Saturday, 23 June 2012

The Great Grail Grab Grand Tour - Day 6

Waking in the early morning as it was very cold; I decided to get back on the road. After discovering the shower block to be locked, I warmed up some water in my Jetboil and had a wash beside the tent, packed up and was on the road by 07.30. There was still nobody in sight to I got away with a free night! Not that I got much, no facilities and the pitches were actually for camper vans so no grass but a rock hard dirt surface that has left my tent filthy!

The ride via the A9 to Perth was uneventful although cold and blustery, about five miles from the town, the rain started in earnest, and it also coincided with the fuel light coming on. From previous travels this way I knew that if I took the road into town there was a McDonalds and an Asda petrol station right next to each other, so I headed that way as breakfast was long overdue.

In the McDonalds there were a bunch of cyclists on a Lands End to John O'Groats ride. I overheard them say that that day's destination was Newtonmore about 60 miles north. It certainly put things into perspective as I had only passed the place an hour previously!

I took the opportunity to use their free wifi and check the weather report.... not looking good!

After breakfast and struggling into every waterproof layer I possessed, I fuelled up next door and headed out onto the M90 to head for Edinburgh, before hitting the Forth Road Bridge, the traffic ground to a halt and stayed this way for several miles to the bridge, across it and all the way round the Edinburgh bypass. Filtering between the stationary traffic with my rather wide panniers dropped my speed down to only about 15mph.  The roads were awash with water and the next day I heard on the radio this stretch was impassable due to flooding, it looks like I got out just in time.

I soon turned off for the 5 minute detour to Rosslyn Chapel. This has long been on my to do list and of course if you believe Dan Brown in the Da Vinci Code, tied up in Grail myth. Of course this is not the case and even his references to the Masonic imagery in the chapel are largely false (some were made of wood and stuck in place for the film)! Although many images carved into the stone are interpreted as being evidence of connection to the Knights Templar (which gives more Grail/Masonic connections.... allegedly). What the chapel is a fantastic example of the 15th Century Stone Masons art, truly fascinating. At £9 it's not cheap to enter but the cost of maintaining this amazing piece of history must be immense, it was derelict for years until the Victorians rebuilt the roof and sadly caused a lot of problems with their attempts at "restoration". For fourteen years it had a steel roof supported by scaffolding over the top to allow the stonework to dry out, it was only removed in 2010 and work still continues on restoration.



The Da Vinci Code was responsible for the new visitors centre being built next door, prior to the book the Chapel received 30,000 visitors a year (it has been a tourist attraction for over 300 years), after the Da Vinci Code that went up to 175,000 a year!!!



And as the guide said, they only had one toilet! It has also proven to have other problems as the book claims the apprentices' pillar is hollow, unfortunately this led to one "disturbed" German visitor attacking it with an axe! And of course if you believe the internet, the sealed vault below the chapel contains everything from the Holy Grail, a UFO and Elvis Presley to the Knights Templar Treasure and the original Crown Jewels of Scotland!

After an enjoyable visit throughout which I noticed the rain had stopped, I got back on the bike and it promptly started raining again. And this time it didn't stop again until I got to Sheffield.

The next stage down to Holy Island was truly miserable with high winds blowing in off the North Sea, thick fog, torrential rain and freezing cold. It was at this stage I decided I was going to keep riding and see how far I could get that day.

Holy Island was ticked off; I arrived at 1.20pm, only an hour and a half before the causeway closed. So even if I had missed Rosslyn (I spent an hour there) without the extra two and a half hours I had ridden the night before I would have been highly unlikely to make it in time.





The next long section down the single carriageway A1 was equally miserable and again I hit near stationary traffic riding round Newcastle. A lunch stop shortly afterwards gave me some time to dry out but by now my waterproofs were loosing the fight to keep the rain out... soggy crotch syndrome was back!!!

Durham Cathedral came soon after:



The descent back down the hill on cobbled streets in pouring rain was.... interesting!

Now I was into survival mode and hit the A1(M) then the M1 to Wakefield in appalling spray and ever heavier traffic. I knew from others on the forum that Wakefield was near impossible to get near so as soon as I got a decent view of the steeple, I pulled up on double yellow lines and grabbed a photo. Then it was straight back on the bike and back to the M1 and off to Sheffield.




This was easier as I had once been to an award ceremony at the Cutlers Hall directly opposite the Cathedral so knew where I was headed. One advantage of it being late in the evening and had been raining all day was that there was no one around to see me riding across the pavement!




With only one location left to go, it was a ride out through parts of Sheffield that I recognised from previous visits to friends in the City and down the A61 towards Chesterfield. I eventually arrived in Derby at around eight o'clock and grabbed my last photo.


 

It was then a matter of getting back to the M1 and heading home, the weather didn't improve, it again rained the whole way back, I eventually rolled onto my drive at 10.15, after a 570 mile day, having ridden in one day further than I had planned to ride in two!

Mission complete, all 31 Grail locations ticked off.

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