Berwick-on-Tweed to Wooler
Start from home in Derby around 10am for travel to Derby station. After 200 yards had the nearest to a crash for the whole week away! Travelling through the park on wet grass I braked without allowing for the weight of the panniers on the rear wheel and nearly went down. Wouldn’t have hurt myself but would have had muddy cycling clothes for the week – which wouldn’t have been nice.
Derby station – ride end point – see you again in 8 days (and my finger – I can’t use the phone camera properly!)
Direct train from Derby to Berwick-on-Tweed including some magnificent scenery along the Northumberland coast. Just under 4 hours train travel time which is pretty quick considering it will take me 8 days to get back home. The train is run by CrossCountry and you need to hang your bike up on a hook in the bike area (room for 2 bikes only). Suggest taking a strap to stop the bike swinging around (I used a bungee). Went through the normal waste of time (both mine and that of the station admin people) of having to book multiple split tickets in order to get the best price 12 weeks before the trip. Also had to visit the station to get the bike booked on – total of a 20 minute visit to get a single ticket! Tip is to sit on right hand side of the train for the best views.
Arrived in Berwick on time about 2:30pm and then did a quick tour of the town for sightseeing. There is a “pier” protecting the mouth of the Tweed so I cycled to the end of the pier where there is a lighthouse type structure for photos. A quick tour around some of the town walls and then onto the proper start of the ride.
Although the Pennine Cycleway starts at Berwick railway station there was no obvious sign showing this (although others have told me there is and it could be I’m just blind).
An update thanks to Les Sims – seems I missed the signpost by doing the tour of Berwick as it is on the 100 yards of the route that I missed. Turn left out of the station and it is on the corner of High Greens.
Anyway, started off northwards towards Scotland (apparently this is correct!) and soon met the first NCN 68 sign.
After a few miles I found I was leaving England and entering Scotland – luckily I was dying for a wee by this point so very convenient. Good news was that a few miles later the route passes over another bridge over the Tweed and I was back in England where I remained for the rest of the ride.
Great quiet roads for the rest of the day. Some traffic free sections and some loose surfaces but nothing too bad and all ride-able. There is very little traffic but beware that any traffic that appears is unlikely to be expecting to encounter a cyclist so may be travelling quickly on the straight, narrowish roads.
Some highlights of the route included:
Norham castle at about 14 miles into the ride. Deserted when I visited with nice views across the river.
Great traffic free riverside path after about 20 miles. Beware of the steep drop down to the riverside on loose gravel. I managed to ride it on a dry day but wet weather would be lethal! Particularly take care with children as some steep drops. Once down the riverside it is a lovely ride finishing next to an impressive ford which I can’t believe anyone would ever cross – certainly not with the water as high as it was.
Great example of the quiet, gently undulating roads. Most with a good tarmac surface with few potholes – bliss!
Arrived in Wooler for overnight accommodation at the Black Bull Inn on the main street. Apparently it used to be called the “Black Bull Hotel” so you might have an idea what to expect. The inn looks like it’s seen better days. The room was okay but I turned down the option of breakfast for an additional £15 (room was £45 for one night). Owners were friendly enough but testing the bar for a pint gave me the impression that the locals take priority.
Despite contacting the hotel prior to visiting, it turns out that the secure bike parking is actually under a car port type arrangement down a public driveway next to the Inn. So whilst the bike is locked under cover, anyone passing in the night can get to the bike. I didn’t have any problems (and the owners say no-one else who has stayed has had problems) but I’d have preferred my bike to be locked away. Overall I wouldn’t recommend the Inn but there may be little choice of alternatives.
Whilst the Black Bull offered food, I chose to visit an Italian restaurant at the rear of the Inn (and down the driveway where my bike was parked). This was a good choice and the restaurant is recommended – be aware that the portions are large (particularly the pizza) although they’ll give you a doggy bag for leftovers.
The town of Wooler is on the edge of the Dark Sky area and it’s worthwhile remembering to spend part of the night outside if the weather is suitable – bear in mind it takes about 30 minutes for your eyes to completely adjust to the darkness so don’t be impatient. I was impressed with how silent the town was. There doesn’t seem to be any background noise that I’m used to at home (planes, trains, distant traffic) and the occasional car passing was something of an event.