Cycling around Britain

Tim and Louise Chapman plus friends....

Louise and I have set a goal of cycling the 6500 miles of Britain's coastline over the next few years and this page is a record of the trip. Hope you enjoy the read and get inspired to get on your bike! 

I have been cycling for as long as I can remember, inspired my grandparents who regularly cycled the hills and dales of the North on fixed wheels bikes in their youth!  

My first solo big ride , aged 11, was York to Ripley Castle a 40 mile around trip on my first bike a Dawes Dapper. The pint of milk and the mighty Woolgroves' sausage rolls and teacake picnic, my mum packed up, is still fresh in my memory!  From there I never looked back, touring Britain for 3 weeks at 16 with my trusty mate Adrian Pagliaro. Followed by many cycle tours across the UK and Europe over the last 20 years.

I have now set myself a goal (I like those) to cycle the coastline of Britain (and the islands) over the next few years.  I was inspired after reading One Man and his Bike my Mike Carter, a great book.  A number of friends and family have joined us along the way; our son Sam, my best man Tom Handley and Paul Galley, the Italian Giro master from Ulverston.

I started in 2016 and have completed around 1500 miles so far, but I have now decided to record the trip here.  I hope you enjoy the journey!  The map shows the sections completed in 2017 red and 2018 blue.

Barrow in Furness to Preston  - 1st - 3rd November 2019

118.70 Miles : 4 242 ft

I joined up with Paul Galley for a 3 day jaunt down the Lancashire coast.  A rude awakening on Friday the 1st of November with a very very wet cycle into York to catch the 05.40 across to Manchester for the connecting train to Barrow. Paul hopped on at Ulverston, his home town, with the faint smell of silicone spray as he looked to try and keep the rain out....I think he got as wet as me!

The section from Barrow to Ulverston took us past the huge BAE complex, home to submarine construction, out along the Morecambe Estuary towards Ulverston. Suitably refreshed at Poppy's cafe we pushed on over a couple of testing, heart pounding climbs to reach Paul's office for a quick cup of tea.  Passing the former grandeur of Grange over Sands to the early darkness of the outskirts of Lancaster. We switched off road for a canal tow path, interesting in the dark!  Arrived in Hest Bank for our overnight.

Day 2 start was slightly delayed due to watching the Rugby World Cup Final and England's sad demise against the brawn and boot of South Africa. We joined the canal again for a section into Lancaster and then down to Glasson Dock via the former Port of Carlisle Railway.  Our target point was Knott End and the ferry across to Fleetwood.  The Knott End Ferry was a favourite painting location for LS Lowry.  The short ferry trip crosses the River Wyre estuary to the fishing port of Fleetwood and the promenade ride down to Blackpool.

We were now completely off road all the way down the coast to Lytham. Some great breakers rolled in, we dodged the Blackpool day trippers and the seagulls. Overnight stop was in Lytham, an attractive town with a good local real ale and music venue.

The final day we ambled into Preston for the train home.

Inverness, Tain, Scourie and Ullapool  - 31st July to 4th August 2019

178 Miles : 11 042 ft

Another section containing some heavy climbing, beating our Mull trip for total feet ascended.  Indeed so much climbing that my brakes wore thin and I spent the final day wearing the bottom of my cycling shoes down trying to stop!  Not to be recommended and embarrassing when the local bike shop fixed them in 5 minutes and for free!  

We kicked off in Inverness, after another endless train journey from York. This time direct from York, so no concerns over missed connections. We followed the trail of the Picts up the East Coast and across the Black Isle to Tain.

We then cut across country along Loch Shin to Overscraig. The views and the midges did not disappoint. Stopping at Overscraig in a very hospitable inn, requiring a full quarantine from the midges, which consisted of running in the hotel, shutting the door rapidly and standing underneath a fan blower to dispense with the pesky midges!  Superb Venison for the evening meal and a few pints!

The next section took us along Loch Shin and onto the west coast at Scourie. Loved this section, rolling hills, stunning scenery and a great hotel at the end of it all. We had a shorter day so we arrived at the Hotel at 2pm, so had time to spend some time on the beach.

Then the climbing started as we progressed onto to Lochinver. We dodged camper vans, but Louise did have an argument with a car and lost, ending up in a gully. No harm done this time. We had a great stay in Lochinver, complete with a deer walking home with us down the high street.

The final day was overcast but was not short on hills or scenery. We were picked up by the bike taxi in Ullapool.

Bangor, Anglesey and Flint  - 14th to 19th June 2019

163 Miles : 7 826 ft

We tackled some of the coast of North Wales on this trip. Train to Bangor and then along the coast to Caernarfon and then up to the base of Snowdon, as we mixed hiking and cycling on this trip.  We joined friends and family to climb Snowdon in the dark for Candle-lighters, a York Cancer charity.  So it was that we ascended and descended Snowdon in the dark, hoping to reach the summit for day break. We reached the summit at day break, but there was no sun just wind and driving rain! On the ascent the rain poured and the wind blew, so breakfast at the pub was gratefully received followed by a long sleep!

Back on the bikes on the Sunday for a short ride down across the Menai Bridge for our overnight stop in a beautiful hotel overlooking the Menai Straight.  We then circumnavigated Anglesey over 2 days, some beautiful countryside and rolling hills. Warm sun was with us most of the 2-days. Returning back over the Menai Bridge we worked our way up the North Wales coast, mixing bike paths hugging the main A-Road, not great, but other sections which skirted the sea, lovely.  Flint was the final destination for the train home.

Oban, Mull, Iona and Mallaig - 11th to 16th May 2019

161 Miles : 10 404ft

A spectacular trip full of colour, dramatic views, sun and the usual tea and scones! There were also lots of hills, making for the largest elevation on any part of the coast so far, but a price worth paying for the views. Massive panoramic vistas with a changing palette of colours as the day progresses.

An eventful trip up to Oban from York with a missed connection at Glasgow. This resulted in a nervous hour waiting to see if the six cyclists who had booked the slots would turn up. We were lucky and blessed with some of the most helpful and friendly station staff we have encountered so far.

We took the ferry across from Oban to Mull for the first leg to Iona. Again delays resulted in a dash for the last ferry to Iona. Iona is quite a jewel with its aqua blue  waters. We stayed over in a Pod overlooking the bay (see photos attached). Very snug with its underfloor heating and all mod cons!

We retraced our route on Day 2 back to Craignure, stopping for tea and scones and a chat with two friendly hosts. One from Brighouse and the other from Suffolk. They had escaped to mull in the last two years, one sensed to avoid the Brexit chaos.

Whats the story?....was our next destination, the quaint town of Tobermory. We stopped two nights building in rest day for some painting and contemplation, plus allowing our tired legs some breathing space. Great hotel, a former country house and film set hugging the cliff edge and looking over the harbour.

Leaving Mull with some sadness, we know we will return! we pushed on through the Ardnamurchan Pennisula. This was the best ride of the week. Rolling hills, lochs and warm sun. There were also some punishing hills but we were well fortified on cake,scones etc...we reached Lochailort.

The final days was the run through to Mallaig. Pretty coastal route ad sections following the main Road to the Isles. Relaxing B&B to finish and a fish supper.

Skegness to Wells next to the sea - 15th to 17th April 2019

168 Miles : 3 303ft

Skegness (Wainfleet) to Wells Next The Sea

We stand and watch a woman at Grantham station.She’s giving her fat, black Labrador a drink of water from a Dog’s Bottle.There’s a big case by her side, on castors.Big enough for another dog. The Labrador running free mouths and carries his bottle once empty, and thinks for a moment about tossing it into the rail lines. He refrains.If there is a dog in the case, it’s sitting very quietly.Good dogs.

Two badger-shaped station operatives in red livery shuffle along to engage with Labrador Lady.Animated, then, as though someone threw a switch at Red Badger Control, they shuffle forward mid sentence to variously blow whistles and wave at things. Labrador Lady pats her dog, and boards the train.A fellow passenger, a well-built man, offers to lump her other cased dog on board, an oblivious accomplice.

We are hungry cyclists. We are ravenous old pals. We are eating The Wash this week in ever smaller bites.Today is our first chow-down, a greedy mouthful: Wainfleet, just west of Skegness, to somewhere east of Kings Lynn, where beds are being sheeted and pillows plumped even now, ready for our weary heads. Those beds are eighty or so miles away. We do not know how far we will roll.The Pal has made no reconnaissance.We are riding blindly, voraciously in.

The Pal is cycling the coast of Britain bit by bit.I’m his sidekick, his stand-in, when prettier companions are busy, or when the coast-bits are less pretty.Even at seventy years, I wont have cycled all the coast of Britain:I don’t care about completing an achievement; I have better things to do; i’m not a list-ticker, nor a pencil-lead licker.

A coastal trip round The Wash isn’t really that at all.We will see our first sea at elevenses on Day Two, over our first scone of the day.And it will be a glimpse in the distance.Only at Wells will shells and shingle jangle our bottom brackets.

Tickets were sought to take us all the way into Skegness today, so that we might revisit where we left off last time. But we’ve cranked from Skeggy to Wainfleet, and we’ve seen the morning drinkers, the heroin dealers, the rock shop cashiers once before at close quarters. And at dawn.These salty memories are precious; we worry tacitly that a return might tarnish them.

The Pal, in the train up, gave a running Palopaedia commentary with salient points about each station we puffed through (literally pre-Beeching clickety-clack pace on this line).So transfixed was I that I only jotted down one: Rauceby had a mental institute, now defunct. Apt.

The nearer we clack to coast the more we regress. As we escape off the edge of the land and away from normal, we laugh and talk and spear off and away from real for a time.The land still passes slowly; a lullaby.

I ride through Friskney to Anton’s Gowt and on into Boston by eleven.The Pal drags behind, lets me go, my freewheel and my momentum greasier than his. On a busy fen bridge targeted by thirty eight tonne tractor units, we map-check (this will happen A Lot) and decide to cut a letter N shape into the landscape, and favour this over the L shape of the main road. Our drawn-out N takes us into the interior and avoids the head-wind, for a time.Whatever the letter we make, we will land with the final serif at a scone.

On either side is the inside of the bottom of your fridge. We’re ahead of Easter and fields are being readied for onion sets, the stored-in-hangars scent of which can be had at every turn. Great tonnes of sets inside, in great wooden crates. Over that way plasticked hectares shroud something green, young and no doubt edible in time.What traffic there is, and it is scant in both directions on these C roads, amounts to: shiny farmers in shiny Hiluxes; scuffed farmhands in scuffed Pajeros; tractorists wielding mobile lettuce lifting lorries at full tilt, regardless of oncoming pedallists.

The people are elsewhere, retired and trussed up with their daily paper, their morning telly.The people are in from elsewhere, from round the back, from those grubby statics behind that spud shed. A dozen men, lined out to the horizon, haul on a vast net, pull that over the silty brown, to ward off some pest from some cash crop.Pigeons from broccoli.Among the nascent purple sprouts of the posh stuff, sky blue Portaloos list over every half a mile on their pallet.A piss-poor place, an Armageddon country scene of nothing, seen by two grown schoolboys, with nowhere to report to, where no-one who was there will report back to agree, and where, dear reader, you will not give one foreign fig about Death of Countryside.

For an hour we roll twelve miles.We shore ourselves up at the caff in Holbeach.Hot chocolated, marsh mellowed, and, inevitably sconed we push through teatime kiddies along High Street, they pulling mud bike wheelies and getting it wrong, they a congregation soon to pray at the Coop door by kicking street furniture and learning how to gob into a bin from distance. We, wheelers, watchers.

Before this rest, we burned a man riding a rigid mountain bike, towing a trailer,He was asking for it, being slightly ahead from a joining-point where two roads meet, and pressing on a little too hard for our liking. A cocksure greeting as a parting word troubled our competitive spirits.We reeled him in eventually with our grammar school peloton, burned him, left him standing, soon needed the shade of the caff and the restorative choc. His legs, somewhere, throbbed. Our four legs screamed for scones. Ridiculous, childish fun.

A woman passes across the street with a vast opaque bag filled by two vaster pink balloons. The Pal and I debate the age of the celebrant.Someone is fifty today? Or is that a two?Caffed old bags wander farting into the street from their fatty teas, their ages equally opaque.“It’s getting cold” as they totter the eight yards to their powder blue Prius, shoved into the Norfolk kerb.

At some other, forgotten village or transit point, on the sunny side of the road, a man bathes in only shorts outside his gymnasium.Boy does he look pleased with himself and his musculature. Other villagers pass, giving him unkind glances “Who does he think he is with his chest out in March?”

In the shadows not half a mile east, an elderly bundle of rags sways at the kerb edge like Houdini tightroping Niagara, blearily fixated on the cigarette dowp in the gutter. The old bundle holds a bundle-of-something - discarded shopping bags all rolled up, or a top coat maybe - and doesnt look up as we wheel on.This is Britain, in shade. Other villagers pass, but nobody looks, or tuts, or disapproves.

This is eighty-one miles of Britain. Along the edge of some more affluent village new-build, we see retired folk, gardening.A man stands over a woman, who crouches before him on a sett driveway.Cycling pace allows us to view this suburban, dismal diorama well enough to understand who is who, what is what.This is husband and wife, returned from the DIY superstore, in spring clean mode. Their annual pilgrimage to Decency has begun. She-who-must-be-his-wife, genuflecting, is brushing silver sand into the gaps between the blocks.He oversees, drags the bag for her.Somewhere, at the back of the garage, the god that is their power washer drips under a limp Saint George’s flag.

Here we straddle the boundary.Lincolnshire now.Norfolk now. Lincolnshire again. All the back doors are open in the unseasonably warm sun of early spring.This is Britain through the back door, by bike.

Lunch is not fancy, not local, but global.Our hearts want farm shop fodder and paper napery, but this place only offers The Coca Cola Corporation and Mars to our rescue at a shop.We prop the pushrods and watch three men, three brothers, paint their fence with new brown stain.All three paint the fence while a woman looks on from the front door.One man and wife and his two brothers, we think.A good day for getting paint on a fence. Family time.

A boy in an overall is bent elsewhere on the road, bent over a shallow post and rail fence skirting a car dealership in nowhere.He has a brush and a bucket of stain, and is applying the finishing touches.He is hoping to get an early finish, a flyer.

Earlier still, in the shadow of a pear tree, a father and son slap on a moss-colour concoction to limp larch lap.The two lurk under the shrubbery as we pass through some hamlet with chained-up dogs and chain link fencing.

Two other men wrestle with concrete fence posts.An upright and a panel between them, words are exchanged in the time it takes our wheels to turn a dozen yards.In time, someone some spring day with a fair wind and a brush, will give this new fence a coat of something to brighten it up, to give it a few years more. Cyclists will push past in the dust.

There are no hedges in North Norfolk.There are no trees.No people work the land.There is sea but unseen, so no sea to speak of.The sea was here once, above our heads, but ditch and pump and gowt pushed it back.This is seabed sightseeing.

Beyond Wisbeach, a fenced yard. Another fenced yard.A non-place by the A47, here is a static caravan graveyard cut into the corner of a field. And here a giant rusting hull for sale.It is a bone-yard.Everywhere overspray and weedlessness.

What do we learn along our route today?We already knew we can do the miles, even on these old legs.We already knew we can ripple along at a nice pace without talking much, and without much entertainment.We have already gathered that we wont meet many other people today, out on this limb.

One cyclist appears.He is a black speck now.He has a tail wind, and is making up the mile between us at a pace we cannot match.We are bowed, but travelling light.The shape he makes suggests he has been on the road a while, or intends to be there for a time.Four panniers, a bar bag.He is fully laden.He approaches, perhaps from a ferry, from afar. Two corners, much headwind, and our gap narrows.He cranks closer.We crank, one ahead, one behind, in tight formation.His hands slip to the brake hoods to draw to a halt as our paths cross.He has word from ahead.He wants friends.He hasn’t seen another cyclist since Lowestoft.We ride on, giving two imperceptible nods, eyes front, jabbing our beaks into the breeze.

Norte Dame is ablaze as we zone in on Kings Lynn, but we are all oblivious.

Kings Lynn is always there, a white tower.We don’t know but suspect a power station.We cross and recross fens and dikes that all look alike.The white tower shifts left and right in our field of view.Steadily it reels us in.We are fish, hooked.And at once, in cooling evening air, we are under and alongside, bowling along tarmac by a wide navigation to the docks; we flounder to the town’s south side, flop in front of our hotel fodder to a lonely Mowtown soundtrack.

The rotund travelling salesperson’s snore; the woken neighbour in the corridor banging on the snorer’s door; the cheeseboard; the thought there might be IT training in the conference room in the morning: a recipe for insomnia.

As if fired from a toast-fuelled gun we escape into our second day bound for Wells, via Holkham.Five minutes’ pedalling east and the land is changed: pony paddocks; hedgerows; wattle hurdle fenced country retreats with electric gates.

Were a fence to need paint in this parish, it’s owner would not be holding the brush.

Trapped further east between these green folds rolling to the sea and the Sandringham estate, sausage and mash territory.Sand land, all to the north of our trackway is pig country.Weaners abound, filling the ozone with a porky dust.Sand land all to the south of our trackway as far as we can see, potatoes, rowed up with GPS precision.We dream we can smell onion gravy.

Climbing into Sandringham here is not a shrub out of place: depressingly anodyne.The woodman inside me howls at how little life is left even in the wood. But then I’m a republican.I would say that wouldn’t I. All the feet gained are lost in the drop past the giant sawmill, all Union flags ablaze.This is Britain.Here a queen resides. We take double care with each passing Range Rover, for fear one’s consort might mistake us for quarry.Police skirt the villages in four by fours.

At Burnham Market.A cyclist on tour visits: a chemist, for headache tablets, thinking idly about but rejecting sunscreen for his lobster neb; a post office, to send postcards and buy cooling Twister lollies.A cyclist on tour does not: engage with the motorised tourists, or even catch their eye (we are a superior breed, a Health and Efficiency front cover pair); stop anywhere long - we are cycling, with special shoes, and walking or even standing is not de rigeur.

At Burnham Market we opine on bikes with a kind, well-heeled woman on a folder, who rides her old Dad’s Colnago round the roads,, she tells us.Later, out on the road, we burn slowly and respectfully past her on a downhill, with cheery good wishes.She will turn down some farm drive soon, back to her life.Bikes aren’t all alike, but riders out in the free share an understanding, a comraderie.We swapped tribal words - randonneur, 650b -we knew and felt better about ourselves.

The old queen wasn’t around at the last country pile, and nor did Tom Coke, eighth Earl of Leicester, welcome us at Holkham Hall with open arms.The national cycle route for these parts runs straight through his front lawn, poor chap.All 25,000 acres of it. Clouds of evergreen oaks.The obligatory lime avenue.A needle a la Cleopatra.Oh, and the biggest Palladian mansion from the eighteenth century you’ve ever seen.On a lake.All through a menacing, coronetted gate with intercom and polite signage.

Feeling sorry for T. Coke Esquire’s obvious pecuniary plight we join hoi polloi in the stable courtyard, to trough with a merry band of windbags , barking dogs and Henriettas.A decent oaty nosebag and a bucket of tea.

We wonder how Old Coke pronounces his name, and plump for cook, as in cook.But we don’t know.We are old now, and used to know everything about anything we were asked, so long as it was our field.Now, we know next to nothing.I crave a Pears Cyclopaedia, and determine to put it on my birthday list.

Trotting off with a whip to our withers and a fairish wind, we are sea-bound at last.Our all-road tyres make fast work of the dune path, where Corsican pines shelter us from a blowy onshore.And we are in Wells Next Sea, eating ice cream, dripping with monkey juice (strawberry sauce - if only NASA could have had this recipe; tiles would have never lifted from a space shuttle at re-entry) - scouring the harbour for all we are worth, drinking in the holidayers wandering and the rock shop moochers mooching and the crab boats docking.We bemoan the size of the modern chocolate flake, but caw like crows at the creaminess of the Norfolk whipped ice cream.

I confuse where we are with Sheringham, and believe there to be a steam railway here.We poke and prod up every alley, and talk to locals.Oh, yes, out on the Cromer Road.On the Cromer Road we don’t find the North Norfolk Railway.We find a tiny line plying up and down to Walsingham, all plywood and Hammerite and volunteer hours. There, ahead, the last “train” of the day is just leaving.And the girl with the key to the scones and the urn is packing her chairs away. Her facial expression suggests she may never return. Still, she proffers a leaflet.

We canter to on Little Walsingham, to pray for good beer, food, sleep at the Black Lion.We meet no other cars.We do meet Teddy Murks, and behind at some way off, Mrs Murks.Teddy is in full Raleigh Banana racing attire, right down to the five panel cycle cap, peak up naturally.Teddy has found a gear and he’s sticking with it all the way to the coast.Old Ma Murks acts as sweeper and soigneur.The basket of her Elswick Hopper is rammed with tea things, and no doubt a red lantern for when day becomes night.

The Pal arrives somewhat behind, pleased with himself that he rode The Route As Intended, and not the route as seemed obvious.Apparently one of us missed a ford, and Great Walsingham.Pity.

Beer is had out front.Steeds are hosed and watered with others’ mounts in the cycle stables out back.Where we are choppers, slowly ingesting the view over thick chain oil, two specialised fellow guests feather in on a gust, all dry bags and cinched straps and sawn-off toothbrush handles and lithium powdered chains.Their carbon machines - matte paint and drab black componentry -reflect no sun but seem to soak in and cool down the air about them, and absorb any residual personality their owners ever possessed.

We see these two later, and at breakfast. Remarkably, given the one bag slung under one saddle, they are both in full denim, with sun hats and sandals.Must’ve posted on some gear for the night via DPD.No way they folded all that into a large baguette.All we know: they are Norwich bound, like us; they had chain troubles half way here (perhaps meaning they would’ve made it for lunch had not the Fates intervened). We sit askew from the pair at our morning table.Between and above us, sawn lengthways, a tandem, welded to the wall as quaint art.So bound together, so divided.Not all in the tribe speak a common language.

Norwich is a mystery.Do they still make the mustard there? Why make mustard in Norwich? Is mustard seed grown in Norfolk or does it come from India in a container ship? Is the river navigable to the factory? What do they call the river? My breakfast sausage would’ve benefitted from mustard.I daydream about meeting Delia Smith on a yellow bike.How the mind expands on the open bridleway.How I need a Pears Cyclopaedia.

In Fakenham, I had to joke about scones.Makin’. Bakin’. I had to. We didn’t speak for a while. In a whisper we did Houghton Saint Giles, East Barsham, Pudding Norton, Great Ryburgh and Themelthorpe.Pudding Norton wasn’t pun proof, but I kept shtum.Twenty miles of England.Nothing to report.It goes by.It exists.We flit through it.

Reepham’s old station doles out sandwiches.She’s not buttered any bread in advance of the crowd, brought out by the sun and the school holiday.Cheese sits ungrated. She’s flustered, and we wait and wait.There’s that sad moment when your tea mug is almost half empty and you’re food still isn’t there, and you don’t know what to do.Do I hang out for the sandwich coming now, or wait with the tea going cold?Or do I drink the tea and buy more tea when the sarnie comes?Did I want two teas with one sandwich, and will there be cake? Somewhere, fleet of foot and still in the saddle, our breakfast companions rip the top off a gel apiece with their burnished incisors and press on.

Again we dance and shuffle through wood and glade and open field.Old rail lines jut and end and begin again, and cross, and disappear.Felled Scots pines have gone, but the warm air rises tothe bank and draws up the scent of crushed branchwood, where some forwarder has crawled.Here we are always over the view, as our railway line bridleway banks and raises.This is marsh land, drained, and now we fly along, a wrong-way migration to the train, to the end of the line.

In this green belt we see so little beyond six yards left or right.A gap appears at a bridge, and there is the river, the Wensum.Only at the map days later do I see we skimmed past Morton on the Hill.And Drayton.

Only at the desk days later did I know we found the cathedral through the Erpingham Gate, and left those quiet quarters through the Ethelbert Gate, over the shiniest cobbles I have ever seen.

From the Middle Ages to the present day.

To the station, to a cancelled train, to delay, to overpriced beer, to reflection.

We part ways at York station, the Pal and I.We turn down our tracks to our lives, to our black dogs with their wagging tails.Somewhere, a man licks a pencil lead and sticks more dots to a map. 

Brighton to Chichester - 22nd March 2019

41.4 Miles : 295 ft 

So our first trip of 2019. The plan was to cycle from Brighton to Bournemouth over a few days, as we turn our attention to the South Coast. Unfortunately as you can see from the picture the plan was cut short due to an injury to my co-pilot. Having reached the end of Day One we were 0.5 mile from the Hotel, cycling along a pavement to avoid a busy A Road.  Louise misjudged a curb and fell on her hand. A visit to Chichester A&E and some scans, fortunately nothing broken.

Despite the above we had an enjoyable trip. We were given an upgrade to First Class on the way down to London from one of the LNER staff, because they kept us waiting to load the bikes at York.  Stayed at the Oriental Guest House in Brighton, lovely B&B with a great local pub round the corner for dinner. 

The route from Brighton generally follows the coast and there is a nice section from Shoreham to Worthing. Stopped at a great cafe at Lancing, right on the beach. The section from Bognor to Chichester was not so good, lots of traffic and some busy intersections to cross.  I guess it was the Friday rush hour when we hit it. Despite Louise's fall we had a nice stay at Crouchers Hotel in Chichester. Great rooms, nice staff and good food.

On the Saturday we hired a van and returned to York. Stopping on the way to look at Fishbourne Roman Villa. 


Newcastle to Saltburn-on-Sea - 28th December 2018

68.2 Miles : 2524 ft 

I got excited about this leg of the journey on a number of levels. First of all it filled an annoying gap I had on my Map of Britain wall planner, yes I am tracking progress by placing dots on a big wall map which resides in our downstairs loo. Secondly it was a splendid way to work off the Lion's Wine Gums and various Chocolate goods I received and ate over Christmas!

Tom joined me for the day at York Station at 07.15.  LNER carried us up to Newcastle smoothly and we crossed the Millennium Bridge and the Sage Building into South Shields. There we hit the coast on Route 14 Weather was superb and we gathered speed down past Whitburn and into the Roker roar, this time from the sea crashing in. A great beach at Roker, full of dogs running wild today followed by woolly hats.  First scone stop was at the The kind staff served us Chocolate Cake and Tea on one of the outside tables.

Once through Sunderland we hit Rythorpe and picked up a great off road route up to Hetton which formed part of the 1882 eight mile Hetton Colliery Railway over Warden Law linked Hetton Colliery with Staiths at Sunderland and was of national significance, as the first complete line engineered by George Stephenson. It used locomotives on level stretches with stationary engines and self-acting inclines elsewhere. 

Lunch was taken at Hartlepool, the ancestral seat of the Harbron family (my mother's side). Hugging the coast and then in land to avoid the chemical plants that hug the coast around Billingham.  We the reached the transporter bridge (see picture) to cross the Tees. The Tees Transporter Bridge has been the area's landmark since opening in 1911. It is the longest working transporter bridge in the world and an iconic symbol of Teesside's engineering and industrial heritage.

We worked our way through the outskirts of Middlesborough to reach the route out to Saltburn.  We reached Saltburn around 4pm, with time for a drink at the Old Post Office before catching the train home.  

Alnmouth to Newcastle - 3rd-4th November 2018

54.1 Miles : 1659 ft 

Alnmouth was our starting point for our journey in 2016, heading North that time up the beautiful Northumberland Coast. This leg of the journey took us South to Newcastle.

Louise and I travelled up to Alnmouth by LNER, our trusty carrier on most of our East Coast jaunts. Always great staff and helpful with bikes! We departed Alnmouth around lunchtime and ambled past Amble on our way down to Blyth. Making use of Sustrans Route 1 which follows the coast and has some nice off road sections. These may be slower but its such a joy to cycle without the constant traffic.  

We stopped overnight in Blyth at the Commissioners Quay Inn on the newly refurbished waterfront. Blyth has certainly has had it challenges over the last 20 years but is making strides to re-fashion itself.  They also provided a great firework show on the night of our stay.

The next day we had a relatively short section to do to Newcastle and the train home. I really enjoyed this small section and Whitley Bay and Tynemouth provided some great scenery.  The scones were also excellent at the Spanish City! 

As we rounded Tynemouth Priory and Castle you pick up Sustrans Route 72 (Hadrian's Way) into Newcastle centre. As you pick you way through the industrial outskirts of Newcastle you are transported back to Roman times as you pass the start of Hadrian's Wall, almost hidden amongst the industrial buildings and only revealed from the off road cycle path. We entered the vibrant city of Newcastle and a Sunday street market which was teeming with people looking for early Christmas presents. I love Newcastle, great energy and my son Sam loved studying there.

Ulverston to Dumfries - 28th-30th September 2018

168.46 Miles : 7 441 ft 

This section I did with my West Coast cycling friend Paul Galley.  A three day trip covering South Cumbria, Lake District coast into Scotland. 

I travelled up to Paul's home town of Ulverston with Transpennine to Manchester and then changed for the Barrow train. The later section (The Furness Line) from Carnforth through to Ulverston was very picturesque.  Ulverston is a fine market town in the centre of the Furness peninsula, with old buildings and a labyrinth of cobbled streets, and is the start of the 70 mile Cumbrian Way.  It is also the birthplace of Stan Laurel, and home to the world’s only Laurel and Hardy Museum. 

After tea and toast at Paul's we set off North cutting across Birker Fell, which featured some great views of Coniston Water but we had to work for them...heart in mouth climbs! We then dropped down to Gubbergill, where we had a good lunch and excellent cake (Paul loves a good piece of cake!). Joining Sustrans route 72 we joined the coast and cycled past Sellafield Works. I once tried very unsuccessfully to try and sell BNFL a Vodafone mobile contract, made for an interesting site tour though. We pitched up at the Crown in St Bees for the night, great host and pub. When we arrived it was party central (5pm) as most of Sellafield plant seemed to be there, but once 8pm came it was empty and we were left to eat a fine dinner.

On Day 2 we worked our way up the coast following Route 72 along the coast with large sections off-road and hugging the coast. Including some great sections cycling along a pathway directly behind a sea wall...a former promenade which had seen better days (see photo).  We reached Silloth mid afternoon, a fine example of a Victorian seaside resort. Silloth developed in the 1860s onwards around the terminus of the railway from Carlisle and associated docks. For the first time workers from the factories of Carlisle were presented with affordable access to the seaside, and the town flourished as a destination for day trippers. The town reached the peak of its popularity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.   We finished the day with a stay in Port of Carlisle, a really interesting place with a grand history, originally known as Fishers Cross, it was developed as a port in 1819 to handle goods for Carlisle using the canal link built in 1823. The canal was 11¼ mile long, and had 8 locks which were all built 18 feet wide. The canal was drained in 1853 and replaced by a railway, which only lasted a few years itself!  We stayed in a small cottage and enjoyed some frames of pool and good food in the local pub. The landlady also very kindly agreed to open up specially in the morning to serve us breakfast!

The final day was a slog into a head wind for most of the day and some rain. We passed thorough Gretna and then into Scotland.  Now on Route 7 we pushed into the headwind to reach Dumfries for the train home.

Inverness to Aberdeen - 28th July - 1st August 2018

155.2 Miles : 6 956 ft 

Louise and I cycled this section over 4 days in late July.Most of Saturday the 28th was taken up with taken up with travel from York to Inverness, with changes in Edinburgh and Stirling. We stayed in a hotel overlooking the river and Inverness Castle. Inverness seemed pretty vibrant and the streets were thronged on a busy Saturday evening.

The section followed Sustrans Route 1, with overnight stops in Elgin, Banff and Pitmedden.For the purists out there, turn away now, as we missed out Fraserburgh, as Route 1 takes a dog leg turn before.The Inverness to Elgin stretch passes through Nairn and Forres. Forres is the ancestoral home of Louise’s Mum’s family and she used to holiday there as a young girl. Elgin is dominated by the ruined Cathedral, which route 1 passes by as you wind out of the town.

Elgin to Banff was a nice coastal stretch, passing through Portknockie, which was the location for a famous or infamous family Christmas holiday a few years ago.Rosie, our daughter, travelled up on Christmas Eve in her Fiat 500 and had to battle the snow of the Highlands and the lack of petrol.I had to meet her with 50 miles to go I case she ran dry…suffice to say it wasn’t an early night. I love the fishing villages on this coast with their low squat houses facing at 90 degrees to the sea front to battle the fierce winds!

Day Three took us inland and up some hills through Turriff and ending up in Pitmedden. Unfortunately, the Hotel was not serving food, giving a choice between a Chinese Takeaway or the local Co-op. The later won with us picnicking in our Hotel room.

Day Four followed an old railway line down to Dyce and then into Aberdeen. The Formartine and Buchan railway line was built between 1861 and 1865 and was important in ferrying fish from the large fishing ports of Fraserburgh and Peterhead to markets further south. The line was closed to passenger in 1965 with the last freight trains running from Fraserburgh in 1979.

York to Skegness - 2nd-3rd July 2018

145 Miles : 3221 ft 

For this section I set off early at 07.00 from York, taking Route 65 at Bishopthorpe, down to meet Tom at Stilingfleet junction. As always Tom was early or I was late?....maybe I was late as he met me en-route. The Sleby to York section of Route 65 uses the trackbed of the old East Coast Mainline railway, which was bought by Sustrans for a £1 and turned into one of the first traffic free paths. The 6.2-mile section of the path is a scale model of the solar system and has some examples of the planets along the way.

After Selby the route tracks along the Humber estuary via Hemingbrough to the Humber Bridge. Tom was a good way in front at this point and we had a communication breakdown for an hour or two around lunchtime as I waited for him on the Hull side of the bridge whilst he sunned himself on the other side!We met up again lunch at Barton upon Humber where we picked up Route 1 and then 110 to Cleethorpes. Some nice rolling cycling on the Lincolnshire Wolds and a lost dog (see photo) in an off-road section through a wood. The owner turned up after 20 minutes red in the face from running up the hill rather than embarrassment!We reached Cleethorpes around 4pm to a very welcoming hostess at our B&B.

Day 2 took us from Cleethorpes to Skeggy. The first part of the day we jagged around the North Lincolnshire marshes which lie between the Wolds and the sea. An interesting area which is constructed from reclaimed salt marsh and sand dunes. We hit ‘bucket and spades’ at Mablethorpe, plus some lunch.The route then followed the sea wall for several miles but then abruptly stopped offering no option but to push our bikes along the beach (see photo). For some strange reason I thought we could cycle on the harder sand…didn’t work I fell off.Cue destroyed disc brakes and a good hose down once we exited the beach.Next stop was Skegness, just too late to visit Tom’s childhood favourite treat, the miniature village on the sea front. The train home was via Grantham and we sat for several hours for a connection listening to England win a World Cup match on penalties!

Ipswich to Caistor - 24th - 26th June 2018

101 Miles : 3152 ft 

Louise and I voted this to be the best trip so far, maybe because the weather was superb but more likely the relaxing lanes, coastal inlets and interesting stopping off points. We bought some art, took some ferry trips and ate many scones.

Exiting Ipswich from the station was relatively painless and we headed down to Felixstowe, which turned about to be an attractive place and punctured my perception of lots of traffic, ferry port etc…The route then hugged the Suffolk coast up to our first inlet crossing the mouth of the river Deben. Passing Redelsham Forest we arrive at Snape for our first overnight. Redelsham seems to have considerable interest in the UFO community with the Rendelsham Incident in 1980. The overnight was at the Golden Key in Snape, great pub under new management with first class food. Snape also has a Mill which has been redeveloped to house a number of art galleries, craft shops etc…

Day 2 largely followed the coast from Snape to Beccles, via Dunwich. In the 11th century Dulwich was one of the largest towns in England but a huge storm surge destroyed the town and only a small village remains today. Route 1 moves inland and then back to the coast at Southwold, famous for its colourful bathing huts.

Day 3 was a fully coastal route up to Caistor-on-Sea via Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth. Nice hotel stop at Caistor, although our evening meal was interrupted by an old chap trying to blag a free meal for his family by complaining about his steak….’send me the chef…’. The plot was hatched within our ear shot but was poorly executed with the wife deciding to take the cooks side during the case for the prosecution!

The final leg was from Caistor to Norwich for the train home. Twenty Five miles but not recorded on the round Britain tour, but an interesting ride all the same.

Great Yarmouth to Norwich - 18th - 20th May 2018

122 Miles : 3 966 ft 

Fantastic weather again for this trip along the Norfolk coast. The starting point was Great Yarmouth, complete with an interesting final leg of the train journey from Norwich, where our bikes competed with mountains of holiday luggage. There was much talk in the carriage of landladies, generous breakfast portions and the best spots on the Yarmouth beach. As we pulled into Yarmouth station the waiting returning holiday makers seemed somewhat reluctant to allow us off the train in their eagerness to get on and stow their luggage!

It was Sustrans route 30 out of Yarmouth through Caistor and Witherton on Sea. We stopped at Waxham Great Barn for tea and scones. The thatched barn is the largest in Norfolk, built by the Wodehouse family to outdo their neighbours the Pastons. Stayed in a real nice B&B, The Durdans in Mundesley, and had a lovely meal on the seafront as we watched the sunset.

Day 2 we cycled from Mundesley via Cromer to Sculthorpe Mill.Fakenham, which we renamed F**cking Fakenham, proved to be difficult to escape having got lost several times resulting in a domestic dispute!We finally made it thorough and ended up at Sculthorpe Mill, a faded pub under new management.The Mill location clearly had great potential though.

Day 3 we switched from coast and route 30 onto route 1 and headed for Norwich. Stayed in the Georgian Townhouse Hotel, comfy stay with retro style; dark rooms, heavy wallpaper, bone handled cutlery and 1970’s inspired fish shaped water jugs.

Dundee to Aberdeen - 13th-16th April 2018

120 Miles : 5 673 ft 

Route 1 was our friend again. LNER to Dundee from York, smooth as always. We departed Dundee around lunchtime for a short ride to our first evening stay at Arbroath.Dundee has undergone a lot of transformation over the last few years and has some impressive modern architecture along the harbour side.The route pretty much follows the coast, passing Carnoustie, at the time in full preparation mode for the upcoming British Open Golf Championship. We stayed in a pub on the harbourside and tasted the local delicacy, Arbroath Smokies.Haddock is first salted overnight then paired for smoking in a barrel.Another interesting fact? James Chalmers hails from Arbroath and invented the adhesive postage stamp.

Day 2. Arbroath to Stonehaven. We had some fantastic weather today for early April. Warm sun sped us along to our B&B in Stonehaven. 24 Shorehead was an excellent choice and right on the harbourside.

Day 3 took us North of Aberdeen and the confusion of the A90 redevelopment. This project seems to have caused disruption to most of the minor roads and cycling routes. This resulted in a lot of map stops, considerable head scratching and even a hair-raising and life-threatening section on the A90 itself. You certainly realise the benefits of the Sustrans routes when you are rudely placed back on a A-road! Even reaching the hotel stop for the night proved challenging as Balmedie appeared ‘shipwrecked’ on an island between the road works.

Day 4 was a short hop inland to Inverurie to catch the train back into Aberdeen.

York to Scarborough - 1st-2nd November 2017

152 Miles : 4 352 ft 

A trip with Tom.

I met up with Tom at our usual rendezvous at the Stllingfleet junction on Route 65 from York to Selby.We trekked down to Hull, no Humber Bridge this time, and picked our way through the centre and into the docklands area. Due to a wrong turn we ended up a little too close to the docks for comfort, cycling into the P&O dock for the North Sea Ferries. Tom is fond of commenting on my Vasco de Gama map reading skills! He prefers to repeat the same journey several times prior and then write down the route on a scrap of paper :@).

We were shortly breathing less lead laden air as we moved into Holderness. This part of the country feels a little like the land that time forgot. Although it clearly hasn’t as it is a major area for the importing and storing of gas.The final part of our journey to Partington was on the disused Hull to Holderness railway opened in 1854, but closed in 1964. Dr Beeching strikes again! The cycle path was a little too rustic in places and some heavy rutted sections resulting in Tom catapulting himself into a bush at one point. Compensation came with a stay at the Haylofts in Partington. Excellent food!

Day 2. Sustrans routes are a bit sparse along this part of the coast so we did a DIY version, taking in Hornsea and a ‘faux’ French bistro for lunch. At Bridlington (tea and ice cream) we joined route 1 to Scarborough. The final section into Scarborough was surprisingly hilly and tough on the legs after a long day in the saddle. Darkness fell as we reached the station for the train back to York.

Oban to Troon - 31st August - 2nd September 2017

153 Miles : 9 648 ft 

Here come the hills!The payback was some of the most stunning scenery. Train up to Oban was around seven hours, meeting Paul in Glasgow as he connected from the South Lakes.The only thing to do next was to have a traditional Scottish breakfast with a pint of heavy. Once in Oban we located our bed for the night, not the best location…no cycle storage and we slept alongside the bikes in a very small room!

Route 78 took us to Kilmartin following Loch Awe for most of the route. At 25 miles long Loch Awe is the third largest freshwater loch in Scotland (Fascinating Facts).

Day 2 was a spectacular ride as we worked our way down the Mull of Kintyre. Great views of Arran and lots of seal spotting today. The day ended with a ferry crossing to Arran and a quick blast around the island to Lagg. Arran is a lovely is a great place for a holiday, they call it a mini-Scotland…. mountainous in the North and lowlands in the South.

Day 3 we were under some time pressure to meet our ferry back to the mainland, so the hammer was down.Once back on the mainland we picked up route 73 down to Troon. The original plan was to make it further down to Ayr, but we decided against this based on the volume of people attending the Ayr show and the resulting packed trains.

Edinburgh to Dundee - 29th - 31st July 2017

71 Miles : 4 091 ft 

Route 1 and 76 for this leg. The cyclist is looked after well in Edinburgh, with a range of off-road cycle routes and was easy to navigate out of. We headed North towards the Forth Road bridge passing thorough some pleasant leafy suburbs.Once across in Queensferry there are some main roads to pick your way through, but there are a number of well signposted cycle paths, despite the new road layouts.We stayed at the Woodside Hotel in Aberdour, which is opposite a lovely Victorian park.

Day 2 we followed route 766 up thorough Kirkcaldy, Glenrothes up to Cupar.Kirkcaldy is the birthplace of social philosopher and economist, Adam Smith. He was said to roam the town in his nightgown while ruminating on economic theory. Today Kirkcaldy was a stop for scones and tea, watched by some very large seagulls.Our final destination was a fine country house hotel near Cupar. Louise and I felt a little out of place in lycra but scrubbed well for the evening meal.

Day 3. We took some time to look around St Andrews; the castle and a picnic lunch on the beach. It was predictably heavy with tourists, including us! Leuchars was the final stop, just short of the Tay Bridge, we felt two bridges in one trip was a bridge too far.Trusty LNER again for the train journey home.

Scarborough to Saltburn - 20th - 21st April 2017

54 Miles : 3 233 ft 

I guess if we had been serious cyclists Tom and I could have probably done this in a day, but we are not in a’s all about the journey.

This trip brought back a lot of childhood memories as we worked our way up the seaside coast of Yorkshire. Train to Scarborough and then the old railway track up the coast through Ravenscar and Robin Hoods Bay. The track is a little bumpy and this was pre new touring bike with fat tyres. My teeth just about remained intact, although my panniers bounced off a couple of times!

Ravenscar is an interesting place, once sustained by one of the largest Alum mines in the UK and then in Victorian times it was advertised as the next big thing as a holiday destination. Unfortunately people soon realised that the beach was only accessible via a 500 ft sheer cliff. As a kid I was always fascinated by the unfinished grid street design and the station which was built on the expectation of significant freight and passenger traffic.

Quick stop in Robin Hoods Bay for a pint down near the harbour and a wander around some of the second-hand bookshops. Whitby was the overnight stop and we stumbled into a Goth festival. Tom had his nails painted black, why nobody knows?

Day 2. Short section to Saltburn. I like Saltburn, constructed on two levels; the beach and then the grand Victorian town on the cliff top. Its been gentrified a little but this has resulted in some good cafes and bars, we sat outside one and had some food before catching the train home via Middlesborough. 

Alnmouth to Edinburgh - 6th to 9th April 2017

119 Miles : 4 237 ft 

So for the ‘grand depart’. Louise and I kicked off the round Britain tour in Northumberland. Train up to Alnmouth from York. Fortified with tea and scones in the Alnmouth old school house we made our way up the beautiful Northumberland coast. There is something for everyone today; castles (Dunstanburgh and Bamburgh), great beaches, good pubs, quaint fishing villages (Seahouses and Craster) and golf courses nestled behind the sand dunes. The route is largely off-road with a magnificent off road section through the dunes looking out to Lindisfarne Island.

We stayed overnight in Beal, just south of Berwick. The location was a little too close to the A1, but extremely bike friendly with lock-ups and maintenance points.Day 2 we continued along route 1up to Dunbar, a very gentile commuter town for Edinburgh.On the way we stopped off in Berwick for tea and scones before staying in the corridor between the A1 and the coast to Dunbar.

Day 3. More route 1 north of Dunbar for 25 miles into Musselborough and the outskirts of Edinburgh. We left some time on Day 4 to explore Edinburgh before we caught the train home. Edinburgh needs no further explanation here, but a great city and very cycle friendly exploiting a number of disused railway lines which cross the town. Must be a great commute for many cyclists in the city.

So the first piece of the journey complete and a great one to start with!