AN INNERLEITHEN man has cycled 516 miles in five days – raising £21,000 for charity.

Mountain biker Kevin Marshall recently completed the mammoth challenge around the north Scottish coastline – all in aid of a cause close to his heart.

The idea to take on the challenge originated during a mountain biking trip to Glencoe last August, when Kevin, and his friend Steve, both agreed they wanted to do something to support the charities Macmillan and Friends of Anchor, who helped Steve’s mum and dad, and Kevin’s mum, before they passed away.

Kevin said: “We agreed that the North Coast 500 (NC500) was a suitably tough challenge, both to raise awareness and hopefully raise a reasonable amount of cash.

“The team that completed the ride with me are all very close friends, the majority of us met when we were 18 when we started university in Aberdeen and have been close friends ever since. A number of the team are very familiar with spending time on bikes, however others in the group perhaps less so.

“Either way this was a physical and emotional challenge for each and every one of us.”

Described as an “incredibly tough ride” by Kevin, the North Coast 500 spans 516 miles across roads around the coastline in the Highlands. The route starts in Inverness, weaves along the west coast to Applecross and then northwards towards the towns of Torridon and Ullapool.

From there, the team ventured to some of the most northerly coastal points in Scotland, passing by Caithness and John o’ Groats before heading south again through Dingwall and back to Inverness.

“Day one was probably the most challenging followed closely by day three,” Kevin added.

“It included 2,200 metres of climbing, eight hours of riding, and a top temperature of 27 degrees. However, the highlight was riding up the Bealach na Bà. This is every road biker’s dream climb, and to be able to ride it in the heat was a treat.

“The Bealach na Bà is a notorious mountain pass to Applecross. This twisting, single-track mountain road is the third highest road in Scotland rising up to 626 metres (2,054 ft) above the sea level. It’s one of the most scenic rides in the world, very similar to the great mountain passes in the Alps, with very tight hairpin bends which switch back and forth up the hillside, with gradients approaching 20 percent.

“The biggest highlight however, and by far the most humbling, has been the generosity of people from far and wide.

“We knew that setting a £25,000 fundraising target was ambitious, however we never imagined we would get so close to it, with funds currently around £21,000.

“Equally the generosity of people along the way and the support they afforded us was incredible.

“On our last day whilst cycling down the A9 towards Inverness we were flagged down as we passed a layby by the owner of the Golspie fish and chip shop with 10 chip suppers to fuel us on our last 50 miles.”

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