Two Days Up North

269.0KM

2350M

GRAVEL

Distance Elevation Gain Ride Type

 

Less than three hours from Euston and we were stepping off the train at Oxenholme, conveniently positioned at the southern gateway to the Lake District. The plan was to ride to Edinburgh in two days, through the heart of the Lakes and then north through the Borders. We 'Komooted' the route and included some so-called gravel. Three of us riding: Stephen, an Olympic rower with outsize lung capacity; Chris, a deliberately under-prepared every day cyclist with a new gravel bike & no cleats; and me, with my Pearson Objects in Motion & some new 4 Season tyres (I’m sure Guy Pearson called them unpuncturable).

We had booked to stay at the Wheatsheaf on the first night. Turns out there are two Wheatsheafs near Oxenholme and we merrily set off to the wrong one. Route corrected, rain & darkness coming down and we arrived at the right one, in Brigsteer, 7-8km due west of the station. Our keys were left out, our rooms were nice, but the pub - and our dinner venue - was otherwise closed. Back into Kendal by taxi and some tramping of empty streets eventually landed us at a decent Thai restaurant.

Our first day took us north through the Lakes to another hotel on the north shore of the Solway Firth. The forecast could not have been worse. 95% chance of torrential rain and 30mph wind. We tried to convince ourselves that we’d be in the 5% area of no rain - we never found it. Our route was great: first west over undulating green-ness to the Windermere Ferry. Then north up the lake-shore path (sometimes actually in the lake) and on small roads to Skelwith. Komoot is great but it does sometimes take you on artificial detours to keep you off the true road - in this case we got a pleasant tour of a static caravan park before arriving at Skelwith. From Skelwith there is the brutal 25% well-named Foulstep climb - I have to admit our party only had a 33% success rate on it - two of us succumbing to the gradient & wet leaf combination. Next stop was Grasmere for cake & coffee, with the rain now upgrading from persistent to near torrential, and a pathetic 40km done.

From Grasmere, a few nice lanes before the grind over Dunmail Raise - only 2km or so, but not much fun with big trucks and a lot of spray - and then down to the fantastic car-free western shore of Thirlmere. Over the Victorian dam at the north end and then north to Threkeld, skirting the lower slopes of Blencathra. In any normal weather, these would have been superb roads. With no cars and only sheep for company the road is taped over the moors and fields, remote and spectacular. As it was, we were cold & very wet and really wondering how we had only completed half the 130km planned. A puncture in my indestructible tyres was at least an excuse to stop and put on the last of our clothes and eat something before pressing on north.

Via some proper muddy farm tracks and fields we were finally Into Carlisle and Komoot took us on a suburban cycleway. Much better than it sounds and, at last, the rain seemed to be abating. Carlisle being bereft of soft southern deli cafes, we settled for Subway and dried out under their toilet hand-dryers. Spirits now marginally higher we pushed on, over the border, and then turned left and west for the last 15km to Powfoot, on the shores of the Solway Firth.

 

Day 2 dawned sunny and cold with sunrise over the Solway. Small roads took us north until we hit the M6, just south of Lockerbie. From there, an efficient but functional route north on the A road which tracks the M6 - not the most beautiful road but good to get the kilometres on the clock early in the day. At Moffat, the route took us down a road suspiciously marked as being a dead end. Sure enough we ended up on a grassy but rideable track and then a muddy and unrideable path. But it didn’t matter, the sun was out and we pushed our bikes up the kilometre or so to the road (it is, of course, very easy to avoid the pushing by just riding on the road).
With 60k or so done, we were at the top of Beeftub and the top of a glorious, snaking, perfect road, 20km descent, eventually passing the source and then following the course of the River Tweed. Past the Crook Inn (“Food served all day” - closed) to a miraculous (because it was open & good) café in Broughton for lunch. 
The route on to Edinburgh didn’t decline in quality. We ducked the cross-Pentland gravel option and stayed to the south east of hills, still on great, deserted tarmac until the outskirts of Edinburgh. Chris, being the local expert, then abandoned Komoot and went full urban guerrilla as we came into Edinburgh centre via the Water of Leith and the canal.
Overnight in Edinburgh and back in London by train for lunch on Thursday.
Authored By Will Pearson
Will represents one half of the fifth generation of the Pearson dynasty. He boasts a riding career of almost 50 years, having beaten his siblings to staying upright on a two-wheeler at the age of two and a half. Coaxed out of bed on Sunday mornings to ride cyclo-cross most of his younger life, his interest in cycling is also focussed in road and gravel adventure riding. Chiefly responsible for Pearson bike geometry, design and specification.
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