Land's End to John O' Groats

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.

Bridges in Newcastle
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.

St. Mary's Island

Curry's Point

Seaton Delaval Hall

Church of our Lady

(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: Hartley Families or Coal Mining or The Burdens of Coal
any information). 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.

Old Swing Bridge in Newcastle

Bridge to Nowhere

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.

Scandinavian Seaways

Tyne Ferry

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.

Farewell to a Journey

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