The Tyne to the Leith

Discussion in 'Member's Travelogues' started by cisamcgu, 17 Jul 2017.

  1. cisamcgu

    cisamcgu Guru

    Liverpool to Newcastle by car
    Wednesday July 5, 2017

    We left, Belinda and I that is, at about 14:30, stopping briefly to leave keys for my brother before venturing down the motorways and A roads to Newcastle upon Tyne.

    It was an uneventful trip; the tandem stayed safely on the back of the car and the sat-nav thingy brought us unerringly to within 100m of the hotel. That last 100m took about 20 minutes to complete. But we stayed calm, didn't shout or make snidey comments about the other person's navigation skills or stupid sat-navs - we were a model, modern couple (or maybe just too tired to care).

    We did see the Angel of the North on the way up. It looked just like we thought it would, only about 1/4 of the size - memories of Spinal Tap sprung to mind as we both glanced at it then said, in perfect unison, "I thought it was much bigger than that!"

    Anyway, check-in was seamless, the tandem safely locked away and the bright lights of Gateshead/Newcastle beckoned. So, we marched across one of the miriad of bridges, stopped at the first eatery, and devoured two helpings of the Pitcher and Piano's finest muain courses.

    Back at the hotel we watched the end of stage 5 of the Tour, and then retired to bed, ready for our briefing from the Skeddadle rep. tomorrow morning and then the beginning of our journey northwards towards the fabled land of ice and snow, the home of devils and monsters and the lair of possibly the most over-rated poet in the English language - yes, we were on our way to Scotland, home of the brave and Robbie Burns ....

    Are we there yet pet ?
    Thursday July 6, 2017, 48 miles (77 km) - Total so far: 48 miles (77 km)

    So, we are off. We met the Skeddadle rep at 8:00 and he filled us in with details, most of which we already knew but the confirmation was encouraging. Then we loaded up the tandem with what we thought was a small amount of stuff and set forth on our journey to Bonny Scotland, well the first stage of it at least. Getting out of Newcastle was easy, we had done the same route a couple of years ago at the end of Hadrian's Wall, so we were quickly in Tynemouth where we paused for a photo op and then marched northwards towards Blyth.


    After a HUGE hill we arrived in Whitley Bay where we had a well earned icecream. (Note, hills have only got three gratings : HUGE, ENORMOUS and MIND-BOGGLING). We had been making good progress and the lilting North East accent was still charming and the friendliness of the people couldn't be faulted - all in all it was a pretty spiffing place. After Whitley Bay we continued up the coast towards Blyth, home of Blyth Spartans, a football team I had seen once, playing Marine so I was looking forward to visiting it ! On the way we went through some sand dunes that were the spitting images of the dunes on the Sefton Coast, we kept expecting to see Natterjack Toads.


    Eventually we arrived in Blyth, about half way to Warkworth our destination for the day. Blyth was a rather depressing place; run down, economically depressed with a high street completely filled with Pound shops and charity shops. It was not an experience we would repeat in a hurry. We left, riding, as always, North, and seemed to spend an age just crossing a blasted river - people should build bridges over the mouths of rivers to make life easier rather than making them detour inland through jungles and deserts just to get to the other side. - Surprising number of ponies in and around Blyth - just thought you should be kept informed, dear reader.

    The landscape expanded as we went upwards, and we entered the AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) which covers most of the Northumberland Coast, and it is an epitaph well earned. I had expect it to be bleak and windswept ( Too much watching Vera), but in fact it is simply stunning -awe inspiring really.

    We got lost in Amble, we ate icecream in Cresswell, and video-talked to Lucia on a cliff edge in the middle of nowhere, all of which were memorable, but the best sight was the Sun Hotel in Warkworth where we ended up after almost 50miles of HUGE hills, stunning scenery and lovely people.

    Total climbing : 1850ft


    Food was eaten, drink was drunk and we fell asleep before 9:30. But, before I go, I must tell you about the room. It was ...err... I am not really sure how to describe it, so a picture will have to suffice.


    No smoke without fire
    Friday July 7, 2017, 33 miles (53 km) - Total so far: 81 miles (130 km)

    We awoke into a gilded wonderland as Lucia called us on the computer. Afterwards we broke our fast, packed our bags and set forth towards Bamburgh, home of the castle. We encountered an ENORMOUS hill almost immediately but conquered it with only one ruptured aorta and one burst lung - not too bad for so early in the day. Our first destination was Craster, half way and home to a, supposedly, excellent fish resturant. We made steady progress although we discovered some things about my cycling jacket

    1. It is very bright
    2. It is waterproof
    3. It attracts insects so well, that if I was a fly I would be the number one target for all the girly flies in a 30mile radius.

    Literally within a second of wearing it I was surrounded by a swarm of small, annoying insects all of whom wanted to either eat me or mate with me. We never did find out which, but I REALLY wish I had brought my black jacket!


    We walked out of Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle, a ruin of a Castle built by the Duke of Lancaster in 1313 to show off his power and wealth. It would have been rather speccy in its day, but since English Heritage wanted £5 per person to look at it, we declined and walked back to Craster. As we approached the town Belinda noticed smoke pouring out of the roof of a building. We expected to have to join in a water bucket chain and save the town from a fiery end and be hailed as heroes and have a statue built. I was already writing my speech when Belinda pointed out that it was coming from the kipper smoke house and was almost certainly normal .. Oh well, plenty of time to get a statue later.


    The food in Craster was excellent, and it seems that the town is the home of the Kipper (who'd have thought it heh!) - see how educational this is ? We left after exchanging pleasantries with a couple also riding to Bamburgh, we didn't see them again though as we pedalled. After lunch we meandered through the countryside, waving at cows, avoiding trains and cursing the HUGE hills. The last two days of the trip are significantly more hilly than we have encountered so far, so MIND-BOGGLING will put in an appearance then we imagine.

    We stopped for cake in Seahouses, a rather quaint seaside town, that had the misfortune to be under a rain cloud as we arrived. We hold it no ill-will however since they make lovely scones. We then travelled a few miles further north and arrived at the Victoria Hotel.

    Total climbing : 1350ft

    The hotel was good, the room small but clean and comfortable. It wasn't a "Castle view" as the photo shows, but the beer was cold and the food generous. We turned in after 10:00 and dreamed of hills and flies .


    If it is a Holy Island, how come it doesn't sink ?
    Saturday July 8, 2017, 32 miles (51 km) - Total so far: 113 miles (182 km)


    Wake up - yes
    Pack - yes
    Breakfast -yes
    Easy ride out of Bamburgh -NO !

    It was long and steep, verging on ENORMOUS, but we conquered it and proceeded onwards towards Lindisfarne about 12 miles distant. We had to hurry because the tides meant that we had to leave Lindisfarne before 13:30, otherwise we would be stuck there for about 5 hours. We followed the map, turned a corner and were confronted by a MIND-BOGGLING ramp of 17% We considered walking up for a moment, but ground the gears and slowly, so slowly, made our way up until we crested triumphantly about 10 minutes later.


    Total climbed today : 1350ft

    The road to Lindisfarne was undulating but we made steady progress and eventually crossed the causeway at about 10:50 and parked the tandem next to the very nice English Heritage people. We wandered around, impressed by the size of the island and also the number of people who lived there. We had imagined it was small and mostly deserted, but actually has a small but substantial population and quite a bit of land - no wonder the Vikings invaded.

    Fnaar, NorthernDave, Crackle and 6 others like this.
  2. OP

    cisamcgu Guru


    We viewed an archeological dig of a very early church dated, possibly, around 700AD, and had a very nice sandwich in a pub. We might also have seen seals, but equally we might had seen some large wading birds .. We have old eyes and they were a long way away !


    After leaving Holy Island in plenty of time we followed the route and crossed some increasingly rough ground, so rough that at one point we managed to fall off the bike into some thistles - some scratches and bruises the only result.



    We chatted to a few other cyclists going the other way who were very friendly and also complained about the quality of the route. We made very slow progress, wobbling precariously at the edge of cliffs, but eventually arrived in sunny Berwick and found our accommodation.


    We wandered into town and had a beer in The Queen's Head. Belinda, her parents and Lucia had stayed there a few years ago with the sloping floor being a particular favourite in one of the bedrooms. We had a pint of beer and half a cider for £7.50p !! When I was a student we would have got 15 pints fir that much. We eventually had an OK Indian meal iafter failing to get a table anywhere else and then settled down for the evening to read, rest and sleep.
    Crackle, Dave 123, galaxy and 3 others like this.
  3. OP

    cisamcgu Guru

    A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
    Sunday July 9, 2017, 25 miles (40 km) - Total so far: 138 miles (222 km)

    Berwick is a lovely place and we wished we could stay another day. Sadly we were booked into Kelso so after a filling breakfast we set sail westward, into the wind, up the hill, with the brakes stuck on ! Actually that last bit is a lie, the brakes were fine, it just seemed like that. Anyway we pootled along, crossing the A1 a couple of times and zipping into and out of Scotland each time we crossed the Tweed.


    We stopped in a lovely pub for a cup of tea in Norham, and chatted to a lady who recommended we went to The Hirsel Country Park for lunch, which was in Coldstream. Since we had no better plan we followed her advice, left the route and had a superb sandwich and baked potato for lunch. There was also a range of pretentious crafty shops which we looked at, and some rather dodgy art, but it was a nice break.


    We left the Park and rejoined the road on a rather steep incline. We were in the wrong gear, we were turning at a sharp angle and we were pushing hard on the pedals when disaster struck -- The chain snapped !! Luckily we were able to get the bike to the pavement without further mishap, but it was a scary moment indeed.

    I had a chain tool, and a "quick link", so after fumbling around for 30 minutes, and with very oily hands, we were able to get going again. But, neither of us had much faith in the fix so we rode gingerly to Kelso, about 9 miles away hoping there would be a bike shop open tomorrow morning ...

    We ate well, although the worry about the chain was ever present. Didn't stop Belinda quaffing a cider though !

    Total climbing : 1650ft

    Last edited: 17 Jul 2017
  4. OP

    cisamcgu Guru

    How many times can you cross a river ?
    Monday July 10, 2017, 33 miles (53 km) - Total so far: 171 miles (275 km)

    We phoned Melrose and found a bike shop that could sort out the problem, but before we could organise a taxi to take us there, but after our breakfast (priorities people, priorities) the local bike shop owner phoned, and said that he would happily open his bike shop today and could almost certainly sort out the problem. We were round there in a flash and met him at the door.

    He poked and prodded the chain and pronounced that he thought the "quick-link" was for a 7-speed cassette and not the 10 speed we had. He put a new one on and sent us out for a test ride. After a mile of riding and no worrying click and jumps, we returned, gratefully paid the man, patted his puppy and left for our trip to Innerleithen.

    The bike shop : Simon Porteous Cycles of Kelso - excellent service.

    The riding was, for the most part, uneventful. It was a dull, coolish day and we arrived in Melrose for a late lunch and then progressed slowly further inland, climbing and decending steadily. Scotland is beautiful with meadows full of wild flowers and fields full of hairy cows., and of course ...



    It costs over £1000 a day to fish for salmon in the Tweed, but it is free to stand on a bridge and look for them - something we did with no success but plenty of pleasure. This was the hilliest day so far, but nothing defeated us although we were very tired by the time we arrived. We got a little confused during the ride, and a passing cyclist stopped and was able to point out where we where on the map, we were only about 12 miles out !!!


    Our hosts are charming, have a lovely old collie dog and a perfect home. We are off for an Indian meal tonight and then, hopefully, a good sleep before our final cycling day tomorrow.

    2400 ft climbed today !
  5. OP

    cisamcgu Guru

    Everyone has their own Tourmalet.
    Tuesday July 11, 2017, 40 miles (64 km) - Total so far: 211 miles (340 km)

    We left Innerleithen at about 9:20. The town is in the midst of celebrating a local annual festival, and a large number of house were decked out with blue and white bunting - it was a little unnerving until we understood what it was all about.


    The guest house was nice, but rather too "personal" for our tastes. We ate in the kitchen while Mrs and Mr watched us; all rather odd, but nice enough. Today was a long haul over the hills south of Edinburgh and then a 25 mile meander through the southern suburbs until we arrive in the centre.


    The ride started well with a slow but gentle ascent over about 6 miles, we stopped a few times as it slowly got steeper and steeper, and were passed by many other cyclists (we didn't pass anyone btw) all of whom encouraged us. The climb is obviously a popular route for the locals, some of whom applauded us as we topped over the first summit - obviously more in pity than in admiration !

    We eventually reached the first summit and whizzed down a couple of miles before we started to climb again, eventually reaching the top after about 90 minutes. The view over Edinburgh was supposed to be spectacular, but a combination of rain over Edinburgh and the fact we didn't really know what we were looking at spoilt it somewhat. Still, we had conquered the highest point of the tour, didn't have to push the tandem once, and still had enough breath left to talk.


    After a few minutes we put on our jackets and began the long freewheel down the hill. It is much easier going down than going up. We stopped occasionally to look at the map and then it started to rain, and rain hard. After losing our way near Dalkeith, we abandoned the riding for the time being and retreated to a pub for some much needed food and tea.


    I was feeling rather weak and feeble at this point, probably low blood sugar level, but after a fish-finger sandwich I recovered somewhat and we eventually made our way into the city, 200+ miles since we started !!!

    With a poor map, tired legs and wet clothes we managed to be unable to find our hotel for nearly an hour, but eventually were able to settle into the comfortable room, complete with small kitchen ! After a shower we went out to a local bar/cafe to meet Em and Sean but tiredness and feeling a little sick overcame me and I retired back to the room while Belinda stayed out for an hour or two.

    I checked out the elevation that we rode over today before I fell asleep !


    The next morning I was fully recovered and spent a lovely day around Edinburgh, meeting freidns, eating pizza and drinking beer. We left Edinburgh the following afternoon, Skeddadle picked us up and whisked us back to Newcastle in the blink of an eye. It was a fun trip, lovely scenery, fabulous people, super food and accomodation and the realisation we both need to loose some weight if we are ever going to conquer hills with any sort of pleasure :smile:
    Last edited: 17 Jul 2017
  6. MiK1138

    MiK1138 Über Member

    Hill Gradings : You forgot the " AYE THAT'LL BE RIGHT" but i'll forgive you as you hadn't reached Scotchland at that point.
    Pat "5mph" and raleighnut like this.
  7. galaxy

    galaxy Über Member

    Looks a nice ride .
  8. Crackle

    Crackle ...

    I wondered how you'd managed to take so little luggage until I looked up who skedaddle where: Very civilised touring. Nice trip.
  9. NorthernDave

    NorthernDave Never used Über Member

    Great report on what sounds like an excellent trip.
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