Friday, 26 June 2015


Imagine you are cycling on little lanes almost devoid of cars.  Down below, the sea sweeps into rocky inlets while, up above, a line of mountain peaks are jagged against the skyline.  Tiny rivers rush down the hillsides and spill out through a landscape that’s so unspoilt it is hard to believe this is the 21st century.  Sometimes the sun shines but this quickly changes to showers while, if you are up high, clouds surround you.  Then a watery sun reappears. 

Imagine your heart as it raises a beat while you tackle a short steep climb that then turns into an adrenalin rush as you drop downhill again.  During this time, all you can hear are the sounds of your tyres, the air around you, birds singing and the frequent rush of water. 

This is the Beara Cycle Way in a little known corner of south west Ireland.  I tackled 80 miles of this lovely route in the last few days.  Castletownbere is an excellent centre to base yourself and it is best to allow lots of time to go exploring with your bike.  These are a few images:
Start and Finish: MacCarthy's Bar, Castletownbere
Castletownbere is a fishing port
Cycling the coastline
Discovering links with Cornwall, a 19th century copper mine engine house
Healy Pass, a 300m climb into cloud.  It disappeared on the other side
Typical coastal view
These are a couple of local scenes beside the cycle route that I liked
The link to find out more of this route is here.  I purchased locally the Ordnance Survey map that shows all the lanes.  One of the many things I especially liked was to drop down to small quays, still home to fishermen but now those using rods instead of boats.

Thursday, 11 June 2015


This was our journey plan, thanks to Dagmar's excellent device

These are some vital statistics:

> We succeeded in visiting every country in the British Isles
> Distance: 788 miles
> Punctures: None
> Repairs: None
> Best scenic day: Sligo - Donegal (The North West Trail)
> Most memorable stop: Horseleap with 1916 tandem bicycle
> Best day viewing wildlife: Isle of Arran
> Best town/city: Londonderry
> Any bad moments? Arrival in Ballemena with heavy traffic, heavy rain and no cycle routes
> Favourite overnight stop: The Whitehall Inn, Llandovery
> Route planning in England, Scotland and Wales? We used the National Cycle network mostly
> Route planning in Ireland? We used Dagmar's excellent cycle route app with Ireland map
> Quality of cycle routes? These were definately very good but occasionally had to use main road

Saturday, 6 June 2015


To the couple from New Zealand who I met on the train home and about to embark on a 6 week cycle tour from Lands End to John O' Groats, I wish you welcome to the Great British Isles and have an amazing journey. You must make your ride slow and include plenty of time for cream teas. To Dagmar, who is great cycling companion, I hope you arrive home ok. Did you say you went to the wrong airport in London?

To Glasgow on our final day in Scotland, what a welcome you gave us! You really are the Friendly City. If you say people make Glasgow, I completely agree
We arrived at Central Station at 1pm and we were told the best place to leave our bikes and panniers would be Queen Street Station, just 5 minutes away. We must have looked lost as we set off because, not one, but four people, came up to us to give directions with one saying "Follow me, I am going there but you must be quick as I have a train to catch". Another said that we should cycle, not walk, in the pedestrian area.
What a friendly welcome, especially from this girl who allowed us to take her photograph. We had half a day to walk around before we caught the Caledonian sleeper train to London.
Glasgow was life itself. I was ever so amazed. The pedestrianised city centre was full of people and we could hear bagpipes playing. The shops were a mixture of the old and new but never have I seen a city looking so vibrant. All the big chains were there but it was not hard to find proper Scottish shops. Dagmar had haggis, neaps and tatties for lunch while I had fish chowder. We both had steaks in the evening washed down by Caledonian ales.
Three ladies, obviously having a great night out, involved us in their happiness. We asked about our Scottish food and, so long as our steaks were Aberdeen Angus, they said we had done well. They then took some selfies of the five of us.
Earlier we had walked through the city centre and alongside the River Clyde. The sun was warm on our backs and we find lots of cyclists. This city is also cycle friendly. Our walk took us to the People's Palace. This museum told us briefly of Glasgow's history including its ever so recent tough times. It also had a splendid display of tropical plants and excellent coffee shop. There was simply not enough time to see other than a small sample of the city. These are a few images that I enjoyed:

I have now seen a second city on this journey that I knew nothing about, the first being Derry, and I have been ever so amazed. If this is what slow bike rides do, this will be the first of many more. Dagmar is now home in southern Germany and, maybe, we will do another slow bike ride together.
All the time "Badger" has been with us and never complained. "Badger" is Devon Wildlife Trust mascot who has been with us since our first journey in 2010 around the coastline of the North Sea. "Badger" seems most fitting this year as it is 30 Days Wild here in the UK. Dagmar's story is on her blog (don't forget to press your T key unless you speak German)

Thursday, 4 June 2015


It is 56 miles to cycle the coastline of Arran and today this was our ride. We were not alone and there were large numbers of cyclists doing the very same thing. It included 1,020 metres of climbing.
I did not realise until later that Dagmar was in a moody.
I peddled on oblivious to this and discovered that the south end of the island felt remote while most of the hills were at the north. The roads were bumpy in places but we encountered few motorists.
This ride was however not to be rushed. Despite light rain at the start, the weather cleared and it was exactly a route for a slow bike ride.
What I found special was wildlife spotting. This was mostly on the west coast and I lost count of all the different things. There were two hares in a field, cuckoos in three places, a gannet diving, fish leaping, a stag sitting quietly as we cycled by and so many birds. Apart from a few motorists, all we could hear were birds singing, the movement of air around us and the splash of water. There were wild flowers and trees everywhere we looked. In the evening, we heard what we believe was a nightingale.  These are a few images

This for me is what cycle touring is all about. It is experiencing the world around you whether they are the mountains, our wild places or the sea as they approach you slowly. There is time to stop and enjoy these moments. Hopefully others do the same. Please read this link from Devon Wildlife Trust . Tomorrow we leave for Glasgow and then home

Wednesday, 3 June 2015


Dagmar and I had an argument this morning. "I want to put on my shades" she said. "Oh, please don't do that" I cried "It brought us bad luck last time you did that. Do you remember the ferry that was cancelled and now we are heading for another ferry. I know it is sunny but anything can happen."
We had earlier decided to go to the Isle of Arran, reputedly Scotland in miniature. We set off from Troon to Ardossan, 17 miles away for the next ferry.
NCN7 and 73 from Troon is an excellent example of cycle route design as, although it wobbled about a bit, it was carefully chosen to be mostly traffic free and through delightful wildlife areas in an otherwise urban landscape. Dagmar placated me with an early stop for a cream tea at Irvine
Here we met 2 Dutch cyclists, Peter and Wem on their own tour of south west Scotland and we convinced them to have cream teas as well. Together with the cafe owners, we talked cream teas for a while. Here are our new Dutch friends on the ferry
We have decided to spend two nights on Arran staying in Brodick, the island's main town. After lunch, we cycled from Brodick to Lochranza and back on the north east coast and noticed that it is signed NCN73. Dagmar's shades had not brought us bad luck and, on the contrary, the sun was shining.
Now it is confession time. I thought that the best cycling was over at Donegal and thought this journey would become less interesting. How wrong I was. Everything continues to be just as good. This afternoon it was just sublime as we peddled alongside the seashore and up into the hills. The sea was calm, water clear, hills bathed in sunshine and no dogs.
Tomorrow we are going to cycle around the whole coast of the island. The forecast is cloudy with wind from the south. Today we cycled 47 miles.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015


Yesterday's storms cleared today to give us a bright sunny morning with a strong westerly wind. Larne was our final destination in Ireland and to get there involved cycling on NCN97 across the Antrim Hills to Glenarm where we joined NCN93 on the coast road to Larne. Sometimes cyclists can be lucky with the wind and today it blew from behind so our climb into the Antrim Hills was made easy. I did not find Ballymena a joyful place as it seemed to be full of busy roads and car parks. However after 3 miles we turned off and found a very different landscape. Here are some images on route to Glenarm

Glenarm is on the coast and here our route to Larne carried us alongside the sea offering us a much different image. These are some pictures

I liked this derelict watermill
Tonight we are at Troon in Scotland. We are staying in an old coaching inn reputed to date back to 1812 and drinking pints of Belhaven Best. It is the Anchorage and is a fun place to be. 
Our distance cycled today was 32 miles and we had a ferry journey of 2.5 hours

Monday, 1 June 2015


When the weather is bad, cycle tourists adapt. Today in Derry, the wind howled. We decided to use the excellent cycle routes this morning and head off to find out more of this little city.
Here is an excellent cafe, ideal for cyclists
This is a bicycle
Here is the cafe behind the bicycle
This is an art shop depicting some recent history
We spent 2 hours this morning at the Tower Museum. This proved to be an fascinating display showing Derry's long history going back over a 1,000 years.
Despite really aweful weather, I just had to take an image of the excellent developing cycling infrastructure here (sorry for the rain drops)
I am glad that Dagmar and I had the opportunity to see a little more of Derry than time previously permitted. It appears to be a vibrant city and maybe it should feature on every cycle touring itinerary to Ireland? It also has trains that carry lots of bikes so you could start your tour of the North West Trail from here. The Trail is just a few miles down NCN92 with easy access from the train station.
Our revised plan because of cancellation of ferry sailings from Ballycastle is to take the P+O ferry from Larne to Troon. We caught the train to Ballymena for an overnight stop but our 2 mile ride on level pavement was made at just 4mph because of the strength of the wind. It is 30 miles on NCN97 from Ballymena to Larne, enough time for tomorrow's 4pm sailing. The only problem is that P+O has cancelled its sailings for the last two days.
Our train was really comfortable and modern with spaces for many bikes but our arrival at Ballymena brought us to a cyclist's complete nightmare. Not only was the wind howling but we were in a downpour. This was not all as there were no cycle paths and the narrow road was completely full with traffic. We gritted our teeth and set forth litterally into a gale. Fortunately our hotel was only 1 mile away and the receptionist smiled at two very wet cyclist.
We only cycled 7 miles today