Monday 23 December 2019

Northern England/Scotland bike & raft

*This is one of many trips that didn't get posted when I all but abandoned this blog back in 2015. It's now 2019 and I'm adding in that missing content in a more photo-based blog post, this trip was from 2015*

After the disappointment of abandoning the CDT, with a fractured foot, I was looking for a trip that could be done while the healing process continued. Hiking trips were still not possible but my doctor said I would be ok to cycle in stiff cycling shoes. Great, but I'm not sure he had a 2600km cycle tour in mind! 

For once there wasn't really a plan for this trip but I had about 6 weeks. I'd always fancied cycling the Pennine Bridleway so thought that would make a good start, then I'd re-role the bike to a more mixed-road configuration, strap-on a packraft and head north. Turned out to be a great idea and just what I needed!

Trip Route and Stats

The route I took can be viewed in more detail and downloaded here

My start was the nearest train station to the Pennine Bridleway (Cromford) and the finish was the train station in Perth.

The official stats of the route are (recorded by Garmin GPS)

Distance 2636km
Ascent 24728m
Cycling Days 40

Actual recorded route

Pennine Bridleway

For the first few days, I had company with my good friend Shirley. Unfortunately, Shirley hadn't cycled for a few years and given that the Pennine Bridleway is quite challenging we soon released this was not going to be enjoyable so we departed from the official route and joined the Sustrans cycle network, mostly parallel, through the Yorkshire Dales. A full Pennine Bridleway ride would have to remain on my list for a few more years (finally cycled it end-end in 2019).

Pennine Bridleway - Peak District
Pennine Bridleway - Peak District
Pennine Bridleway - Peak District

Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines

We left the Pennine Bridleway at Dowry Reservoir and headed west to Rochdale and then took the Cycle Route 66 north followed by the 68 to Sedbergh which is where I said goodbye to Shirley.

Route 66
Route 66
Unofficial camp near Sedburgh (official campsite in Sedburgh no longer accepts tents)

Northern Pennines to York

I'm based near York so headed that way to convert the bike from its full off-road configuration, of a suspension fork and wide supper grippy off-road tyres, to something more suitable for general cycling. A fixed fork along with slicker tyres were fitted and while the bike (Thorn Nomad) could still do challenging off-road in this configuration it would be much more pleasant to ride on mixed surfaces. The route home to York took me past the Black Sheep Brewery so it would have been rude not to stop... Also, it happened to be the Ripley Scarecrow Festival.
B6270 Gunnerside
Nr Grinton
Black Sheep brewery Masham 
Ripley scarecrow festival
Ripley scarecrow festival

York to Berwick-upon-Tweed

Bike reconfigured it's onto York then north, skirting the northern edge of the North York Moors, to Middlesborough.  Route 1 is followed to the coast at Sunderland then up the coast to Berwick with a stop off at Holy Island.

Alne Cross

White Horse of Kilburn
Tees Newport Bridge
Marsden Bay South Shields
Bamburgh Castle 
Holy Island Causeway
Holy Island Priory
Holy Island Castle
Berwick-upon-Tweed to Cape Wrath

The route continues up the coast then through Edinburgh, once over the Forth it's onto Route 76, then 766 around Fife, and onto Perth. From Perth, I headed west and picked up Route 7 at Lochearnhead. Route 7 would take you directly to Inverness but I had friends to visit in Grantown-on-Spey so took a long way around. From Inverness Route 1 heads north to Lairg where I turned west up to near Cape Wrath. Once in Scotland wild camping was very easy and I even got the Packraft out a few times.

Wild camping was much easier once north of the border

Forth rail bridge
Old fish storage house, Tentsmuir forest Fife
Loch Tay
Loch Tay
Drumochter Pass
Ruthven Barracks, Kingussie
Nr Lochindorb from Granton
Clava Cairns

Culloden nr Inverness

Loch Shin
Loch More
Loch Stack 

Loch a' Chadh-fi 

Bagh Sheigra

Cape Wrath to Orkney

From Durness, the route goes west to Tongue where you pick up Route 1 to Thurso. From Thurso, I took the ferry over to Orkney. Orkney was an amazing place but not the greatest place to cycle. It had relatively busy roads and I found it difficult to camp, however, the place is packed with history and well worth a visit.

I knew it! They are among us!
Chambered Cairn, Stenness, Orkney

Stones of Stenness, Orkney
Skara Brae, Orkney

Broch of Burness, Orkney 

Stromness, Orkney
Orkney to Perth

Heading back south towards Inverness I varied the route as much as possible, had I stuck to the Sustrans cycle network then I would have been travelling over a lot of old ground. From Inverness, I again picked up Route 1 and followed it east along the Moray coast and then south down past Aberdeen and Dundee and onto Perth, where this cycle ride would finish.

"A" roads around here can be very quiet
Only puncture of this trip near Laig
Weird lighting on Inverness Castle
Sueno's Stone, Forres
Moray coast
Wild camp, Catterline