Monday, 15 January 2018

MY NEXT TOUR: ON THE EDGE, A BIKE JOURNEY AROUND IRELAND

I am planning a mini adventure and it starts in April. It will be over 2,000 miles around the coastline of Ireland.  I want to experience Ireland's wild coastline from the Irish Sea to the Wild Atlantic Way and the Antrim Coast. This will be my biggest journey for 8 years. 

On The Edge of Ireland: My Coastal Route Plan
I have cycled in Ireland several times and I have been drawn back to do the big tour. It has a magical quality with stunning cliffs, beautiful beaches, not to mention a warm Irish hospitality. Whether it is black pudding from Clonakilty, locally caught sea food, Guinness or cider, there is much to look forward to.

I will be recording my journey on these pages showing my daily mileages and hills climbed using what I hope are some new skills from a sports watch. 

My journey plan is to cycle 50 miles a day average.  I will do some blog posts beforehand to show my training.

Here's to Old Kinsale Head, Dingle, Achill Island and revisiting some of the North West Cycle Trail

Saturday, 16 December 2017

2017 IN 60 SECONDS

My favourite journey in 2017 was cycling the Radnor Ring which is a circular route through the mountains in mid Wales
I enjoyed the remoteness and spectacular scenery.
Wales is a great place for the touring cyclist and in the evenings, I often find myself talking about farming, rugby and red kites.
I have also been to South West Ireland. This has superb coastal rides and there is still much to see of old Ireland. Castletownbere is an excellent centre where there is a thriving fishing industry and heroic lifeboat crews. There is also MacArthy's Bar where you can buy a tin of beans, a pint of Guinness and hear stories about Dr Aiden MacArthy, a true hero of the Second World War
My favourite place in Ireland is Westport in Co Mayo.  There is a ride passing Croagh Patrick to Mweelrea where the scenery is unbelievably beautiful.
After a day's bike ride from Westport, there is sometimes Irish Dancing to watch in its Theatre in the evening, always a joy for me.
Nearer home, I cycled the length of Cornwall meeting many visitors from Europe and a group from Australia.
My favourite ride locally is the Devon C2C from Plymouth to Ilfracombe but I usually stop at Barnstaple and catch the train home

Dartmoor with Burrator Lake and Sheepstor in the Background
 

Sunday, 3 September 2017

A CYCLE TOUR EXPLORING CORNWALL




Cornwall is surrounded on three sides by the sea and is almost cut off from Devon by the River Tamar which runs from its source close to Bude to discharge into the sea at Plymouth. It is a land of rugged beauty with a coastline of dramatic cliffs and spectacular beaches. On the north coast the seas roar in and surfers are challenged by the waves. The south can fool you by looking more gentle but there are plenty of shipwrecks that say otherwise.
Inland much of it is shaped by man from its history of tin, copper and china clay. Nature has a habit of taking back when man departs and no more is this so than here in Cornwall as in the image below. Elsewhere there are wide open moors, rivers that rush to the sea and just occasionally some serene vistas of gentle rolling farmland

My tour last week with my friend, Jaana from Finland discovered much of this landscape on our bikes.  We followed the National Cycle Network from Lamorna Wink near Penzance to Bude and on over Devon's border to Barnstaple.  The main cycle routes are NCN3 and 32 but using Sustrans maps there are several recommended routes that open up the county quite well.  The NCN avoids busy main roads and we met many out on their bikes including a group of tourers from Australia. Perhaps the most enthusiastic was Vincent from Utrect who we met in Bude. He was on a 1,500km journey around Normandy, Brittany, Cornwall and Devon


This is our experience including from previous trips. Cornwall can be busy during the holiday periods so some care is needed in towns and we found Truro required extra vigilance. We found the NCN to be well signed. Route difficulty rating is moderate but challenging in places and expect to encounter at least one 30% hill. There are plenty of places on route for coffee including some specialist bike cafes



There are sufficient rail connections throughout the county with GWR who I find to be quite helpful. For the NCN in Cornwall, this is the link to buy maps.  My tour including in Devon was 235 miles. This is another link for cycling in Cornwall

These are Cornish food and drink that delighted my palate: fish from Newlyn, cream teas, pasties, tea, cider and beer. 
AND FINALLY the ride was not without its oddities and problems





Sunday, 23 July 2017

SAY IT WITH FLOWERS

Periodically I visit Usk in Monmouthshire and I am always pleasantly surprised how many people I see out on their bikes. This is probably not surprising because it is near the start of the legendary Lon Las Cymru cycle route and at the same time has an interesting east-west route too. They are NCN's 42 and 423.

Local people in 2017 with its Festival of Flowers decided to make cycling its theme and I was encouraged to see that people of all ages took part. Participants ranged from school children to shop window displays, pub bikes, fishermen's bikes and the police.  Here are a few piccies for you to decide:





This unusual community should be applauded with its creative approach to involving everyone and, who knows, it creates greater awareness and perhaps a few more people will be tempted to ride?  Here is a link to the Usk area

Sunday, 18 June 2017

BEARA WAY CYCLE ROUTE, SW IRELAND



The Beara Peninsula is in the far south west of Ireland. It is an area of wild beauty surrounded on three sides by the sea with the Slieve Miskish Mountains as its core. It is thought to be the warmest and most romantic part of Ireland. Among the things you should know are that the Mare's Tail is the highest waterfall in Ireland and Berehaven is the second safest natural harbour in the World with 7 miles of safe anchorage. Castletownbere, its main town, is the largest white fish port in Ireland.

The Beara Way Cycle Route is signed and 138km long. For the most part it is on safe quiet roads. The route varies from being flat in places to having challenging hills on others. The north and west coasts in particular have hills around every corner but the rugged coastal scenery make every rotation of the pedals feel worthwhile as if expecting something new each time.

At one moment, I found a hare running in front of me. On another, I could hear the sound of the sea over 1km away yet the only other sound was the lowing of cattle but there was no other noise. Beside the sea, there were gannets diving and I could see shoals of fish in the crystal clear water. 

I have been here twice and on each occasion, there were very few motorists and many coffee stops. The colourful little villages were competing with one another to be the tidiest place and local people always give a welcome asking how are you.

There is more to see on this route as many cyclists come to climb the Healy Pass while there are numerous little side roads that disappear off only to reappear beside a cove with perhaps a jetty or beach.  

For another view of this route, this is a link.  The image above is the Healy Pass and below are a few around the coast:

View from the copper coast:


Eyeries main street:


Castletownbere trawlers:


Cyclist climbing the Healy Pass:


The north coast road with the Kenmare estuary on the right


I stayed in Castletownbere and used this a base for short tours cycling between 25 to 40 miles per trip.

Friday, 9 June 2017

#30 DAYS WILD: THE FIRST WEEK





June is the month that I join Devon Wildlife Trust for 30 Days Wild. This is its third year and it is a month long nature challenge to see if it is possible to do something wild every day. Living in Devon, this is not difficult and I use my bike wherever possible. It has been wild and windy for many of the first few days and here is my diary:

The month started with a bike ride to  Brent Tor 4 miles north of Tavistock accompanied by two friends where we found a church sitting precariously on top of a hill having astonishing views over Dartmoor. It was only possible to walk to it through some beautiful wild flower meadows to reach it. 

Another bike ride followed on Sunday where I was the guide for a 50 mile cycle tour around Dartmoor. I had 14 cyclists with me. The ride started by exploring the beautiful southern foothills then turned sharp left to climb onto the high moors and back again. We discovered ancient woodlands, fast flowing rivers, rugged granite tors and fine open moorland.

Near my home, I found beautiful ragged robin flowers in full bloom, see a fox, discover a recently built nest, watch a mother canada goose and five chicks.

I will continue with my 30 Days Wild tomorrow and hopefully see much more of nature's bounty




Thursday, 11 May 2017

LON LAS CYMRU




Lon Las Cymru is a cycle route 250 miles long that crosses Wales with a choice of starts in the south from either Chepstow or Cardiff to Holyhead in the north. It is a spectacular journey through the Brecon Beacons, Cambrian Mountains and Snowdonia almost entirely on quiet roads.  Along the way, there are inland market towns, coastal towns, mountains and river valleys.  For lovers of wildlife, red kites sore above, woodpeckers hammer away and two of Britain's finest rivers, the Usk and Wye, are met.

The route is challenging but there are some family friendly sections too.  Whichever is chosen the scenery is stunning and wild. I took my touring bike which started life as a cyclo-cross and has puncture proof tyres. Mostly the route is on tarmac but some of the best stretches are on gravel tracks so this choice of bike is recommended. It is possible to use a road bike but not really ideal.

For the best scenery and biggest challenge, the start should be from Chepstow, though on this occasion, I used a third option and started at Newport. This is the link for choice of routes all of which are on the National Cycle Network

I had an easy first day following the Brecon and Monmouth Canal to Brecon where I met NCN8. This route changed to minor roads through Talgath, Builth Wells, Rhayader, Llangurig, Llanidloes and on to Machynlleth.  I met the gravel coach road last seen 4 weeks ago on the Radnor Ring and this time the bluebells were out. On this route the hills start in earnest at Llangurig.  They climb passing Plynlimon, source of the Rivers Wye and Severn, drop down to Staylittle and climb again through the Cambrian Mountains, before a very long and exhilerating descent to Machynlleth.

Lon Las follows NCN8 round the east side of Cadair Idris to Dolgellau with a huge climb and spectacular views of the mountain.  However on this occasion I followed NCN82 the north route that on the map looked even better but much of it is on gravel tracks. Here are a few images:

I was accompanied by my friend Andy and this is the easy canal path near Abergavenny on the first day


A coffee stop beside the River Wye


Cycling through the Cambrian Mountains on route to Machynlleth


Views from NCN82 after Tywyn and the north side of Cadair Idris





Looking back from Barmouth at Cadair Idris.


For another opinion of this route, please check this link
The route is well signed with the NCN. I finished on this occasion at Barmouth and my distance was 170 miles. My overnights stops were at Crickhowell, Newbridge, Macynlleth and Dolgellau.
For train access, Newport and Cardiff are well served with main line trains.  There is a train station at Chepstow but this will probably involve changes. I made my return journey on the Cambrian Coast Railway, a delightfully scenic route where time is not of the essence