Coast to Coast to Coast – Snorkel cycling

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IN 2010 I repeated the CTC Lejog with a very nice crowd of people and stayed in touch with some of them via Facebook and email. One of them, the character of the group, one Roger Davies proposed a reunion short tour from Whitehaven to North Shields, so eight agreed to participate, including my wife Mary who was not on the Lejog adventure, but is well used to cycle-touring. How we were to get to Whitehaven was a bit of a puzzler at first. I looked into various options. These included getting the Cork Swansea ferry and cycling from Swansea to Whitehaven. Too far.

Next considered was flying to Liverpool. Could be done but looked a bit urban for our taste. Next was getting the Dublin Liverpool ferry. This looked ideal until I came across the very helpful information that this ferry does not take bikes under any circumstances. How helpful for the faltering tourist industries of both of our struggling economies!! Anyway I eventually settled on flying with Aer Arann to Edinburgh and getting the bike route to Innerleithen, Hawick, Gretna and so on. This route was advised by a man on the CTC forum.

So we arrived in Cork airport on the appointed morning and got our naked bikes on the plane, though some "helpful" person decided to let the tyres down in case they burst, after I persuaded the man where I checked them in to leave them be. This idiocy should be for once and for all the subject of a sustained campaign against the airlines. It's just total nonsense and a big irritant in the airport when you sweat like Niagara falls pumping them.
We arrived in Edinburgh, I sweated like Niagara falls, we changed into our cycling clothes and proceeded to not find the beginning of the cycling route. At this stage it had begun to rain foaming bayonets, as is said in the Irish language for especially strong rain. I could not find where I was going and had not yet purchased a useful map. I had gone about 2 miles out of my way when I stopped a helpful cyclist, a second generation Irishman who directed us on the road to Peebles. After this the rain stopped and we had a felicitous trip to Innerleithen (inner leethen). Here I'd booked the top class B and B restaurant, Caddon View.

Not cheap but good value and superb haute cuisine fare, not to mind excellent wine and beer. A most pleasant evening was had by all. We spoke to an Australian cycling couple who were doing Lejog over 40 days. More like Leslowcrawl rather than Lejog, but I'm sure at least as enjoyable. They were mostly camping.
That evening we went looking for a pub and found that some of these towns have "clubs" which are a cunning ruse to circumvent the licensing laws. We got signed into the Unionist club there and I partly understood the gentleman who signed us in. Mary who does not have my ear for accents hadn't the faintest idea of what was being said to her! Day 1 45 miles.

The next day in clement weather I went looking for the recommended NCR but a local cyclist told me to take 2 B roads to Hawick, which we did. This was lovely very quiet gently hilly no fuss cycling.

Had lunch in a Sunday only caravan cafe

in the middle of nowhere where we had the most pleasant company of some Scottish cyclists who were out for their Sunday jaunts. We eventually reached Hawick and checked into Bank House which is an invisible B and B in an old bank. Outside looked like a disused bank building, inside was superb. This is run by a lovely retired (young for that) Geordie lady who doesn't want the bother of people knocking at the door. It was superb with huge bedrooms etc and top class breakfast. I had haggis. For dinner we went about 200yd to an excellent and very cheap Indian restaurant.


Hawick town hall

I could see no statue to Bill McLaren, the famous and now dead rugby commentator or gommentator as he himself would say. "Here's this mighty English back (sic) in the set scrummage, I tell ya there's more that three guarters or a ton of brime English beef in there!" His full name on Googling I discovered was William Pollock McLaren. I suppose that Pollock was his mother's surname, otherwise his parents were proper cods.
The following morning I bought a Lindal valve gas canister for my gas burner and we headed off on the LOVELY road to Newcastleton.

This was a quiet snaking country road with little traffic and one serious hill. Had coffee by a stream en route where there were flies as big as some of the members of McLaren mighty English pack. But at least they didn't bite. We had a nice lunch of sandwiches etc in a cafe in Newcastleton and the cycle to Gretna was less interesting and had some bits of main road. Gretna is near Gretna Green and had a hotel which was okay. Cheap and cheerful food.


..and drink..

I had developed a serious creak in the BB area of my bike and had no idea what the cause was except that it was not the saddle or the seatpin. The next day we had the easy cycle to Carlisle where Scotby's cycle-shop tried to cure it. They greased everything but down the road I realised that it was not cured. Just as bad as ever.
While in Carlisle, while the bike mechanic was doing this thing we had a stroll around Carlisle where there was a graduation in full swing.

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9 comments on “Coast to Coast to Coast – Snorkel cycling”

  1. Patrick wrote:

    Good report and good photos Garry. The rainy weather doesn't seem to bother you in the least! Well done to Mary. I recognise some of the other faces too.

    Hartside Pass?

    PS: the resistance to carrying bicycles on public transport in the UK is a national disgrace IMO. So is the resistance to allowing them into places like the dentist, post offices, banks, shops, hairdressers, etc. It has nothing to do with infrastructure – it's simply down to human behaviour.

  2. Garry Lee wrote:

    Not much better here as regards bikes, unfortunately! I didn't enjoy this heavy rain at all!

  3. Hilary wrote:

    Smashing photos Garry! Shame about the weather.
    Interested to hear about your creaking skewer. I had a most annoying creak that went away when I put a different rear wheel on (having tried everything else first) but haven't got to the bottom of it yet – must have a look at the skewer tho I strongly suspect its the cassette thats the culprit.

  4. Garry Lee wrote:

    Thanks Hilary. What can happen with a cassette is that the lockring is loose. Then you will find that the cassette will rattle except on the outer two rings. Spokes when loose can cause a mystery creak as well. I went to Sardinia years ago and on the way from the Airport to Alghero I had this amazing creak when I stood up on the pedals. All of my front spokes had become loose!! In your case, as well of course, the skewer could've been the culprit.

  5. Kern wrote:

    Those single-lane road photos bring on a wistful feeling – we don't have those on this side of the pond. Your "achievement" comment was surprising – the report reads as if you thoroughly enjoyed cycling through a foot of water (snorkel and all). :) Great photos.

  6. Mary wrote:

    Garry, a great report. YOu have made me worried now, as Im on the train to Penzance tomorrow with my bike! :(

    I cycled the CTC route in 2008, luckily for me in much better weather conditions, you were so unlucky with the rain. Its a good little route, but I was on a supported holiday and so did not have to endure the horrors of the railway company, let alone the plane. Glad you got home ok, but it is all that unnecessary stress which you end up remembering.

  7. Garry Lee wrote:

    Mary, as we Irish say, you'll be grand!

  8. Chris wrote:

    Well it may have been a disaster, but I enjoyed reading about your C2C ride. Some really nice photographs.

    I've had a similar problem with my Shimano pedals. They take a thin 15mm spanner, but I use the extra long Allen key that came with my Raleigh Road Ace. It's meant to be for the handlebar stem and it has its own metal sleeve for extra torque. I wanted to take off the nearside pedal when I put my bike on the back of my car last week. No joy, but I've since been given a proper pedal spanner that I should have had ages ago.

    Apparently the hardest accents to figure out are those closest to the border. They're harder to work out than those north or south of this area I've heard. Not sure why.

  9. Garry Lee wrote:

    Thanks Chris.
    The spanner undoubtedly strains the metal less. The spanner bed does not round off like the Allen key hole does. Geordie is a bit difficult for us as we don't come across it much! Some of our accents are impenetrable not only to you but to people from other parts of Ireland!

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