My trip started landing late in London due to the weather and a 3 hour layover in Manchester. Nevertheless, I made it out of town, and stayed in the youth hostel in (?). Unfortunately, mere moments before arriving at the hostel, I took a spill on a 12% grade, bruising up my leg pretty badly. The next day I headed to Oxford, where I stayed 2 days, recovering from the jet lag. Next, on to Northampton, then Oakham, then Nottingham to Lincoln.
Next I headed off to York. I would have made it too, except that I knew the hostel was full, and I also ran into several bridges under construction, so I stayed at a campground near Selby. The cycle into York was interesting; I followed a SUSTRANS route in, and it had a display of the solar system, with the planets spaced along to trail to scale. I’ve got pictures now that say “Earth, this way ” for those who ask how far away I was cycling. York was a disappointment, as most of the Minster was closed for Windows 2000 plays.
I took 2 days going from there to Newcastle. I had decided to take a train into Newcastle from Durham, as John, another cyclist, suggested, but I arrived in Durham early, and decided, “What the heck?” I managed to get into town on mostly small roads, but I was still on those roads when I arrived downtown, and spent a great deal of time lost, and the roads were chaotic. Still, I got there okay, and stayed in the youth hostel there.
From there, I cycled along “Military Way”, staying at the youth hostel in Twice Brewed. That road was spectacular. The winds were against me, and the hills were grueling, but the ruins were great, as was walking along the actual wall. There are also a number of castles just to the west of Newcastle, also part of a SUSTRANS route.
I spent a lot of time trying to decide what to do from Carlisle. I stayed in a small B&B there, and decided I was indeed going to go on to Edinburgh. Still wanting to follow the suggestions from John of taking the train through the Lakes District, I made reservations to take the train from Edinburgh back to Carlisle, and then from there to Settle, and then back to London.
It had just stopped raining when I left Carlisle, with the forecast for more. The maps looked like it would be mostly uphill, with the potential for a lot of that to be on fairly large roads. Additionally, I’d met two sets of cyclists on the Military Way who had recommended against cycling from Carlisle to Edinburgh. Still I’d planned on 2-3 days, with another day as a cushion to ensure I’d be in Edinburgh in time for my train, so I wasn’t all that concerned. When I left Carlisle I was happy to find a SUSTRANS route. However, when I lost the route, and then ended up on A roads soon thereafter, I started to get concerned. Then, the traffic dried up. There’s a new motorway there, and all the traffic diverted to there. I found myself on a 4-6 lane road, with a full cycle path, and zero traffic. I think in four hours I saw only a dozen cars. It was also graded as a large highway usually is, so it was a long climb, but a long steady slope, which I much preferred over the rolling hills of the previous several days.
Still, there were some problems. The campground I had planned on staying at was closed. The next one was on-existent, as was the next, leaving me with a VERY long day. I ended up camping in Biggar, only 20 miles outside of Edinburgh, easily two days ahead of schedule. It was a leisurely stroll in to Edinburgh, where I had reservations at the hostel and stayed for two days. I ended up taking a train up to Sterling one day, which I found a much more pleasant city than its sprawling larger neighbor.
The trip back to London went smoothly. It rained most of the day, which made viewing the Lakes District from inside a train all the more pleasant.
In London I met my (then) girlfriend Marnie. After repacking all of her belongings, and sending the extra home, we spent the next week on the English coast from Brighton to Dover (with a few trains mixed in, to compensate for her cycling experience).
In short, the trip was fantastic. I managed to visit castles all over eastern and southern England. The weather wasn’t too bad, and the hills weren’t quite as bad as I had remembered. The train trip back through the Lakes District was spectacular, but I think I’m glad I went to Edinburgh instead of cycling the Lakes District.