Home
Dr Hadwen Trust
The Ride
About Us
Contact Us
Links
Journal/BLOG


Lands End to John O'Groats Bike Ride
By
David Hembrow and Terry Clark

Lands End to John O'Groats, it's a legendary trip, the full length of the British mainland from bottom left to top right. We set off together on 1st July 2006 and finished separately just under two weeks later.
       

               Lands End                                                        John O'Groats       

The trip's become famous in itself and the stream of travellers supports a few businesses at both ends. But why these two places after all? Lands End isn't the most Southerly point of the British Isles, and John O'Groats is not the most northerly. The fame seems to be that Lands End and John O'Groats are the two named places furthest apart on the British mainland. When you're starting off at Lands End there's no place further away from you on the British Mainland than John O'Groats.

The shortest route is something like 874 miles, but any practical cycling route will be quite a bit further. Our routes were just over 1000 miles.

Most people go from South to North, as we did. The theory is that the prevailing wind is South Westerly, so if you start off at Lands End you're more likely to have the wind behind you and you won't have the sun in your eyes.

1 July –  Penzance to Lands End         10 km (6 miles)

We travelled by train to Penzance with our bikes. Not without some worries because at each station there was often a lot of banging about from the guard's van near where we were sitting as various mountain bikers and BMX riders moved bikes in and out, often not very gently. Still our bikes survived undamaged.

We got off the train in Penzance in the early afternoon and rode to Lands End to get the obligatory signpost picture. It was a glorious sunny day riding through Newlyn, Mousehole, and stopping off to see the Merry Maidens stone circle. It felt like being on holiday. We also got our first taste of just how hilly Cornwall is, having to both push our bikes uphill for the first time in many years. The next few days would see us doing a lot more of this.

Lands End was quite quiet, we bought a souvenir photo (discounted for charity end-to-enders), signed the book and set off for our B&B, Wisteria Cottage in St. Buryan. It was just a short journey away, the intention being to start properly the next day. It seemed exciting and rather epic to be setting off on such a long trip, but there was also the feeling that it was an awful long way to go and we wanted to get under way as soon as possible.

 

                                        

2 July – Penzance to Bodmin         130 km (81 miles)

Our first proper day was the hardest of the entire trip.

We set off early from our B&B just outside Penzance, and followed a fine cycle path along the seafront at Penzance. Trying to follow the Sustrans NCN 1 route seemed like a good plan to avoid the A30, but it got us lost and after several long detours we settled for just following minor roads on the map.

Still the weather was wonderful. Rather too wonderful, we were told afterwards that this was 'the hottest day of the year.' We drank lots of water and fear of running out led us to carry rather too much water which is not the best thing in such hilly areas. We both got better at judging this later on.
From Truro to Okehampton, this ride became very hard due to hilly terrain and very hot weather. Everyone who rides Lands End to John O'Groats says that Cornwall is the worst. It's difficult to really believe this until you've done it. But it's true, 10 miles in Cornwall is harder than 20 miles on flat ground.

20% and greater gradients are not at all uncommon, and many of them are long and give you no chance of a run up. Some of the descents are steep enough to be frightening.  Plus we got lost a few times in the lanes and climbed several huge hills only to meet dead ends and have to turn back later. One of our dead ends was to a quarry near St. Stephen which looked like a moonscape.

As a respite from indirect, badly signposted and very hilly small roads, we tried the A30 from Bodmin. This turned out to be a lethal dual carriageway and easily the most scary road of the entire journey. We were being passed by trucks and cars travelling parallel in both lanes, with no hard shoulder for us to pull onto. And the A30 is not exactly free of hills either.

At least this showed us what we were (not) missing and so we were happy to head back onto the lanes again.

(Note: The A30 not only feels dangerous, it is dangerous. There have been fatalities of Land's End to John o'Groats cyclists on this road.)

We got as far as we could before nightfall and then camped wild at the top of Bodmin Moor, which was excellent. Odd noises were heard in the night, but luckily no sign of the "Beast of Bodmin".

Despite the prevailing wind supposedly being from the south west, we had had a headwind all day.

The distance of 81 miles doesn't sound a lot, but it felt like we had done double that distance.

3 July – Bodmin to Taunton 160 km         (99 miles)

First we had to ride off the Moor which seemed as much work as getting onto it. However, we finally escaped the worst of the hills.

The wonderful weather didn't last and here we sheltered (probably dangerously, but not for the first time) under trees in a lightning storm. The cows seemed to be getting away with it.

Today we seemed to see a lot of that most useless kind of cycle route sign which consists of a picture of a bike and and an arrow with no indication of why a cyclist would follow it, where it would lead to and how far away that place was. We ignored these.

It was about 35°C by mid morning, but we again encountered pouring rain, accompanied by thunder, twice in the early afternoon. And there was a headwind again!

David had several flats early in the day due to having patched tubes with slime in them. This stuff is supposed to prevent punctures by sloshing around inside the tube and sealing holes as they happen. In fact it did the opposite, by dissolving the glue that holds the patches on. Braking on the steep descents in Cornwall seemed to be the trigger by providing enough heat to make the patches fall right off, the tyre would go flat and the patches were found completely off the tubes and floating around in a mess of slime inside the tyre.

Our idea to do much of the trip on Sustrans NCN routes was now looking less practical. Attempting to use the NCN route from Tiverton to Taunton along the canal was a disaster. It's a gravel towpath, bumpy and slippery that slows progress to a crawl and throws grit off the front wheel straight into the chain and covers the bike and rider in muck. Back on the roads progress went better.

Small lanes eventually led, after 7 pm, to an almost empty A38 on which we could make excellent progress, making it into Taunton and staying at Terry's Mum's house. It had been another very tiring day.

4 July – Taunton to Chepstow 140 km         (87 miles)

We headed North from Taunton across the Quantocks, the quite substantial climb of Bunkham hill seeming like nothing to us now after Cornwall. It was a glorious morning with gentle sunshine, and we were making good progress on the lanes of Somerset and feeling much more optimistic with the big hills behind us.

Unfortunately on the first downhill stretch David had another flat tyre caused by the same problem as yesterday, so he made a quick repair and rode on to Bridgwater to buy replacement tubes. The Slime filled tubes went into the bin and that was the last flat he had in the entire ride.

Then we visited David's parents in Burnham-on-Sea for a late lunch (which without the flats would have been elevenses), and had some moral support from David's Mum who rode with us for a few miles towards Brean. We went on through Weston Super Mare and Clifton (a long climb and detour which can be avoided). Our route took us over both the Bristol Suspension bridge and the Severn Bridge, then on to Chepstow. Both of these toll bridges are free for cyclists.

The NCN 4 from Bristol to Chepstow was quite decent – once we found it! First we got lost in Bristol, seemingly for hours. On the Severn bridge you ride on the maintenance track which works very well. We were running late, so we gave up on making it to our intended campsite and stopped 10 miles short, staying at the luxurious Chepstow Hotel, the most upmarket accommodation of the trip, where they made us grubby cyclists very welcome, especially when they heard we were on a charity ride.

5 July – Chepstow to Long Mynd      153 km (95 miles)

The fifth day took us from Chepstow to the Bridges Long Mynd Youth Hostel. Although this route along the Welsh border is quite hilly, again it was nothing compared to what we'd been through in Cornwall. A really beautiful part of the country and there are some lovely towns along the route such as Ross-on-Wye (pictured).

We got separated at Coleford and headed on independently for most of the rest of the day. David had his worst mechanical problem:  Despite having checked everything thoroughly before leaving, a bolt had worked loose and the rack fell off his bike. The rack was re-attached with wire and zip ties and then he rode slowly to Leominster where it took an hour to find an excellent hardware store selling suitable bolts to fix the problem. If not for the two hour's total of delay he might not have got drenched in the storm which hit for the last 20 km of the day.


Terry took a more easterly route which avoided the rain, but got lost many times, wasting several hours wandering around twisty hilly lanes and ended up on the wrong side of the Long Mynd from where the youth hostel was. With darkness approaching the direct route over the top seemed a reasonable idea. After 40 minutes of pushing a loaded bike up a steep mountainside it didn't seem such a good idea, but by then it was too late to stop.

We had a warm welcome at the Bridges Long Mynd Youth Hostel which is literally in the middle of nowhere - a very beautiful middle of nowhere, mind you. Warm soup, veggie curry, crumble and lots of tea was just what we needed.

In areas like this there isn't always an obvious best route to take, especially if your map doesn't have contour lines. Choosing the wrong route can cost many hours.

6 July – 130 km (81 miles) - Long Mynd to Liverpool

Our route took is repeatedly into Wales and back out again, into Chester then on to Birkenhead where we took the 'ferry 'cross the Mersey' into Liverpool.

A good quality cycle path runs from Chester to Ellesmere Port along the canal.

In Liverpool we ate at a wonderful vegetarian restaurant ("Egg"), and stayed at the International Inn youth hostel in the city centre.

Ferry 'cross the Mersey.
Image as described adjacent

7 July – 100 km (62 miles) - Liverpool to Blackpool

Image as described adjacentThis had been planned as a short day in the middle of the ride. Luckily in fact, because we both found ourselves with laundry to do the previous night and couldn't dry it due to the hostel facilities being broken. In the morning we went to the remarkably helpful launderette, where the lady on duty kept putting in extra coins in for us because she thought the dryer was giving poor value. Excellent service!

We got separated on the way out of Liverpool, David took the long way around the coast, riding north-west from Liverpool, directly towards Southport, on the bumpy ex-railway NCN path, and then discovered that there is an excellent, almost Dutch quality, smooth path along a bit of Southport sea front towards the villages before Preston.

Terry tried to follow a canal side cycle path out of Liverpool for a bit, but soon gave up, finding it too bumpy and slow and rode mostly on the main roads towards Preston.

The approach to Preston itself had better than average cycling facilities which were a pleasant alternative to the dual carriageway.Then we both went around the coast through Lytham St. Annes into Blackpool.

We stayed in Blackpool at the only veggie B&B in the town (The Wildlife Hotel).


  

8 July – 156 km (97 miles)

We separated on the morning of the eighth day, riding apart for most of the remaining way to John O'Groats. One of the things that we both learnt from this trip is the difficulty of accommodating different people's speeds and preferences. On such a long ride these things become very noticeable.

Perhaps such a trip is better done on your own. However, it's quite likely neither of us would have bothered to make the trip at all on our own, so it's just as well we started off together.

This part of the ride took us through some beautiful countryside of Lancashire and Cumbria, some of the most scenic parts of Britain.

Image as described adjacentDavid:- I rode east from Blackpool, taking a small toll bridge (10p for bikes) at Great Eccleton then a bit more flat before going over some marvellous hills, Garstang, Brow Top. Somewhere around here I bumped into Alan Lindsay who'd just returned from his End to End a couple of weeks before. He stuck with me for quite a few miles, tempted I think to take on the adventure again. Then I went through the amazing biker hang out of Kirkby Lonsdale .

The monument at the top of Shap Fell

Next through Kendal (I didn't see where my mint cake came from), over the magnificent Shap Fell and along the A6 to camp just north of Penrith at Town End Cottage Caravan Site which was basic (for cycle campers) but where they kindly gave a donation. Beautiful countryside all around here.

It started raining at 4 pm at the top of Shap Fell and continued for the rest of the day.

Terry :- I headed North from Blackpool, following country lanes and keeping close to the motorway which seemed to be the least hilly route. Lunch was in Kirkby Lonsdale (church pictured), and then through the Lake District towards Shap which was a strenuous climb not helped by the rain. I was hoping to make Carlisle that day, but stopped about 5 miles short at a roadside B&B.

9 July – Carlisle to Glasgow

On the ninth day we met in Carlisle, stopped at a supermarket cafe for a suitably calorific fried breakfast, and then rode together into Scotland.

Getting to Scotland was a significant moment, suddenly it was clear that we'd come a very long way since starting 9 days ago. People were speaking with different accents, the weather and even the length of the day had noticeably changed. Crossing the Scottish Border into Gretna the first thing we saw was the "Marriage House" which is right next to the "Scotland Welcomes You" sign.

There is an amazing cycle path leading most of the way from the Scottish border to Glasgow in the Southern Uplands. It is one of the best cycle faclities in the UK, as well as one of the most isolated and windswept, and in a place where one would least expect to find it. This apparently came about due to a previously dualled A74 being cut in half when the motorway was built. Riding though here on a bicycle was very memorable. Very long climbs taking us into the clouds were followed by very long and rewarding descents, but never unpleasant gradients like those in Cornwall.



David:- I started the day by getting up rather slowly and packing the wet tent away. A fabulous day in which we made a lot of progress. That A82 path is especially memorable as probably the highest, longest, coldest, dampest stretch in the UK, but wonderfully scenic. I stopped at a B&B in Larkhill, just short of Glasgow. 180 km today.

 
Terry:- I was only intending to get halfway from Carlisle to Glasgow this day, but progress was going well so I carried on. Suddenly nightfall was approaching with nowhere to stay, and there was little accomodation to be found in such an isolated spot. I was grateful to find a cheap room at a truck stop in Lesmahagow, where they weren't used to seeing cyclists but were very welcoming, allowing me to store my bike safely in their office. The truckers were amazed to hear I'd come from Carlisle that day, one of them said "I'd want an engine for that trip". I had to agree.  

10 July 

Glasgow to Balloch (Terry)


Glasgow to Tyndrum (David)


Terry:- Today totally sucked! I rode into Glasgow, finding the roads to be a mess of potholes and bad repairs so rough in places that I feared it would break my bike or make me crash. I got through the city centre by using the compass to head West until I picked up signs for the A82. This turned out to be a shockingly dangerous road with busy traffic skimming past far too close and fast, so I diverted onto the Loch Lomond cycle path. This was pleasantly quiet and traffic-free but was covered in shards of broken glass and on the outskirts of Glasgow I got the first of many punctures that day.

This was the first puncture of the whole trip, and trying to use my shiny new puncture repair kit bought just before setting off resulted in failure. The glue was no good and simply didn't stick the patches to the tube. Hopeless! With only one spare tube I would have been stranded if another flat happened so I set off into town to buy another puncture repair kit.  Well I thought at least it wasn't raining. That was about the time it started to rain.

Then I noticed that one of my pannier bags was ripping apart at the seams. Another trip into town and a bit more searching was needed to buy a needle and some strong thread to repair it. I carried on for a few more miles along the Loch Lomond Cycle Path, and after a couple more punctures, some more rain and with darkness approaching I stopped for the night at a B&B in Balloch near Loch Lomond to stitch my disintegrating luggage back together and enjoy a hot bath.

Image as described adjacentDavid:- I got up fairly late again and set off for Glasgow. I took busy roads into Glasgow but left on an NCN route towards Loch Lomond.


This was largely along an old railway track and surface quality varied from quite good to awful. The A82 itself was horrible from Glasgow so I stuck to the NCN path. From Balloch to Tarbet this route varied from bits of the old road through bits of specially made path (the photo shows a good bit) to very inadequate shared use, but I persisted with the varied quality until I suddenly hit a completely undropped kerb at speed. This could have injured me or broken the bicycle. So much for a usable path. By then the traffic had dropped so I switched to the road.

Along the side of Lock Lomond I bumped into Jim Cottier also riding End to End on his bike accompanied by his wife in the van driving support. What luxury !

From Tarbet it poured with rain again, I stopped somewhere on the A82 for a truly excellent pizza at the well named "Stagger Inn" cooked by an enthusiastic Aussie chef called Steve. After that it was yet another opportunity to get soaked on the bike and to ride on.

After 130 km, I put the tent up in the rain at a relatively expensive camp-site which turned out to have few facilities and also charged extra for a shower. The shower room had a sticker which claimed there was a water shortage. This seemed rather unlikely given the weather outside ! 10°C. Brrr. And so much hard rain that my bike computer was half full of water (though it still worked).


11 July

Tyndrum to Fort William (David)


Balloch to Fort William (Terry)

Terry :- I made an early start from Balloch along the scenic shores of Loch Lomond - truly a beautiful part of the country. There is a cycle path which makes a reasonable alternative to the A82 for about 15 miles North of Balloch. After that there's no alternative to the main road.  Before the ride we were a bit worried by reading internet reports that the A82 is one of the most dangerous roads in Britain. Actually it wasn't too bad.

The road surface on the A82 can be quite broken in places, I guess because of the freezing weather up there, and it is quite narrow and can be busy. Generally the drivers are considerate, so it's not as bad as one might expect.

Also there are many trucks. That might not seem like a good thing for cyclists, but believe me on roads like this trucks are your friends.  Truckers are generally very considerate, passing bikes with plenty of room to spare, and all the other traffic is bunched up behind the trucks. So you tend to get passed by a truck and about 10 other vehicles in one go, and then nothing for a long while afterwards.

Climbing through Glen Coe was one of the hardest parts, the wind was extremely strong, sometimes with gusts blowing me across the road or off onto the gravel. On the hills going constantly upward I consoled myself with the thought that at least it'd be easy on the way down. Well it was a nice thought but the headwind was so strong that I had to pedal in lowest gear to go downhill and even with all my warmest clothes on it was freezing. It rained too.

If there was any compensation it was the scenery, rugged and spectacular. On the final descent towards Fort William the weather cleared. By this time my rear tyre was looking very worn and I'd had quite a few punctures, I was wondering if it would last the trip. By bizarre co-incidence I found a brand new 700C tyre (the right size) by the side of the road, still in its paper wrapping, it must have literally dropped off a lorry or a car. It made my day.

David :- I didn't have much distance to cover today (just 80 km) so I again started late, hoping for the rain to stop. It didn't, so I had to take the tent down in the rain. I rode on towards Glencoe. Amazing weather. Very cold, very wet, and if I didn't pedal down hill, the headwind stopped me. Lots of hills to go up too. I reached Fort William by 2 pm, found the very welcoming "Rhu Ban" B&B and unpacked my boots and warm clothes which I'd posted there in advance. I walked to the bottom of Ben Nevis by 4 pm and went up and back down again by a little after 8.30, then had a curry which I enjoyed very much. An amazing climb, but very cold at the top. Snow in July. The mist at the top meant it was fairly difficult to see one cairn from another. The spring water coming out of the mountain tasted great (I only took it above the line where the sheep were!). Sadly, the batteries I bought for my camera on the way into Fort William turned out to be flat, so no photos except from the 'phone.

12 July –

Fort William to Carbisdale (David)


Fort William to Inverness (Terry)


David :-I got up fairly early to find the town submerged in mist, so I took my time packing my stuff back in the box and labelling it for home. On the B&B owner's recommendation I didn't leave before 10 am, about the time the mist had cleared. I posted my parcel then rode out of town. My legs were quite weary as a result of yesterday's climb. My intention now was to take the scenic route past Carbisdale and to finish in two longish days. Carbisdale is almost exactly half way between Fort William and JOG which makes it ideal if you want to take two days for this part.

I was tempted off the A82 by the Great Glen Cycle Route north of Loch Lochy. As far as Gairlochy it was a fairly bumpy tow path, just about tolerable. Then it went onto very pleasant minor roads, but from Clunes on to Kilfinnan it was beyond awful. Not at all suitable for any reasonable touring bike. Having got to the start of this stretch, I rode along it, but it was slow, dangerous and unpleasant. A crash here could easily mean not being found for a week. My advice to others is that this route really is not worth risking.

At Kilfinnan I escaped onto what was by then the much more attractive alternative of the A82, my speed went up and I rode through Fort Augustus and along the side of Loch Ness (shown in the short video).


No sign of Nessie, unless you count the miniatures sold in the shops. We're not doing well for mythical creatures on this trip. All very nice, but the road was a bit busy so at Drumnadochit I turned north for a scenic route to Beauly, Dingwall, and then found myself on the highly unpleasant A9 for a short stretch.

I left this just before Alness to take a scenic route over Struie hill and met a sign saying that it was a 15% hill for 3/4 mile. I managed about half of this before deciding it'd be easier to push – the first time I'd done that since Cornwall and the last for the ride. Continuing through Bonar Bridge I found a pub at a sensible mealtime of 6.30 pm or so, followed by Carbisdale Castle youth hostel – a spectacular place, one of two Scottish hostels which are actual castles and a great end to a day in which I'd covered 177 km, 110 miles.

To get to the Hostel from north of Bonar Bridge I had to cross the railway bridge. This has a footway along it but at the end are a very steep set of steps. This can be avoided only if you skip Bonar Bridge and ride directly towards the hostel on the minor road from Ardgay.

Luckily for me there just happened to be a very helpful Dutchman standing there who helped me up the stairs. The following morning I found I could get down them on my own with fully laden bike with just a bit of effort and holding the brakes.

A short word about the A82. Between Tarbet and Inverness there is rarely any alternative at all to the A82. For most of the distance this is a narrow two lane road with no hard shoulder and in busy traffic it can be unpleasant. It is a shame there is not a usable quieter route for cyclists through this part of the world. I managed to avoid using it at the busiest times, and found most drivers were considerate. The views from the road are amazing.

Terry :- I decided to take a route to the South of Loch Ness to avoid the busy A82. This meant that my route would be a bit longer, but I still had 3 days to reach John O'Groats and so it meant a mere 50-60 miles a day.

Now that the pressure to cover long distances each day was off I started to enjoy the ride much more. Setting off early from Fort William it was misty and damp, but I made good time along the A82. It was narrow and full of traffic so not very enjoyable cycling conditions. At Fort Augustus I headed to the South of Loch Ness onto B roads. The road climbed steeply for many miles which was hard work, but the scenery was beautiful, the roads were quiet and the weather was fine.

Going past Loch Tarbet, high up in the hills, I followed the minor roads towards Inverness which gradually descended to follow the South shores of Loch Ness to arrive at the city of Inverness in mid-afternoon.

I did my laundry, found a nice B&B and then after dinner heard some live folk music.



13 July -

Carbisdale to John O'Groats (David)


Inverness to Helmsdale (Terry)


Image as described adjacentDavid:- I left quite early, wanting to finish today. This was the day when taking the scenic route paid off. The scenery was as spectacular as the traffic was light for most of this day. You have to turn the pedals a few more times, but it's worth it. Continuing up the A836, past Dalchork it turned into a single lane with passing places. This felt very remote, I saw no cars at all for the first half hour. It was just as well that I'd picked up some snacks on the way out of Lairg as there was nothing else for miles. I turned onto an even smaller road along the side of Loch Naver and eventually reached the northern coast at Bettyhill.

Now along the top of the country, and at last there was a tail wind!

I stopped for food and drinks and also to take a photo of Dounreay,  "white heat of technology". For much of this part of the ride I made quite good time. I got to John o'Groats a few minutes before 5 pm and found myself behind a queue of motorcyclists from London waiting for photos. Much the same distance as yesterday, 176 km or 110 miles.

Terry :- I had another puncture before getting out of Inverness, so I fitted my new "tyre from heaven" and had no further flats for the rest of the trip. I set off out of Inverness along the A9 East Coast highway. Realistically there was little alternative to this road, and the B&B owner (a coach driver) assured me it had a shoulder for cycling along much of the way and that it would get quieter as I went along.

The road was quite busy out of Inverness so I tried to use the parallel NCN route through Black Isle. For a while this was OK but it kept sending me onto hilly and indirect detours so I ended up back on the A9 before long.

It was a busy road but fairly wide, giving the traffic room to pass safely, and best of all there was a powerful tailwind helping me to cruise at around 40kph, so I made very good time. Arriving at the pretty harbour village of Helmsdale I decided to stop the night and found a welcoming B&B, knowing that tomorrow's ride to John O'Groats was a manageable 55 miles.


14 July - Helmsdale to John O'Groats (Terry)

Terry:- From Helmsdale it was initially quite a strenuous ride, with several steep climbs and serious descents that saw speeds of over 60kph on my computer and led to scary thoughts like "what would happen if the forks snapped off now?".

Gradually it got easier, the terrain flattened out, and the traffic became less busy. I stopped in Wick for lunch and then continued to John O'Groats. Some cyclists came the other way shouting "twenty miles to JOG".
The last few miles went easily, I arrived at John 'O Groats at about 4pm, took a photo at the signpost, and then went for a malt whisky at the bar of the hotel. I texted everyone I knew to say that I'd arrived.
  
  

Getting Home

David :- Having arrived at John O'Groats I now had the feeling of not knowing quite what to do next. It was very cold, 10°C or so and plenty of wind chill too. Luckily a coach turned up and offered to take me and bike to Wick for a mere £2.35.

The return journey started the next morning with the 6.22 train to Inverness and then I found I was stuck due to bike spaces on trains being booked up for days. If I had pre-booked perhaps I'd have been OK, but I didn't necessarily know when I'd need the train. I ended up with a one way hire car back to Cambridge, this costing £3 less than the train ticket and I got four seats rather than not even a guarantee of one (it did also cost £50 for petrol). The drive was tiring and I'd rather not have done it, but I also didn't want to spend days waiting for a train.

Terry :- I rode the 20 miles from John O'Groats to Thurso where I found a room for the night, the next available train to Inverness with bike spaces being the next day.  It was strange how a 20 mile ride now felt like just going around the corner.

I took a train from Thurso to Inverness and changed to the express train to London. Rode across London from Kings Cross to Waterloo and took a train home to Southampton. Due to some strangeness of the booking system when I booked the train ticket two days in advance of the return trip a 1st class ticket was cheaper than a standard, so it was a comfortable trip back.

So - What was it like?

David :-So, was it worth it? Yes! It's a wonderful way of seeing the country, and a great adventure, however it is done. Afterwards I was very happy to return home to my family and to Cambridge where riding for half the day without seeing another cyclist is impossible !

Terry :- In the souvenir shop at John O'Groats the lady behind the counter asked if I cycled there from Lands End, and what I thought. My reaction was "I'm glad I did it but I wouldn't do it again". She said "Yeh, a lot of people say that".

A year later

It seems that a year later we both have similar views of the ride. We're both glad we did it, but we can now see the considerable danger presented by traffic at quite frequent intervals during the trip. Cycling infrastructure in other countries, such as the Netherlands, is far superior to that in the UK and long cycle trips are a lot safer as a result.

A friend of ours was recently hit by a car on his LEJOG trip. Take care out there.

Equipment (David)

  • My well worn Pashley PDQ recumbent bike – very comfortable & nothing went wrong... except for that rack.
  • My sleeping bag and clothes were shared between my rack top rear basket and small panniers either side of the rack. Also there was food in panniers as well as tools. Anything which needed to be kept dry was wrapped in a plastic carrier bag. This worked perfectly. A small basket at the side of my seat held whichever map I needed, a water bottle and a few snacks. I find that baskets work well for touring.
  • Bike computer with thermometer (cheap from Aldi!).
  • Vredestein Monte-Carlo tyres. No punctures at all (the flats were due to Slime, not punctures) despite serious wear, which is as good a reason to recommend them that I can think of.
  • 1:301000 scale maps. My growing collection of Landrangers was obviously not going to work. I looked a long while to find something compact enough that I could carry the entire country, and eventually found bargain maps for motorcyclists in Aldi. They are thin and lack contour lines, but are light, compact, fold out and have camp sites marked.
  • Tent – 2 man, weighed 3.7 kg. A lighter tent would not be a bad idea.
  • Camping roll, Sleeping bag.
  • Several changes of clothes.
  • Food. As I'm a vegan I had to carry some things that I couldn't rely on finding on the way. Typically I had about a litre of soya milk so that tea, breakfast cereal etc. were more palatable.
  • Water. This can be overdone. At the start I was carrying rather too much, but eventually I settled on carrying two half litre bottles and asking for a refill at pubs, cafés etc. on the route.
  • Book – which unfortunately I'd finished by the tenth day.
  • Walking boots / warm clothes etc. Posted to the B&B in Fort William for the climb and then posted back on the morning of the next day.
  • Small tool kit, including puncture repair kit, spare tubes, Spokey spoke key, chain tool, spanners, bendy wire, a small roll of Duct tape and a few zip ties (good things for improvised repairs).

Equipment (Terry)

  • Dawes Audax light touring bicycle. Steel frame, 27 speed Shimano gears.
  • Tourtec Ultralite Aluminium rack.
  • SJS Cycles pannier bags. Cheap, but they fell apart during the trip.
  • Cateye LED lights with rechargeable batteries. Rarely used on this ride.
  • 1:301000 scale maps, cheap from Aldi. These are about the most detailed maps that it's possible to carry. A GPS might have saved me getting lost sometimes.
  • Compass - when navigation was too confusing I just headed North.
  • Camping roll, Sleeping bag. Used once, after that I stayed in B&B.
  • 3 changes of clothes - washed each day and dried on the move.
  • Food. Munching on the move is essential - I had a pannier full of nuts, dried fruit, energy bars, chocolate and fruit.
  • Water, two frame mounted drinks bottles often mixed with fruit juice.
  • Tools - Pump, Alien multitool, Adjustable spanner, tyre levers.
  • Puncture repair kit, chain oil.
  • Lock .
  • Spare tubes.

Another cycling adventure - a trip to the Dutch Cyclevision event.

Go to Top of Page



If only we'd spotted this bus earlier on, we could have saved a lot of time !
The photo was taken by Terry at Lyme Regis three years later.