The route from Whitehaven to Newcastle followed the Sustrans coast to coast cycle route. We found it well signposted and especially admired the varied accommodation we used on the journey. Our ride back was with the Hadrians cycleway, again a good route , if at times quite bleak and hard-going.
What’s that then? The Coast2Coast route is a popular, hilly, scenic, hilly, long distance, hilly, cycle ride. Do I need to mention that its also a little bit hilly? It crosses two mountain ranges The Lake District mountain range and the The Pennines Mountain Ranges. So unless you have previously ridden in the Tour de France this is going to take you more than a day to complete.
It needs to be mentioned this is a popular 'club ride' and as you might expect 'nutters' have tried to beat the current recors of coast to coast in 4 hours and 1 min.
Watching the weather is also advisable, particularly as it is changeable in this part of the world (not to mention typically cold). Do not be fooled by the weather on the coasts. The wind is biting across the tops – even in summer – so investing in some sturdy gloves and a warm, waterproof cycling jacket is advisable.
I found this to be one of the best signposted and organised Cycle routes in Britain - by far - and no exaggeration. Credit for accolade must also go to the book ‘Coast to Coast Cycle Routes’ by Mark Porter with John Grimshaw.
One of the things that makes this journey such a joy was the brilliant accommodation, some of it quirky but always hospitable and good value.
Don’t let the weather put you off though, as The Coast To Coast is an ideal route for beginning cycle tourists and you get to observe some of Britain’s finest countryside and industrial heritage whilst getting fit and enjoying the outdoors.
From Whitehaven to Newcastle (actually Tynemouth - we cut a little corner off at the Metro centre) it is a 136 miles. We followed Reivers route back thro’ Carlisle and down the coast.
Of course if you want a challenge you could try and beat the record of a little over ten hours. Good luck!
Sunday 20th Sept 09 - Mid- afternoon arrived at The Chase Hotel, Whitehaven. This hotel is right on the Coast to Coast cycle route and is in a quiet area of the town. I had booked this place for the first and last night of our ride, consequently there were no problems in leaving my car in their car park. We had a meal at The Bransty Arch, a Weatherspoons pub down in the town. This was a converted garage and the whole place was just buzzing and had a great atmosphere.
Monday 21st Sept – Whitehaven to Greystoke– 47 miles After the compulsory full English breakfast Chris and I headed off on our journey. The first part took us through the housing estates of Whitehaven and we mixed with what seemed like most of the population taking their kids to school. Whitehaven not being that big we were soon on the disused railway line which was tarmac’d and well sign posted. Now the only people we were meeting were the mid-morning dog walkers. Once you get out of Whitehaven it’s clear why the route is so popular, the back lanes of the Lake District are brilliant for cycling and you’ll see hardly any cars until you reach Keswick, right on Lake Derwent. Our aim for the day was Greystoke which was 50 miles away so it was going to be a good days bike ride. Luckily the weather was overcast which made the ride quite pleasant. There are several cycle routes using the same route here so just be vigilant. The route being flat we were soon through the town off Egermont and St Bees and into the open countryside of Cleaton Moor. We were now following minor roads which were very quiet of traffic. We seemed to be skirting the main mountains of the Lake District and there was good views despite the dull weather of Loweswater and Crummock Water. The afternoon climb was Whinlatter Pass which had its own cycle path through the trees but as the roads were quiet we stuck to the good old tarmac roads which give superb views over Baithwaite and Derwent Water.
By the time we got the Keswick the rain came and amazingly started and stopped while we were at a bus shelter. In Keswick we again went on a disused railway line which followed the river. Once you’ve left Keswick you ride through some nice woodland on a board walk through the trees which criss crosses a fast flowing river. The wetness on them made for some careful cycling. This was a very scenic section and we criss-crossed the river on some ornate cast iron bridges. Our next stop was to be Penrith and when we got to the village of Threkeld we were back on roads.
We were back into agriculture country and following narrow roads on the hillside looking down on the A66. The roads we were on must have been the mains roads in the past which must have been a nightmare for travellers. Our arrival at Greystokes was a real treat a great place to stay, set out for the touring cyclist it was one of the best equipped places ever. We had a meal at the local pub which was busy and judging by the quality of their food you could see why.
Tuesday 22nd September – Cycle day two Greystoke to Nenthead 42 miles At Penrith we had a massive climb out of the town. Hills don’t seem so bad when there are bendy bits in the road as you can’t see the top but this hill was straight up for about a mile. Nice views at the summit though but no sooner are we there, then its over the other side and this time it’s a proper downhill with twists and bends. You then leave the Lake District and descend into the green Eden Valley before the town of Penrith. Out of Penrith the Pennines beacon and its a gruelling climb up and over the Hartside Pass (1903ft) You’re rewarded with a fast, long decent to Nenthead. Overnight stop at Nentheads (Cherry Tree Cottage - Hellen Sherlock) superb welcome whole house to ourselves and Hellen tolds us about getting stuck in the snow for 3 days in a car before a helicopter found her (this in the 1960’s)
Wednesday 23rd September – Cycle day three Nenthead to Corbridge 55 miles Steep climb out of here taking you through the remote North Penninies through the Village of Allenheads and the favourite cyclist stop at the Allenheads Inn. From there there is only two more climbs to do until you reach the town of Consett where the route divides into two, either Sunderland or Tynemouth. Strong worded warnings about this in the book and we still very nearly missed our junction to Sunderland.
Great ride from Consett into Newcastle along a disused railway line. Had stunning views over the valleys as we crossed them on railway viaducts.
A midday meal at the Skiff Inn (Metero Centre) and we follow the Tyne all the way to Hexham. This was a very long ride today. The B&B was very much up to the high standard of this trip. I could see the concern on the women's face about our knackered condition.
Thursday 24th September – Cycle day four – 54 miles – Corebridge to Burgh By Sands 52 miles Westward through Haltwhistle, Gilsland and Brampton before our overnight stop at Burgh by Sands.
We are very much now heading back west. We follow the route which runs parallel with Hadrian’s wall but see very little of it. The roads is very straight and long (there’s a surprise) and steep drops and hills into the valleys. We meal at Haltwhistle and carry on to Carlisle. There we hit major problems as the cycle path no longer exists. Carlisle flooded last year and they have widened and deepened the river and the cycle tow path simply do not exist. We ring our next B&B and she makes an offer to come a collect us. We chose to carry on and end up a magnificent huge house and very nicely treated by all.
Friday 25th September – Cycle day five – 65 miles – Burgh by Sands to Whitehaven Not the most direct route to Whitehaven but following the Solway Firth through Wigton, Silloth, Maryport and Workington. Staying at The Chase same place we had left the car. The morrow comes with a vengeance I’ve got diarrhoea! This is no joke, some how I managed as far as Maryport . I abandoned Chris and jumped on the train back to Whitehaven. The fare was only £2 but to be able to sit on a proper toilet - it was bliss!