Lands End to John O Groats
During the month of May 2003, I made the journey from Land's End to John 'O Groats by bicycle.
The idea for the trip was first formed in about 1989, when I read an account of the trip in a cycling magazine. Since then I knew that one day - I would do the same...
I did not plan the trip until about 2 days before leaving. I bought a rack for my bicycle, and borrowed an old set of panniers. It was only when I got off the train at Penzance that I tried cycling with the panniers on the bike!
Perhaps this was a bit of a haphazard way to go about a trip of this sort, but it suited me fine, and everything went without a hitch after that.
The first 3 days were extracted from Lonely Planet's "Cycling Britain" guide. However I soon found that I enjoyed the thrill of spontaneous route-finding. So I bought a large scale Britain road map,and used it as a guide. Every night I would look at the map, and decide where I wanted to be the next day, and picked the next day's route.
To remain flexible, only once did I book accomodation ahead and that was a bank holiday weekend. In fact I only booked my train ticket back from Inverness several days beforehand, and that worked out very well - with me getting a bargain ticket for only £28! Admittedly I cycled slightly off-peak (May). This would not be possible in July/Aug.
Along the way I met 2 other cyclists who had pre-booked all accomodation and tickets 3 months beforehand. They both told me that they wished that they had been more flexible, and I would reccommend this approach to anybody considering the trip.
I followed a direct line through Southern England to Bristol, crossing the Severn into Wales. After that I deviated from the usual route into the Midland, by heading North through Wales to Bangor in North Wales, where I climbed Mt Snowdon (twice).
From there it was directly East to Chester, before heading North again through the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and up into Scotland.
I avoided the most direct route past Edinburgh & Aviemore, instead choosing my highlight of the trip, the road from Loch Lomond to Fort William. From Inverness, again I detoured past Ullapool, then up the impressive & remote Scottish West coast, followed by the undulating North coast road to John 'O Groats.
After 3 days of staying in lonely inflexible B&B's, I discovered the YHA. Although many find them to be impersonal, I found them warm, friendly, and a relaxing end to my day. However - because I was cycling a bit off-season, many times I found myself in an empty room, or sharing with just 1 other, different to sharing with 8 others.
But the location of many of these hostels was worth the trip alone. I refer particularly to: Kings Hostel (Dollgellau - Wales), the unmissable Loch Lomond "Castle" hostel, Glen Nevis and Achmelvich on the Scottish West Coast.
||Land's End to Newquay
||Newquay to Launceston
||Launceston to Tiverton
||Tiverton to Glastonbury
||Glastonbury to Chepstow
||Chepstow to Brecon
||Brecon to Dolgellau
||Dolgellau to Llandidloes
||Llandidloes to Bangor
||Bangor to Chester
||Chester to Knutsford
||Knutsford to Slaidburn
||Slaidburn to Dufton
||Dufton to Greenhead
||Grrenhead to Broadmeadows
||Broadmeadows to Loch Lomond
||Loch Lomond to Fort William
||Fort William to Strathpeffer
||Strathpeffer to Achmelvich
||Achmelvich to Tongue
||Tongue to John 'O Groats
I don't have an album of photos from this trip, but look at my postcards, numbers 1 thru 6.