 5 months!).

What I listened to:

Songs:

  • Amy Winehouse: Frank
  • Amy Winehouse: Back To Black
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Kaleo
  • George Ezra: Wanted on Voyage
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Paolo Nutini
  • Joy Crookes
  • Hozier: Hozier
  • Tom Misch
  • Leon Bridges
  • Michael Kiwanuka
  • Tom Jones
  • Frank Ocean
  • Noname
Podcasts/books:
  • Grounded with Louis Theroux:
    • Riz Ahmed
    • Frankie Boyle
    • Michaela Coel
    • Justin Theroux
    • FKA Twigs
    • Rylan Clark-Neal
    • KSI 
  • Table Manners:
    • Tom Grennan
    • Emerald Fennell
    • Tom Jones
  • Legacy of a Lioness: Amy Winehouse BBC Sounds series
  • Unfollow, Megan Phelps-Roper