Cycling trip 2011

Edinburgh, John O’Groats, Land’s End, Twickenham.

UK trip a short summary

Total distance: 2600.7 km (1625 miles)
Total time: 135.12 hrs
Avg speed for the trip: 19.24 km/h
Avg dist per day: 113.07 km (70.7 miles)
5 days from Edinburgh to John O’Groats – 551.95 km
14 days from John O’Groats to Land’s End – 1545.55 km
4 days from Land’s End to Twickenham – 503.20 km

NO PAINKILLERS – first trip without them. Felt so much better prepared. Legs worked really well, after first few days, when I had the problem with Achilles tendons.

Loads and loads of litres of water, juice, isotonic drinks.

Toughest uphill – without reviewing the whole blog the one that comes to my mind is – Much Wenlock. I think it was marked at 12% – but it was constant direct uphill. There were very tough ones – very long, very steep but this is the one I would single out.

John O’Groats – close to the end of the world. (Shaun – cyclist from Leeds doing JOG – LE I met in Honiton – made this comment). Very barren but very beautiful.

The most surprising landscapes: route from Gairlochry – Oban, Oban – Lochranza and Ardrossan – Thornhill. Beautiful – the whole trip.

  • Equipment: bike – Ridgeback – Velocity taken care by Moore’s Cycles guys in Twickenham, with Specialised Avatar Geometry saddle – here.
  • Back panniers – Altura – Dryline – they are waterproof – tested. Couple of Specialised cycling bibs, Three cycling shirts, Chamois cream – Butt’r and Ozon – both great. One winter and one summer cycling jersey. Clothes change – one shirt and one pair of 3/4 trousers that I could use in the evening after the cycling. Leg warmers. Waterproofs – jacket. Sunblock – SPF 30
  • Camping tent – Terra Nova Voyager Superlite – here, Therm-A-Rest Prolite Plus mattress – here, Eris 250 Sleeping Bag by Gelert – here,

Day by day diary

17/07/2011

Managed to get to King’s Cross just before train’s departure but the guard wouldn’t take me on. We argued for 5 minutes why he wouldn’t take me on though. Not a nice man. So I went to the ticket office and a very nice man changed the ticket for next train – really nice man.

Ticket to Edinburgh

Nice man’s revision of my missed train ticket

Now sitting on the train to Edinburgh. 🙂 The sun is shinning, bike is safe on the train, coffee is on the table. Time to relax.

Coffee and relaxed on the train. I got on it.

Trip to King’s Cross

  • Distance: 27.09 km
  • Time: 1:18:00
  • Avg speed: 20.6 km/h
  • Max speed: 34 km/h
  • Total time: 1:18:00
  • Total distance: 27 km

Route map

Arrived at Edinburgh station

What a fantastic day to visit Edinburgh. Sun and really nice warm weather. Apparently Scotland is not like this.

Arthur’s Seat

Went out with Marek and Carla. We had some really nice walk along Arthur’s Seat through Holyrood Park. Royal Mile. Princess Gardens. Great architecture around. Some really strange combination of styles. Beer in a Mexican restaurant, then a short visit to the castle (we got there late and they closed the gate), another beer in Polish Vodka Bar. Then through Grass Market.

Sunny and blue sky in Edinburgh
Sunny and blue sky in Edinburgh
Sunny and blue sky in Edinburgh
Sunny and blue sky in Edinburgh
Marek and Carla

Nice curry from Kismot – Indian and Bangladeshi Restaurant and then chat till late with Marek and really good tequila.

18/07/2011

What a difference a day makes.

Up late and then out for a walk around The Meadows. It rained all morning – till 2.00 pm. Visited couple of bike shops – Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative – really well stocked shop. Bought a nice pair of socks.

As we got totally soaking wet we stepped in for a coffee and then had a nice pizza. In the evening Carla prepared Pozole – really nice Mexican dish and sun came out…. and the sky was blue.

Tomorrow start of the trip. Will try to get to Pitlochry.

Day 1 19/07/2011 Edinburgh – Dunkeld

Dist: 108.18 km
Time: 5:47:53
Avg speed: 18.6 km/h
Max speed: 52.4 km/h
Total dist: 135.2 km
Total time: 7:06

Route map

What a great day for cycling. Edinburgh with sun and then sun along the whole of the route.

The first glimpse of the Forth Bridge
It was the first important landmark of the trip – Forth Bridge

Cycled 108 km. What a fantastic views all day. Rain – really light came on km 103. Just a few drops.
Had a slower start from Edinburgh.  The sun was up but my navigation wasn’t too good in the morning.  It took me a while to get to Forth Bridge Road.  On the Bridge the right side cycling path, with better views, was closed. I was forced to take the left one and I didn’t get good shots of the rail bridge or a massive ferry entering the port.

Forth Bridge
Forth Bridge

After the bridge I got lost in Inverkeithing. Just couldn’t find the correct road. Finally with Nokia”s help got out of there and soon after was cycling up to Kelty, then through Kinross and to Glenfarg.

Getting into Fife
On the road with blue sky

Most of part of the route uphill. Then there was an amazing downhill through the valley to Bridge of Earn.

On the road
Sky was changing constantly
On the road

From there Nokia took me really quickly through Perth and then I was on the route to Pitlochry cycling on a very scenic route B9099.

And soon I got to Perth
The weather changed just before Dunkeld

I put a few extra kilometres but the route is relatively quiet and visually enhanced by really great landscapes. Went through Stanley, Murthly and arrived at Dunkeld @ 3.30 pm. Decided to stay in the village. Only one hotel with vacancies.  Got a room and a breakfast for £45.

Views from Dunkeld
Views from Dunkeld
Dunkeld

Slow roasted lamb shoulder on menu today. I think I will have it. Feeling hungry.

Hotel Dunkeld

Day 2 20/7/2011 Dunkeld – Kincraig

Dist: 108.49 km
Time: 5:43:52
Avg speed: 18.9 km/h
Max speed: 42.8 km/h
Total dist: 243.8 km
Total time: 12:51

Route map

Another fantastic day for cycling. A bit of rain @ 7 but by the time I had my breakfast all was dry. Quite a bit of sunshine on the route, some cloudy moments and head wind after 1pm.

Start 9.00.

Slow start to Pitlochry, some nice villages on ‘tourist’ route. Then I had a lift from highway maintenance in part that the route was in construction.

Red squirrel sign and there they were

Lost my way at Logierait. Missed really tricky turn and put another 4km to the total.

On the way up to Drumochter summit
On the way up to Drumochter summit

Pitlochry reminded me of some tourist places in the South of Argentina.  Blair Atholl – yet another nice looking village.  After that it was all uphill to get to Drumochter summit (459 m a.s.l). Uphill for about 12 – 15 km. I did it cycling on A9 – really busy road and then on the cycling paths. Different quality of surface on cycling paths meant that it was harder to go uphill in some parts of the route.

Drumochter summit

When I reached Etterridge – just a few km after the summit – the cycling path finished and I got a lift from Highway Maintenance guys through the tricky bit that they are working on. About 3 km. After that it was mostly downhill.

Drumochter – fromthe top of the summit
And into Highlands
First view of one of the many lochs on the way
And the sky was blue again

Felt in my legs all cycled kilometres today, so decided to stop before Aviemore. I found accommodation in Kincraig. Suie – nice hotel. Will treat myself to better sleep tonight.

What a great day.

Burger massive and very tasty. Couple of beers. Ready for bed. Gosh – it’s only 7.30 pm.

Day 3 21/7/2011 Kincraig – Cromarty

Start 8.45

Dist: 108.34
Time: 5:28:37
Avg speed: 19.7
Max speed: 57.1
Tot time: 18.19
Tot dist: 352.1

Route map

Another beautiful day for cycling. Feeling really lucky.

Clear Glasses – had only sunglasses with me and there was no sun

Today the route took me through Inverness to Cromarty.

Getting to Sloch summit
Down from Slochd
Down to Inverness

Great first part of the route. Really cool downhill to Avimore. Then slow uphill started. It was a gentle but long climb to Slochd summit (405 m a.s.l.)

Once on the summit I realised that if I am going to Inverness and it is at sea level I should be going downhill from there on. So was really high in spirits until I had to face the next up. Who said that even though you go down you can’t go up. But after all, there were more downs than ups and I got to Inverness and then over the bridge following A9. Man – this bridge was a massive uphill as well as very high. Realised I might suffer a bit of vertigo when cycling on a narrow path on a high bridge 😀

Balnuaran of Clava – prehistoric cemetery
Balnuaran of Clava – prehistoric cemetery
Balnuaran of Clava – prehistoric cemetery
Just few kilometres from Balnuaran of Clava
Getting to Inverness
Vertigo on the BRIDGE
More VERTIGO

I was cycling on and along the A9 and it wasn’t a very nice experience. Soon the cycling path vanished so I  decided to take alternative route. I turned the bike to the route to Cromarty and then take a ferry across to Nigg.

Route on Black Isle – real beauty along the coast in parts and of course nice uphills as well.

When I got to the ferry it turned out that the boat is broken. Met Mark and his son – they were on the last bit of the trip from L.E. They went on the road once we were assured that the ferry won’t make it today. I decided to look for accommodation and I just hoped that the ferry will heal for tomorrow.

Cromarty

… Otherwise additional 50km.

Will have to rethink the idea of going to J.O.G. on A9. I am looking at the map and I might consider to skip the JOG bit and go up to Tongue and down through west coast.

Will see what tomorrow brings. As Mark said – good mental skills. Accept things and go with the flow.

Day 4 22/7/2011 Cromarty – Helmsdale

Dist: 113.38 km
Time: 5.36.57
Avg speed: 20.1
Max speed: 52.1
Total dist: 465.5 km
Total time: 23.56 h

Route map

What a day! Started with full Scottish breakfast including black pudding and Haggis.  Stayed at B&B Sydney House. Then it turned out that the ferry was healed but it wasn’t going to happen due to low tide. So it was time to cycle back and join the A9. Sun all morning – great.

Kirkmichael Burial Ground
Kirkmichael Burial Ground

The Black Isle really great place to visit. Some affluent families living there.

Beautiful views around on one of the stops

As I was getting to the bridge close to Findon Mains I got my first taste of Scotland.  Rain and strong wind. Managed to cycle through the bridge and decided to follow the A9 to JOG. Rain stopped as I went across the Bridge. Then the weather was changing constantly. So difficult to get the right set of clothing. Or you just stop and change every 20 min.

When I got passed Tain the scenery changed again and I got some head-wind. Just to have a little taste. Then, after Brora – with ninety something km in my legs there was still time to unleash a few really tricky uphills, rain and proper head-wind.

First sign to John O’Groats – way away but not far

Arrived to Helmsdale and booked into Belgrave Arms Hotel. Only £ 28. Including breakfast.

Finally getting to Helmsdale
And what a treat of the view just few meters from the Hotel

The A9 past Alness wasn’t really bad. It is quieter and less of the motorway. As it happens there are always a few dickheads, thinking they are Jeremy Clarckson, but overall people were very nice.

First of many Masonic Halls – I saw on my way

Got to check on the map were I should go tomorrow.  Can get to JOG, but then got to think were to stay. Tomorrow will tell.

Hotel Helmsdale

Day 5 23/7/2011 Helmsdale – John O’Groats

Wow!

Proper ‘breezy’ Scottish welcome today.

Is it still technically a downhill if you have to break sweat to move forward?

Morning – great views

I let a ‘f**k’ go out of my mouth at km 70… and then again at 80. Very strong blow of the wind from the side – nearly lost vertical. I think I might have been a bit tired as well.

But let’s start from the wake up.

Dist: 86.47 km
Time: 5:28:27
Avg speed: 15.7
Max speed: 53
Total dist: 552.0 km
Total time: 29.25 hrs

Route map

After full Scottish I set off around 9pm. As the route unveiled in front of me I knew as was for a treat. Great views. Really harsh uphills and headwind all the way.

So I was getting into a new region of Scotland
Before the rain started

First 30 or so km to Dunbeath all hard work getting up some of the hills. After that the hills weren’t the biggest of problems (although there were many of them but I just didn’t take any notice). The wind made everything relatively flat. At some points when I was sheltered from the wind for a few meters going up was nicer than down (every single downhill against the wind). The only downhill I managed to go faster was due to really steep gradient. I think it was marked at 13%. On a quiet day one can really enjoy this ride. It reminded me of Spain last year. Very similar characteristics of the terrain.

Even on windy and rainy days
But the beautiful light still was there

As it happens the best was saved for last few km. I found it really difficult to keep the bike upright. I don’t think I have ever experienced anything like it on a bike.

Getting to Wick in rain

As the day progressed I found that taking short breaks helped relaxing muscles both arms and legs and catch up with my breathing.

The end of the land

Got to John O’Groats and found out that camping was probably the only place were I would find accommodation. So now it is official. I have used every single bit of the equipment I got with me. Setting up the tent was a bit of a challenge as well. After a long hot shower went to Seaview Hotel for supper.

Now going to hide in my tent. Camping £8.

John O’Groats
Really great view from the camping – the end of the world.
First night in my tent
and bike secured for the night

Grilled haddock with whole grain mustard sauce – tasty.

Camping John O’Groats

Tomorrow across the coast through Thurso and more adventures.

Day 6 24/7/2011 John O’Groats – Bettyhill

Thanks for all comments and for checking the blog. I really appreciate it.

Another very windy and challenging day on Scottish coast.

Dist: 85.40 km
Time: 5:16:34
Avg speed: 16.1
Max speed: 46.4
Total dist: 637.4 km
Total time: 34.41

Route map

One could think that changing the direction of the route could change the wind as well. Not really. All day battling with the wind and hills. Wind drains all the energy out. 🙂

The beautiful thing was the landscape changing from very barren to more hospitable and then to bits of green on it as well. It is like going through the creation process. Felt really humble going through all those hills swept by the wind. Yet I was able to get through. Respect to nature.

I even went to see a Castle, anything to get out of the wind

I even went to see a Castle, anything to get out of the wind
All the winter stuff out and on
Dunnet
Dunnet
The barren landscape changed to grassy dunes
On the other side from Dunnet Bay
On the other side from Dunnet Bay
Long and … long uphill
And on the top of the hill there was a phonebooth….?
Then I passed strange looking plant
And then there was another long uphill
Another Scottish region – and another uphill
Another uphill
And yet another uphill
… and another solitary phonebooth
and … another uphill on the way to Bettyhill
And I got to Bettyhill
Not without going up the steep uphill in the village itself

The only f..ck came at km 65 after I left Melvich. I was cycling fairly OK and then sudden blast from the front stopped me in one second.

I had lunch in Melvich – scampi with chips. And a great thing it was. In Bettyhill there is nothing open on Sunday apart from a local bar. Got accommodation at B&B. Supper – loads of beer and crisps.

In Bettyhill I met a group that was going from JOG to LE. I would meet some of them quite often on the route in the next few days until I got to Fort William. They took the route through Glasgow. They were going with ‘Bike Adventures’.
B&B in Bettyhill

Have realised how badly has the north of Scotland suffered with the economy. So many small and large Hotels closed loads of B&Bs for sale.

I guess the weather doesn’t help people here. It is the middle of the summer and the very nice pub in Melvich had beautiful fire going on. It was great inside as outside it was freezing!!! in the middle of the summer. It is only hardcore people’s holiday place. I’m outta here tomorrow. Going south.

B&B Bettyhill

Day 7 25/7/2011 Bettyhill – Dingwall

Boy. Oh Boy. Oh Boy. Was I for a treat today?

How little I knew looking out of the window this morning at pouring rain during my breakfast, what the day had to offer within the next few hours.

Dist: 144.02 km
Time: 6:34:53
Avg speed: 21.8 km/h
Max speed: 51.1
Total dist: 781.4 km
Total time: 41:16

Route map

Woke up 5am or so, had reception so posted a few things. Read about Norway and had my breakfast watching the rain. Got some shopping done in the local post office/shop/petrol station and was off at 8.30am. Lady at the B&B said I had about 40km flat. You never believe this things. Last year a priest from Vegadeo told me that the route was flat and sent me through one of the biggest hills there were in the area. 🙂 (for my sins)

The day started off with few small and sharp uphills and beautiful views along the River Naver
The day started off with few small and sharp uphills and beautiful views along the River Naver

9.00am my first encounter with midges. Very brief – I stopped for a drink but was off like a light. Stopped again 9.30 – still midges. 10.00 no midges – no steep uphills – no headwind? Beautiful landscape opening in front of me?

Then the route got flatter and I saw some blue colour in the sky!
Seeing bits of blue sky I though the route to Hope would be the best option. 😀 Well actually I went to Lairg but it was so good for a picture.

11.21 got to steeper uphill – looked up there was a bit of BLUE sky. Decided to take off my winter jacket and put the summer one. Rode very nicely uphill and met a few guys from the group. They were in better spirits too.

11.21 am – took off my winter jacket after 3 days

And then – the most beautiful ride started. I think I had a bit of tail wind in parts of the route. There were moments of head wind as well but it was really nice and warm. I reached 90 km before I knew it.

Even going uphill was much easier feeling sun on my back (from time to)

In the meantime – at 12 or so my shadow started following me on the road. How much pleasure one can get from such a small company.

It was so emotional to see my shadow od the road

At km 90 or so there was a really steep uphill on the direct route to Alness. Took my summer jacket off. Sun was beaming on us. (There were a few cyclists we were overtaking each other all day.)

And through new one of the Scottish regions

Rode up with couple of stops and then again the route plateaud for a few kilometres before the final climb to Alness at 13%. Just before the climb I realised that my front gears weren’t working. I couldn’t switch to the smallest ring. Stopped before the hill changed the chain manually and rode all the way up.

Got to Alness and went to search for bike shop. The only one was closed. One cyclist stopped by and told me that Dingwall might have a bike shop. Another cyclist stopped by and gave me directions to the bike shop. They said it was about 16 km.

Set off again and was in Dingwall at 4.30. Guys in the bike shop couldn’t find any fault. I must have clipped the cable with my front bag. They suggested to go to the camping rather than look for the Hotel or B&B.

Set up my tent, done washing and before 6pm was sitting in the pub sipping nice, cold beer and enjoying fish and chips.

Supper in Dingwall

What a great day. Probably, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much if it wasn’t because of the two and a half days of grueling cold, grey, wet weather and constant headwind.

Tomorrow heading towards Fort William. We shall see.

Today the route took me through: Altnaharra, Lairg, Ardgay, Alness to Dingwall. If anyone would like to cycle in Scotland this is the route I would recommend. Take it from North to South.

Camping Dingwall

Camping Dingwall

Camping Dingwall

Camping Dingwall

Day 8 26/7/2011 Dingwall – Gairlochry

Dist: 109.22 km
Time: 5:32:30
Avg speed: 19.7 km/h
Max speed: 47.2
Total dist: 890.6 km
Total time: 46:49

Route map

Start 8.40 am

The day started cold-ish. There was no sun till 11.30 and then it got really hot.

First part of the route from Dingwall to Drumnadrochit took me through hills that were quite challenging. It turned out to be the most fun during the day.

Afterwards it was all on a busy main road. Beautiful scenery around Loch Ness and then Loch Lochy. The surface of the road was horrible for moments and the traffic was pretty busy too.

The maintenance guys were working on the road so traffic was fairly predictable as they were letting through convoys. Even though it was tricky – as the truck drivers don’t have a break pedal. 😀

Cycling along Loch Ness and Loch Lochy
Cycling along Loch Ness and Loch Lochy
Cycling along Loch Ness and Loch Lochy

I think the most scenic bit came around Loch Lochy. There was a moment of rest from cars as for couple of km I had hard shoulder to cycle on.

Stopped at Gairlochy camping. The weather was beautiful I had loads of stuff to dry and wash so I stopped after nearly 110km and set up the camp. All the washing from yesterday was dry in 30 min. Great! The new washing is nearly there too.

And the first view of Ben Nevis

Had yo cycle to the nearest shop for about 4km. Had a burger and couple of beers. Got breakfast for tomorrow.

Tomorrow decisions: go through Arran or Glasgow area?

Day 9 27/7/2011 Gairlochry – Oban

Dist: 94.3 km
Time: 5.02.06
Avg speed: 18.7 km/h
Max speed: 42.1
Total dist: 984.9 km
Total time: 51.51 hrs

Route map

This trip doesn’t stop surprising me every day.

No alarm clock this morning so was up late. 7.15.

After a late evening midges attack, I thought it will be easier in the morning. Ha! Let me tell you! My tent although wet from dew was down in no time. Shower and I had an attempt at breakfast but it was impossible to get a break from midges. So I took off and had my morning meal on the top of the hill looking at Ben Nevis and listening to a little stream flowing down. And the sun was high up.

Breakfast panorama

Then I decided to go for Oban and then ferries through Arran.

The scenery all the way was like entering totally different dimension.

Getting to Fort William
Fantastic landscapes along the route
Saw some divers getting out of the water – it wasn’t the monster
It was around Loch Linhe
Little ferry port by the Loch

So I cycled with my mouth open all day. Ate some flies – so no need for lunch. 😉

Landscapes along the route
Landscapes along the route

Great landscapes all the way to Oban. What I saw in documentaries about New Zealand – this was better – because I saw it live.

Landscapes along the route
Totally clear water in the Loch.
Landscapes along the route

Not much more to say. Camping close to Oban.  Easier stage because I decided to do less km. Some nasty hills but all was so much easier through the landscape.

Landscapes along the route
Landscapes along the route
Landscapes along the route
Landscapes along the route

I set up the camp a few kilometres from Oban. The shop had all I needed for the night. had couple of burgers, some milkshakes and nice bottle of wine.

Camp at Oban
The famous tent and raindrops on the roof but inside it was warm and dry.

It started raining in the evening and followed through the night.

Camping in Oban

Camping set up in Oban

Camping in Oban

Camping Oban

Day 10 28/7/2011 Oban – Lochranza

Dist: 103.6 km
Time: 5.09.35
Avg speed: 20 km/h
Max speed: 53.6
Total dist: 1088.5 km
Total time: 57 hrs

Route map

After all night’s rain it was nice to wake up to a clouded but dry morning. After a quick breakfast I was off at 8.15. I knew that I was for a hard day as most of the route was marked as scenic.

And there were couple of moments when I had to put all the effort to get up those hills.

I got through the first 1000km of the trip today

One very long and steep was before Kilmartin. 6 or 7 km of really steep and constant up. Then I hit another one between Kennacraig and Claonaig. Just towards the end of the day.

First uphill of the day on the way to Oude Dam
Oude Dam
Hills through Arduaine, Kilmartin, Kennacraig and Claonaig
The older version of showing the gradient of the hill. I haven’t seen one of this before
Then the route became flatter

Spar supermarkets all the way through the UK

The whole route today was just brilliant. Well balanced. Bigger hills at the beginning and then few km of flat before it turned hell just at the end.

Short break – this is how I pack all of my stuff.
Pannier bags – about 5kg of load in each one of them. Didn’t really weigh them but they will be there or there about.
Another one of the Scottish regions

Staying at Hotel Lochranza. Using the whole room to dry and clean my tent and all washed gear. Charging all devices.

View of Arran, Lochranza and a very steep hills for tomorrow

On the sad note – just before boarding the ferry my Nokia fell down and has got broken screen. Will have to try to repair it back on mainland or cycle with the iGo on my HTC.

Update:

Just coming back to my room for the night’s rest after drinking 17 year old Ardbeg with Andy and Gordon. What a great company. Had a guided tour through all destilleries.

They left in great spirits. 😀

Supper and whisky in Lochranza

Hotel in Lochranza

Day 11 29/7/2011 Lochranza – Brodick, Ardrossan – Thornhill

Dist: 121.09 km
Time: 6:04:40
Avg speed: 19.9 km/h
Max speed: 49.3
Total dist: 1209.6 km
Total time: 63:05

Route map

What a day! Again!

Up the hill from Lochranza to Brodick. It was going to be long and long day.
Up the hill from Lochranza to Brodick
Up the hill from Lochranza to Brodick
More up the hill from Lochranza to Brodick

Breakfast was served from 8.30 so I managed to get on the road around 9.40. I was trying if possible to get to the ferry 11.05.

I knew that the first stretch of the trip was going to be a steep uphill – and it was. About 6 km of slow workout for my legs and newly found pair of lungs. After the up came nice downhill – unfortunately today’s route was just very difficult to ride due to the surface of the road. Even on the mainland. My arms are still shacking and right elbow is really painful.

Anyhow – even with the paved road covered with potholes managed to arrive 20 min before the departure of the boat. No problems with the ferry this time.

On the way from Isle of Arran

Once we were in Ardrossan I had to make decisions which way to go. Not having Nokia is really a big problem. Managed to set of with iGo on HTC.

The area around is just so difficult to get through and although I tried hard to move onto secondary roads there were just no signs or clear navigation therefore I took a plunge and went onto A71 to Kilmarnock. From there it was straight forward A76 all I could do today.

First 30 km were really bad uphills in the middle of busy traffic. I was getting really tired and decided to maybe get as far as Sanquhar. Or stop whenever. Landscape slowly started taking shape and by Cumnock I was looking at and riding up the dales – I think what it might be called. Reminded me of the scenery I used to see when watching ‘All creatures great and small’ on Sunday morning as much younger boy. From New Cumnock it started to get easier and I had couple of nice downhills. (The road horrible most of the time). At least on the A76 I had hard shoulder to cycle on. I asked for hotels in New Cumnock’s petrol station and found that I should be able to get room in Sanquhar. Nothing – even the not so nice camping were full. I had by that time 102km done.

On the way to Thornhill
On the way to Thornhill
On the way to Thornhill

Next bigger town – Thornhill. One lady in a farm where I was asking for accommodation told me that I should get something. But it’s 20km to ride.

As soon as I decided to go ahead – couple of km from Sanquhar a paradise has opened in front of me. I was transported from hard farming lands (really beautiful) to a green lush fresh downhill low traffic experience. The trajectory was just great, so glad I did it. It picked me up emotionally and I found room in a beautiful B&B Kelton run by Margaret and her husband John.

Supper at Thotnhill Inn – very nice lentil soup and chicken korma.

Supper in Thornhill

You just never know what to expect round the next corner.

Day 12 30/7/2011 Thornhill – Penrith

Dist: 111.54 km
Time: 5:30:52
Avg speed: 20.2 km/h
Max speed: 52.1
Total dist: 1321.2 km
Total time: 68.36

Route map

It was time to say goodbye to Scotland. Enjoyed thoroughly my experience around there. Even the couple of days up north with head-winds that put me very quickly into a cycling shape.

This morning I was treated really nicely during the breakfast and then by the route. First 20km great (downhill and beautiful scenery) then navigation through Dumfries – managed to get out and find tourist route to Gretna Green. Some hills but really enjoyable ride to Gretna.

On the way out of Scotland I managed to find a place with probably the shortest name – Ae
And then through Dumfiers
Last town in Scotland
First and last house in Scotland
First and last house in Scotland
Goodbye to Scotland
Going into England and Cumbria

Then the more complicated bit started towards Carlisle. All with iGo – right through the town and onto A6. Couldn’t find the access to smaller roads. Just after Carlisle uphills started and the ride became somehow more difficult.  Some uphills I managed to go up with the speed from downhill but some were pure power of my legs and loads of patience.

I was prepared to take camping place today but after Carlisle there was none. Got to Penrith and a very nice man in tourist information center found a guest house for the night.

Now writing from the pub after a delicious plate of roast beef and nice, refreshing pint.

Looking forward to England and Wales – knowing that the next couple of days will be really difficult for navigation.

Day 13 31/7/2011 Penrith – Garstang

Dist: 94.23 km
Time: 5:13:48
Avg speed: 18.0 km/h
Max speed: 52.1
Total dist: 1415.4 km
Total time: 73:50

Route map

Well. Another day on the A6.

Slow start in the morning. After the breakfast, start to cycling was at 8.50. For the first time during this trip my legs felt really heavy and it took good 45 min to get them going.

One of the interesting places on the route
Going up to the Shap summit
Going up to the Shap summit

After km 20 the climb to Shap Summit started. It has been building up since yesterday but the real uphill lasted for about 6-7 km. Shap (1400 ft or 460m a.s.l.). Reading the inscription on the stone up on the hill – it was the popular route linking north and south before M6. Many people lost their lives on this route. All this in contrast with quite a few stupid people that were racing up and down the hill.

Shap summit
Shap summit

All the little piddly cars had double exhaust pipe!? And why none of the bikers respects speed limit? Mystery to me.

Downhill was quite slow and mostly with head or cross-head wind. Like it would follow all day till the end in the camping.

I think the combination of tiredness and weird weather conditions just worn me out today so I thought I will stop in Lancaster. But as I was passing through the town I didn’t like the feeling of the town (sorry if anybody reading is from the place) so decided to push a bit forward and stop before Preston. I found very nice camping by Garstang.

Into Lancashire

Tomorrow the difficult navigation day through the hell of towns and crossroads – the plan is to take A6 and then A49 towards Shrewsbury. Will see where I end up 😀

Day 14 1/8/2011 Garstang –  Whitchurch

Dist: 134.73 km
Time: 6:42:48
Avg speed: 20 km/h
Max speed: 57.1
Total dist: 1550.1 km
Total time: 80.32

Route map

And I managed to get through what, at least at planning stage, looked like the most difficult navigation and traffic wise part of the trip.

It turned out that the camping place wasn’t as cool as it looked at first. Not bad but a load of kiddies running and shouting around till late. But… the shower in there was just perfect. Guys from the bar arranged for breakfast but never turned up.

After I had what I had left of my food I set of at 8.30.

The drive through the busy area was actually quite smooth. I found the A49 fairly early on and then just followed through all the bigger towns.

Getting through Preston

Sometimes riding in triple and quadruple lanes I got through Wigan and Warrington.

Lunch in Ashton

After that I was cycling to Whitchurch. It looked OK on the map.

The bright orange shirt I wore on the busy roads
And through Warrington

I managed to hit a diversion just before the town and had to put extra 8km.

Staying at a small hotel. Not much happening around. It is 8.30 pm and am ready for bed.

Really tired. Had to direct the traffic around me at some point. Why drivers have to pass by just a few centimeters. When I started showing them to go around me oh surprise! they did. Learned a new trick today.

Otherwise on the busy bits they were really nice and let me through without any problems.

Day 15 2/8/2011 Whitchurch – Worcester

Dist: 116.0 km
Time: 6:00:00
Avg speed: 19.1 km/h
Max speed: 58
Total dist: 1666.1 km
Total time: 86.39

Route map

So… It has been a strange day. Had breakfast in my room and was ready to face the road @ 8.45. Making my mind up whether to go through Shrewsbury or Telford. Shrewsbury won. I think it was a sign of things to come. Got past the circular around the town with no problems and then decided to follow the route to Bridgnorth. Everything was going nice and smooth and suddenly there was this massive 12% absolutely killer uphill. Had to stop 3 times on the way up to gather my breath. It was the hill to Much Wenlock.

Up to Much Wenlock – killer 12%
Up to Much Wenlock – killer 12%
Up to Much Wenlock – killer 12%

Then, when I was close to Morville, I decided to consult with the navigation for shorter way to Gloucester. Computer found one for me and boy, oh boy, I got myself into the heart of Shropshire. The most demanding route of the trip. Up and not so much down I went for couple of hours.

The cross road where I decided to cycle through scenic route in Shropshire

After two hours or more of following the short route I decided: enough is enough and stopped the punishment by Bewdley, and I went back to main routes and traffic.

On the other hand just because of this diversion I have seen some real beauty in Shropshire’s landscape. Interminable hills, beautiful colours of different types of crops. Woodlands, river Severn and scorching sun. Enjoyed every single moment of it when I wasn’t swearing. 😀

Shropshire
Shropshire
Shropshire
Shropshire
Shropshire – even the phone book was there!
Shropshire – finally out of hills – well the bigger ones

The part from Kidderminster to Worcester was relatively easy, I was so knackered though that I spent most of the time on “walking/cycling” path rather that dual carriage road.

Got to Worcester around 5.00. What a day!!!

Supper in Worcester

Day 16 3/8/2011 Worcester – Langford

Dist: 123.25 km
Time: 6:06:23
Avg speed: 20.1 km/h
Max speed: 52.1
Total dist: 1789.3 km
Total time: 92:46

Route map

The day started really early. I was up long before 7.00 which was the start of the breakfast.

Out of my window @ Travelodge – Worcester cathedral

Really good service at Travelodge. The guy at the reception gave me a room for disabled people so I had plenty of space for the bike. Breakfast was good and I was off at 8.45 direction Gloucester.

On my way I past through Tewkesbury. What a lovely town! Got some chain lub at Halfords and soon was off to Gloucester once I had a look at the stuff there was on the local market.

Navigation and trip to Gloucester were really easy. I was there in no time.

Up to Bristol
Up to Bristol

Afterwards on the way to Bristol I realised I was going up more than down. Had a few steeper hills some of them quite unfriendly.

Up to Bristol

I was really pleasantly surprised in Bristol. I felt such a nice atmosphere around. It looked really bike friendly but not in a Dutch or Belgian way. There was some sort of understanding between drivers and cyclists. The town itself was really nice as well.

I hit the 102 km in the centre of Bristol stopped for a second and decided to follow for another few km and leave Bristol behind.

My God! 10 km of nearly constant uphill – what a punishment. Then had 3km of nice downhill before I got to Langford. Stopped in local inn and the place was full but the lady phoned little B&B and this is where I’m going to spend the night. Didn’t want to stay in camping as they’re promising thunder storms.

Lower Langford was just round the corner

Had nice pasta with loads of roasted veggies and couple of pints of local brew.

Washing drying nicely outside, sun is just setting down – beautiful.

Oh! A38 not bad for cycling – most of the time cycling paths along the main road but about 1m wide so felt relatively safe. I think as long as there is a thin white line between traffic and me I’m OK.

One more comment: the hottest day of the trip. Had to stop a few times at petrol stations to wet my head and my hat.

Day 17 4/8/2011 Lower Langford – Exeter

Dist: 103.58 km
Time: 5:17:59
Avg speed: 19.5 km/h
Max speed: 52.1
Total dist: 1892.9 km
Total time: 98:04

Route map

No photos today! Camera in main bag protected against rain.

The day started with rain. And loads of it. Had breakfast, watched news and thought – it will get bright and clear today. :-D. Optimistic 😀

Left B&B 8.45 – OK it was raining pretty heavy so was soaking wet after 5 min. Said hello to a lady on the street and took cover on the bus stop.

Nearly 1hr later she past by with her friend and commented on my progress: You didn’t get far?

At this stage the sky started looking a bit lighter and the rain wasn’t so heavy – so I set off again @ 9.45. After a couple of hills and few km I felt that the rain wasn’t stopping but getting worse. So I put my head down and went ahead.  After the initial couple of hills I was supposed to bike through Sommerset Flats. And I did. It was a great cycle, even in rain, I got my first 35km to Bridgwater in no time. Just as I was leaving the town, rain stopped and so did I. Squeezed all the water I could out of my socks and gloves. Changed shirt for a dry one, put the light jacket on, had a coffee and was off again. Got to Taunton pretty well. 12.15 or so. Really nice, fast 50 km.

After Taunton the wind got really bad. I was hitting some headwinds for the past 4 days but today it was far too strong.

Wind is so… demoralising? (If such a word exists in English language).

The ride became really hard and when I had to choose the route at Waterloo Cross the bike itself turned left and I had to go to Exeter rather than Tiverton.

At least at some points of this route I managed to cycle with crosswind.

As usual I had to climb couple more hills before I got to Exeter. Cycled through the town and found my new route. A30 as of tomorrow. Decided to follow through for a while and stopped by a decent looking little hotel just after the town centre.

I was going to delay my encounter with A30 for another half of the day but well will see tomorrow. Read on some blogs that most of the people doing LE-JOG go onto A30. It has got nice hard shoulder. And as I said yesterday: as long as there is this white line I feel relatively safe. Sometimes even safer than going on a B-road. Lorries going as fast or even faster and there is much less space on the road.

Hotel in Exeter
Supper in Exeter

Definitely prefer riding in pouring rain rather than into the wind. 🙂

Day 18 5/8/2011 Exeter – Roche

Dist: 116.38 km
Time: 6:07:18
Avg speed: 19 km/h
Max speed: 53.7
Total dist: 2009.3 km
Total time: 104:11

Route map

A30 – scary, friendly, straightforward, bendy and difficult, noisy, but you appreciate moments of quietness, some great views, great hard shoulder all the time.

Hard shoulder on the A30

Uphills – loads of them and of different length. Anything between 10min and 45min of cycling slowly up.

The views from the A30 wren’t bad either
The views from the A30 wren’t bad either

Great views of Dartmoor Forest on the way to Okehampton. Stopped by Belstone to get some liquids in, check the tire pressure and toilet.

Then stopped for a fantastic burger just after Launceston. Really nice parking spot before the ride through Bodmin Moore.

Welcome to Cornwall

Of course stopped loads of times in between for a drink, photo or just a rest.

Down and up to Bodmin
2000 km on the road
Very nce B&B in Carbis Wharf

Great up and down hills nearly all the way to Bodmin. Stopped in town to check for accommodation and got nice B&B near to Roche. Carbis Wharf. Beautiful set up. Cycled back to Bugle for supper. Had pea and ham soup and very nice mussels in white wine sauce.

Tomorrow back to A30. Unfortunately without the Nokia the navigation is not the best. The iGo doesn’t always pick up the best option. Will have another go early on tomorrow – see what happens.

Day 19 6/8/2011 Roche – Land’s End – Catchall

Dist: 98.12 km
Time: 5:22:02
Avg speed: 18.2 km/h
Max speed: 47.2
Total dist: 2107.5 km
Total time: 109.34

Route map

More of the great views on the A30 on the way to Penzance
More of the great views on the A30 on the way to Penzance
More of the great views on the A30 on the way to Penzance
First sign on the road to Penzance
More of the great views on the A30 on the way to Penzance – by Hayle
First road sign to Land’s End

The highlight of the day must be reaching Land’s End. The place itself much more commercial than the other end. Well… and it was sunny. Wind – well I forgot about the wind altogether. Although I have noticed that on my way back I was pushed. People say that doing LE – JOG is easier than JOG – LE – they might be right.

The trip to Penzance was nice and fairly easy till km 30 or so when hills started. They didn’t stop. On the short bit between Penzance and Land’s End there were couple of little stinkers as well.

… and I was in Penzance
I managed to get there. Land’s End
At Land’s End
At Land’s End
At Land’s End
At Land’s End
At Land’s End

At LE met another cyclist – Richard from Manchester. He started his adventure 7 weeks ago from Aberdeen. Wanted to go to Shetland Islands but there was something wrong with the ferry 😀 He cycled very similar route to what I did, but he spent more time in Wales cycling with one of his mates and going to Isle of Man. He cycled through Ullapool as well. LE was the end of his trip.

I had a cunning plan. I wanted to leave my panniers somewhere around Penzance and then cycle nearly empty to LE. When i was passing through Penzance I realised how popular the place was and I just cycled by hoping to find a camping close by. Didn’t find a camping but nice B&B. All is washed and drying.

Breakfast tomorrow 8 am and back to Twickenham. Another few days of joy.

Day 20 7/8/2011 Catchall – Liskeard

Dist: 114.87 km
Time: 6:05:49
Avg speed: 18.8 km/h
Max speed: 58
Total dist: 2222.3 km
Total time: 115.39

Route map

Baptism of water!

Day started out delightfully with breakfast at B&B and then slightly later start than usual at 9.00. But it was truth – the hills were much kinder going the other way. Soon I was racing through Penzance. The sun was shining and the route to Helston was a pleasure to ride. In Helston I remember saying to myself – this is a nasty little hill. But to my surprise the downhill was one of these I really enjoy riding. Long and slow. I don’t mind going up when the downhill is enjoyable. Today first 70 even 80 km were like this. Had some steeper ones in Truro and. St.Austell.

If you not scared of facing a few hills and a bit of traffic take the ride. It is brilliant!

After Truro I realised that the rain has been around quite a lot as the road was soaking wet and streams flowing down. Yet above us there was a sun.

On the road to St Austell
On the road to St Austell

My luck lasted for about 20 km. As I was leaving St. Austell the sky has opened suddenly. I managed to dive under some trees wear my raincoat and wait for the worse to pass. It was over in 15 min and I decided to start cycling in nice refreshing shower. A few meters on the road and a bastard in a 4×4 splashed couple of buckets of water on me. I know cyclists are totally invisible to drivers but there is no need to add to the insult.

I wear bright orange shirt hoping that drivers will notice me more. Can you believe that the only think they ask me on stops is whether I am Dutch? Great!

After the unavoidable showers from few more cars and the water coming from all of directions possible there was not a single bit on me that was dry. All my clothes were so wet I didn’t even bother to stop anymore.

I realised as well how nasty drivers are to each other. On a normal day one doesn’t notice these things so much. Cutting through, splashing all the water they can, overtaking and changing lanes without signaling. There were a few accidents around because ambulances and police cars passed by a few times.

Anyhow, had to take it off my chest. The real treat of the day started in Penpillick. Rain and a massive uphill. From there on it was like this. Steep uphills and sharp downhills to Liskeard itself.

Last night I checked the map and few km from Liskeard there are nice campings, so I was going to stop there. But, when I got to Liskeard the sky opened up again and I decided to look for a hotel very quickly. I was really cold and loosing energy very quickly. There was no point in changing clothes as the new ones would have been wet as soon as I put them on. Not much choice of hotels. B&B was closed, tried to ring them – answer machine. Went to a second suggestion of the lady I asked on the street. A posh hotel – I wasn’t a pretty picture – believe me. When the duty manager saw me approaching the door she was there as quick as a lightning informing me that all of the rooms were taken. Bless her. She told me though that there was Premier Inn on the exit to Plymouth.

All dripping water I filled in forms and signed papers and soon after had a 1.5 hrs long shower. Felt much better.

Hotel Liskeard

Now the sun is shining beautifully skies are nearly blue, I had supper and couple of pints. Time to move to the bar for couple of whiskies and then to bed.

Supper in Liskeard

I would like to check the profile of the route today. I know it was difficult but just how much of it is tiredness and how much is the actual route?

Day 21 8/8/2011 Liskeard – Honiton

Dist: 125.10 km
Time: 6:17:07
Avg speed: 19.9 km/h
Max speed: 54
Total dist: 2347.4 km
Total time: 121.57

Route map

After the very early breakfast (7am) I was ready to go at 8. And…. puncture in back tire. So after sorting out the thing I started off at 8.45. Nasty piece of glass.

It has been a great day for a cycle. A bit busy on main roads but relatively safe.

Started off with couple of uphills to Saltash and a great ride over the bridge to Plymouth.

Stopped in Saltash to get new inner tube but the shop was miles away so I didn’t go.

After cycling on the by-pass around Plymouth I got to Lee Mill. Nothing there. Next stop Ivybridge – got the new tube. The rest was relatively flat with beautiful views of Dartmoor. There was a steeper hill just before Exeter. Few km of ascending through woodlands. All drivers were really nice on the uphill and were leaving me loads of space.

Views from the A38
Views from the A38, and the first sign to London

The other longer uphill came before Ottery St Mary.

Arrived to Honiton way before 4 pm. Really nice and quick day.

A38 – nicely designed road. Really well thought through. Couple of passes through hills but very slowly rising. Hard shoulder not as good as A30. After Exeter I was back on A30 and apart from the noise – really nice ride.

Honiton – very nice little town. Apparently plenty of retired people. Well I’m staying at B&B of a retired couple. What a great house. What features. Needs a bit of doing up but the furniture and decor – massive possibilities. Looks around Victorian era.

Supper at Nepalese place. Tasty. So full I can’t move.

B&B in Honiton

Well it looks like A30 all the way to Twickenham.

Day 22 9/8/2011 Honiton – Salisbury

Dist: 120.24 km
Time: 6:26:22
Avg speed: 18.6 km/h
Max speed: 49.8
Total dist: 2467.7 km
Total time: 128.23

Route map

I knew that I was up for a challenge this morning as most of the route to and past Yeovil was marked as scenic. And it was eye and brow watering.

By the time I got to Chard I was shuttered already and I was only a few miles away from Honiton.

I stopped for a drink and a rest started taking photos and the beauties come closer 
and closer…
and closer…
and closer…
and closer…
and closer…
and closer…

The rest of the route to Shaftesbury and Ludwell was just like this. I couldn’t believe it. Hill after hill after hill after hill…. By that time I had done 80+ km it was 3pm, I had more than 5hrs in the saddle and wouldn’t have swapped this time for anything. It was brilliant.

Yeaovil was greeting me

Quite a bit of traffic on A30 but is the one to recommend as well. The uphill to Shaftesbury! 😛

As I was cycling through all the hills I was wondering whether whoever designed the route took the challenge to go through all of the deeps and tops possible.

Once past Ludwell there was one big hill on the horizon and I was so curious to see if the road still manages to go across it.

The big hill I was thinking about how the planner of A30 could make it go through this one as well

To my total dismay and my legs’ relief the route meandered in between hills till Salisbury.

Regimental badges cut into the Wiltshire chalk downes to commemorate Australian and British soldiers who died in the two World Wars

Of course there were still some hidden dips and blind summits but I was getting some rhythm into my ride and soon the long kilometers to go were becoming less and less and before I knew it I was in Salisbury.

Got a guest house from tourist info board. It turned out to be a great place and Michael (the owner) suggested nice places to visit and eat in.

Went to the Cathedral. Caught the last few minutes of the choir and spent some time wondering around and sitting and thinking.

Salisbury

Then ended up having a meal in a pub Rai D’Or with the best Thai food I have tasted in UK. Worth coming.

Day 23 10/8/2011 Salisbury – Twickenham

Dist: 132.99 km
Time: 6:48:45
Avg speed: 19.5 km/h
Max speed: 53.8
Total dist: 2600.7 km
Total time: 135.12

Route map

So after 2600 km – can’t believe it clocked just in at 2600 km (1625 miles) – I arrived to Twickenham. It will take a few good days to go through all of the emotions and digest the whole adventure. Now it will be the time to look back and enjoy all of the trip again.

Today the stage was a bit of a blur all day. It started with some up and downhills to Andover. Then I took the B 3400 to Basingstoke. Excellent for a ride and very nice scenery.

Last day of the trip provided some nice views as well
Back in Surrey

Then from Basingstoke parts of the route were very busy right down to Twickenham.

There was no time for many emotions as I had to watch my backside all the time.

Stepped in shops on my way home and got some food for a few days.

Now will try to get some photos and put the whole blog together.

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