Crossing England from sea to sea
The island of Great Britain is longer than it is wide, meaning there are lots of opportunities to cycle a “coast to coast” of some sort, crossing the island (mostly) from east to west, or vice versa. There are many well-known cycle touring routes that cross northern England, with the most best-known probably being the C2C. No, the name is not short for “coast to coast”, but rather what it sounds like when you say it out loud: sea to sea. In this case, from the Irish Sea to the North Sea (or vice versa, should you so prefer).
There are several other, similar routes: the Trans-Pennine Trail (often referred to as the TPT), the Way Of The Roses, and Hadrian’s Cycleway. Further south, you also have the Devon Coast To Coast route. All these routes are great cycle touring routes, and all these routes suffer from the same serious drawback: they’re linear. Most people who cycle any of these routes don’t live locally to the areas, and often have to contend with quite complex logistics to get to the start, and get home again from the finish.
As a cyclist in the UK, your options are limited:
You can drive (or have someone drive you), you can catch a train with your bike, or you can cycle there. Excepting those with folding bikes, most buses and coaches won’t allow you to take a bicycle, and if you’re on a tandem, or a trike, almost no train operators will allow you on. Even when you can take your bike on a train, often you will be restricted to off-peak trains only. When you add the logistics of getting there with the logistics of getting back again, it can add a bunch of unnecessary headaches, and that was indeed the case in my planning.
You see, I’ve been wanting to cycle C2C for a while now. Alongside the C2C route, I’ve also been wanting to see Hadrian’s Wall for a long time now, and it just so happens that Hadrian’s Cycleway loosely follows the course of the wall. Now C2C starts in Whitehaven and ends in Sunderland, while Hadrian’s Cycleway starts in Newcastle, just up the coast from Sunderland, so a plan quickly formed in my head: why not combine the two routes as a single 300 mile loop? That way, I have no logistical issues getting back to the start, and I get to ride another route I’ve wanted to for a while. As an added bonus, I’ll get to spend to seeing parts of Hadrian’s wall for myself. Look, if YOU’re not impressed by a wall built over 2 000 years ago, by the Romans, that’s fine, but I’m fascinated by it!
As what’s become a habit now, this will be a Travelling Ouballies ride, and as such pretty much open invite. A friend of mine, Karl, will be joining me at least from Whitehaven to Newcastle, and another friend, Gaz, will be joining us for a while in the Newcastle area – do yourself a favour and follow them both on Twitter, as they’re both good ‘uns.
When I go cycle touring, I wild-camp, and this trip will be no exception. If you were thinking of joining me, you’d be welcome, but you need to understand a few things in advance, starting with the fact that the ride will NOT be a race! Cycle touring is my escape from the world, and if you were constantly wanting to go faster all the time, well, feel free to leave me behind, and we’ll go our separate ways. You can race off into the distance, while I’ll be stopping often, and take loads of photos. I’ll also be doing route guides for the 2 routes, so will need to stop often and make notes. Finally, I’ll be riding slowly, probably averaging 10mph or less. If that’s going to annoy you, then best you don’t join me.
After all, this is my ride. Feel free to organise your own.
My plan was initially to ride the route over five days, but I now think six days would be better. That works out to an average of just 50 miles per day, meaning I won’t be rushed at all. You see, one of the best things you can do when cycle touring is to slow down. I will probably never again cycle this overall route, so I’m going to ensure I enjoy every single minute of it.
Even if you can’t join me, I’ll probably do at least one more post, focusing on preparing for a cycling tour like this, including the logistics, and a kit list, plus a write-up on the cycle tour after I completed it.
If you know of points of interest along either route that you consider definitely worth visiting, even if it’s a minor detour, then please tell me in the comments? The Beamish Open Air Museum I’d like to see, but will probably only have an hour or two to spend there, and while the ticket price is good value for a day there, I’m not sure I want to spend £20 on such a short visit.