DAY 0 Straightforward drive to Penzance where we dropped the van complete with blankets which had protected the bikes in transit. Got lost momentarily in Newlyn, then back on track. Pleasant, hilly ride to Land's End where we had our photo taken. Saw a huge fox leap over the hedge. Fish and chips because there was absolutely bugger all else at LE, then on to the B and B at Sennen. Good start with a locked garage for the bikes.
DAY 1 SENNEN TO PERRANPORTH Cold north wind coming across us, but sunny intervals and dry. Hills not too bad; long pulls in steps. V colourful hedgerows – bluebells, similar white flowers, red and pink sea campions. V high open moorland, lovely bays and dunes. Heard a persistent cuckoo. Hotel reminded me of the guitar in When the Deal Goes Down – large, out of time in its slightly old fashioned air, and drastically underpopulated. Had a nice Italian meal in the town.
DAY 2 PERRANPORTH TO OTTERY The hills just kept on coming – hilliest day's riding I've ever done. Climbed 5,833 feet according to Ann. No rain again, quite a lot of sun, v strong north wind. We were mostly sheltered by v high hedges. Views for miles, and Bodmin Moor looked spectacular in the sun. But raging wind suddenly shot my route off the bar bag. Rescued at the risk of being mowed down by an approaching car. Life saving Cornish pastie at the highest post office in Cornwall. Arrived at the inn to find they were only expecting one, and not on a bike. Luckily they had a twin room. Inn had changed hands only a week before, and the new proprietor couldn't have been more obliging. Look of panic on her face when I asked where we put bikes, but they ended up in the locked laundry. Tomorrow will be tough (Dartmoor).
DAY 3 OTTERY TO CULLOMPTON Dartmoor was dramatic and spectacular and the climb was not as hard or steep as I expected. Second half was v dangerous – ferocious cross wind making it impossible to keep a steady line. Other v strong climbs today with views for miles, typical Devon shaped hills and colours. Miraculously, third day without rain. Posh hotel with a bubble bath which Ann decided not to use. Large party of Germans there. I warned Ann they would have their towels over the chair backs in time for breakfast. Sure enough, we went down ten minutes early to find the place packed, with not a cereal bowl left to use.
DAY 4 CULLOMPTON TO CHEDDAR First half much hillier than expected. Worst hill so far in terms of desire to give up. Saw an albino rabbit sitting motionless by the roadside. Two different cyclists asked if we were doing the End to End. How could they tell? Cream tea at a café after the worst hill! Ann's birthday meal was a low key affair in a pub in Cheddar. Better to come when we get back. Met someone from Zimbabwe at the B and B who did the E to E in 12 days five years ago.
DAY 5 CHEDDAR TO CHEPSTOW Hot dry day, wind behind us. Less scenic, felt a bit less hilly overall. Familiar territory round the Gorge, Mendips, Severn Bridge. Won't be modifying our route between Cheddar and Barrow Gurney, theirs is too hilly. And we didn't need Belmont Hill. Hotel room had an amazing sloping floor and soft bed. Ann woke me in the night to ask why I was on her side of the bed. And we were waited on by Mrs Overall at dinner which was so so. [This was the only place on the whole trip where our bikes were not under cover overnight, just locked to an iron staircase.
DAY 6 CHEPSTOW TO WEOBLEY A tough first half, snaking up and down the Wye Valley. Beautiful surroundings, and the longer climbs gave views for miles over the Welsh hills and Brecon Beacons. Heard a cuckoo again! Route got less hilly as we got nearer to Weobley. After a lot of climbing there was a rewarding long descent to Monmouth on a v good surface. Amazing room at B and B with four poster bed which had its own visitors' book. And a v good meal at the Salutation, 3 courses for 17 quid. The hills don't go quickly, esp going up, but the days seem to be going quickly.
DAY 7 WEOBLEY TO BURLTON Lots of great hill views and vistas and lovely new orchards in Herefordshire. No hard climbs at all but a higher mileage. Rain got steadily worse during the day, keeping the worst for when Ann punctured. Couldn't find it, and the tyre went down again before she could even get back on the bike. No option but to use the folding tyre and the one remaining tube. Ann freaked out a bit and thanked me for keeping calm, not realising that I was imploding with distress that we might just end up stranded. With light failing because of the weather we had a grim ride through some flooded roads. Big drying out job to be done at the inn, which had rooms in a separate annexe and was mostly geared to meals.
DAY 8 BURLTON TO ACTON BRIDGE An altogether quieter day. Flat, lots of ploughed fields through Shropshire and Cheshire, only one noticeable climb towards the end and a lower mileage. Went through a bit of flooded road, but no rain till the last 10 miles. Occurred to me last night that the real challenge of this trip for me is mental and emotional rather than physical – coping with anxiety about staying mechanically ok and getting there before dark. Obvious really, why didn't I see it coming? Holly Bush Inn is nice and v obliging. Nice lamb shank.
DAY 9 was a rest day in Acton Bridge doing not v much except washing,etc. Met Steve Wesson from Bike Adventures as we overlap here with his supported tour.
DAY 10 ACTON BRIDGE TO BLACKBURN A varied day, starting with flat riding through agricultural fields, followed by horrendous urban sprawl between Liverpool and Manchester. Don't ever go to a godforsaken town called Leigh except to use the toilet in the 24 hour Tescoes. This is also a social and political journey, and as well as the palatial houses which toffs have had built in the countryside we are seeing the desperately abject conditions that others have to live in. Boarded up shops, an atmosphere of no hope. We're also seeing the truth in the cliché about Britain's crumbling infrastructure in terms of road surfaces. Not to mention the accuracy of Marx's prediction that capital would be concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. Small shops have disappeared to such an extent that we have to make sure we have supplies available. Many places don't have anywhere to buy them. Then a ride up on to the moors with more fantastic views. And we rode over the incredibly wide Manchester Ship Canal, saw a huge reservoir and a v lovely terrace of small stone cottages ruined by white PVC double glazing. The accent has changed from attractive Cheshire to attractive Lancs. Not nearly as tiring a day as I expected, but the next two will be. Nice comfortable hotel and meal.
DAY 11 BLACKBURN TO DENT I'm running out of adjectives. Stunning views all day long, climbing on to Bowland Forest (AONB) and wide high moorland. All in alternate sun and shade on a dry sunny day (not esp warm). Unfortunately, my best day was Ann's worst. I got high on the scenery plus endorphins which seem to kick in every day. She had to do lots of walking and had a muscle spasm which required both paracetamol and ibuprofen. The inn at Dent is not wonderful. Understaffed and they'[re visibly and understandably pissed off. The owner, full of himself, clearly making loads by under staffing. Wouldn't happen in socialism. Accosted at the top of a hill on the moor by a woman who thought I should have waited for Ann. “Typical of men, this.” I must be going soft. I was reasonable and told her I waited at the top and had permission, instead of telling her to fuck off and mind her own business. In other words, strong emotions of elation led to rationality instead of clouding it.
DAY 12 DENT TO AMMERTHWAITE Finished the spectacular Yorkshire Dales with the biggest climb of the trip to Dent Station and then a descent. Marred only by 3 sheep farmers who stopped for a chat with one another and blocked the road with 2 cars and a quad bike. Snottily pointed to the 3 foot high verge for me to get past. Acted as if they owned the road (which they probably do). Then long, quiet beautiful valleys with sheep through Cumbria, the Pennines streaming along for hours on the RHS, the Lake District on the LHS. Ann had v bad muscle pain again but soldiered on v v slowly. Fingers crossed. V friendly people at the inn in Ammerthwaite, a small place with only us and a gay couple staying. V impressed with the fact that we're doing LEJOG.
DAY 13 AMMERTHWAITE TO LOCKERBIE V different kind of day. Hardly any hills, lower mileage, arrived in time for an afternoon kip. Wide agricultural areas, occasional views of the Lake District on LHS. Ann's thigh muscle much less trouble, thank god. Last few miles were a grind on a cycle path alongside a B road alongside a motorway. More of same tomorrow. Earlier on we rode on the first dedicated cycle path since Bristol, which eventually became one along a river and was about 1 foot wide. Another four poster bed in another underpopulated hotel. Large, but again friendly and as usual bikes locked away, this time in converted stables.
DAY 14 LOCKERBIE TO STRATHAVEN Varied day. Quite a lot of it was ridden next to, above or below the motorway, but even a lot of this was scenic. Also the beautiful Annan Valley, v wide, lots of views of hills, but now some of them are thickly wooded. Birdsong has been a big feature of the whole ride, esp in the valleys. 60 mile day but we made good time and Ann had no gyp from her thigh. (Stopped at Moffat for 11s and I'm loving the accents.) Nice authentic Italian meal in a small restaurant at Strathaven.
DAY 15 STRATHAVEN TO LOCH LOMOND V different kind of day.Never far from houses in the first stretch, then miles following the Clyde into Glasgow. Lots of unidentified wild flowers (eg deep purple bells growing out of large cabbage type leaves). Whistled through Glasgow – thanks to Grimshaw for the route and Bike Adventures for the instructions. Then followed Clyde/Forth canal, then River Leven, v picturesque again. Bad luck for Ann again – both sides of the tube punctured by an easily found nail. This after we had picked our way carefully through all the correctly predicted glass littering the cycle paths around Glasgow. Good meal in a large modern pub which concentrated on food.
DAY 16 Rest day in Loch Lomond. Gentle walk, beautiful views, crap Italian meal in a restaurant. Even the so called Eton Messy was just that.
DAY 17 LOCH LOMOND TO BRIDGE OF AWE Lots of contrasts. Brilliant to cycle the length of Loch Lomond and see the wooded hills change in shape and texture as we moved along. Absolutely the right speed to see all this. Scotland is no anticlimax after the Yorks Dales. Also stunning rhododendrons everywhere and a resurgence of bluebells. Combination of lochs and mountains is so peaceful. Route varied between cycle path along main road, cycle path on converted old road, and being exposed to riding on the A road. Hated the latter, hassled by bikers and motorists who wanted me to move in. But I was run v close indeed on a number of occasions when I wasn't in the middle of the lane. Moral: stay in the middle. Hotel was in the middle of nowhere, run by an Antipodean, and again strangely deserted.
DAY 18 BRIDGE OF AWE TO FORT WILLIAM Lots of beautiful loch/mountain scenery lots of beautiful bluebells. Good cycle paths but also a lot of horrendous main road. A couple of really flat days, but some lumpy stuff still to come. Talked to a Frenchman in the Wetherspoons pub who had walked to F/William from Inverness and hoped to carry on as far as London. Spoke no English at all! Retired and walked for 2 or 3 months every year. World mountain bike championships in F/William may account for some cars waiting patiently behind us on the run into town. Neither Ann nor I remembered F/William as looking anything like the way it does. Went to a bike shop out of town to collect some tubes.
DAY 19 FORT WILLIAM TO DRUMNADROCHIT Most beautiful so far. Great views of Ben Nevis from different angles, with a loch below. Lots of birdsong again. Then the dark, dramatic and seemingly endless Loch Ness. Saw hundreds of riders from the Deloitte Ride Across Britain going south. All marred only by so much riding on the A road with hassle as ever from some cars. Most drivers are considerate but the few that aren't are horrendous. Another dry sunny day, like most in Scotland. We couldn’t have seen it under better conditions. Will it last another 3 days? Met a guy who looked just like Ben and was doing JOGLE in some ridiculously short time. The scenery of the last few days has been almost achingly beautiful. Hotel up a hill, nice roast lamb dinner, but an inexperienced waitress knocked my beer over on to my trousers!
DAY 20 DRUMNADROCHIT TO BONAR BRIDGE A day of two halves! Morning was cold and dull (coldest since Cornwall); afternoon sunny and much warmer. More climbing today – felt we got a closer look at the hills and forests above the lochs which have been a feature of the last few days. Up on to high moorland, also lower on mixed crop, cattle and sheep farming. Best view so far was coming down from the moor and seeing right across the Dornoch Firth, just wonderful. Lunch of the usual pies, bananas and choc milk at a thoughtfully provided picnic table in Evanston. Arrived at Bonar Bridge by 5. Passed Steve Wesson going in the opposite direction with JOGLE group. Morning conversation with a cyclist from the north of Ireland who lives in Inverness and caught up with him at coffee time. Met fellow LEJOGers in the B and B. They started last year but the weather was so bad they came back this year to finish off. Duck breast for 8 quid in the Bridge Hotel pub!
DAY 21 BONAR BRIDGE TO TONGUE Another dry and mostly sunny day! First stretch was a familiar mixture but on a fairly flat plain and still surprisingly green. Followed lovely valley along a fast flowing river near Falls of Shin. Eventually everything began to look much more rugged and bare. V gentle climbing on to moors, single track road for miles with a zillion passing places. Lots of cars gave way, so did we, but had a verbal with one woman who couldn't wait 10 yards for a passing place and took me too close. Wonderful views on the run into Tongue – dark mountains on LHS, valley running down to loch on RHS. A photo would never do it justice. B and B is exceptionally palatial, with an anteroom to the bathroom and chairs in the bathroom itself. Crap service in local pub.
DAY 22 TONGUE TO JOG They saved the best till last. Spectacular views as we climbed out of Tongue, high on the moors, very dark hills equally high all around, bays and large rocks on to the sea below. Quite a lot of climbing, views less arresting by the afternoon, but then more rolling hills, lowland sheep farms, etc. A bit of rain in the afternoon, but our luck really continued to hold. Arrived at JOG in time for a photo before eating at the hotel. But we had to queue for the photo behind motor bikers from Belfast, and young cyclists behind us who'd done it in 10 days or whatever. We made it. Nice sense of accomplishment and in very good physical shape.
DAY 22+ Picked up by the courier and driven to Inverness with a couple of other LEJOGers, one a mountain biker who had clearly been freaked by motorists' behaviour. Found Inverness an undistinguished place but whiled away the time till we got a coach out to the airport. Unproblematic flight back.