So what’s on your bucket list of things “to do”. For those of you who know me then there will be little surprise that a lot of my list is to do with exercise. Complete all the Munroes (done 130, 140 to go), do an ironman (done), climb Everest (too expensive and tooooo dangerous) but also cycle from Land’s End to John O Groats. So I decided to move it (LeJoG) from my “to-do” list to my “done” list. Permission was given, leave booked and everything booked ready for the middle of May.
Internet searches revealed any number of different routes from straight up the main roads to via the National Cycle Network varying distance from about 800 to 1200 miles. I decided to do my own version of the Ride Across Britain route, decided to stay in hotels/B+Bs/hostels, and decided to do the whole thing unsupported and largely solo with a couple of exceptions.
Day 0: It’s a long way to Cornwall even on the train. Newcastle to Plymouth but then I couldn’t get on the next train to Penzance. The nice people in GWR then put me in 1st class for the last bit to Penzance. From there I cycled to Lands End, arriving as the sun was setting. A few miles in the approaching dark took me to Cambourne and my stop for the first night’s accommodation [48 miles]
Day 1: Cornwall is really not very flat at all. My first day took over an innumerable succession of short sharp ascents and descents, including over the highest village in Cornwall. Day 1 also saw my first mechanical losing some bolts from my chainring. A couple of zip ties held it all together while I made a detour to Bodmin to get it fixed before the last 40 miles. Finally got a Cornish pastie just over the border in Devon. 99 miles [2800m of ascent].
Day 2: Lots more hills in Devon and Somerset. Day 2 took me through Devon and Somerset and then up to Bristol. No mechanicals, no pasties, but did have an ice cream before Cheddar Gorge. Weather and scenery beautiful all day including the very steep Quantock hills. [105 miles].
Day 3: Brief detour in to Wales then the last of the hills for a day or so. From Bristol I did a brief detour in to Wales then over every hill in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire before the land seemed to flatten out a little near Shrewsbury. I’d managed to lose my flipflops in Somerset so replaced then in Shrewsbury [109 miles].
Day 4: The Cheshire Plain. Day 4 was much easier with very little climbing as I went from Shrewsbury, over the Cheshire plain, then skirting Manchester to Preston. I had my first company on the ride with my friend Liz joining me for a few miles around Knutsford as part of her tapering for the Slateman triathlon the following weekend. Lots of canals and motorway crossings today, but generally and easier day [105 miles but only 800 metres of climbing].
Day 5: Into Cumbria. From Preston I pushed up through the Trough of Bowland, over Shap Fell and over to Carlisle. “Chapeau of the day” however went to the man who taught me to ride a bike. My dad joined for the first 63 miles and 900m of ascent (including a detour that was my fault) [115 miles in total]
Day 6: Into Scotland. Following some clean gear delivered over from Newcastle I moved in to Scotland. This always looked like an easier day following the old A74 up to Glasgow but it was made less fun by the worst road surfaces of the journey so far. The beautiful weather continued and my regional food now included a can or Irn Bru to keep me going [98miles].
Day 7: Queen stage. This day always looked like the toughest stage of the trip with the biggest hills and a lot of main roads through to Fort William and it lived up to it. Over the Campsie Fells to Fintry, then to Callandar and up the main road through Crianlarich. Lunch at the www.artisancafetyndrum.co.uk (thanks Diane) then over Rannoch Moor through Glencoe to Fort William [118 miles].
Day 8: Looking for monsters From Fort William the route took me along the Caledonian canal and then along the quieter South side of Loch Ness (no monsters spotted). I met up for lunch with a friend who’s recently moved to Inverness, before another load of hills to the Kyle of Sutherland [112 miles].
Day 9: Journey’s end. From the Kyle of Sutherland straight up through the back of beyond to the North Coast. A right turn and another 50 miles with a pretty fierce tail-wind took me along to John O Groats. The forecast was not good initially but my continued beautiful weather managed to hold on with only a few drops of rain just before the end [108 miles, making a total of 1020]
- Did I enjoy it? Yes absolutely all of it!
- No dark days? Surprisingly no but a few tired moments over the middle days
- Would you do it again? Yes but I might take a different route through Scotland
- No support? No really, apart from a cleans shirt and undies in Carlisle
Finally thanks for everyone’s comments on Social Media and for those looking to sponsor me the link is here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/molly-carpenter
And my Strava is here: https://www.strava.com/activities/1586890086