Author link: Jeremy’s Cycling Blog
Around about New Year I mentioned to cousin Jane that I quite fancied cycling the Hadrian’s Wall Cycleway. I’d read stories about it’s fine scenery and the distance of 174 miles was enough to make it a bit of a challenge without seeming daunting.
She leapt at the idea and so followed some fevered planning and preparation – including the purchase of a new (old) bike at Easter and a spring of ‘training’. What emerged was an ambitious, risky, and wonderfully complex logistical operation that would’ve scared the pants off a seasoned military officer. This is just about the ride though …
The plan was to do the ride over a period of 4 days. More leisurely than most, but it was meant to be a holiday after all and with Jane getting pregnant and my limited athletic prowess the extra day seemed sensible. Jane hunted down some great B&Bs to stay in along the way from Ravenglass to Tynemouth.
Day 1: Ravenglass to Silloth
First mistake: big breakfast.
The first 20km of the ride was rather worrying. A combination of poor signage, very narrow tracks, poor riding surface and more hills that I had anticipated left us worrying whether we’d make it to our overnight in Silloth before dark.
Thankfully the situation improved dramatically after Sellafield and we started making much better progress.
Tea stop in Whitehaven then lunch in the beer garden of a pub in Maryport. The weather was fantastic. Little wind and lots of sunshine without being too hot. Perfect cycling.
Second mistake: big lunch and 2 pints of great beer.
Got pretty bad indigestion on the last leg and I was very pleased to find our beds for the night.
- Distance: 85.23km
- Climbing: 554m
- GPX Route File
Day 2: Silloth to Brampton
Light breakfast. Another day of outstanding weather. We got a bit of a rude head-on wind along the section from Drumburgh to Burgh-by-Sands but the sun was out and the rest of the day was great. We stopped for tea in a little place in Burgh-by-Sands and it was so good we turned it into our lunch stop. See? Lessons learned from day 1.
The section through Carlisle was really good. Proper cycle paths through parks and woods. Flippin’ ace.
- Distance: 79.90km
- Climbing: 437m
- GPX Route File
Day 3: Brampton to Hexham
We knew this was going to be tough because it contained most of the climbing from the whole ride into a single day. Clearly the gods thought we were having too good a time of it, so they decided to throw some bad weather into the mix. Strong winds and battering rain, and coming from Italy that’s not something I’m used to. There were a few moments when I thought ‘this is crap’, but as with that good shot in golf makes you forget all the prior bad ones, a few moments of flat road and respite from the weather quickly restores the spirit.
When we passed the apex of the ride, just past the archaeological dig of the Roman fort of Vindolanda, the weather cleared and the descent started. If Jeremy’s law of cycling (‘for every hill there is an equal and opposite hill’) is true, then we must have climbed a chuffing mountain, because we hurtled along Stanegate all the way to Fourstones (maybe 4 or 5 km) without a single turn of the pedals. Or maybe it was down to cousin Jane’s Almond Balls having an effect akin to Popeye’s spinach.
By the time we reached Hexham, I was pretty much done in though. To get to our B&B we turned off the cycle route and after a while had to wheel the bikes up a footpath. An evil footpath of rocks that seemed to get steeper each time we looked up. It was probably only 100m or so but it felt like Everest (that was one of the ‘this is crap’ moments).
Not a long day (I’d sniffed out a decent boozer by 5), but a big sense of satisfaction. We knew that the next day was the last, was downhill/flat, and wasn’t very long. In bed and asleep by 8:30 despite ET being on the telly.
- Distance: 57.82km
- Climbing: 853m
- GPX Route File
Day 4: Hexham to South Shields
The last day. Sad because we were having a great time, but good because it meant that we’d completed the ride.
Still had a light breakfast though.
My first time riding in England on a Sunday for maybe 20 years, and crikey hasn’t the number of Sunday cyclists risen?! We got to Corbridge and I’m sure the cyclists outnumbered motorists. Great to see although it did mean that we got overtaken for the first time since we set off. I’m not a racer.
The day coincided with the Great North Run. I didn’t think we’d get caught up in it as it crosses the Tyne quite early on, and we had a pretty clear run along the side of the river pretty much until we came to the ferry crossing. The ferry takes you over to South Shields to the finish of the ride at the Roman site of Arbeia. Unfortunately the foot tunnel was closed and the metro was broken down, so the ferry was the only remaining way for the runners to get over the river and the queue was massive.
- Distance: 55.83km
- Climbing: 579m
- GPX Route File
A great little tour with some photos to finish …