08 March 2012

R2R3: Northallerton to Ravenscar

If day 1 was the Lakes, and day 2 the Dales, then day 3 was the North York Moors (above).

This is just about my favourite bike-touring part of the world: a compact, beautiful landscape, where 15 minutes' swearing gets you up to remote sheepy solitude, but three minutes' glorious freewheel down gets you to a teashop or pub.

From Northallerton to Whitby was a flirt with the northern edge of the Moors; from Whitby to Ravenscar it was the 'Cinder Track', the railtrail down to Scarborough (above), perhaps England's most scenic. If you cycled this ten years or so ago, when the surface was appallingly bad - rutted, stony, uneven, muddy - you'd be amazed to see it today. It's even worse.

Anyway, I got to Ravenscar just after 3pm. No chance of dipping my wheels in the North Sea here, to complement what I did in Ravenglass: Ravenscar was conceived as a purpose-built resort in late Victorian times, a grand project to rival Scarborough. However, it never took off, and Ravenscar became 'the town that never was' - partly because it's on top of a cliff, with no easy path down to the rocky 'beach'.

There's little there now except a handful of houses and the Raven Hall Hotel, where I had a very nice cream tea. There's a feeling of timelessness here, especially when you're waiting to get served.

Ravenglass to Ravenscar has been a fabulous little trip, three of the best days' cycling I can remember: wonderful scenery, mild weather, tailwinds. It's a route I'd gladly do again (hint)....

Trip stats

Miles today: 57
Miles since Ravenglass: 170
Highest speed: 42mph, between Kendal and Sedbergh
No of grouse startled: 6
No of Wetherspoons visited: 0
No of minutes rain: 5

07 March 2012

R2R2: Kendal to Northallerton

Glorious cycling with breathtaking scenery today (lots of this sort of stuff, above), in lovely weather: the forecasters were Michael-Fish-wrong, having promised daylong showers which never materialised, rather like the payments for the freelance work I do for Sky Arts.

From Kendal it's all up and down stuff to Sedbergh, which is STILL IN YORKSHIRE WHATEVER THEY SAID IN THE 1974 BOUNDARY CHANGES SO THERE.

Sedbergh is spectacular, with the Howgills looming over it like a massive green breaking surf. It also has a nice line in 21st-century Yorkshire cafes: twelve types of gourmet coffee, free wifi, and a toilet trendily twinned with a crapper in Burundi (above), but toasted crumpets too. (Yup, Toilet Twinning is a real, and serious, scheme.)

From Hawes I went up and over Buttertubs Pass (above) to Swaledale, which was quite glorious. A big fat tailwind conveyor-belted me to Reeth (where I sat out the only precipitation of the day, five minutes of snow, in a bus shelter, and where I once had to kill a rabbit with my bare hands), Richmond, and Northallerton (where I ate fish and chips with my bare hands).

Miles today: 73
Miles since Ravenglass: 113

06 March 2012

R2R1: Ravenglass to Kendal

This trip is another Coast to Coast: Ravenglass (out west, in Cumbria, a bit north of Barrow) to Ravenscar (out east, a bit north of Scarborough). Not exactly rhyming, but maybe someone knows a technical term for when two similar things begin the same way, like 'shampoo' and 'champagne'.

Ravenglass has a Roman Bath House, and a nice line in ludicrously uncyclable fords, such as this one (above).

From there I went along Esk Dale and up Hardknott Pass (above). It used to be an assault course for tanks and was only tarmacked after World War II.

Its 1 in 3 bits may not be quite as steep as Rosedale Chimney Bank in Yorkshire, or Harlech's Ffordd Penllech, but I can promise you, it's much more challenging than either. Even Bwlch y Groes is only a one-biscuit hill; this is a three-biscuit hill.

It's brutal. You'd have to be slightly mad to try and cycle up without stopping several times for, say, a biscuit and drink and pretend-photograph break and defibrillator stop. Si and Mark have cycled up it without stopping. I rest my case.

After that was some delightful Lakes scenery and villages (including Hawkshead, a quirky little gem) and – via the ferry across Windermere (£1 for bikes) – the final roller coaster to Kendal, which is endowed with a Booth's (£1 for beers).

Kendal also has a marked route that takes you all round the town, bringing you back right where you started; just follow the signs to anywhere and get caught in the one-way system.

Miles today: 40
Miles since Ravenglass: 40