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.

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!