A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: ukextremes

Leaving Bristol

Not a good day for a bike ride

rain
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Fully loaded

Fully loaded


I left Bristol on the 16th July 2011 with everything I needed to support myself packed aboard my Dawes Galaxy. The most I had ever cycled in a day was about 50 miles and this was never repeated the following day, but my goal was to cycle around the coast of the UK. I was not sure of my exact route or the distance and time it would take. I had an estimate of between 4,000 and 5,000 miles and believed I could do 500 miles a week giving me a time of eight to ten weeks.
Paddy and me

Paddy and me


The first day I covered 86 miles and made it to Llantwitt Major in South Wales, half of this distance was travelled with my friend Paddy who joined me until Newport (then caught the train back to Bristol). The weather was far from good with rain and head winds and this carried on for the first four days. Sleep was very important on these first few days, I slept solidly even though there were gales. I even slept in a bus shelter during the day because I was so tired (my inner tramp was realised). Food was also important and my appetite was increasing. I stayed in Rhossilli the second night and had a couchsurfing experience in Pendine on the third night. The Pembroke coast was lovely but very hilly, I really liked the look of Tenby, but was too tired to enjoy it fully. I found it fascinating that people were interested in where I had been and where I was going to. I spoke to one Welsh man that hated tourist, but could not be any more helpful to me, I was not being treated like a tourist. I stayed at Whitesands near St Davids on the fourth night and the weather had finally improved.
Pendine Sands

Pendine Sands


Tent with a view

Tent with a view


On the beginning of the fifth day I was leaving Whitesands near St David’s in West Wales and the weather was glorious. I thought that I had turned a psychological corner in dealing with the journey only to find out a few miles further on that I had not been eating enough food to fuel my body. I was struggling to get up small hills and it didn’t matter how much I ate that day, the energy was not going to my legs. I decided to stay in a hostel and rest after only 44 miles and eat as much as I could, this did the trick, the following day I had lots of energy and cycled 80 miles, after this experience the major focus of my days was food, food and more food. The hostel was the YHA at Poppit Sands which I can recommend for a beautiful view.
Poppit Sands

Poppit Sands

Posted by ukextremes 15:26 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

West and North Wales


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The west coast of Wales is truly stunning, reminds me of Cornwall a lot, but without the ridiculous number tourists that Cornwall suffers from. After sorting out the amount I needed to eat the hills were possible. On making it to Machynlleth I had the fear at the size of the mountains in the background, so I ate even more food. Sleeping in a forest that night I prepared myself for the onslaught for the following day. I briefly visited the centre of alternative technology (CAT), which is well worth a visit. Then I was massively surprised by the fact there were not really any hills for me to climb, one of the benefits of sticking to the coast. It was a stunning days ride with the backdrop of the mountains of Snowdonia. Enjoyed the ride so much and made good mileage that I forgot to take any photos.
Stayed in Abersoch, which was nice and the following day went as far down as Abercaron before going back up the Lleyn peninsula. I wasted half an hour trying to follow the National Cycle Network signs in Bangor, after about eight miles I ended up where I started and had to cycle the dual carriageway that I was trying to avoid. I'm sure the pesky kids of Bangor were twisting my melons man (just the signs actually).
Met an elderly American couple near Conwy castle and had a nice talk with them, they informed me of the Norwegian massacre, finding out news on the go is difficult. Conwy castle

Conwy castle


Camped between Llandudno and Colwyn Bay, then the following day headed for the English border, Wales took me eight and a half days. The Ride along the North Wales coast was assisted by one of those rair things for a cyclist, a tail wind, I averaged 24mph for over an hour and a half. This meant I whizzed past Rhyl and Prestatyn, which was nice (to whiz past them).
I made it back to England and headed for the Wirral where I met up with my sister, brother in law and nephew. I even treated myself to a couple of pints for the first time on the ride and ate a big steak. Seeing family was nice and they were impressed by my progress, but I had only covered about 630 miles by this point.Noah trying my bike for size

Noah trying my bike for size

Posted by ukextremes 15:33 Archived in Wales Comments (0)

North West England

sunny
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After rounding the Wirral I had to cross the Mersey, so I caught a ferry, and yes they do play the song. I could hardly keep a straight face. On the Liverpool side there is much evidence of declining industries, much of the quayside has derelict wasteland or warehouses, quite depressing. Riding through Southport I could not believe the size of the houses, huge mansions everywhere. The beach here was strange, I couldn't see the sea and the beach seemed to have grass growing on it in some places. I stopped and asked for directions from some other cyclists who were from Bolton Hot Wheels. A group of people ranging fron 8 to 80 with the older riders aiming to get young people into cycling. One girl had only started to cycle that year and was going to do the coast to coast. The oldest cyclist said if he was half his age he would of come along with me.
By the time I got to Lythan St Anne's there was a head wind that was blowing sand into my face, I was not enjoying that. I saw a sign for a private school that said "If you aim for the moon and miss, at least you will be amongst the stars." What are they teaching those kids and what dumb ass parent would send their child to a school that says that.
I then cycled through Blackpool, I could tell you what I thought of that, but I'd better not. Maybe it was the headwind that coloured my opinion. I did take the photo you see below and tweet that I must have taken a wrong turn and ended up in Paris by mistake. My next tweet said "Silly me Paris doesn't stink of chips, this must be Blackpool."
Paris?

Paris?


I camped near the river Wyre that night and was over taken the following morning by Pete and Mick. They were two retired friends from Blackpool that were happy for me to slipstream them. This was the first cyclists I had ridden with since the first day with Paddy. These guys were fit, they were planning to do a hundred miles that day. It was great to have help with the navigation and a bit of company, we even ate lunch at Siverdale before they headed back. I hope I am that fit when I get to their age.
I carried on solo following the coast next to Morecambe Bay, what a lovely place it is. I had to ride along the A590 for a short while and I was not impressed by the room given to cyclists by some of the drivers, it was not even a narrow road. I took the road towards Barrow in Furness and Met up with a young triathalete called Pete Denness, he even slowed down from his training ride to chat. On finding out what I was doing and seeing how I was struggling up some of the hills he invited me to his place for some food, "Don't worry my Mum will cook for you, you can even stay in the front room." True to his word the Denness family were very accommodating. Thank you for your trust and generosity.
I left Roose (near Barrow) and soon my front pannier rack broke. I went to every cycle shop in Barrow and not one had racks for sale, but one shop sent me to a Gilmour fabrications that was run by a cyclist called Mark. They welded the aluminium rack and did not even charge me. Thank you Barrow, really showed the wonderful side of the human spirit.
Action shot

Action shot


I carried on up the coast to Mawbray, this totalled 91 miles for the day and I had a massive delay getting the pannier rack fixed. On waking the following morning it was raining heavily, so I decided to rest, read and eat in my tent. Eventually I broke camp and rode the 5 miles to Silloth and stopped at a cafe to eat some more. I met up with another cyclist called Tony in the cafe and the weather had cleared up, we rode along together and swapped stories. Tony was 68 years old and was riding the route of Hadrian's Wall, 168 miles and he was planing to do it in four days. It was nice going at Tony's pace and we managed 35 miles together, we stopped for a cup of tea and even had food together in Carlise before going our own ways. The amazing thing about Tony was that he had a stroke two years previously. I told him about my fathers stroke and how it was a motivating factor for me doing this ride. I was even raising money for the stroke association. Talking to Tony about his stoke and recovery gave me optimism over my fathers condition and I can now see the progress moving quite fast. Tony's medical staff told him that for up to four years there can be improvements.
After leaving Tony in Carlise I did over 30 miles in two hours, this taught me about pacing myself. When I had ridden with Pete and Mick I went fast early in the day, come the evening I had little energy left. When I rode with Tony I went slow in the morning and afternoon then could go very fast in the evening. This distance took me across the border into Scotland. I rode through Annan and had to do a double take at a shop that was carrying my name, I thought I needed my eyes testing at first.
That's me, that is

That's me, that is

Posted by ukextremes 15:51 Archived in England Comments (0)

South West Scotland

semi-overcast
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I camped near Annan and on getting going I decided I had 100 miles in my legs. The ride was beside the Solway Firth, which is beautiful on both sides, but the Scottish side reminded me of Devon where I grew up. I stopped in Kilcudbright for food in the afternoon at the Harbour Cafe, lovely food, good art on the walls, good jokes in the male toilet (See below) and the best chocolate fudge cake I've ever had. The waiter said it had 1,200 calories and my only regret is that I only had one slice.
In the male toilet of the Harbour Cafe

In the male toilet of the Harbour Cafe


Kilcudbright

Kilcudbright


I still had over 30 miles to go to do the hundred miles and I pushed on to Newton Stewart, made it as the sun was setting and passed the mark for the first time on a bicycle. Had to ride a further three miles to find somewhere to camp, with a real sense of achievement.
Dawn in Dumfries and Galloway

Dawn in Dumfries and Galloway


I woke up early and got going, soon broke the other pannier rack, not impressed with Blackburn low riders. Stopped in Wigtown for food and I had totally forgotten about lorne (square sausage), it cooks easier and fits straight into a sandwich, lovely. They gave me directions to Kirkcowan where there is a cycle repair shop. Brian was very helpful in servicing my brakes and cleaning out my drive train, but he could not weld the pannier rack. Thanks Brian, it was nice to have brakes again, he also gave me a few parts like brake and gear cables, because if they broke in the North of Scotland he told me there was no cycle shops.
I missed a slight bit of the coast by getting the bike fixed,but then headed up towards Stranraer and onto Turnberry, This has to be one of the grandest club house of any golf course. I slept in the woods nearby and heard a bird screeching as it got dark, thinking it was a chick that had fallen from the nest, I assumed it would be killed by a wild animal soon. On reflection I think it was a young owl, as it carried on all night, apart from a few times when I assume the parent came back to feed it. It stopped at first light, so I could get some uninterrupted sleep.
I cycled up to Ardrossan and then took the ferry to Brodick on Arran, this was a bit of a cheat but it saved me a couple of hundred miles. It was only about fifteen miles on Arran and I shared that with a patent clerk from Leeds (sorry forgot the name), he was touring around Scotland on his bike, but staying in B&B's so travelling much lighter than me. I made it over to the Mull of Kintyre that day and headed towards Cambeltown. They say that Kintyre is the most beautiful part of Scotland, but I just couldn't see it myself.
Mull of Kintyre

Mull of Kintyre


I camped in a forest near Carradale, when it is wet a forest give some protection from the elements, this forest had a thick carpet of moss of about six inches. Along with my thermorest it was as comfortable as my bed at home.
The Comfort Inn

The Comfort Inn


The weather was slightly better the following day, visibility was better but still wet. After a meal in Campbeltown I headed up to Lochgilphead. I was visiting my ex-wifes parents, Jane and Simon Powell, where they were staying with friends of theirs, Ali and Dino Wright. On asking someone for directions he looked at me and said "You'd better be fit." By this time I had done about 1,150 miles, so I was getting there. I hadn't had a rest day so far in 17 days. Time for a break. All I did was eat, sleep and play with Shenzi the Jack Russell. Shenzi is Swahili for uncivilised or uncouth. As a Jack Russell owner myself, it couldn't be more apt.
Shenzi

Shenzi


The ex in-laws and me

The ex in-laws and me

Posted by ukextremes 15:51 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Western Scotland


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Once back on the road I realised how important rest days were. My legs felt very good, with good weather and beautiful scenery the road to Oban was very enjoyable, even met some Lands End to John O' Groats cyclists. They had van travelling in front with all their kit and food being sorted out for them. Seems like cheating to me.
I arrived in Oban and had just missed the 2.30 ferry to Mull, so I had an hour and a half to kill. Therefore I partook in my favourite activity, eating. I looked around Oban and found it to be a pleasant town. Went back to the ferry to find out it was delayed, this was going to leave me no time to cycle the fifteen miles to Tobermory to make the 6pm ferry to Kilchoan. I could have caught the bus to make the ferry, but that would have been cheating.
Leaving Oban

Leaving Oban

Castle ruins just outside Oban

Castle ruins just outside Oban

On the ferry to Mull

On the ferry to Mull


On making it to Tobermory I was about 20 minutes too late for the ferry, if you have ever been, the town is at the bottom of a steep hill. After eating and having a couple of pints I found out there was nowhere to stay so I had to go to the camp-site. At the top of the hill!!!
The following day I caught the ferry which is about eight miles from Ardnamurchan point, the furthest Western point of the UK mainland, this was my first extremity and I had cycled about 1,260 miles. The lighthouse at Ardnamurchan point is not the actual furthest West point although all the tourists (and even the girl who worked in the shop) think it is. It is actually at Carrachadh Mor, which is very close, just go back the road a bit then walk a mile and a half over the bog. I walked around the lighthouse and felt that seeing as I had cycled all this distance to go to the furthest West point I had to make the extra effort. Sometimes ignorance is bliss as the weather was very wet and so were my feet.
Corrachadh Mor looking towards Ardnamurchan point

Corrachadh Mor looking towards Ardnamurchan point


I left Carrachadh Mor and carried on in the drizzle, the type that soaks you right through, eventually made it to Loch Ailort and found the inn where I took my shoes off and stuffed them full of newspaper and asked if they had any rooms. there was no room left and I had five minutes to order food. After eating my steak I was contemplating having to sleep in my already wet tent with very wet clothes, the barmaid took pity on me and asked the landlady if there was anything they could do. Aileen let me have a bed in the bunkhouse, it is normally used for staff and was not to the usual standard for guest. It was luxury for me, I had a shower and could dry my clothes.
Loch Carron

Loch Carron


I rode on with dry feet and through some stunning scenery, rode to Mallaig and caught the ferry to Skye. Loch Carron was a highlight and I reached a speed of 52 mph down one of the hills. I climbed over the moor towards Sheidaig and received a phone call in a very remote area, after about fifteen seconds I looked down to see a cloud of midges. They feel like pins and needles being pricked into your skin. I hung up and jumped back on the bike, wiping the midges off my skin. It would really test a Buddhist monk to not kill one midge if they were to visit Scotland in the summer.
Sheildaig

Sheildaig


On reaching Sheildaig I realised there was something going on, it turned out that I had just missed a raft race around the island, but this was the start of their annual fete. There was live music and DJ's at an event called the Sheidaig sheepshed shuffle, because it was held in a sheepshed. In Devon it would be called a barn dance, I like their name better.
Sheildaig sheepshed shuffle

Sheildaig sheepshed shuffle

No pesky midges here

No pesky midges here


The locals were so friendly and on finding out what I was doing many of them insisted that I have a drink on them, with my rubber arm being so easy to twist, I ended up very very drunk. There was a very large bonfire, even though it was warm, to keep the midges away and I was amazed that the sky to the North never really got totally dark. I eventually made it back to my tent which was pitched right outside the pub in the centre of the village.
The following day was an unscheduled recovery day. I enjoyed the events that they had to part people from their money and the Ceilidh (Scottish music and dance) was the highlight of the Saturday night. I had to decline the offers of alcoholic drinks to the disgust of some of the locals and had an early night.

Posted by ukextremes 05:37 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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