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.
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.