Biking Lands End John O Groats Scotland

Cycling in the Rain: It’s Horrid Henry

Rain in my rear view mirror. Rain everywhere.
Written by Kirstie Pelling

Cycling in the Rain: It’s Horrid Henry

Kirstie Profile SmallI pushed against the wind, head down into the rain. Beneath me on my right, almost obscured by mist, the river. To my left the traffic, buzzing across the Forth Bridge, wipers busy clearing torrential rain from their windscreens.

Up and up we climbed, over the bridge and down into the mist, the fierce wind leaving me gasping for breath, burning my cheeks, and my face already battered by rain. Behind me Matthew bent his head for shelter while Horrid Henry played on the MP3 through his headphones. I hoped it was drowning out the wind and rain, and lifting his spirits above mine.

“Why am I putting him through this?” I wondered. “It’s all so pointless.”

Crossing the Forth Bridge

Crossing the Forth Bridge

Why are we cycling in the rain?

The truth was we had made a chain of decisions that had put us up against it in appalling weather. Ironically enough, these choices had been made with the kids in mind. Saturday is pocket money day and treat day, and after our long hard ride into Edinburgh we promised the children some down time. We stayed with friends Gareth and Emma for the night and as we packed up the bikes in the pouring rain, Emma invited us to a children’s party their son was going to. Looking out of the window at weather that didn’t seem to be about to change, we agreed. But the party and the bad weather both went on into the afternoon, longer than we’d planned to stay.

One disaster after another

Mid afternoon we togged up in full rain gear, and bumped up and down the cobbled streets of the city. It was one cobble too much for my bike and the drive chain snapped at a busy junction. After holding up a line of impatient festival traffic, I eventually wheeled my bike into a car park, humiliated and angry with myself for breaking the chain. Then drenched after the fiddly repair job, we cycled down Princes Street on the busiest day of the year. The festival street performers looked as soggy as us as they did their stuff to crowds of shoppers, undeterred by the weather. People stared at us through their umbrellas, perhaps thinking we were one of the acts.

We stopped to buy maps and have coffee while we debated our next move. We couldn’t stay in Edinburgh, an internet search had thrown up nothing in the city or on the outskirts, so we had booked a Travel Inn in Kinross. But it was a long way out of town and it was already four o clock. We would have to shift it if we wanted to get there at all.

The Kinross experience unfolds

Twenty two kilometres from Kinross, over the Forth Bridge, we stopped in the rain for a family meeting in a disused garage forecourt. It was still raining persistently and we were freezing cold, with soaking feet and black moods. But we had no other options, wild camping couldn’t be done in the busy urban area, there were no campsites and we had spent our budget on an overpriced room. It was the first time in the trip we had forward booked something and we were regretting our actions.

Boys in silhouette

As darkness descends we are soggy silhouettes of our former dry selves

Cold, wet and miserable. Is it worth it?

Six kilometres from Kinross and we stopped in a bus shelter at the side of the road. It was pitch black, all three of the kids were crying. We had been wading through massive tracks and pools of water in the dark, spraying clothes and buggies with cold water.

“Only a few more kilometres boys, and then we can all get into warm beds,” we tried to cheer up them and ourselves.

Was John O Groats really worth all this?

But how quickly it all is forgotten

“Are you warm now?” I asked Matthew, as he snuggled into my arms. He didn’t reply, he was entranced by Match Of the Day. On my tummy, Hannah giggled and squirmed, dressed only in a nappy and a warm quilt after her hot bath. Next to me, Stuart lay on the bed with Cameron in his arms, sharing the MP3 earphones, laughing out loud at the exploits of Cameron’s new favourite story.

The Kinross experience had been a challenge, but obviously not as horrid as Henry. Only an hour after reaching the hotel, all thoughts of our challenging journey had been forgotten, for now.

About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.

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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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