Best parts of the ride
As I enjoyed almost all of the ride, it is hard to pick out a single highlight but some of the things that have stuck with me are:
- Some of the long downhills where the gradient isn’t so steep that you spend the whole time braking. One of the best was the Kingsdale Descent just south of Dent (on Day 5) which came after a brutal climb out of Dent.
- The quietness and remoteness of the roads in inland Northumbria. As there is so little traffic the surface is also generally very good (few potholes, etc.)
- disturbing a pair of curlews just north of the Longdendale Trail who then circled me until I moved on away from their nest.
- reaching familar territory again south of Buxton and knowing that the final section is all roads that I’d ridden before and that I’d reach home easily
- The beautiful weather that was perfect for the ride. It rained on the day before I set out and rained again on the day after I got home. During the ride, I had my raincoat on for 10 minutes only!
Worst parts of the ride
Final section into Derby was a disappointment. After the magnificent scenery along most of the route, the final section was through various housing estates, along poor quality pavement cyclepaths and then some busy roads before finishing at Derby Railway Station where there was nothing to denote the end of the Cycleway.
The section along the canal between Barnoldswick and Burnley was also a disappointment. After lots of climbing I was looking forward to an interesting flat section but found the surface to be very poorly laid tarmac (very bumpy) and the scenery to be boring. I was hoping to see a lot of industrial archaeology (as found along other canals) but there was little of interest. I was pleased to get back onto the hills!
So many to choose from (see my waistband) but the best experience was at Kennedys Fine Chocolates Coffee House at Orton in Cumbria. I only had a scone and a milkshake but, after a long ride on a hot day and after missing another cafe which I had planned to stop at, they tasted exceptionally good. The place is very busy with other cyclists.
Probably because it was so unexpected in such a disappointing place as Barnoldswick, I’m awarding McCullough’s Bar the prize. The beer was very good and well priced, the other customers were friendly, and there was a surprisingly good level of free music on the Monday night I visited.
The AirBnB that I stayed at in Slaithwaite had the best facilities, was excellent for bike parking (the owners let me park it in their hallway!), with friendly owners and a really attractive price. They upgraded me to their double en suite room at no extra cost and provided a breakfast for £35. Excellent – would definitely stay there again and would recommend.
Purely arbitrary and based on my prejudices but I would suggest others should avoid the following:
- The Cheddar Gorge, Ashbourne. Probably the most rude place I’ve visited for many a year. It seems to be run by hipsters for hipsters. They eventually deigned to serve me then charged me what seemed an excessive amount for a small loaf. When questioned they told me, condescendingly, “it’s homemade”, as if that justifies the price. I suspect that they get lots of single visit passing trade so don’t need to provide a good service. However, if I was you, I’d look elsewhere for a sandwich and cake (and save some money and avoid being insulted).
What I should have done differently
All cycle touring advice seems to say that you should plan what to pack, put half back in the wardrobe, review the remaining pile, cut in half again, … (repeat until you run out of time). I should have done this for one more iteration as the luggage could have been reduced further. Did I really need spare shoes just for the evening? Or two raincoats?
All my luggage was in two panniers on a rear rack with a small bag on the crossbar. With hindsight this left too much weight at the rear of the bike and next time I’ll be considering a framebag for heavy objects so that weight moves towards the centre of the bike.
With so much climbing, the descending was hard on my brakes and the rear brake pads were worn out when I returned. I should have perhaps taken spares or changed them before leaving.
What I’m doing next
I really enjoyed the ride and plan to do more multi-day rides. I was particularly impressed with just how quiet Northumberland is and, as a regular visitor to the Northumberland coast in the past (non cycling holidays) now have the Sustrans Coast and Castles route (with the inland southern Scotland option) as my next goal which I think would make a good 4 day trip.
Any comments / questions?
If I can help with any information for people planning a similar trip then I’m keen to assist. Send me an email. If you disagree with any of my recommendations or complaints then, whilst I’m happy to receive comments, bear in mind that this whole site is my personal viewpoint – your different experience is unlikely to change my already fixed opinion! Corrections to any errors I’ve made would be appreciated.