Land's End to John O' Groats

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.

Lamorna Cove
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.

Land's End

Cliffs at 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!

Old Graveyard
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.

Former Tin Mine
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...

St. Ives

Art Decor

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. After checkout 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.

View of the Gral's Castle

Old Post at Tintagel(14. cent.)

Port near Boscastle
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 Town Bude
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.

Church near Exford

A Horse comes from Shopping
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
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