Day 9 – Nairn to Dunfermline (165.2 miles)

I’m woken by the sound of someone urging their dog to stay away from the weirdo in the hammock (see, I told you it would happen). The birds have been chirping away for hours but I’m used to them now. The sun is pretty high in the sky, I check my phone and discover it’s already after 10am!
The problem with blogging on the road is that, when I camp in a spot with a good 3G connection, I stay up late updating the blog, then I end up sleeping late and I miss the best time of the day for making pictures; pre-sunrise.

It looks like I’m deep in the woods but there’s a new-build suburb not far away

It’s too late now though, this is my last day on the road and, in any case, it’s more important to be well rested before a long drive. For some reason, I’m not expecting much from this final leg of the ride. I guess because, down South the best roads were in the West, and the roads in the North West have been amazing, so I doubt that the North East will be able to top it.

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Day 8 – Sallachy to Nairn (157.3 miles)

I’m hung in the best location of the entire trip. It’s amazing what a bit of local knowledge can do: Mariella has directed me to a good spot where I have a loch and mountain’s as my view, and a stream burbling away right beside me. On top of that, the hang was perfect last night (turns out more sag than I usually go for, plus less air in the mattress makes a world of difference). There’s a strong wind coming up off Loch Long but I’m snug in the scoop of the hammock and, although I can hear it, I can’t feel the wind.

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A great view of Loch Long and some Scottish mountains
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It’s worth clicking in this picture to see the full size pano!

I could sleep here all day! I want to do just that – after yesterday’s walk, followed by a late night, I’m both invigorated and exhausted at the same time. Plus, getting out of the hammock means I have to get ready to leave and begin the final stretch back home.

Ah, what the heck, I’ll snooze for a bit longer!

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Bonus Day (7) – Downtime on Skye

One of my current flatmates, Mariella, is from round these parts and she’s visiting family in Scotland at the same time as I’m here, so I’d always planned to spend some downtime here.

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My plan was simply to chill out, edit some pictures and catch up on blog posts. Mariella has other ideas, however. She wants to go walking on the Isle of Skye and hike up to the Old Man of Storr. I’m happy to accompany her but this means I really do have to free the DSLR from it’s prison in the Ape’s top-box.
I’d have been better off in Liverpool because nobody here knows how to ‘jimmy’ the lock! In the end, we decide to drill through it. I’ll just have to get a replacement when I get home. In the meantime, some reshuffling of gear needs to take place (I may as well put the Waterproofs in the top-box) before I semi-permanently close it up with zip-ties and duck tape.

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I should be sponsored by Duck Tape!

With any luck, the pictures below, a sample of what ended up as an 8hr jaunt around the area, will justify the cost of a new lock! I hope you like them.

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Day 6 – Leyburn to Sallachy (521.9 miles)

Last night was the best night in the hammock so far. Either I’ve finally figured out how I like to hang (it’s not a straightforward matter, kind of like finding your perfect combination of mattress, duvet and pillows) or I was just shattered from the 14hrs spent on the road yesterday. Either way, 8hrs sleep means I’m waking later than I’d planned but I’m so comfy that I struggle to drag myself out of bed.

The Ape decided to hang out in te woods with me last night. Great little spot!
The Ape decided to hang out in te woods with me last night. Great little spot!

I was ridiculously close to Hawes last night, so I decide to head to the Penny Garth Cafe for a New York Breakfast – I’ve been craving some steak for a while now. The food is good, the weather is good and it helps that the girl at the counter is beautiful too!

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Day 5 – Litchburgh to Leyburn (via Tamworth, 305.8 miles)

Eesh What a day! The day of diversions!

Tent pitched in a farmers field!
I stayed in my backup tent last night – it’s easier to pitch after dark and without trees!

It starts off well; I’ve had a fairly good sleep in the tent and I’m on the road by 8am. Earliest start yet! It’s another fantastic summer’s day, so there’s over 12hrs of light to play with and I have 440 miles of tarmac stretched out between me and Kendal (where I plan to camp before tackling Kirkstone Pass).

Lush green grass.
The view from the tent isn’t bad this morning – although I do have to get up and open the door first, for a change.

The route, from last nights camp spot, into Market Harborough is great fun; fairly easy, meandering country roads, great views and that summery smell of wild garlic and rapeseed. On top of that, I’ve managed to pack the bike more neatly than any other day: a perfect start to the day if ever there was one!

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Day 4 – Cardiff to Litchborough (162.8 miles)

What was supposed to be ‘one or two beers’ last night, turned into four, then five then six. I haven’t gone drinking in months, so those beers really floored me and I woke this afternoon (yes, that’s right, I slept through the morning) feeling like I wasn’t going to be ready to ride for at least another week!

I spend the down time productively though, outside it’s rather cloudy, so I stay in editing the pictures and updating the blog for all my avid followers (yes, that’s you Mam). The clouds start to clear in the late afternoon and luckily, so does my head. By 4pm I’m raring to go, so I pack up all the gear (going back three times for things I forgot), say my goodbyes and leave just before 5pm.

The Sun is blazing as I cruise up the main artery roads up towards Monmouth, where I rejoin the Bike8 route. I’m itching for some corners and am not disappointed. I’m not sure when I cross back into Britain but I first realise it while snaking between Cheltenham and Gloucester. Gloucester Cathedral (at least I assume that’s what it is) sits on a hill and dominates the skyline. I make a mental note to come back down and spend more time here in the future but today is just a fly-by.

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Day 3 – Corwen to Cardiff (150 miles)

After a few hours good sleep, I wake at 6am and start packing everything away. I really want to get to Cardiff quickly to see my oldest friend, so I guess I’m not concentrating properly because the first thing I do after loading the bike up is knock it over!

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Day 2 – Darlington to Corwen (230 miles)

Heading for Wales!


Motorbike on road with view of viaduct
I was surprised to see this huge viaduct hidden up here amongst the mountain wilds.


I’m woken by the sound of birds swearing at each other. It’s 4am. I only drifted off to sleep about 90 minutes ago but, like the birds, I’m wide awake now. Different birds awake at different times, creating a layering effect; as time passes there are more and more layers of birdsong. Then, gradually the sound of commuter tyres on the tarmac of Darlington starts to permeate the spaces in between. It’s weird how you don’t notice the silence til it’s gone.

Shortly after, my 8am alarm goes off. Finally! Now I’m not worried about sleeping through the alarm I can relax. I instantly fall asleep.

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Day 1 Newcastle to er… Darlington (81 miles)

Click on the pictures to cycle through them full size.



Newcastle to Darlington. Certainly not as the crow flies! I had hoped to get further on Day 1 but I left so late in the day that it was not to be.

I leave Newcastle during rush hour, okay I’m stuck in a bit of traffic but it feels good to be going somewhere other than to and from work! It’s not long before I’m turning off the A69 and heading onto twisty B-roads. Credit due to the Bike8 team, I’m only a few miles away from my normal weekend ride-out and already I’m discovering great roads that I wasn’t aware of.

The experience is dampened, quite literally, by the foggy weather however; I quickly come to realise  that these are roads I wouldn’t normally use for fun in weather like this, let alone while luggaged up to the teeth! Corners that would normally thrill me are frightening, and corners that would normally test me are terrifying.

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