Bike packing home from Scotland
by: Ollie Henson
The idea was simple really, a cheap adventure sort of close to home …
So off on the train from Middlesbrough, bike fully packed for a week’s adventure across Scotland and down the Northumberland coast all the way home. It had taken some careful planning to get to this point, having spent probably too many hours reading route descriptions, watching videos to gauge how rideable sections were and careful route planning using various bits of mapping software.
A couple hours later arriving in the pouring rain (not quite what I had envisioned) we arrived at Helensburgh station. Wrapped head to toe in Gore-Tex even though it was lovely and warm we set off to the start of the John Muir way, a trail that goes from Helensburgh to Dunbar.
The first afternoon involved a long gradual climb before lots of rolling hills into a morale sapping headwind and driving rain for several hours, along the shores on loch Lomond and to the outskirts of Glasgow. Where the trail meets the West Highland Way, a long-distance walking route, we were faced by what felt like hundreds of gates and styles to cross. In true adventure style we decided to break this up by eating cold pizza in the pouring rain and honestly one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.
Day two Cumbernauld to Edinburgh, started off with some fast miles down a canal all the way to the kelpies. After many hard-fought miles, the day before it felt like a win to have smashed out some easy distance first thing and in much more pleasant weather. Lunch in the grounds of a castle on the Forth provided some respite before continuing down the river all the way to Edinburgh. Lovely rolling trails and bright sunshine. Even had time to stop for an ice cream or three!!
Day three Edinburgh to Berwick upon tweed. Wonderful smooth tarmac cycle paths out of the city followed by rolling roads along the Northumberland coast. Some of the most scenic roads I have ever ridden on but with some brutal climbs towards the end of the day as we neared the English border. We even managed to surprise some tourists who were taking a picture by the welcome to England sign. Legs were tired after the cheeky climbs up from Eyemouth and into Berwick upon tweed.
Day four Berwick to Newcastle, our biggest day at 137 km. Rolling our way along the scenic Northumberland coast ticking off the castles as we went. A quick spin out to Holy Island for an ice cream and lunch under Bamburgh Castle. The grippy roads and head wind made for a long day in the saddle, finally rolling along the River Tyne around sunset ready to eat everything on the menu in the pub.
Day 5 and the final ride home. A gentle but long climb out of Newcastle which mostly went uphill for about 30km lead us to some of the freshest tarmac you are ever going to find, it was still warm to touch, along the old mine railways taking us all the way back to Stockton. The sight of Roseberry topping felt like we were nearly home even though there were a couple hours still to go.
Finally, home, showered, food on the way and puppy collected from dog sitter we reflected on what was an epic adventure. 465km 4000m + of climbing = two sets of tired but happy legs.