New Book

My summer project is finally finished and I’ve made my cycle tour into a 92-page book:

Book

Book

Follow this link to preview some of the pages:
www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1623137

I will be printing one copy to keep for posterity and to show friends/family. Unfortunately Blurb prices are prohibitively expensive (£35 + P&P for my own copy) so it’s not commercially viable for me to sell the book at a reasonable price.

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Cycle Tour of England and Scotland – Highlights and Lowlights

Most enjoyable day?
Day 14 was my favourite day of the trip. The weather was excellent and the scenery was superb. I cycled up the Bealach na Ba, Scotland’s highest mountain pass before climbing Beinn Damh in the evening for an incredible sunset.

Me at the top of Bealach na Ba

Me at the top of Bealach na Ba

Least enjoyable day?
Day 23. Although other days were more challenging, day 23 was probably the most depressing because of urban cycling through Blackburn, then Bolton and then past Manchester.

Most adventurous day?
Day 5 was probably the most adventurous day. I went scrambling on the Isle of Arran, but the ridge was much more exposed and much more difficult than I had anticipated with 1000ft drops off the sides. We couldn’t find the way off one of the pinnacles so used a rope that someone had left behind to get down. I slipped but fortunately managed to hold on!

The way I had to divert down the mountain

Looking back up at the way I had to divert down the mountain

Most challenging day?
Day 6 was the toughest day because I woke up to flash floods in Lochranza, Isle of Arran, which almost went into my tent! Fortunately I was woken just in time but it took some determination to keep going after that incident. I had to wait around for ages until the ferry could get me off the island.

Floods at Lochranza campsite

Floods at Lochranza campsite

Favourite place?
Overall my favourite place was Torridon in the NW Highlands of Scotland. I visited the area on Day 14 and Day 15. The mountains are superb and the scenery is breathtaking.

The idyllic Torridon area of Scotland

The idyllic Torridon area of Scotland

Most magical place?
Guirdil Bothy on the Isle of Rum is a very special and very remote place – the island is already 20 miles off the coast of Scotland, but to get to Guirdil you have to walk another 6 miles across the island. The bothy is on a beach at the bottom of a dramatic sweeping valley. When I arrived there was already another person in the bothy who invited me in for tea! See Day 12 for more details.

Guirdil Bothy

Guirdil Bothy

Best place to pitch a tent?
I have two nominations for this.

First, Killiechronan campsite on the Isle of Mull (Day 7), which is absolutely stunning and overlooks a beautiful loch surrounded by mountains.

Killiechronan - view over Loch na Keal

Killiechronan - view over Loch na Keal

Second is a spectacular spot I found just outside Mallaig on Day 10. I came across a local crofter who told me I could pitch anywhere on his land. I ended up on the shores of a tiny little beach, which I had all to myself.

Beach near Mallaig where I camped

Beach near Mallaig where I camped

Worst place to pitch a tent?
On Day 13 it was getting dark and I desperately needed to camp somewhere. I asked some locals where might be suitable but they told me the only place was in the grounds of a burnt-out hotel, which was surrounded by “Keep Out” signs. After removing rubble and trampling down the area of overgrown vegetation I somehow managed to pitch the tent!

Pitched in the grounds of a burnt-out hotel!

Pitched in the grounds of a burnt-out hotel!

Scariest moment
It was a dark, gloomy evening and I was pitching my tent absolutely in the middle of nowhere, in the far north of Scotland, on a roadside verge next to a quarry. When I was tightening the flysheet, it ripped. Instantly I heard this terrifying cackling noise as though there was some sort of deranged psychopath following me and laughing at the fact my tent had just broken! It scared me witless, but I think it was just a seagull! See Day 16 for details.

Favourite mountain walk
On Day 15 I climbed Liathach, near Torridon. This is a breaktaking mountain consistently rated as one of Scotland’s finest Munros (hills higher than 3,000ft).

View from Liathach

View from Liathach

Best sunsets

Third prize goes to the sunset from Killiechronan on Isle of Mull (Day 7).

Killiechronan evening light

Killiechronan evening light

The second best sunset was from the Forth Road Bridge as I approached Edinburgh on Day 19.

Forth Bridge Sunset

Forth Bridge Sunset

Finally, my personal favourite – the sunset from Beinn Damh near Torridon.

Sunset from Beinn Damh, Torridon

Sunset from Beinn Damh, Torridon

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Cycle Tour of England and Scotland – Statistics and Final Route Plan

Statistics

Total distances
Cycling:
1,630 miles
Walking:
68 miles
Ferry: 86 miles
Overall: 1,784 miles

Average daily distances
Cycling*:
82 miles
Overall**:
71 miles

Longest distance in a day: 130 miles (Day 17)

*Total distance cycled and divided it by the number of days on which I cycled more than five miles (20 days).
**The total distance travelled (cycling + walking + ferry) divided by total number of days (25 days)

The Route

The Route

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Day 25 – 2/8/2010 – Finally back home! Telford, Shropshire to Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. 82 miles

On Day 24, I had a complete rest day to recover and spend time with a relative at their house in Telford – this is my reason for omitting it from the blog.

Route plan for the day’s cycling (Day 25):

Off by mid-morning in bright and sunny weather, I was soon out of Telford and into the beautiful Shropshire countryside. I took a minor detour to visit some kind cyclists at Burwarton who had once given me a room for a night when I was stranded during a freak November snowstorm. I was invited to lunch, so stayed for a while before embarking on the final 50 miles home.

I stopped at Clee Hill viewpoint to take some pictures of the beautiful English countryside, the first photos I had taken since I was at Ullswater in the Lake District! A remarkably different landscape to that of Western Scotland – the UK has an incredible variety of scenery.

View from Clee Hill

View from Clee Hill

Shropshire view

Shropshire view

From Clee Hill I cycled along familiar roads through Tenbury Wells, Bromyard and Ledbury. As I approached Cheltenham I was euphoric with a sense of achievement. After a long, strenuous, challenging but worthwhile and exciting 1,700 mile journey, I was home.

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Day 23 – 31/7/2010 – Chatburn, Lancashire to Telford, Shropshire. 110 miles

Route plan for the day’s cycling:

I left quite late in the morning after an enjoyable cooked breakfast. The ride started cloudy and showery as I pursued main roads through the urban sprawl of Blackburn, then Bolton. This was a most unpleasant stretch of cycling, due to endless potholed roads, busy traffic and navigational difficulties (signs cater for cars, not cyclists). I was also burdened with the broken luggage mount on the rear of my bike. I stopped at B&Q to buy more zip ties to resecure it. However this wasn’t very successful and I had to stop every few miles to readjust it. Bypassing Manchester was a nightmare because the route I had chosen was quite obscure and hard to follow.

I was relieved to cross from my “Northern England” to “Wales & West Midlands” map as I approached Northwich by about 5pm where I had a “lunch” of snacks bought from the Co-op. Determined to reach Telford, where I would stay with a relative, I made progress as quickly as possible. However I was delayed for an hour by my luggage – I decided to get rid of the mount completely and instead tied the bag to my bike with bungee cords and straps. After the delights of cycling in Scotland and scenic parts of England it was rather a mediocre experience shooting through the Midlands so I was extremely glad to reach Telford by about 10pm.

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Day 22 – 30/7/2010 – Hesket Newmarket, Cumbria to Chatburn, Lancashire. 86 miles

Route plan for the day’s cycling:

The fine and sunny weather did not last. The day began cloudy as I headed south into the Lake District and soon I was attempting the Kirkstone Pass, a very steep hill and the highest road in the county, reaching 454m. I managed the climb without stopping but when I reached the top, fine driving rain had set in. The descent although pleasant was very wet so I arrived at Windermere drenched through and in need of some food. I stopped for fish ‘n’ chips a few miles on at Nether Staveley before journeying to Kendal. From there the route took me through Kirkby Lonsdale and onto minor roads to Low Bentham.

Ullswater, Lake District

Ullswater, Lake District

Unfortunately and very frustratingly, my rear luggage mount snapped as I went over a small pothole in Low Bentham. I found a garage which helped me make a temporary fix with zip ties. It was not really an ideal solution for carrying 9kgs of weight but I decided to continue southwards anyway. Instead of going on my intended route on a rough minor road through the Forest of Bowland, I opted to use the smoother and less remote main road in case I had more trouble with the luggage system.

It absolutely poured with rain as I progressed down the A65 and by the time I reached Gisburn I felt like I had swum, not cycled, south from the Lakes! Annoyingly the campsite I had spotted on my map was now only taking caravans. By then it was late, would soon be getting dark and there were no other campsites for miles. Although I might have been able to camp discreetly in a field nearby, I did not want to risk it and the ground looked muddy and sodden. I was soaked through in any case and badly needed to dry out. I therefore browsed the internet on my mobile phone in pursuit of a B&B. I was lucky to find a vacancy nearby in Chatburn and it was with great relief that I arrived there a little while later.

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Day 21 – 29/7/2010 – Back to England: Edinburgh to Hesket Newmarket, Cumbria. 108 miles

Route plan for the day’s cycling:

Sunny weather continued as I began to make progress southwards towards England. Getting out of Edinburgh was a little tricky and at one point there were so many potholes one after the other that my front bag bounced off its bracket and along the road! After a few curious looks I fortunately had no trouble rescuing it and nothing was broken.

Once into the countryside, I climbed up a long hill into the Moorfoot Hills of the Southern Uplands. From there the cycling was very picturesque, reminding me of the Yorkshire Dales, with expansive hills and valleys. At Innerleithen, a small town popular with walkers, I stopped for an ice cream. Further south the scenery was similar – all remote and sparsely populated.

View from near Mountbenger

View from near Mountbenger

Another Southern Upland view, near Mountbenger

Another Southern Upland view, near Mountbenger

I came across a cyclist part way in, who I joined for five or ten miles. He had cycled from Melrose and was aiming to go 30 miles – after 30 miles he would turn round and go back (to make it a sixty mile return trip). We found a very scenic spot to have a picnic lunch before going our separate ways.

Lunch stop

Lunch stop

Typical Southern Upland landscape

Typical Southern Upland landscape

The road south led through Eskdalemuir and past an intriguing landmark – Kagyu Samye Ling, a Buddhist monastery and training centre situated curiously in a remote spot alongside the River Esk- but I did not stop to explore it. Once I reached Langholm, it was straight down the busy main A7 towards Carlisle. Crossing the English border brought a tremendous sense of achievement – I felt like I was nearly home (although I still had another 250+ miles to go).

The English Border!

The English Border!

South of Carlisle a steep road took me to the border of the Lake District in Cumbria, which was my aim for the day and after having cycled over 100 miles I started looking for a place to stop. At Hesket Newmarket, I noticed a pub and shortly afterwards spotted a campsite sign. I pitched in the campsite which was very reasonably priced and very welcoming. I then showered and went to the pub for a fine meal of scampi and chips and started talking to some locals – they seemed very impressed with my exploits and one suggested I would make a fine leader in the armed forces! I enjoyed three pints of freshly brewed ale, “Old Doris” being my favourite. Even Prince Charles has drunk beer there during a visit in support of the “community spirit” of locals who set up a co-operative fund to stop it from being sold.

Approaching the Lake District National Park

Approaching the Lake District National Park

Lake District view

Lake District view

View to Caldbeck Fells

View to Caldbeck Fells

After an excellent evening I retired to the tent for my first night on English soil in eighteen days!

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