A cycle tour in England, Wales and Scotland
Chapter 0: Preparation
Before anything is told about the tour things should start with a statement that was figured out during hill climbs and other high mood situations:
Thanks to the God of health,
thanks to the Gods of the weather and the wind,
thankyou to my wife who patiently stayed at home,
thanks to my bike except the last two days,
and thankyou to the bird who shit on my head at the very last
day before I went out.
Why one has to ride all over Britain by bike? There are some reports of this "End-to-End-Tour" in the Internet, and if you read them you get curious. I once was in England and Scotland 30 years ago (with Roland) and so I am far away from to be well known to these countrysides. On the other hand one should visit the countries where you speak the language (let us hope so) and be able to understand the people.
If you want to do so by bike the ultimate tour in England will be the "Land's End to John O' Groats". It is the longest tour without changing the main direction. My wife Heidi wants to come with me, but after some time argueing about rain and headwinds, coldness, hills and other troubles she resigns and I get free lights for my big-tour-once-in-a-5-years-period!!
Now one has to think of the direction (there are two), and the way from south to north seems to offer the greater advantages:
But first something happens as mentioned above. At the last day while I commute by bike to my work as every day I feel something falling on my head - a leaf or piece of wood? Oh no, it's wet and brown: shit of a bird. But at once the good idea comes up: this must be a sign of luck for my journey. And I need this, for I am pretty anxious this time going all alone and there will be a long way until a happy return in health.
OK, let's go off, we enter the train to Hannover at Braunschweig, no problems. Then we have to wait an hour at the bus station, it lasts one and a half hour until the bus (Gulliver Reisen) arrives and one more hour later after much trouble the bus departs. But the bike is well packed in one of the luggage boxes.
The bus is a "Sleeper" so you can enter a kind of double mattress and look for some sleep. The first sign of my luck furtheron seems to be, that a strapper girl comes to lie besides me. In the early morning the bus arrives at Amsterdam, some people leave the bus, my strapper girl too. So I have much space to lie and watch the passing landscape aside the Autobahn. It will not be the best of all...
We arrive at Bruxelles. There we change the Bus to one of the Anglia Lines, which will bring us to London via the Euro Tunnel. The weather is awful: rainy, stormy and cold. "What's about the weather in England?" I ask the driver. "Similar" he says. Finally we cross the Euro Tunnel and if you want to know the most impressive thing of this sensation I tell you: "It's dark in there!". But do not forget: set your clock back one hour, we have the Western European Time now.
After the arrival at the British continent you are highly motivated and recognize all sights passing by to be typical English. But after some time I loose my main interest and start to figure out, if the bus will reach London Victoria Station within the time provided (12.30). Of course it does not, the traffic in the city of London is terrible. It needs one hour more to get to V.St. Within the next hour I must change to Paddington. I ask the driver for the way. "You must go to the other end of London" he says. But I have a city map and find the way, riding on the left side, stopping at each junction uncertain where to look first.
Finally I enter the Hyde Park and everyone known to London knows, that Paddington is not far from there. But I had to ask once more and got the fine answer: "I don't know, I'm completely lost myself!"
I reach Paddington Station "just in time", that is early enough to buy a ticket, look for the platform, put the bike into the cabin and find a nearby seat. Uffh! But it is a nice feeling sitting in a train to the outer end of Cornwall. On the ride you will see much of "typical English" but I confine to a fox on a meadow with a rabbit in his mouth. Believe it, it's true! Nice views outside when the train passes the southern coast past Exeter. Red cliffs, at Plymouth you see the huge Tamar Bridge, built in 1961. And so on...
Meanwhile some guys have come into the compartment, their pockets filled with beer and whiskey. They become louder and louder, finally I change to another compartment to concentrate to the outer landscape again. When you see the famous St. Michaels Mount you nearly have reached Penzance, the final destination for today. It is 8.15 pm now so I have needed exactly 24 hours to come here from my home.
Now I have to look for an accomodation, we have Friday and so difficulties may arise. I ask here and there but they all send me to the next house. And finally at the Union Hotel, Chapel Street, the lady says the words of relieve: "You are welcome". Soon I phone up at home and think to be at the end of the world.
I then look for a Chinese Restaurant for a meal, because the other Inns and Pubs are crowded and many youngsters stroll around with much noise.
Chapter 1: Cornwall, Devon and Exmoor
1. Day, Saturday, Penzance - Land's End - Newquay,
8.30-18.30, 115 km trp, 14.0 km/h avg., 53 km/h max, 115 km total
Breakfast is served in an elegant hall where a copy of the death mask of Admiral Horatio Nelson is exposed. May be he once stayed in this house? Further I speak to an elder couple who are just going out for a holiday at the Scilly Islands without fear to have any boring times there. Occasionally I must find out, where the Scilly Islands are located... (30 km south west of Land's End). I enjoy the first full English breakfast with fried eggs, bacon, sausages, beans and tomatoes. This will hold to the early afternoon.
Now the memorable moment has come: the start for a tour accompanied by many question marks, for no one can say if weather, wind, breakdowns, health etc. will cause a happy end. So the begin is to push the bike from down the coast up the B3315 to the higher plateau.
Remark: Occasionally the roadnumbers are given to ease the reconstruction of the route at the road map.
While walking up one can admire the rich vegetation. There is a humid and mild climate around here caused by the gulf stream. Along the road there are the hedges or stone walls overgrown by bushes and flowers. The foxglove blooms where ever you look.
I am looking for a certain stone ring and some Menhirs as I have read about. So I leave the road towards Lamorna and soon roll down to the coast at Lamorna Cove. There are some walkers of the coast path in front of a restaurant, but they have never heard anything about these old stones. "Ask the local boy" they say. The "local boy" has just his arms full of poatoes but soon returns from the kitchen. "You mean Merry Maiden, this is up above at the road" he says. "So at least I saw this place" I say. "This is the best place of Cornwall" the local boy claims out. You may imagine this to be true if you do not look for other nice places at Cornwall...
So I return to "up above at the road", find a sign to "Merry Maiden", see an upright rock behind a hedge and after the next curve figure out, that this was the place I was looking for. May be it is more interesting than that what I saw. Now there is a 17% downhill leading just as steep uphill on the other side of the crossing valley. We will be known to this topography soon... We enter the A30 and roll down to Land's End.
They have some attractions for the kids here, souvernir shops, a post office, a photographer for a "Land's End Certificate" etc., I only sit on a wall, take a photo of the cliffs and consume my last sandwich. And at the 12th of June, 11am my last big tour of this millenium begins (this is only true, if there is no big tour in the year 2000 - you know). There is a sign to John O' Groats: about 800 miles the shortest way. I will not choose the shortest way!
We now soon leave the A30 and head to the B3306 with nearly no traffic. We pass the country side at the Cornish North West coast which seems unchanged from centuries. May be this is an imagination on my own. While watching the stones of a cemetery, hundreds of years old as I thought, but the years of death on the gravestones in most cases are of this century.
Next observation: there are former Tin Mines, some of them reaching down deeper than the sea level. You can visit some mines or museums but I prefer to stay above and have a nice chat with the lady of a village shop. Some people come along, they are all waiting of a marriage taking place. But soon we continue with green meadows and old walls around, the sea at the left. I start to think of one of Europe's best places for cycling etc. but soon I will find out, that one should be very careful in using superlatives...
The next larger touristic town is St. Ives. You must surround the mouth of a river and then reach the side road B3301. Now watch on parking cars, for there may be something to be seen. So I find a sign point to have a view on the high and steep cliffs. At secure place Seagulls and Cormorans have their nests. A couple comes along and they say "Isn'it beautiful?" and I think "It is, this is the place, where they kill their lovers in the movies". Some time later I lie on my belly and look down to the rocks and the sea 100 m below. As it starts to prickle I cautiously crawl back to my bike.
We hit some picturesque spa towns like Portreath or Perranporth. You always have to brake down the hills within two minutes but afterwards there are the same hills in the opposite direction and you have to climb up the same distance within 20 minutes.
The destination for today is the greater spa town Newquay. There is a nice view from above down to the sun flooded harbour. Beside a bench there is a sign: "Alcohol Free Area". This is to prevent that thursty individuals choose this place for their parties. As I have shot my photo a guy at the bench offers to sell a film, "Cheap" he says. But I have enough yet and so the guy leans to the shield "Alcohol Free Area", opens the next can of beer and continues to talk with himself.
I look for an accomodation and ask at the Hotel St. Andrews. "You are welcome" - the nicest words on earth. Two women here sit at the bar and some pictures of kissing people lie on the table. I become curious and I think "May be I am wrong here". But before I say something wrong it turns to be a mistake on my part and some time later I happily sit in my room for tonight.
On a Saturday when the sun was shining this town is cooking in the evening. The girls run around half naked and seem to be unafraid of both: cold chills or hot boys. I do hard to find a proper restaurant but end in an Indian's. It's loud there as well but the dinner is fine.
2. Day, Sunday, Newquay - Wadebridge - Bude - Clovelly
9.30-19.00, 122 km trp, 14.8 km/h avg., 56.6 km/h max, 237 km total
During the night some seagulls nearby must have a permanent dispute and from time to time they escalate in shrill cries. Definitely better than the noise of vans and motor traffic. Breakfast is at 9 am because we have Sunday. I continue to stay at the coast - this works as long as one gets tired to cross one valley after the other. The cliffs are rarely to be seen, this is due to the coast hikers, free from giddiness.
After some time I leave the coast and look for some side roads to pass some sleepy villages. A woman on a bench in front of a post office is a nice motive. You then reach Wadebridge and hit the Camel Trail. This is a former railway track and used as a hike and bike path today from Bodmin to Padstow. The river Camel is crossed on an old bridge, a sign tells more about it.
I continue on the B3314 where there are some nice views to the Cornish coast. The next place of interest is Tintagel. There you find a Cafe Excalibur or so. This is because the former castle at Tintagel Head is said to be the home of King Arthur. No one believes in this but gift and souvernir shops try to prove it all. I only shoot my photos, one of Tintagel Head, one of the sunny old post building.
We continue up and down, once have a nice view to the coast, at some other time end down at a creek or river with a picturesque little harbour. So to be seen near Boscastle. Another long hill follows, and if you see a house in front on the top of a hill you can be sure that the road will lead you to that place. We then reach the A39 with more traffic and soon turn off to the town Bude. It looks nice there, a scenic bridge and view to the row of houses on a ridge.
The rest for today is a monotonous ride on the A39 until we reach the junction towards Clovelly, our destination. I read about it, there is no traffic in the narrow roads. This is really true and I do hard to bring my bike and panniers into the village. There are rough paved tracks with steps and stairs leading steep down. Somewhat exhausted I lean the bike to a wall and ask someone for an accomodation. But this is just in front: "The New Inn". I get a room in the house on the opposite of the road/track/stairs and put the bike into the room this time.
Remark: May be because I live with the bike in one room tonight I succes to articulate the following phrase when I call at home: "WE have a good progress". Later I argue about this WE, may be my wife has some sleepless hours of it...and so it is!
Meanwhile I sit in the bar and do hard with a rumpsteak made of leather. Queen: "The Show must go on..." is to be heard from the speakers. A black Guinnes, but thereafter I am very curious to explore this peculiar place. We gallop down the road/track/stairs to the fisher's harbour, the sunset at the sea and the complete silence are very impressive. The coast shows green steep slopes, at some places a landslide has come down. The only place to settle here is the narrow valley, where the houses are glued to the slopes like the nests of swallows. I think of the dream of Shangrila - a place to retire and rest. But I think of stormy winter nights too and the hard life of the inhabitants in former times. Today the tourism is the source of secure income (and if you think, there is no traffic: behind the hotel at the harbour side there is a car park, and a ramp leads up the slope...).
It is nearly dark when I return to my lodging. I think I am happy tonight.
3. Day, Monday, Clovelly - Barnstaple - Exmoor - Bridgwater
9.00-18.45, 132 km trp, 15.4 km/h avg., 62.4 km/h max, 369 km total
The day starts with a work, which is usually made by donkeys here. But it's up to me to push the bike up the hill to the parking site. After breakfast and check out I carry the luggage up there, pack the panniers and then have to walk uphill for another 15 minutes before the tour can really start on the A39.
We reach Bideford where the Torridge River is crossed by an old bridge. The next few miles we can use another former railtrack named "Tarka Trail". Every cyclist knows, this is riding of it's best - no hills, no traffic. And nice views to the wide mouth of the river all the time. What a pity, at Barnstaple the trail ends. I now head to Exmoor, and this means going uphill for a while, but not as steep as near the coast before.
We finally leave the A39 and enter the B3358. The landscape is not so remarkable: hedges, meadows, sheep. At damp places the rush and cotton grass (wollgras) grow and holes of black water glance from below. Somewhere there is an old church surrounded by stone walls and rhododendron. The road leads down to the village Exford. I see a horse with it's head and front inside a shop, but before I have prepared my camera they have finished their shopping and come along.
From Exford we run down through a valley with woods and reach a touristic town named Dunster. Ther is a castle, a cathedral and may be a monastery - a camping site as well. In the afternoon I reach the coast again and join to my "favourite" A39 now with much traffic. Now they have built up some last hills named Quantock Hills at the very end of the Cornwall and Devon peninsula. Another local cyclist behind me calls out when he passes: "Hard Work up this hill!". I think I called back "Really!".
The rest to Bridgwater is plane and they have traffic lights for to drive the cattle. At the moment there is no use of it. Arrived at Bridgwater I ask a passenger who signs to the "Blake Arms Hotel" nearby. The only problem there: where to put the bike? After some crawls behind his ear the barkeeper remembers the backyard where I lock the bike to the pipe of a gutter.
I end at an Indian Restaurant, make a walk afterwards but cannot find much interesting. Some time later back in my room I listen to a concert of a crying no-lady eagerly using the famous English word beginning with "F". At 10.30 pm everything is quiet, this is a law.
Chapter 2: Wales
4. Day, Thursday, Bridgwater - Avonmouth - Monmouth
8.15-17.15, 130 km trp, 17.0 km/h avg., 49.9 km/h max, 499 km total
I did not expect to get such a rich breakfast from a sleepy guy this morning. May be I cannot stand on this over weeks? The main goal today will be to cross the wide mouth of the Severn near Bristol. I leave Bridgwater at the A38 leading straight north. Passing Burnham-on Sea but into Weston-Super-Mare. And I read: "Twintown of Hildesheim". So I soon buy a postcard and write some greetings to my daughter Verena, who lives at Hildesheim.
At the Tourist Information I try to find out if there is a bike path leading to the Severn bridges but the ladies do not know. Weston is a typical spa town with a long promenade at the beach. As I leave the town I end at the drive-up to Motorway M5 and argue to be wrong here. But there is a small road and soon I find myself vis-a-vis some swans at a small bridge over a creek. Nice to have no traffic around. I head on to Congresbury and then on another side road through flat land near the coast.
So I reach Clevedon and follow a misleading sign: "St. Andrews Church and Center" (this does not mean the center of the town). So I get a photo of the next church on my way and have some minutes rest in the sun aside the St. Andrews-Center. Clevedon is a nice spa town again and they have a large Victorian pier at the sea which seems to be preserved by an expensive maintenance. So the visitor is invited: "Sponsor a plank!".
Remark: The Clevedon pier is the first victim of an unpleasant incident I realized back at home. One of the films is spoiled by light coming inside the camera. I cannot say how it happens. I try to use some of the partly spoiled pictures anyway...
Finally I approach Avonmouth and wonder, if one can use the Avonmouth-Bridge by bike, it is not to be seen from the road map. But soon you can relax, bikers and pedestrians are sorted off from the real traffic and curled tracks lead up to the bridge. Far below there is the river Avon with muddy shores caused by the low water level. When I pass the bridge I meet a biker couple walking at the right (inner) side. I ride on the right side too - just as at the continent - for this is the airy side this time. We have a chat, the couple rides the National Cycle Route No. 48 and they have a guide and signed map. My eyes get wide. I had dreamt of a traffic-free path from end-to-end, but this was utopic. They explain the next route to me and then we part with the words
"I'll go with the wind!"
"And we are going into it!"
Sounds like a poem! At first I find my way on the Route 48 along paths through the fields and industrial sites. But one sign must have been absent after I find myself at a main road again. Now there is a new built bridge, this is for motorized vehicles only. The same applies to the tunnel. The second bridge, a huge rope bridge named Severn Road Bridge finally is the right one. High above the sea I cross the Severn and a new section of the tour begins.
Cornwall/Devon/Somerset disappear in the mist behind. A colorful country named Wales is now ahead. I ride straight to the north in the Dye valley. While you just run down a downhill they have build a jewel ahead: the Tintern Abbey. This is a huge ruin of a cathedral or monastery or both. Many Pubs, Inns and Taverns around - as usual. I make a photo (plane grey finally) and head on.
For the accomodation tonight there is another jewel: the town Monmouth. The galic Name is Trefynwy. I am early enough to enter the Tourist Office and bring some joy to the ladies there. They call some people for a B&B and succeed at Mr. Adams round the corner. The official name is: Steeples, 7 Church Street.
Soon I go out for discoveries and some photos(?) in the evening sun. At first I find a Pizza Restaurant with "Take Away", but I decide to go there later. I enter the Monnow Bridge, one of the last 3 of it's kind. Then I visit Geoffrey's Window at the Priory Street, where I only spend a short glance to the attractions trusting in the photography. At least I end at the Pizzeria. I order one Seafood Special, BIG. And then they bring a huge cardboard box with a Pizza as large as a wheel covered by tuna and prawns. I must ask for a plate and knife and fork for they have thought, I would take that pizza home to my hungry family or so.
Well, I start my Dinner for One and do my very best. And as I feel to come to an end I prefer to scrape the goodies like cheese, prawns and tuna from the cake and refine the current dish. After I capitulate no one can say that there is wasted too much. "He must be hungry, I thought" one of the boys says as I pay.
I tumble home to my nice lounge and make plans of the further tour.
5. Day, Wednesday, Monmouth - Haye on Wye - Knighton - Bishop's Castle
8.30-18.15, 122 km trp, 14.8 km/h avg., 67.8 km/h max, 621 km total
May be it is from the pizza last night or from the english Breakfast every day, today I order "without meat". Mr. Adams tells, that some days earlier two end-to-end riders have passed. But they got fast bikes and absolve the tour probably like a race. "I like to stop as often I want or to lie under a tree" I state. The usual route from here is via Hereford.
At the last evening I have looked at the map for a long time and found a tiny road along a valley in the mountains. To get there we use the B4347 and this is a beautiful section already. The landscape looks like a park with green meadows and single oak trees around. As over all Britain sheep are everywhere and you always have an accustic entertainment. Sometimes I give an answer and beg to apologize this to a lonely rider. But I state at this time and for all the time further on: there was never anything boring.
Well, we are on the way to our valley and first use the A465 for a while.
Once after a passing car a robin redbreast falls straight down from heaven
just in front of my bike. This is a very sad event and I think of the moribund
squeakers in their nest. Sad thoughts leave when I turn to my tiny road.
It starts at Pandy and you need a good map to find it. At the end
after the summit we will reach Hay on Wye. So for I have no photos now
I enumerate the attractions:
After some time I find the side road B4350. There is mysterious sign on the map and the word "toll". As I get there it's a sensation again. There is the old Whitney on Wye Toll Bridge from the year 1775. The biker has to pay 5 Pence.
Now we have to do some work and use the A438, turn to the A411 north to Kington. "Keep the Hospital" is to be read everywhere. The next town is Knighton. And if you once use the same route, remember me as I say, you have to cross about 5 valleys and climb up about 200 m each time afterwards. At the evening you can figure out, that the next time you can ride in the Alps as well if you add all the height differences of the day.
So I am somewhat exhausted as I reach the nice town Bishop's Castle. In the following please feel with me the tired rider's luck to find a roof for the night. The information bureau is closed already but while I look around a lady appears from inside. And I have not to do one more step, I can stay and get a room just here.
After the regeneration period I don't expect to find an Indian restaurant here, but there is one. Some more words to my "home": the house is very old and the floors not quite horizontal (you feel it on the bed as you tend to roll off). My bike is in the back yard leant to a "Horse for shaving wood". This is used to prepare wooden materials for restauration works. "Old Chairs" are the speciality of the house.
At the end of the evening I sit at the roof window of my room, just above the street, waiting for the dark and feeling happy again.
Chapter 3: Middle England, Lake District and Northern England
6. Day, Thursday, Bishop's Castle - Wrexham - Chester - Liverpool
8.30-19.00, 145 km trp, 16.2 km/h avg., 124.7 km/h max (there must be something wrong), 766 km total
Today we have to pass a less scenic area - and this is said in regard to the final approach, to end at John O' Groats within a moderate time. I am sure one will find picturesque routes in this area too, but you need some more time for this.
I start on the B4385 down to Montgomery with the Welsh name Trefaldwyn. As the sun is not shining and some raindrops are falling I stay to the A383 with a proper tailwind. Next station is Oswestry, a nice shopping town. From there the four lane road more and more gets the characteristics of a "Autobahn". After I have crossed two bridges high above the valleys and a police patrol honks (is this for me?) I wait for the next roundabout to leave the main road.
And - oh wonder - there is a signed bike path to Wrexham. A rest at a heap of a former coal mine before I reach Wrexham. My obligate visit at the tourist office reveals the same results as usual, they do not know a bike route to Liverpool. But there will be a ferryboat crossing the Mersey (now start to remember already...wasn't there a certain melody?). The center of Wrexham is a mere building site, so I continue on a side road towards Chester.
I meet a village named Cuckoo's Nest. And just there - use the brakes - at the right a golden gate and a straight ahead driveway to a castle far in front. Eaton Hall is the name of this estate. Well, a nice place for a rest I think, until I discover a tiny control camera between the rods of the gate. And suddenly the gate opens wide as if an invisible ghost does his work. And then I see a Land Rover approaching from Eaton Hall.
I prefer to put my things into the pockets and to look for another place. But for I am somewhat curious I peer from behind the next tree what will happen. May be a member of the Royal family will pass by?
Nothing happens. A clerk in uniform gets off the car, looks around, closes the gate and rides back with his Rover. And so it is: they thought a terrorist masked as a biker was inspecting their estate for the next blow (if someone reading this knows more about Eaton Hall let me hear about it - there will be no blow from my side).
So I continue to Chester and fail to find a Roman Road which is signed in the map. Chester is a beautiful old fashioned town. As usual I look for the tourist office, ask the usual questions and get the usual answers. I told you before that there was nothing boring at my tour, it's not quite true, the following section up to Birkenhead is extremely boring. Four lane road all the time, sometimes a side path for bikers, better you switch off your mind or count the remaining miles.
Remark: In the German version I have inserted at this boring moment a method to translate miles into km. I think this is not necessary for English speakers...
When the signs of the Birkenhead ferry appear, you nearly have done it. I am just in time, can enter the ferry boat at once and 20 minutes later arrive at Liverpool. (Do you remember the song now: Oh Ferry, cross the Mersey... by Gerry and the Pacemakers?). I intend to stay at Liverpool tonight. But somehow I don't like it here, may be it's too busy again. I ask some people for an accomodation but they don't know anything except the expensive hotels. At last someone gives the advice to go out to Crosby some miles ahead to the north.
OK, this would be on the way to Scotland, forget Liverpool. On four lane roads again I finally reach Crosby and the first observation is a Chinese restaurant. I then ask a couple for a B&B, but they say they don't know for they are just married. A woman nearby gets interested and tries to remember something, so she gets her notebook from the car and scrolls around in her wallet. She doesn't find what she is looking for so I get the advice to look at the post office for an advertisement.
So many thanks and I ride another half of a mile to the post office. And the woman with the car is there already, scrolling in her wallet again, without success. I get the address of a B&B from the advertisement and the woman is so kind, to show me a part of the way by car. Though I am somewhat amused I must be appreciated about so much helpfulness.
So at least I reach the address, a usual terrace house, and as I ring the bell I fear that no one is at home. But there is one and it is "Liz" as she says. "My name is Martin" I introduce myself, hearing the rock fall from my heart, for it was a long ride today.
Some time later I sit at the Chinese restaurant and have a fine meal. As the (non chinese) waiter asks if the meal was good I say with enthusiasm "Oh, pretty good!" whereafter the waiter looks something stupid. Meanwhile I know, I could have said "Not so good" as well, but I am no native speaker.
7. Day, Friday, Crosby - Preston - Lancaster - Windermere, Lake District
8.30-19.00, 140 km trp, 16.8 km/h avg., 51.4 km/h max, 906 km total
At breakfast Liz tells me that she has a connection to the internet. So instead of talking much of my family and journeys we look at my HomePage and I send an E-Mail to my own address to give a reply when I am back again. Then I say Farewell and now give the address of this accommodation:
The Blundellsands Bed&Breakfast Service
9 Elton Avenue Blundellsands Liverpool
I got a sketch from Liz how to find out to the scenic country route. But some junctions later I am lost already and so turn west to the sea. There is a nice coast path among the dunes. As usual this path gets more adventurous by the time and I ask a woman with a dog for the continuation. "I don't know, I live here three months yet and have never been there".
But there are some houses a mile away and finally pushing the bike on the sandy track I get there, it is named Hightown. A short distance at the main street, but then there is a fork to the "Touristic Route" around Southport. A biker comes from behind and soon we ride together side by side. His name is Peter and he goes out today for the weather is so fine. As I tell of my tour he is envious and would like to come with me. As we speak of our age it turns out, that I am the youngster. So we pass this beautiful landscape along the coast, the tidal mud surface at the left, marshlands to the right. When I stop for a photo I say "You have not to wait, I don't want to steel your time". "Time is my capital" Peter answers - and then we go on for some time before we have to part. I give the address of this report (of course unwritten at that time) to Peter and hope he will read it some day. "I will think of you" he says and he would have much to do in regard what will follow.
On the A565 I head for Preston. This is no enjoyment but sometimes there is a side track for bikes. At Preston there are big shopping areas. I try in vain to get money from a bank automat. So I go better out of Preston, and at the next village I success at the "Royal Bank of Scotland".
Some time later one can leave the main road and enter the B6430/B5272. Once I see a small castle right ahead, throw my bike against a hedge and look for a photo. But there is a high voltage line in front of it and so the camera gets back to it's pocket. As I come near to the entrance of the castle I feel the front wheel to have a puncture. So I can fix this just at the precious grass of Crookhey Hall. A car comes by, may be with Your Lordness for they have no single glance at me. Nevertheless I call this puncture one of the good kind - in the sunshine in front of Crookhey Hall.
Only the speedometer does not work afterwards. OK, no problem, at the next bench the front wheel is turned to the right side, one is no amateur after all...
Then I come to Lancaster, there are many folks at the streets. Music and dancing, some dancers are masked as Octopusses. Many policemen watch the scene, amused and armed with video cameras. I would like to stay longer, but the famous Lake District is calling. No problem today with the wind from behind. Eventually the Cumbrian Mountains appear at the horizon, they are up to 1000 m high. The gate to the Lake District is the town of Kendal in my case.
But to see a Lake one has to go on to Windermere. Half of the way one can use a small side route, the rest is a busy main road again (A591). For a B&B I ask some time in vain. At a Friday you must find a single room, for everyone hopes to get guests for the family suites. At "The Cottage" I can relax: "Single Room only" is the advertisement. And "My name is Barbara" etc etc.
And because Windermere is not out of the world a Chinese restaurant is available around the corner as well as a petrol station, where I can buy a road map of Scotland. As I later fold off the map in it's full size I hesitate: Scotland is huge!
8. Day, Saturday: Windermere - Kirkstone Pass - Carlisle - Dumfries(Schottland)
8.30-19.00, 135 km trp, 16.0 km/h avg, 61.1 km/h max, 1041 km total
Today I get a splendid breakfast and this is good, for I want to manage the Kirkstone Pass leading straight north. One may compare the Cumbrians with the Alps but everything is somewhat smaller here. So the Kirkstone Pass goes up to 500 m but you have to climb up there as well. Soon the hills are bare of woods and trees and look like covered by a green blanket. The clouds hang down so the top of the hills are invisible. If some beams of the sun break through there may be an interesting light effect.
The last section up to the summit of the pass is in dense fog. Up above there is the old traditional Kirkstone Pass Inn. The outer lanterns are lightet today as it looks like in the night. With the downhill we soon leave the clouds behind and you see a green (as usual) valley ahead. Down there is the Lake Ullswater and the common touristic institutions. Today it's too early and the visitors still sleep. I turn to the north at the A5091 and leave the Lake District already. Finally I find myself at a tiny road along the northern foothills of the Cumbrians. Here you are alone with the landscape, the gorse (Ulex europaeus) and the sheep.
At a cattlegrid I change the film and from now on we hope to success again. But there is a last foggy photo to show you. At a small creek I saw a curious flower with yellow blossoms covered by red spots. I could not find out it's name.(Yes, I did: Mimulus luteus, Monkeyflower).
After the wonderful section "alone with the sheep" we have some more traffic towards Carlisle, but most of the way is downhill. It starts drizzling. At a small village near Carlisle I put the bike under the arch of a gate and enter a grocer's shop. There they ask me if I want a booklet to collect the discount stamps. I resign. Outside again someone asks "Are you local?". I resign again. As I stand there with the raincoat and the naked legs beneath I wonder why they think I would be a usual human beeing...
I continue under my old Gore Tex Jacket and think to be warm and dry there. This is true for a while. "Out of Carlisle" it's the first and the last time that I end in Nowhereland. There is a Nature Reservate, and a car driver coming up says "You better swim from here". But then I detect a sign with a poem, and so I now proudly present it's text to the rest of the world:
Ere Metal Brig or Rail were thowt on.
Here Honest Will the Boatman rowt on.
Gentle and simple he did guide
to either Scotch or English side.
Wi' them on horseback he did ride
An' boat the footman.
An' none did ever dread the tide
wi' Will the Boatman.
Now tho' Will's work is done an' o'er
An' Will himself lies quiet,
yet lives his SPIRIT here - step in an' try it.
Ne'er Time nor Tide can half so pure supply it.
Apparently they like to leave out certain consonants in this language... And can you hear, that the Scottish frontier is near? I hope so.
But I have another nice adventure for I meet two nice bike girls at Nowhereland. They are going a Coast-to-Coast (C2C) route. Meanwhile I am able to be proud of my tour until now. We have a nice chat and part with "Nice to meet you".
I should have taken the girls with me for I now arrive at the legendary marriage paradise Gretna Green. May be it is still working. We cross a bridge and enter Scotland!
But now we will have the story of a rainy section. At first I enjoy to sit dry under my jacket, but must soon enter a bus cabin to get on a warm pullover. In the bus cabin you hear how the wind rattles in the trees and the downfall of the rain at the roof above. The wind comes from the south, this is the left side for me. Why I don't stop at the town Arran for a B&B - I don't know.
I go on and on, monotonously avoiding to splash into the growing lakes at the road. While I now write about this, there are few lines only, in reality the struggle lasts about two hours before I reach the town Dumfries. Difficulties to find the town's center, but someone declares "Down the river". Now I realize that I am completely soaked and freezed and the teeth clatter. And there - down the river - a single sign is to be seen "B&B". I will not leave this place, I decide while I pull the bike through a narrow gate. There are some stairs and an open housedoor.
An elder couple comes out of the kitchen, two tiny dogs (Yorkshires) run barking around and now - guess, what the gentleman says to me: "You should have a coffee after all!" Did you ever hear something more excellent. But first I must unload and while I shivering climb up the stairs say "I am certainly somewhat out of shape now". I change the clothes and soon are in shape again for the promised coffee - and this is hot.
Remark: I got wet from below, while my bike trousers soaked the rain and transferred it to the pullover. Or something like that.
For my pullover is wet this time I put my pyjama (tartan checkered)
under the track suit and go out for a meal. Guess what I am looking for,
and after I have found it I sit under the speakers and they play "It's
a rainy night in Georgia.."
Chapter 4: Southern Scotland from Dumfries to Ardgour
9. Day, Sunday: Dumfries - Kilmarnock - Irvine
9.30-19.00, 107 km trp, 13.3 km/h avg, 35.4 km/h max, 1148 km total
Some words have to be told about my hosts at Dumfries. This is a typical British (be careful in using the word English in Scotland) home, Victorian or Georgian or so. There is a lot of decorative stuff like clocks, vases, shells with biscuits or vegetables, cans and boxes, doileys and pillows etc. etc. An electrical illumination of a chimney glows with a red light like real coals. Then there is a book containing numorous poems of a certain Robert Burns, who lived during the 18 th century. You can never learn enough: this is the most popular poet of Scotland and he spent parts of his life at Dumfries. Another information: just now they celebrate a "Good Neighbours" festival or something like that.
Now clap your hands, we want to continue. After the big rain last night the bike's chain needs some oil, a look to the sky: the sun shines bright again. But when I start I realize: no tailwind today for I'm going west. The road follows the valley of the river Nith parallel to a rail track. The name of the first village is Holywood, but that is all I can tell about this place.
The landscape is nice, green waves of hills aside the valley. The area is named Southern Uplands. Up the valley the river gets wilder and there are canoists and river rafters. The waters are brown like chocolate today. At the highest area of the route there is a wide plane and the river Nith has it's spring somewhere. There is a wide view and far ahead some mighty blue mountains come in sight. Some time later they are recognized as the Isle of Arran. At the town Cumnock there are some nice houses and streets, they had coal mines around here in earlier times.
At the last stage down to the town Kilmarnock I end on a main road again (A76). I had a hard ride today against the wind all the time. So I want to finish a Kilmarnock, but I don't like this town. A sterile pedestrian street, a large shopping center and a lot of building sites. A girl with incomplete teeth comes by and it is hard to get rid of her. "I like your bike" she says and strokes the frame of powder plated chrom molybdaen (or something like that). I like my bike too and better take it with me for some more miles.
The next town is Irvine and for half of the way I find a side road. At Irvine I have to ask some times in vain again. You mostly find the word "Hotel" at the Inns and Pubs, but they always say that they have no rooms. I have some difficulties to understand for they speak a hard dialect here. I end at "Laurelbank Guest House, 3 Kilwinning Road" and I quote the caretaker while I enter the front yard: "I think you will have no problems to get a room here". Fine! Some streets away there is the restaurant - you know meanwhile. And I promise you now: for the next days we will have no Chinese food.
At my room the heating is on and so I can dry the rest of my wet clothes.
10. Day, Monday: Irvine - Ardrossan - Isle of Arran - Lochgilphead
8.15-18.45, 90 km trp, 13.7 km/h avg, 45.4 km/h max, 1238 km total
Before breakfast I get a timetable of the ferry from Ardrossan to the Isle of Arran. And I can calculate, that there is not so much time to get the next ship, otherwise you have to wait two hours. They explain a bike route along the river, I get a sketch again and this time it works. There are signs for cyclists and once more I enumerate the magical items: National Cycle Route, Sustrans, Coast-to-Coast. As usual the cycle path ends somewhere and we ride - guess - on a 4 lane road again. If you would like to avoid the traffic you should turn to the center of Ardrossan. But I want no risk today and stay to the signed ferry-route. I arrive at the pier 30 minutes before departure (9.45 am).
This time I am so pleased to get to this Island that I would not like to stay at any other place of the world now. I buy a ticket, take a photo of the ship and then I enter the car deck. There is a Bicycle Area and one can tighten the bike by ropes. After departure it soon gets so windy that you better go inside. Now there is time to study the numerous ferry-lines of the Caledonian MacBrayne (Hebridean and Clyde Ferries). As there are lots of islands, peninsulas, lochs and sounds in Scotland it is possible to choose between a manifold of variants for a journey. I think of a extraordinary route but this will be discussed later.
After about one hour the ship arrives at Brodick on Arran. It's hard to believe: one and a half hour before at that nasty 4 lane road for to be in paradise now? It's true, I enter the most beautiful landscape until now. I will cross the island and then continue at the western coast up to Lochranza, where another ferry goes back to the mainland.
The road across the island is a little pass. If you walk up there you have time to admire the plants and views. Remarkable here is the change of different climate areas wihin short distances. Down at the sea there are forests of knobby trees and rhododendron jungles. Some 100 m higher there is the timberline and areas with heather and ferns follow (it is difficult for me, to translate all the plants up there, so believe: it's beautiful).
After I have reached the summit - guess what happens. You are right - a downhill. No - that is not enough! For now there it is, this feeling for the first time on this tour. You get showers at your neck and goose bumps, may be wet eyes too. It's caused by the loveliness around and the feeling to come here that long way on your own. Does anyone understand me?
I hope so. At the western coast I get cool again for there is a proper headwind. From the village Pirnmill the road turns for some grades to the east and now there is a prober tailwind. We have a wide view across the Killbrannan Sound to the peninsula of Kintyre which has a shape like a finger. There are grey curtains of rain showers, at other places the sun shines.
One of those grey curtains takes pity on Arran but it only lasts for minutes. I observe the remaining walls of a house. There are some curiuous big rusty boilers in there and I cannot explain their former destination. I have so much time for the ferry, that I often stop and look around. As I arrive at the pier, the boat is just coming in. But isn't it more than half an hour too early? Later it turns out, by mistake I have learned the departure times from the opposite direction.
Another bike tourer enters the ferry and we have a chat. He will go to Campbeltown on Kintyre and enter a ferry to North Ireland there. We find out, that his mother is a German from Bückeburg where I once visited the gymn and always was annoyed of the British occupants. We leave the ferry at Claonaig, I get some useful hints and we part.
Now I cross the peninsula riding through upper moor land. Once I watch a grey bird on a meadow with a long beak. My book says it was a Curlew. Behind the mountains of Arran get pale, they look like the humps of an egg carton from here. Then you reach Loch Tarbert and some time later the small town Tarbert. This is very nice as the biker before told me, and he is right. So I sit at a bench and then enter a baker's shop. I sign on a piece of cake but the lady says this would be cheese. So she signs to the cake but these are biscuits for me. I insist to buy the cake/cheese and it tastes fine.
We continue along Loch Fyne and now there are the first Salmon Farms. At another place there is a sign declaring the characteristics of the Artilligan Forest growing from the sealine up the hills. They name it the North European Rain Forest. Everyone is invited to have a walk there but I think you would do hard to do some steps in that rocky jungle.
At Ardnshaig there is a swing bridge. The biker told something of a canal and here it is, the Crinan Canal. Let us read the sign:
The canal was built nearly 200 years ago to encourage trade with the islands and avoid the hazardous route round the mull of Kintyre.
They need about 10 sluices to overcome the height difference across the land. I head on for a short distance to Lochgilphead. This town is not as nice but I soon find an accomodation at the Argyll Hotel. For dinner I enter the bar and tonight I have the "typical British" meal: Fish 'n Chips.
During the rest of the evening I work out my extraordinary plan. There is a ferry from Oban to the Outer Hebrides resp. Western Islands. There one can make a two-day-ride to the north and then return by ship to Ullapool. The only drawback is that I have to wait one day at Oban until the ship leaves. May be a rest day wouldn't be bad!
11. Day, Tuesday: Lochgilphead - Crinan - Oban - Conan/Ardgour
8.30-18.15, 128 km trp, 16.43 km/h avg, 51.0 km/h max, 1366 km total
So today I will ride half of the day only and so have much time. At first this curious canal is to be investigated. So we ride at the B841 along the Loch Crinan and watch the numerous sluices. To reach the village Crinan you have to climb over a hill (later I found out, that a biker can stay to the canal, but then it was too late).
Now at Crinan you can think of the Shangrila award again. The silence, two old rusty steamers at the harbour, a lighthouse, fishing gear and the view to the Loch. Unwillingly I leave this place.
At first we pass flat marshland until we hit the A816. At this place named Templewood there are some ancient relicts like some menhirs (standing stones) and a stone circle. At a sign they suggest to sit down, watch the menhirs and argue about their destination. No more informations.
Some time later I meet three funny guys. We find out immediately that we all are from Germany, otherwise we would have chatted in English and that is ridiculous. They have come by plane from Frankfurt to Glasgow and want to go to Oban and the Island Mull. But they will not be so fast, for they often stop and drink beer, as they say. I wonder if beer is the right stuff during the day. "Let us drink a beer tonight at Oban" I say (and think it to come true).
Eventually I watch the landscape around. The blank green hills look like those of the virtual landscape of a model railway. So on this stage once more you ride up the hills and run down to the sea line in turn. There you have nice views to the Lochs. If you stop at a nice place you have not to wait long and a car stops, someone jumps out to take a photo and then they go off again. Once I find myself standing among purple orchids. And the cattle on the meadows look with different interest and intelligence to the passing cyclist...
I arrive at Oban in the early afternoon. Much traffic, crowds of tourists. I enter the tourist office to arrange the various bookings, tickets and accomodations of my exactly elaborated plan. There are queues at every counter and I get nervous more and more. Now guess what happens: I run out, my plan bursts into dust: what to do one long day at this crowded place, is the landscape at the Outer Hebrides as nice as that of Middle Scotland, can I not continue for a nice distance today? I can!
I only buy a postcard for my friend Roland, as we were at Oban 30 years ago. And I have the usual tailwind - feel free now from this constricting plan and make a good speed now. I head towards Fort William, may be I reach it today if I stand a 100- miles-day (The Americans call it "century", but this is made with racing equipment and without baggage). We will find another end...
There are two bridges on this way to avoid the long way around deep Lochs. At Loch Linnhe there is a ferry boat to the other side, and there you will find a road nearly without traffic. But it's too late today for this, and so I first enjoy the cost-free ferry passage, then enter the "The Inn of Ardgour" for an accomodation. This time the computer doesn't want me but the chef's command is determinant and so I get my key. In the backyard they just build a shed for cycles because they have realized, that more and more cyclists come to this beautiful country.
I write to my friend: "Cycling in Scotland is so much fun, why didn't we do that 30 years ago?" But we were hiking up above at Glenn Affric and that wasn't too bad as well...
The dinner is offered in the bar and today I choose a slice of salmon. At a table aside there sit some people from Switzerland (Helvetica). Their language is more foreign to me than English. As the waiter asks the Suisse people for a pudding or a dessert they say "No, one more beer please". So I do.
From my room I have a wonderful view to Loch Linnhe and when it is dark see the lights of Fort William.
Chapter 5: Middle Scotland from Ardgour to Ullapool
12. Day, Wednesday: Conan/Ardgour - Glenfinnan - Mallaig - Skye -
8.30-19.00, 131 km trp, 13.1 km/h avg, 50.7 km/h max, 1497 km total
Imagine I would have spent this day at Oban waiting for the ship and to start a sea journey at noon over 7 hours. Do you know what I would have missed? I can tell you: the best of all, in German we call it "Königsetappe (King's Stage)". The Königsetappe on bike tours is not the most difficult or hard one but the most beautiful one. I don't like to use a superlative, but I have seen a lot meanwhile and may say: there must be more than one sensation to surpass this day.
When I start at the Ardgour side of Loch Linnhe the sun shines bright. There is no traffic as mentioned yesterday. The Ben Nevis is still hidden by fog. I try to remember our climb up there 30 years ago. But all has gone, I only remember that we had fog all the time. Today we will have a 100 km sight.
"Alone with the sheep" again, sometimes we stop at a cattle grid. I would not recommend to ride over these grids if you won't risk a puncture or break of spokes or rims. Now I see salmon farms again. There are large cages where the salmons are fed and finally caught. I think the salmon to be one of the greatest wanderer among the fish and feel a pity with those inside their cages. You see them jumping out of the water but cannot be glad about it.
30 years ago again we observed some fishermen, as they surrounded a swarm of salmons with nets and finally pulled them ashore. This was at Glenelg.
I see Fort William now at the other side of the Loch. Unfortunately they have build a couple of ugly grey blocks over there. I now reach Loch Eil and the road turns west. For we have a high pressure weather period we have eastern winds and this means: tailwind again. So I roll on and amidst of the sunny landscape there is a fire red telephone box. I call it the most beautiful telephone box on earth (Let's discuss about this later...). Now there are about 10 herons at the shore but they fly away before I get my camera fixed.
At the end of Loch Eil we undercross a railway. Just now a train passes, you hear the whistle of the engine. But there is nothing to be seen behind the bushes. Some miles ahead we reach the place called Glenfinnan. This is the end of Loch Shiel, a long drawn-out lake cutting the district of Ardgour. Besides that you can admire a monument with a stone figure at it's top. "For Scotland's Honor" is to be read and we learn, that this is a memorial for the "1745 Jacobite Rebellion" with "Bonnie Prince Charles". If you want to know more about this matter I am sure you will find out something.
Now the Suisse guests from the hotel come along. They wonder that I made all the way by bike, the speedometer shows 40.5 km and I have spent about two hours. Not bad! Now we go up a wide green valley. The landscape slides along like in a giant cinema.
But now there must be something interesting. On every hill there are people carrying bonoculars, telescopes, tripods, cameras, camcorders etc. At a bridge I stop to ask a man who peers along the rail track with bright eyes. He sputters out: "The train will leave at ten forty five, it's a steam engine, you know!". And then he says to his wife and her tripod: "You better go up that hill, Sheila!". OK, I will do the same and go "up that hill", fix my camera and wait for the sensation. But as usual nothing happens. Of course it's nice up here in the sun, but I at least have to do other things. So I take a photo without the train and continue.
But I got the infect, look back and hope to be at a convenient place for a photo when the train will pass by. Once I have to stop caused by the morning tea - you know. And there it is, whistling and gasping - the steam train. As soon I get my hands free I have my photo, unfortunately the white steam turns to be grey just at this moment.
Remark: During the journey back home by train many days later I find in the journal "Scotrail Outlook 7/99 June - July" an article about the Highland Rover Ticket, by which one can ride in this area, the following note: One of the greatest railway journeys of the world ...In summer the "Jacobite" steam train runs from Fort William to Mallaig offering a chance to savour a taste of the great era of steam...
I think of my Internet-friend and railway-freak Terje M. from Norway who - I am sure - will enjoy to read this story (Meanwhile I know: he did enjoy it...). For me this all was unexpected and so it feels like a sensation. So with a good mood I go on through this lovely landscape. We come to the coast at the Sound of Arisaig. We have mediterranean conditions today with the blue sky and the bright sun. You will not have this kind of weather very often in Scotland. I fee like it's Sunday today.
It is not possible to declare this beauty in verbal form and the photographs only catch a cut of it. You have to sit down and look around for a while and mix the two words "Unbelievable" and "Incredible" in your head. And there are ancient forests with huge mammoth trees. At the ruin of a church we find a graveyard and a sign which declares, that the great Galic poet named Mhaighstir Alasdair, 1700-1770 is buried at this place. But no one knows the correct location...
The narrow road goes up and down and winds it's way between the hills. But then they have built a racing lane supported by European fonds. It is difficult to understand who will have the profit of this project. Before I arrive at Malleig the world famous "Jacobite Train" comes back, and while I just stand aside the road I can shoot another photo. At Malleig I soon enter the ferry which crosses the Sound of Sleat to the island of Skye. Someone is blowing a backpipe there, but unfortunately he just stands in front of a couple of garbage buckets.
Now in the afternoon the sun stands deeper at the sky and so the views get more and more colorful. I shoot some postcard-like photos, once a panoramic sight. For we live in a progressive and technical era someone has decided again to replace the old winded road by a ramp milled into and through the hills. The building vans are still at work and so I know: it's no Sunday today. You now can ride this way from Ardvasar to Broadford in a comfortable way, but the motorized fellows tend to pass along with 100 mph.
At the junction to Broadford I turn north to approach the mainland again. There is the next progress of the last years as they have built a bridge over Loch Alsh. I suppose the old ferry boat still runs from Kyle of Lochalsh and this is for the romanticists. I had enough romantic scenes today so I cross the bridge - free of charge for cyclists again.
I have choosen the village of Plockton at the Loch Carron for an accomodation. Anywhere it is to be read, that this "Jewel of the Highlands" has won an award to be the most hospitable place in the year 1994. I cannot understand this at first and stray around among some houses which I believe to be Plockton. A kind woman asks me what I am looking for and offers a bunkhouse with self catering. I ask for a hotel and she says I should go down the hill to the village. That's it, up here there is the railway station only.
When I finally enter Plockton I must confirm that this town is worth to get an award. I get a room at the Haven Hotel and book for a dinner as well. I cannot tell you the price, it is very much for a poor biker but adequate after a rich day.
I change my clothes and then enter the dining room. It is elegant in there and everyone tries to behave in an exclusive manner. I do hard to understand, how to choose the meals from the dinner card but finally with help of the amused waitress succeed. At the table aside an older couple is perfect, and so I eventually peer over to learn how to manage the course. I have:
Agyr Ham Slices, Soup, Tuna Filet, Fruit Salad and Ice
It's a lot and hard to believe that within a short hour there is so much place inside of the body. But at last it is not, for the second beer will not run it's way. So I have to resign which is unusual for me. And it's better to go out for a walk in the evening sun while everything is lighted by a yellow shine. To complete the scene there is a ruin of a castle right above. As usual I enter the graveyard and wonder about the dips in the grass in front of the gravestones. I suppose the ground has sunk with the rotten coffins and this feels spooky.
13. Day, Thursday: Plockton - Glenn Carron - Loch Glascarnoch - Ullapool
8.30-18.00, 132 km trp, 16.3 km/h avg, 56.7 km/h max, 1629 km total
As usual we start on a hilly road to a narrow part of Loch Carron. There is the village Stromferry. To avoid misleading expectations they have built up a sign: "No Ferry". We join to the A890 which leads up to the Glen Carron. And what's the name of the river here? It's name is Carron. Now the tailwind blows me up the valley. At first there are forests of firs, the lumberjacks are at work, let us hope they know what they do. A big dragonfly ahead turns out to be a helicopter at work with the river regulation activities. Soon the limit of the trees is reached and the ground is coverd by brown heather areas. The mountains around are up to 1000 m high, some spots of snow have remained from the winter.
At the wide high valley there are some deserted remains of houses. It is hard to imagine the circumstances in former times, when people lived here. Meanwhile they will have emigrated or searched for a job at Ullapool, Inverness or Edinburgh. I try to think of the winter season up here but this is difficult now in the sunshine. The road is a racing lane again just finished last year. At Achnasheen there is the summit and time for a rest beside a telephon box and argueing which is the most beautiful of all.
Now a phantastic downroll follows, you must imagine this with sunshine and tailwind, the broome (furze = Ginster) forms a yellow hedge. We can run 15 miles downwards nearly without pedalling. Then we reach a valley of a river named "Black Water" and have to climb up again towards north west. And now we have a headwind, but that doesn't bother us.
It's worth to arrive at the Loch Glascarnoch up above. It is a swampland around with dark holes of water. You better stay on solid ground. The highlands around seem to be in their original state frome the ice age. Again I try to imagine rain, storm , hail and snow, and may be one would say: "Never go to Scotland". But today you could fall in love (probably I did?).
Finally there is a downhill again until we reach a park area with busses, caravans and motor bikes. There is something to be seen named Corrieshalloch Gorge. This is a deep canyon and the rocks are covered by green moss and ferns. Of course a waterfall completes the scenery. Now I head for the last miles to Ullapool. There is a ship just going out, may be to the Western Islands. I would have come from there to Ullapool one evening later, if I had followed the earlier plan. I am very happy to have made it this way.
May be you have observed, that I tend to feel unwell in a busy town or at places I don't like. There it is again. The tourist office is closed already and I decide to continue to the next village named Ardmair. At first there is a long steep ramp where I must push the bike. But then there is a nice view back to Loch Broom and to the mountains where I have come from today. Some km more up and down until we reach Ardmair: and - be glad - there are only three houses. Nothing to be read of a B&B or evening meals. In addition there is a camping site, but I resign to ask anyone.
So I go back - up and down and up and down - to Ullapool. Finally down on the ramp I reach the maximal speed of today. May be because it is the thirteen'th day, I need some time to get an accomodation. Most of the people prefer to rent family suites and don't want a single person. At last I end at Mrs. Joan Moffat, 1 Broombank who has a single room.
Now it is late already and I still must go out for a meal. At the first
restaurant they conduct me to the bar with much noise in there. I flee out.
At the second restaurant I sit and sit and no one seems to be aware of
me, may be it is a self-service - but it does not look so. I go out again.
At the harbour there is a "Fish 'n Chips Take Away": the last chance. I
order a packet but now have to wait for nearly 30 minutes because a crew
of workmen had purchased before. Finally I get my stuff, put it all into
the front bag and return to my "home". "Did you get your meal" I am asked
and answer without any lie "Yes, at the harbour". I then sit in my room
and eat my portion with bare fingers, thoroughly thinking not to spoil
anything. It works.
Chapter 6: North Scotland from Ullapool to John O' Groats
14. Day, Friday: Ullapool - Durness - Loch Eriboll
8.00-18.00, 121 km trp, 15.4 km/h avg, 55.3 km/h max, 1750 km total
This day begins with fun for I may push up the steep ramp once more. But fresh in the morning, motivated for the day, this is no problem. Instead of that a little observation: The milkman puts his bottles at a gate of a nearby property. And a small dog is waiting there and then happily barking runs to his home to announce that the milk has come in.
Especially interesting on this morning is the question, how long I yesterday had to ride to find an accomodation. The answer: just as far as from Ardmair back to Ullapool. "B&B, Evening Meal available" is to be read there. I now got another problem: the derailleurs will not work correctly. So I shorten the cables for some amount and now it works again. For some miles... then a clicking noise in the left switch and the cable of the front derailleur is broken. This is not too bad, for I still can ride uphill with the small blade. At downhill or plane sections I only can play the "High Speed Pedailleur" or better stop pedalling. Of course you never reach the average speed like before.
At a telephone box I find a piece of newspaper "Inverness News" or so. There is a story of an accident which happened at "Strathy Point, near the Lighthouse" . I will come along there so I'm interested what is written. A woman has walked with her dog near the cliffs. The dog then fell down and sat helpless on a small platform. The woman tried to save the dog, fell down the cliff herself and died. When the coast guard saved the corpse they saved the dog as well - it was unhurt.
So let us turn to the landscape again. The hills, mountains, highlands and coastal regions always have their own character. It's good that I am unable to describe everything, so the reader keeps motivated to go there himself.
From the roadmap we await the village Ledmore where three roads meet. There are three houses as well. Then up to a pass and down again to Loch Assynt. At a small island there is the ruin of a castle named Ardvreck Castle. The same question as yesterday: what did they do in former times at this lonesome area? We should better study some history or watch the movie "Braveheart".
At next (after some hills) we pass a narrow bridge at Loch a' Chairn Bhain and some time later (after some hills) a high bridge named Laxford Bridge. In former time here was a ferry. An older couple gets chairs and picknic stuff out of their car and I prefer to head on. Some time later I stop for a photo at a cattlegrid where I see a heavily loaded biker approaching from the horizon. The rolling hotel turns out to belong to a woman from Suisse, who had come by flight from Zürich to Glasgow, went by train north to Thurso and visited the Orkney Islands. Now she goes back to Ullapool to get the connection of the civilized world. We agree in the beauty of Scotland and she says it's her favourite country. "Sometimes I think, when I once have to die I can be so happy to have seen all these beauties" she says.
So we part in opposite directions. This is the A838 now leading to the last section at the northern coast of Scotland. We climb up to 180 m height again and have the highlands pure. At some places they dig for peat (Torf) and put it on heaps to dry. At last there is a sign: "Blind Summit" - so be careful to go up there. For there is something behind - and this is the first sight to the sea at the northern shores of Scotland. And don't forget that you have started at Land's End. For now this is the moment when you have crossed the country. Why to go to John O' Groats? We will see...
Now the English speaking folks declare at such a moment: "I did it". May be I behave somewhat ridiculous because during the downhill I shout out: "I did it I did it I did it!!!". So we reach the Balnakeil Bay. Nearby there is the Cape Wrath as the outer north west tip of the country. But I reach Durness to end for today. But as I told before, I would prefer to continue again, though there is no proper village ahead and we have 5 pm already. I decide to go on and don't know why. There is the Loch Eriboll and the road leads all around this deep cut of the coast. I can calculate to reach the next place for an accomodation around 10 pm, and this would be Tongue. But the weather is dry and warm, if necessary I could spend the night from 11 pm to 4 am in the shelter of a bush.
Remark: Now I must insert a seperate chapter, for somethin unexpected occurs. And remember: I completed it at this very evening - the coast to coast from south to north.
The evening at Loch Eriboll
OK, I run out of Durness and see cliffs similar to those at Cornwall. So this is not the destination of all, it was the tour itself to represent the goal. Up and down again towards Loch Eriboll, at the other side of the Loch you can observe the same road leading up the hills to the east. It's about 1 mile from here, but to get there you have to ride about 15 miles all around the Loch. The next named place at the road map is Laid and there are three houses (as usual). And a sign: B&B, Evening Meal available. I stop and decide not to leave this place whatever happens (like at Dumfries after the rain).
We find a new built house, the door is open and a young man comes along to offer some rooms and of course we choose the room with the view to the Loch. This is not so important, the main thing is: I have reached the north after all and can await a reflective evening to think it all over. In front of the house there is one of these fire red telephone boxes again - may be this is the most beautiful on earth?
I prepare for a shower bath but cannot find the right pipe connection, so the bath tub does it's purpose. But this is not so important. My host - the young man with an elegant stomache - looks like a favourable animator or diving guy as known from touristic places at other sites of the world than Northern Scotland. We discuss the evening meal and I get a huge tomato soup and a Beefsteak - great. Then he suggests that I should go down to the shore, it all belongs to his own land. Down there lies his ship, but unfortunately "without engine". This turns out to be a former ferry boat.
And now I sit on a rock at the shore, watch the bubbling waves, the colours from the sunset, enjoy the silence. What's about this tour, is it a dream or reality. May be I got wet eyes once more? So due to some mosquitoes I retire after a while.
The name of my host is Hugh. His mother once was a teacher. And his grandmother was a source of local tales and stories. So they managed to write a book about this and the title is:
DOWN MEMORY LANE
By Catherine Mac Kay
Folklore Tales and Reminiscenses
of the West Side of Loch Eriboll
between Rispond and Faolimn
I take the book with me, lay on my bed and don't stop reading for the rest of the evening. They tell of former times, when in the year 1841 the mighty Landlords forced the inhabitants to settle at other places, for they wanted to use the land for sheep farming. This period was called "Clearances". And the poor people have cultivated their new lands, cleared it from the heather to grow potatoes and vegetables. Once there were 40 children at the shool, today we have 10 persons remainig.
So at those times there was real life, salesmen were riding around with horses or donkeys or carrying their products on their backside. Original persons are discussed and set a monument by this book. There were emigrants as that one who went to Australia, and came back with a big nugget of gold but never got rid of the ghost of a robber whom he once had to kill. There was a music player at Fresgill House who lost his bride at his youth, he himself got old, but after he died himself the music was to be heard over years at Fresgill House. And so on and so on...
May I tell the fate of Hugh? He once was a seaman, got a wife and children but now after divorce lives alone with the children up here. And he loves his home and country. In the morning I ask Hugh to write his address into my papers. This is:
Hugh Mac Lellan,
Rowan House, 90 Laid Sutherland.
In the evening before I wrote at the same sheet: "The best evening of the tour". May be, Hugh read it and was pleased about this. So if you come along at Loch Eriboll: have a visit at this place.
15. Day, Saturday: Loch Eriboll - Tongue - Thurso
8.30-18.30, 105 km trp, 12.6 km/h avg, 51.8 km/h max, 1855 km total
The last stage is waiting and the last full day to ride. I am eager to ride along the northern coast of Scotland from the west to the east for one can be sure by nearly 100 % to have a tailwind. I say farewell to Hugh and then start to surround the Loch. To the southern end I am going into the wind but on the way back I'm be blown up the hills. Finally a nice view to the small Island Eilean Choraidh and Rowan House at the other side - and now say farewell to Loch Eriboll.
And this is a steep hill. Up there I see a couple living in a tent and they shout some cheering words. Then a man comes out of his car, a can of beer in his hand, crosses the road towards me and says "This is for you because you climbed up the hill". I am dumbstruck, but then remember that "I did it" and answer "It's not for this hill, let it be for the whole country". But he is not impressed, may be he doesn't believe in it. So I had to wait two weeks to have this pleasant experience.
Now I ride down to Hope at sea level again. And now I recognize that my calculation concerning the fine tailwind was wrong. We have a rough and strong wind from south east! Today I have to pay for the luck until now. But don't think, that I am angry about that - it would have been unthankful. But so I have one of the hardest days at all. And this is not only caused by the wind, but the road turns to lead up the highlands and down to sealevel for several times. It's awful to look from above to the winding road at the other side of the next valley.
At the coast there are nice views to the cliffs and the sands. We cross a bridge and reach the village Tongue and past the next "highland tour" we reach Bettyhill. Up at the height I once hear a loud rattling noise and look for an aeroplane. But this noise comes from a pin wheel which hastily turns around aside of a water reservoir. So you can imagine the strength of the wind today. Another time a flock of grey goose inclusive their tumbling brood cross the road. All drivers are very careful. At another high point I see the lighthouse of Strathy Point where this accident occured some days before. Ahead I see big buildings of an industrial site and think they belong to my destination Thurso already. But I am wrong, it's the "Dounreay Nuclear Power Development Establishment" (I got a comment on this institution). I prefer to turn to the cows at the meadows again.
Now at last there are no more hills. But the road leads on and on straight ahead into the wind and will never end. Everything ends within a finite space, so finally I hit the sign "Welcome to Thurso" and this is worth of a photo. Though the colors of Thurso seem to be grey and grey again I like it, for it is the last town in the north. I ask some passengers in the following order: "Is there a Chinese Restaurant, where is the railway station, where will I find B&B?". Everything is available within some 100 mtrs. My hosts are Jean and Bill Brown, 26 Sinclair Street. I book for two nights. Bill says to me "You are the first German cyclist doing end-to-end who comes here. We always had crazy Englishmen". So from now on I am the "German cyclist".
Some time later I go out and imagine they just hold a backpiper's parade to my honor. The players wear fur bonnets and kilts as it should be. But at first I must phone at home to announce my happy arrival. On the way back to the parade I have an excellent idea: I could transfer the Scottish sounds and music from a telephone box nearby to my wife. I spend another coin and just at the moment I got the connection the players stop and pack the instruments into their containers.
Not to say where I end today.
16. Day, Sunday: Thurso - John O' Groats - Dunnet Head - Thurso
8.45-15.30, 80 km trp, 14.6 km/h avg, 40.0 km/h max, 1935 km total
What I have to do today is nonsense, but I must do it, for everyone does it, to say "I did it". And this is to go out to the official end point of the End-to-End at John O' Groats. They say, out there is nothing to be seen - this is true. On the other hand I saw a lot this day and will not miss it.
The wind is the same like yesterday. This means: go out hard and return easy - you will know this is a fundamental law for one-day-trips. Today the weather is grey, you do hard to recognize the Orkneys contrary to yesterday. Once the sun is shining and I take a photo of Dunnet Head with yellow broom flowers in the foreground. Something to laugh about: at a meadow a small bird sits on the back of a sheep, may be he tries to warm up his feet. And in the ditch of an old mill I find the secret yelow red-spotted flower I met near the Lake District hundreds of miles ago.
Behind the village Gills there is a sign explaining the geographical conditions, culture and former life at the Island of Stroma. From this place you can watch the waves foaming up the cliffs over there. Today no people live at the island, once there were more than 300. At the era of sailing an additional income was earned by pulling the vessels through the sound for there are dangerous tidal currents up to a speed of 10 knots.
While reading these informations three alert cyclists pass by, I follow and meet them at John O' Groats - yes, I am there now! I have come in and the three just go out for Land's End. I don't want to change now. So we make photos - you will see the one and only photo of the "winner". For there is not much to be seen - as stated before - I give you the information I've read about: the name of this place has come from a certain Jan de Groot, who had a ferry at this spot during the 15 th century.
I say farewell to the three bikers and give the address of my (unwritten) tour report: "You must write it in English" they say - well this is done now, I hope it is readable. May be we hear about each other one day... So they go ahead for the whole British Island while I only have to go back to Thurso with tailwind now. This would be too easy so I enter a tiny road at the coast and cliffs and then let the wind blow me up to Dunnet Head. Everyone knows that this is the northern tip of Britain and this would be a more honorable end of the tour than J.O'G. As well Land's End is not the most southern point due to Lizard Point at the other side.
Now look around at Dunnet Head. There are wide slopes of brown heather, some orchids aside the road and the lighthouse at the top. There is an information sign again and you can read, that the storms and waves are able to throw stones up here to the height of 105 m, which are able to break the window's glass of the lighthouse. I now have the opportunity to get known to the uncomfortable Scotland for it starts raining. I do not care - it's my last day. Down Dunnet Head I have the last and nice meeting with a Highland Bull, which I had looked for all over Scotland and found none for a photo.
I go back in the rain on the road known from before and - laughter - the small bird still - or again - sits on the back of the sheep. As I return I hear "You must be soaked wet!" from my host and this is true. Change of clothes and dry the wet ones on the heated towel-rail, no problem.
But the discussion with my host how to get back to England and finally Germany is embarassing. At first I must enter the train at 6.30 next morning. "But if the conductor doesn't want you with your bike, you better come back!" they say. I feel curious. It is usual to book a bike in advance but this is not possible here because we have Sunday and the railway station is a big building site without any office now. Then they say I should get rid of my Scottish money before I return to England. What's that, yesterday I proudly got 100 L from the Royal Bank of Scotland. My hosts can change the pound notes into those with the Queen on it as it should be.
So for the end let us meet at the Chinese Restaurant, have a nice meal and think it all over once again.
Chapter 7: The Way back Home
1. Day Monday: Thurso - Inverness - Edinburgh - Newcastle by Train
A progressive traveller nowadays is an expert in planning, booking, reservations, phone calls, fax and mails. I did none of these preparations. The only thing I know is, that a ship of the Scandinavian Seaways leaves Newcastle towards Hamburg on every Tuesday - and this information will later turn out to be wrong. And I know to take the train from Thurso to Inverness at 6.30 am.
As usual I awake early enough to control the alarm clock: it works correctly! This time I finally can use the room-in coffee service and boil some water for Nescafe. The lunch packet hangs at the door, so things can start. With the pouring rain I stroll to the railway station. Another 4 bikers arrive, they all have booked the bike transfer in advance. At least I do not own a ticket until now.
But when the train arrives, I am the first inside the luggage van, but no fear - there is place enough. I take a seat in the next coach. After some time the conductor comes by, sits down and handles a huge grey box, puts the Visa Card into it, types in the route and the ominous box puts out the ticket, the bill and the Visa Card. Finally I remember, that I have forgotten to mention the bike, but now it's too late - and I can anticipate: the bike finally will arrive cost-free at Newcastle.
Now let us have a look out of the window to the rainy landscape. The railway leads zigzagging through North Scotland. It leads high up into the mountains, I have read there is the highest railway point of Britain at some place. And so on - unfortunately during a rail trip we never have the occasion to sit down at a scenic place and think about it. My personal opinion is, that the Western Coast of Scotland may be more beautiful.
At the seats beside there are two German backpackers. They are busy all the time, they must have had a heavy rain last night, for they now wipe their tent and other things by paper towels from the toilet. They look like a hurt animal licking it's wounds... Meanwhile we have a coductress (a she) and she says: "They build up their tent here". She has another problem. Some seats from my place there sits a fair young man looking like Richard Gere. So the conductress comes by from time to time, looks busy first as if she had much to do but finally she always ends with a chat to the young man.
At Inverness we have to change to the train to Edinburgh. At the railwaystation I ask a clerk for the location of the bike-coach at the train. "Do you have a bike reservation?" he asks. "Yes Sir." I answer. "So you go up there". And I go up there to the luggage-van. So no problem to get to Edinburgh. From Edinburgh there is a train to London-Kingscross every half an hour. "If you want to go to Newcastle, you have to leave the train earlier" the conductor explains to me. I better laugh now may be this was a joke. It was.
Another event now happens as the drink and snack coach comes along. A gentleman at the opposite wants to buy a drink and the attendant rumours in his boxes. A short bang - and the gentleman at the opposite is forced to look for the toilet with dripping hands and spotted clothes. A can of Cola was exploded. "I never had that" says the attendant.
Eventually I arrive at Newcastle, the tourist office is just aside the platforms. Where can I buy a ticket for the ship to Hamburg? They recommend a travel agency named Thomas Cook nearby. I get a city map and a list of accomodation sites. Now at first I have to go to the Thomas Cook office. A younger girl - signed as an apprentice - starts to manage the operation. It is not easy, she sometimes has to ask some collegues. At first they find out, that there is no ship the next day (Tuesday). But there is one at Wednesday. OK, then I have to stay one free day at Newcastle, may be this is not as bad as other things in the world. So my apprentice continues to phone to the Scandinavian Seaways Company, book the reservation, check the passport, purchase the price from the visa card, write out a receipt and so on and so on. She finally gets rosy cheeks. As I leave the bureau with my ticket and some money less on my bank account I say to her "This was a good lesson to you" and say farewell.
Now we have to find an accomodation. And - sorry - I'm struck with luck again. As I stroll along the Jesmond Road near the University area I find a house named Herron's Hotel and in vain look at my accomodation list for the price. But soon the door opens and a guy harshly says: "I don't want you here with your bike!" and he laughs. So I say "You should know that this bike has crossed the whole country" - two minutes later I sit in the laundry with Dave at a cup of coffee. We have a longer discussion about political or European topics. But finally Dave tends to end with a tale of Malta or something concerning money or what's the price for a flight to Malta.
So I get my room for two nights for a reasonable price of 21 L per night. I find no accomodation being as cheap in my list. And the Herron's Hotel, 40 Jesmond Road lies very near to the center of Newcastle.
My walk around has a single purpose - you guess it? I tell you the right address: "Charlie's Chinese Buffet" where you can eat as much as you want. At the shop's window there is a copy of a recent article about this restaurant in the Newspaper. So I'm soon fed up and now have time for a look around.
I use my city map and compare it to the signs of the street. Just then a beautiful Asian girl asks me "Are you lost?". And what a fool I am, "No, it's OK" I say instead of "Oh yeah, can you show me some nice places here?". So I must do it alone.
Of course the greatest view is down at the river Tyne the "Bridge Panorama". There are six bridges one after the other, the greatest - the green one - is said to be a prototype of a bridge at Sydney. The smallest bridge is an old swing bridge. Then we have a bridge for the Metro, one for the railway and two other road bridges. So there will be a good communication between the two shores of the river Tyne at Newcastle.
Downtown at the streets there is a kind of rush hour by strolling youngsters, the girls in spite of the chill half naked. OK, I don't care, it's a nice view (mostly). They all eventually vanish into pubs, bars or discos. I go back to my hotel and plan for the next day. And I find something better than to go shopping or visit museums.
Tuesday/Wednesday: Tynemouth, Whitley Bay, Earsdon, Back Home
63/33 km trp, 2031 km total
So this day something unusual happens: we can go out by bike but without luggage and without a certain destination. But there is one destination: to find out the route to the harbour where the ship will go off the next day. At the travel agency they told me, there is no proper bike road, it would be the best to take the Met. At the Met they tell you: "Bicycle and other bulky goods are not allowed". So one could take the bus from the railway station? But this is an old fashioned red double decker. You can get a taxi? Yes, but that costs...
So I find out the "Hadrians"s Way" just along the shore of the river Tyne. The name "Hadrian" is very popular at this site and of course everyone knows about the Hadrian's Wall, which starts (or ends?) here and leads all across the country over to Carlisle (an early coast-to-coast approach). The Hadrian's Wall was built in order of the Roman imperator Hadrian about AD 150 to seperate the Roman empire from the Barbarians. Prove this to be true by the Website. Once I see the rests of Roman walls and make a photo.
We approach Tynemouth and I meet groups of cyclists who come off the ship from Amsterdam this morning. They start for their journey and I can tell of mine. I finally find my way to the Pier for tomorrow, the place is named North Shields. Out of Tynemouth we reach the coast (C2C sign everywhere). There is a former fortress. As I ride up a short hill at last the right cable of the gear change breaks. I don't care about that today, things have been settled.
And there is Whitley Bay, a beautiful site at the coast. As a jewel they have built up a lighthouse at St. Mary's Island. For there are lots of vehicles, busses, and tourists you will believe that this is a nice place? So I concentrate to a memorial stone named Curry's Point. People are looking at me, what is he doing there? Well I write down the inscription and quote it now:
On 46 th Sept. 1739 Michael Curry was executed for the murder of
the landlord of the Three Horseshoes Inn, Hartley.
His body was afterwards hung in chains from a gibbet at this spot, within sight of his crime.
Ever since that gruesome event this headland has been known as Curry's Point.
(Easy work for me for this time for there is nothing to translate...) Now we continue on a narrow track near the cliffs. At the north towards Blyth we see industrial areas, so we turn left inland at Seaton Sluice. And the next sensation just aside the road: a big castle named Delaval Hall. Visits are possible but just not today. Instead of that behind the castle I find an old chapel built 1102(!) named Church of our Lady. As usual I study some gravestones around and soon must go back to the bike to get the pen and paper and for another time quote a funny(!) wisdom of a thoroughful husband to his remaining wife:
Farewell my wife and children dear,
I am not dead but sleeping here,
prepare for death for die you must,
and with your husband sleep in the dust.
1921 aged 77 Thomas,
1928 aged 79 Margaret Ann Trewick.
Then I enter the village Earsdon and discover the next attraction. There is a "Countryside Trail" to demonstrate the relicts from the former coal mining, the biggest of all the spoile pile one mile ahead. At this place there is the church with the graveyard and big monument inside. The cause for this monument is declared (quoted again):
In 1862 204 miners lost their lifes at Hartley colliery in a way which haunts the imagination like a nightmare - by burial alive.
At the monument itself something is written about an "Broken Engine
Beam". I argue about the cause for this accident and can find no solution.
(If anyone reading this knows more about this I would greatly appreciate
Try: Heartley Families or Coal Miningor The Burdens of Coal
So when I read all the names of the victims, mostly 20-30 years old, I turn to be meditative about the harm caused by the accident.
As I continue I meet a Dutch couple of cyclists. They have a nice booklet of a documented tour on side roads. All over my tour it was impossible to get such information, and now a stroke to the CTC Cycling Touring Club: I sent an enquiry before the tour but never got an answer. OK - it all went out well and - back at Newcastle - in the evening tonight we meet at Charly's Buffet once again. And I promise, I will not have a Chinese meal for the next few months.
At the next morning the last stage begins. It's time to enter the ship until 3 pm. I say farewell to Dave and ride down to the bridges. I choose the oldest, the swing bridge to cross the river Tyne. At this shore there are several paths named "Keelman's Way" or "C2C" or "River Don Cycle Way". This River is a muddy streamlet however. Once I reach a bridge and some workers there are pleased to have a chat. "This is a bridge to nowhere" they state. This is because this bridge is very old and is just restored as a heritage. But there is no way at the other side, a fence only, so it leads to "nowhere". Nearby ahead there is an ordinary road bridge.
If one wants to change the Tyne river side at this area there is a tunnel accessible not only for motorized vehicles but for cyclists and pedestrians as well. But I got time enough to visit the town South Shields. There is a monument again, this time in honor of the first rescue activities. In the year 1789 there sank the brig Adventure and 8 sailors drowned. The folks stood at the shore but no one could help. So two men got the responsibility from that event and two years later the first rescue boat of the world was named "Tyne". (We heard similar stories at our German islands Amrum or Borkum...)
After I have strolled around for a while at the shopping center and the market place of South Shields I enter the ferry boat named "Earl of Zetland". So you reach North Shields, and just there the ship "Princess of Scandinavia" goes off for Hamburg in the afternoon. On board in the evening with the sunset I see the coast of England fading away at the horizon and say farewell to a journey.