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Part Two: John 'O Groats to Lands End

Published: 14 December 2014 · Tags: bike, expedition, jogle

Part two of the story of a three week, 1300 mile, cycle across the length and breadth of the UK mainland

This post is part of the two part series John O' Groats to Lands End. To see more from this series check the series index.

This is the second part post makes up the second part of the John O’ Groats to Lands End series; you should read the first part. The previous post left off as we arrived at Oban, back on the mainland after leaving the outer hebredian islands.

 alt: Sunset coming into Oban.
Sunset coming into Oban.

Going for the border

We woke and were ready to leave as the campsite office opened. We had a lot of miles to do, and wanted to get going as soon as possible. We only delayed this long to pay the campsite fee’s.

We rode back to Oban and asked a local where we could find the nearest supermarket, and were told we’d have to go out of town the wrong way; we decided to go and find a bacon butte while we decided what to do. Finding Dalmally on the map we figured that the place appeared big enough to have a Coop or similar where we could stock up on supplies for the day.

It wasn’t long until we arrived at Dalmally where we quickly realised the place didn’t have a shop, and nor would we be able to get food anywhere nearby. As it was now lunchtime and neither of us had eaten anything since breakfast as we decided to make-up an emergency couscous packet in the station car-park.

The next part of the day to Inveraray turned out to be faster than we expected; we knew we’d have to pass through a range of hills, but were pleasantly surprised to only have to go over one set, not two or three. Having started around 50 meters above sea level we had to climb to around 215m before getting a long run down into Inveraray. The roads were wide and smooth without extreme gradients which made for fast progress as we reached our target (and lunch) in about 1h 20m.

After lunch we went through the usual process of finding somewhere to top-up our water bottles — particularly important with the days heat — before proceeding around the edge of Loch Fyne. There was only one road to continue on; it was clearly a fast road for cars, and not one that has been designed with cyclists in mind. There was no run off, it was wiggly and it was relatively narrow. This would have been fine had it only been cars that we were competing with on the road, but the logging lorries made the road plain dangerous.

It’s amazing how little you can hear on a bike when you’re moving at any kind of speed, and you simply don’t realise how little that is until you’re in situations like this. The logging lorries would come up behind us, where we could not hear them until they were level with us, and leave less than a foot between us and them; a terrifying experience. As soon as you think the lorry must be past you’d realise that it’s towing as well, doubling its length, and they will start moving back across before its even finished passing you. The only thing you can do in this situation is to hold your line and hope the drivers know what they’re doing, as there was quite literally nowhere for us to go.

Eventually we made it around the loch, with regular stops to let any traffic building up behind us past. At this point we turned away from the loch and began to climb. We were now fully exposed to the sun with no tree cover so decided to stop and pile on some more suncream; burning on a trip like this could become an issue, and I was already starting to show some signs.

We didn’t have far to climb before we found our turning where the route levelled out, making it easier going despite still having full exposure to the sun; we stopped for breaks whenever we found any form of shelter. It was on this road as it tilted slightly down hill allowing us to bring the pace up that Max sustained the first medical incident of the trip. Thankfully this was about as minor as it gets, a bee was sucked down his jersey and stung him on the way out (with plenty of arm flapping and jersey eving to help it on its way).

 alt: A smaller Loch
A smaller Loch, just outside Dunoon.

Not long after we hit Loch Fyne once again before proceeding to turn back away and cut through a smaller range of hills towards the days goal, Dunoon. After a short climb the road stuck to the edge of yet another small loch with steep drops down from both sides into the loch. We stopped here when we saw an opportunity for a quick break, before finishing the day by rolling into Dunoon and starting the search for a campsite.

Finding a campsite turned out to more of a challenge then either of us had anticipated. The one we had found on Google Maps simply no longer existed, the second one we located refused to take us, and then the final one we tried reluctantly took our money for what turned out to be an extremely poor site. Despite this, it was somewhere to pitch up and have an (unwillingly) cold worm-filled shower before getting our heads down and preparing to pass Glasgow — the part of the trip I was least looking forward to.

With our aim for the day to be to get out of Scotland, we had to get moving. It was never going to be an easy task, we were still north-west of Glasgow and had to get through the busiest and most built-up area we’d been in since passing through Edinburgh on the way up.

We were up, breakfasted, and over the river by 9:40. Initially we felt like we were doing well and making good progress despite the bad roads and heavy traffic. However a quick progress check informed us otherwise, and so began what turned out to be the most frustrating day of the trip.

The coast road was busy all the way, mostly dual-carriageway and far from fun to ride on. Despite this we kept pushing on as hard as we could until we eventually hit Glasgow-Prestwick Airport around lunch time. Here we sat outside the main terminal building and ate lunch while Max sent some Snapchats while I looked at the map to see if we could cut some miles anywhere, but quickly concluded that we already had the fastest route highlighted.

We took the A713 out of the built-up area cutting through the more open country side. This turned out to be hard work, the hills were once again increasing in size; this doesn’t mix well when you’re trying to keep the pace up. As the day went on the roads seemed to get rougher as more potholes appeared, and the newly resurfaced areas had been done with a tacky tarmac which only slowed us down further.

As the day went on we kept pushing to try and reach the border, but the more we kept going the more obvious it became that we wouldn’t make it. This became particularly clear when we stopped for a quick break at Carspharin and concluded it wouldn’t be long before the quickly darkening skies did their best to soak us and all of our gear.

 alt: Incoming Rain.
Incoming Rain.

Within the hour we were quickly trying to find somewhere to camp as the air around us turned into a wall of rain. After twenty minutes of searching we found an area which we quickly concluded ‘would do’ off the side of the road and just about out-of-sight if we were in the tents. This did, however, make for a rough wild camp as we attempted to pitch our tents on the stick and log-strewn ground. Both of us had pegs wedged wherever they would go, in cracks and between sticks in the wood-strewn ground. This does not make for good pitching when using a tension-based tent as mine was, and resulted in the outer touching the inner and thus drawing water in through the night.

Making this worse was the dried and seedy grass growing through everything, this seed got in every corner and crevice while we pitched, and covered everything else while we cooked dinner, and did our best not to get eaten alive by the local midge population. The second dinner was consumed we both dived back into our tents to get and early night for the next days attempt to make up lost time.

We left at 8:34, having only a cereal bar and a handful of nuts for breakfast each. To get any real amount of food again, we had to reach Dumfries thirty-three miles away.

Immediately we were going better than the previous day. It was slightly down hill, and the roads had improved a little at the end of the day. Despite this, it wasn’t long before we hit the first hiccup; an old man flagged us down as we approached a corner. After a few minutes we managed to decipher his thick accent and established his ageing Land Rover Defender had a burnt-out clutch. We helped him move it to the side of the road, before continuing around the corner to find a downed tree blocking our path. Lucky for us there was a small footpath down one side which was protected by another tree, so we could quickly divert around, while the cars had to queue and wait or find an alternative route.

Once in the village we found some water before pushing on. Any shops here weren’t open so there was no point in hanging around. Before long we were on the A75 and heading for Dumfries, putting down a fast pace. In Dumfries we quickly found a Greggs and a bench to sit on while we consumed the small mountain of food we’d just purchased, and began the trips love-affair with bakery cookies.

After breakfast we left Dumfries the way we had entered (completely by accident, the signs were confusing as we had intended to leave in the correct direction). Once we finished traversing around the top of Dumfries the traffic quickly built up until it became it stopped entirely and stop-start queues formed most of the way to the motorway. Thanks to the generous run-off on the road this didn’t cause us any issues as we could quickly zip down the inside of the vehicles, ensuring we could see the drivers in their side mirrors so that we knew they could see us. Before long we were pulling off the A75 so we could safely cross the border, and the M6.

 alt: Goodbye Scotalnd; Hello England.
Goodbye Scotalnd; Hello England.

We rode past the first/last house in Scotland, and then shortly afterwards found the ‘Welcome to Cumbria’ and border signs; we stopped here for a few quick pictures. As we were packing the camera away another group of cyclists appeared, a large group doing the ride with a small support team. After a quick chat we headed off expecting them to overtake us within a few minutes, but never actually saw them again.

Just after we passed over the motorway the heavens opened and it rained hard most of the way into Carlisle. We’d done well to stay relatively dry up to this point, with only one wet evening, but now we really were testing how good our dry bags were. Before long we were in Morrisons buying more lunch and getting ready for the push to Penrith.

The section of road between Carlisle and Penrith was easily the hardest part of the day. As we left Carlisle we’d already done over 110km, and still had about a third of the day left. The road to Penrith was uphill all the way, and motivation was not helped when two road riders coming in the opposite direction wished us luck with the climb. In the end this part of the route took us about an hour and forty minutes.

We stopped in Penrith for a quick drink and something to eat. For the first time in my life and drank a Lucozade and actually felt the energy hitting me; I’m convinced this is what got me through the final part of the day.

I was grateful at this point to be entering an area I know well. We shot a short distance up the A66 before diving off at Rheged towards Ullswater. Within an hour we were pulling onto the Gillside Farm campsite, being questioned by the owners about what we were doing and where we had come from. After this we pitched the tents, had a shower, and went to The Travellers Rest for dinner before getting an early night.

The bit in the middle

After talking in the pub the night before we changed our plan for Day 10. The previous day had been around 100km longer than it was supposed to be, so we pushed the rest-day back, and decided to split the journey to Leeds into two days.

The day had a relaxed start as we had no pressure to set any volume of miles for the day, despite this we had a fairly strenuous start with the Kirkstone Pass to contest with at the end of the valley. This presents a sharp climb from the valley to the top of one of the Lake Districts small passes; despite this the gradients are still steep and long. Throughout the climb Max has a series of mood-swings as he struggled with his bikes big gears. Once we reached the top we stopped on some benches for a few minutes before getting ready to drop down the struggle into Ambleside.

 alt: Up
Up, up, and more up. It’s the Kirkstone Pass.

The struggle makes for a long, fast, and bendy descent on narrow roads shared with cars, vans and the occasional coach. It’s important to stay on your toes during time like this; make sure you can stop, and make sure you don’t overdo the corners. We stopped twice during the decent to let Max’ brakes cool; these were quickly heating up with the reduction in airflow induced by the panniers covering them. Not a problem that I had with both discs completely exposed.

Once in Ambleside we were rather restricted having the two bikes, and so decided not to stick around for too long. We followed the road around to Tescos where we stocked up on some snacks and bought some lunch before pushing onto Windermere where we bought dinner and then continued working our way out of the Lake District making use of the national cycle network infrastructure which ran parallel to the main road to Kendal.

From Kendal the main A-road to Leeds was the only option to cross the motorway and reach Kirkby Lonsdale. This road was horrendously busy with cars, vans and lorries squeezing past where there was little space and with nowhere for us to go. We moved as fast as we could, and were both grateful to reach Kirkby where we located a bench and spent a short while relaxing as we recovered.

After a short while I fired up the Google Maps app on my phone again, and we started using the satellite images to try and locate somewhere we could wild camp for the night. This was an unplanned stop out here, so unlike the other evenings we had no idea where we would end up. After a short while we located a possible place, and so rejoined the main road for a few miles until we found our turn-off. As we approached a small hamlet we noticed a pub and so took the opportunity to, once again, refill out bottles before heading uphill onto the moor.

As we climbed we spotted a small tor, and decided to make our way up as far as we could to see if we could camp on it. We found a gate into the field, and proceeded to push our bikes up the steep sides until the ground levelled. We quickly realised we’d stumbled on a small bowl, closed on three sides but open to the west with the Tor perched just on the north edge. Looking around there was no way we’d be seen from the road or any houses in the valley, and so decided to make camp.

 alt: Possibly one of my all-time favourite wild-camping spots. The view is almost endless.
Possibly one of my all-time favourite wild-camping spots. The view is almost endless.

Once pitched we sat on the small rise on the south side to cook and eat dinner, and as we did hang gliders which appeared to be launching form the Tor were gliding over the top of us, with the sun was slowly sinking behind the Lake District and Wales on the horizon. This spot turned out to be a little gem as somewhere to spend our evening.

In the morning we got up and packed up pretty quickly. We’d been intending on eating breakfast after packing away, but spotted a farmers quad bike making it’s way up the fields in our direction. We didn’t know how the landowner would take to us using the spot, if they found us, so we quickly rode back down the way we had come up the day before onto the road, and made rapid progress back down the hill to the hamlet where we had found water the night before.

Over the previous night we’d done some research into alternate routes which ran parallel to the main road, and having located part of the national cycle network which was easily picked up from here we decided to use it for as long as possible. Using this route slowed our progress significantly but this was not a concern as we had plenty of time to get to Leeds. However, one thing that was a concern was the battery left on both of our phones; we needed to be able to phone Max’s friend if we couldn’t find her house when we reached Leeds. Both of our Anker batteries were dead, and both of our phones were low. As a result we found a coffee shop in Gargrave where we stopped for a cream tea and to borrow a plug for a short while.

Max spent most of the time talking to an older local in the coffee shop while I spent the time looking at the maps trying to find decide on the best way to get to our evenings accommodation, having been sent the address that morning. Before we left Max asked the local man if he had any recommendations for a route, and it turned out we were next to a part of the canal network which wasn’t marked on the map we had. We decided to pick this up, and ended up riding along rough footpaths down the sides where Max’s panniers would frequently try and leap from their racks and the bungie cords holding his tent onto the rack would keep snapping. This was one place where my setup, being designed for off-road riding, really came into it’s own.

 alt: The steadily improving canal network paths into Leeds.
The steadily improving canal network paths into Leeds.

We eventually made it to good tarmac which sped-up the progress until we decided to leave the canal at Kildwick to find a pub to get some lunch in. Here we had a welcome sit down with a good substantial meal before pushing on for Leeds.

On the outskirts of Leeds we spotted a bike-shop and so stopped. Over the last few days I’d noticed my rear tyres was wearing exceptionally fast and neither of us were convinced it would make it through another day or two. As a result I popped in and managed to find a replacement tyre which we strapped to my rucksack to deal with that evening.

After this it didn’t take long for us to reach the house for the night where we got a much welcomed shower, to borrow a washing machine, and a visit to one of the local pubs.

We left the next morning wearing clean clothes for the first time since we left John O’ Groats. As we left we were planning on following the national cycle network into the city center, before picking up a branch that headed south allowing us to exit via the canal network and avoid the busy main roads.

The next few days were quite sameish. The days were all spent on the old canal networks with the aim of reaching Market Harbrough where we would stay with friends again. The first day took us as far as Mansfield on an extortionately expensive campsite given what we were doing.

On the way we had to pass through Sheffield which turned out to be a nightmare in it’s own right. It has next-to-no cycle infrastructure and much of the time was spent on large two-or-three carrigeway roads. At one point a police van pulled up next to us and told us to take the next exit. We still have no idea why they asked to do so; we were legally entitled to be where we were.

When we eventually reached our campsite that evening we didn’t fit in. They charged on a per-pitch basis with one tent per-pitch. They then announced that they only had one pitch available (still more space than we needed) and refused to charge as discounted rate as a result. Despite the £15/each fee we did enjoy some five star facilties for the night, certainly not targeted two tired bike-packers.

The second day to Market Harbourgh went much more soothly. We left at a reasonable time and were sat in Old Market Square in Nottingham for an early lunch. Nottingham turned out to be a dream to move through by bicycle. The cycle infrastructure covered the whole city and gave us plenty of space to move at our own pace through the traffic. So far at least, this was easily the nicest city I’ve ever cycled through.

As we left we made our way back onto the old canal network which we followed for as long as possible before we had to leave it to reach our destination. Unfortunately for us as we left the network the heavens opened and we were pounded with some of the heaviest rain of the trip for the next hour or so. We didn’t know how long it would last and still had a reasonable distance to cover on country roads and so had no choice but to push on through it.

 alt: We're going to get wet
We’re going to get wet, again.

When we eventually reached Pete’s house we were both wet and cold, but could now thankfully have a shower and change into our dry clothes. That evening we sat with Pete and his family and enjoyed a good meal (thank you!) and looked over some maps with them to see if they had any suggestions for the best possible route for the next day. We had something in mind, but wanted to see if they had suggestions for how we could leave the roads as much as possible.

We woke fairly early to hit the road. Today Pete was planning on riding with us as far as Northampton to show us the fastest way. We were set for a fairly ambitious day again hoping to make Oxford for dinner before continuing to Fairford where we would camp for the night.

Initial progress along an old dismantled railway line was fast, getting us to the point where we would part with Pete (and a quater of our miles for the day were complete) over in a minimal amount of time. Once in Northampton we left Pete outside a supermarket with the bikes while we dived in to grab some lunch before we went our separate ways.

Max and I headed for Blisworth next where we paused for a quick break, before pushing on through the back roads to Silverstone for lunch. This was a pretty event-free morning which we completed in reasonable time. As we sat down in Silverstone it started spitting with rain so we made it a fast stop before pushing on, exiting past the race track. Just past the race track to we took a small lane which Google Maps had recommended. Before long we were on a small and rough farm track again, worrying about Max’s panniers jumping free or snapping more of the bungies he was using to hold his tent onto his rack.

The afternoon seemed to drag a little compared to the morning. I think we’d underestimated the miles to Oxford, but it didn’t matter hugely as we’d always planned to eat in Oxford and then push on to fairford after dinner. The area was picturesque, but there was little time for photographs as we had a large volume of miles to cover as well as bad light for photography. Looking back these aren’t really good excuses; the camera was forgotten about on the front of my bike for this part of the trip.

We eventually reached Oxford, which was where our day became a little more interesting. On the recommendation of one of Max’ friends we located The Turf Tavern for dinner. Here we carefully placed the bikes out of the way in the beer garden and located dinner. After we’d been sat down for a short while a member of staff asked us to move the bikes around the corner, and so the digging for the locks began. It was at this time that we discovered my keys were missing.

I emptied my rucksack and frame bag before repacking both in the pub garden. They weren’t in either. I checked both again, and still couldn’t find them. By this time food had arrived so we quickly ate while I was racking my brains trying to think where they could be. It was at this time I got a nasty feeling that they must have been dropped en–route. Despite this there was a chance that they were in my tent or sleeping bag; neither of these could be pulled out until we reached our campsite for the night though.

The last 41km from Oxford to Fairford took us around three hours; the whole time I was extremely agitated. I was furious with myself for loosing the keys; I needed the keys to get back into my flat in Plymouth. I had no spares, but we also had no locks until we arrived at my mothers where a spare key for the lock was located.

When we arrived at the campsite I wasted no time in getting my tent up and then emptying everything I had. Every dry-bag was tipped upside down the tent and everything carefully sorted through. I even turned each item of clothing inside out. Nothing.

At this point I accepted they were lost, and phoned home. Mum suggested I phone the campsite where I had last seen them, just in case. The campsite turned out to be closed so I left a message and proceeded to get a long shower and an early night.

The next day things started to look up. I’d felt pretty awful going to bed worrying constantly about how I was going to get back in my flat, but around 9:00 in the morning the campsite called me back and confirmed they had found them. The keys had a sentinel tag attached so the staff had dropped them in a postbox, which meant my keys would go back to the Sentinal office before being posted to my mums. Worst case I’d have to stay with friends for a few days before they arrived in Plymouth.

As we were packing up our friend James arrived on the campsite; he’d agreed to ride with us for part of the day which made for a nice change as we started to head into our own neck-of-the-woods. The start of the day was wet as it started to rain as we left the campsite, this got to the point where we had to find a tree to shelter under as we could hardly see where we were going. During one of the heavier rain-dumps we found ourselves looking at the map in the entrance to the main Cotsworld Outdoor store, which happens to have a rather good cafe opposite. How convenient.

It wasn’t long after this that we passed through Royal Wootton Bassett, and then shortly after this we parted ways with James. Our arrival in Chippenham was well-timed for lunch, which we then followed up by taking a ‘fun’ route from Chippenham to Trowbridge where we were greeted by the smells of a leg of lamb roasting in the oven (thanks mum!).

We had a fairly slow start to the next day, enjoying a full-cooked breakfast before heading off around 9:30. We made relatively fast progress during the morning, primarily due to the lack navigational stops. We were in an area I knew well which meant that we could focus on getting through the miles. As we rode I pointed out the names of places on signs where some of our local mutual university friends were from.

 alt: The somerset levels
The somerset levels, with Glastonbury Tor sat in the middle.

Around lunchtime we arrived in Wells where we proceeded to find the local Greggs to get some cakes and cookies as afternoon fuel, followed by a sandwich from Tesco for lunch.

The next three hours saw us reaching Bridgewater, taking a relaxed pace while we enjoyed the flat ground bought on by the somerset levels. We purchased supplies for dinner in ASDA before continuing west through the backroads towards Exmoor and our days target of Lake Wimbleble. It was as we were climbing through the first set of hills of the afternoon that we realised how late it was. It was around 4:30 and we still had around a third of the days miles to go.

Despite this we stopped at Bishops’s Lydeard for a short while as Max tried to locate a project he had designed on placement before giving up and heading onwards. From this point onwards we were constantly climbing until we reached the nights campsite around 2:30 later.

The hills that we were now riding though proved to be a bit of a shock to the system. We’d spent most of the day riding over flat land and we were now trying to push a fast pace as the evening light set in and we wanted to reach the campsite for dinner.

We eventually rolled onto the campsite around 7:30 in the evening, and on locating the owner were in for a shock. I asked ‘How much for two backpackers’, to which the reply came ‘£20’, and Max replied ‘For both of us?’ to which came the response ‘It should be each, how small are the tents?’. £20 each for a pitch in the corner of a farm with next to no facilities is steep to say the least. I’ve never paid that much for a campsite before and never will for a site with unkept facilities like this. Thankfully after a few minutes of discussion he agreed to let us stay for £10 each.

We setup our tents and cooked before we went up to the farmhouse to pay the nights fee. On approaching the farmhouse the owner started to question us on what exactly we were doing. On telling him we quickly got a “You two are barking mad!”, he was probably right.

He invited us in to sort the fee out and then began to insist on showing us some comedy videos on YouTube. During all of this he was offering us wine to drink, which we quickly denied given what we’d done for the day and had to do the next day. Throughout this process (which lasted about 45-minutes) his wife was constantly saying how tired we looked and that he should let us go to bed.

We left early the next morning wanting to get to Plymouth as early as possible. I had to figure out how I was going to try and get back into my flat, despite the lack of keys, and Max wanted to catch-up with his housemates. We made fast progress down the side of the reservoir and over the dam in the morning before working through the lane network to Exeter. Here we were briefly rained on as we hit the outskirts, thankfully this didn’t last long and we were soon in the center eating lunch before getting ready to head back out, and over Dartmoor.

 alt: Looking over Dartmoor.
Looking over Dartmoor.

The climb from Exeter to Moretonhampstead is a long and drawn-out one, particularly on loaded touring bikes. It was by no means a hard climb, but it did feel like it dragged on forever. Despite this we made good time and were soon in cruising along the unknown-to-us end of the road across Dartmoor. We were putting a good pace on this when I saw Max pulling over just ahead of me. He’d managed to get the first puncture of the trip, over 1000 miles and only one puncture is pretty good going; we fixed this as quickly as we could and carried on, aiming for the Plume of Feathers in Princetown. We had a brief break at Two Bridges where Max has a sudden and unexpected nose-bleed before continuing to Princetown where we met James again, who had driven up from viewing some houses in Plymouth to meet us for dinner. Once we’d eaten James headed off and we resumed for the last hour of peddling back into Plymouth.

On arrival back at Plymouth I managed to acquire a spare key for my flat, and so settled down for a relaxed night with a real bed. Just two more days to go.

We left Plymouth reasonably early the next morning. To help us avoid the A38 where possible we aimed for the Torpoint ferry, which was just arriving as we pulled into the carpark. A 10-minute hop over the Rivier Tamar landed us in Cornwall, and with that in the quieter B-roads.

We pushed on as far as possible on the quiet roads before we were forced to rejoin the A-road in order to get into Bodmin. We made reasonable progress throughout the day, but had to keep pulling over as the traffic built up behind us on the single-carrigeway road approaching Bodmin. When we arrived we found a pasty shop to dive in and bought some lunch, before picking up the Camel Trail to Padstow. This was initially fast progress, but we slowed significantly after passing through Wadebridge as we hit the most popular part of the trail and spend a lot of time getting stuck behind slower cyclists and children.

On the outskirts of Padstow we left the trail and started picking our way through the back lanes again until we reached a point where we had no choice but to join the A392 which we followed all the way past Newquay to St. Agnus.

On arrival in St. Agnus we found our campsite, paid, pitched and showered before we wondered into St. Agnus to find a fish and chip shop and wandering down the the Seafront. Despite the windy, damp and overcast evening it was a fine way to finish the day. We both got an early night in preparation for the final day.

The start of the day was fairly relaxed, but we pushed hard as I led for the first half of the day. We took advantage of the main road being quite early in the morning and used it all the way into Hayle 25km down the road, which took us about an hour, before picking up the National Cycle network route to Penzance which took us another hour.

We stopped here to pickup some lunch before we pushing on for Lands End and the final part of our trip. The final push to Lands End took longer and was much harder than we had anticipated. The hills were longer and steeper than imagined, and Max was starting to struggle with the gradient due to his bikes big gears. Despite this we did make good progress, and were in Lands End for lunchtime despite stopping for a chat with another group of cycle tourists (who took a large interest in the abnormal baggage I was using).

 alt: We made it! The bikes at Lands End.
We made it! The bikes at Lands End.

On arrival at Lands End we both rolled straight down to the cliff edge and sat down while we ate some lunch. We’d cycled 1300 miles to get here, and now only had the short hop down the main road back into Penzance left to cycle. After lunch we took some pictures and were queried about what we’d been doing by a few tourist while trying to get pictures by the Lands End sign. Before long we were down though, so we looked up the train timetable back to Plymouth on our phones.

 alt: The horrible but required end-shot.
The horrible but required end-shot.

We had 30-minutes till the next train, or a two-hour wait until the one after that, which was also a slow train. We left in a rush to attempt to get the next one, and was wished luck by the staff as we left (surely we didn’t look that fresh?). Somehow we managed to make it to the station in time, buy our ticket and get to the barrier. We were then told the bikes had to go at the far end of the train, not to leave any bags on, and that the train left in two minutes.

It turns out running after cycling 1300 miles hurts; yet we were soon on the train heading back to Plymouth.

More from John O’ Groats to Land’s End

This post makes up part two of a two-part series, if you haven’t read the first part you should. This part has seen us from Oban through to the end of the trip, our route has been documented in the following strava entries:

More from the John O' Groats to Lands End series

This post is part of the two part series John O' Groats to Lands End.

  1. Part One: John 'O Groats to Lands End: Part one of the story of a three week, 1300 mile, cycle across the length and breadth of the UK mainland
  2. Part Two: John 'O Groats to Lands End: Part two of the story of a three week, 1300 mile, cycle across the length and breadth of the UK mainland

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