Land’s End to John O’Groats – Off-road by Mountain Bike

 

 

James Spencer and David Broddle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 2003
Land’s End to John O’Groats – Off-road by Mountain Bike

 

 

 

 

The Route in 23 Days, South to North

 

 

Day 1

Land's End

to

Truro

Day 2

Truro

to

Launceston

Day 3

Launceston

to

Fremington (Barnstaple)

Day 4

Fremington (Barnstaple)

to

Blue Anchor

Day 5

Blue Anchor

to

Barrow Gurney

Day 6

Barrow Gurney

to

Abergavenny

Day 7

Abergavenny

to

Forest Inn

Day 8

Forest Inn

to

Much Wenlock

Day 9

Much Wenlock

to

Fenny Bentley

Day 10

Fenny Bentley

to

Dunford Bridge

Day 11

Dunford Bridge

to

Hebden Bridge

Day 12

Hebden Bridge

to

Austwick

Day 13

Austwick

to

Appleby in Westmoreland

Day 14

Appleby in Westmoreland

to

Longtown

Day 15

Longtown

to

Tibbie Shiels Inn

Day 16

Tibbie Shiels Inn

to

Castlecary

Day 17

Castlecary

to

Kingshouse, Strathyre

Day 18

Kingshouse, Strathyre

to

Kinlochleven

Day 19

Kinlochleven

to

Fort Augustus

Day 20

Fort Augustus

to

Contin

Day 21

Contin

to

Lairg

Day 22

Lairg

to

Forsinard

Day 23

Forsinard

to

John O'Groats

 

 

 

 

A ride of 1,201 miles, ascending over 130,000 feet and enjoying along the way the delights of:

 

The Camel Trail, Bodmin Moor, The Tarka Trail, Exmoor, Dunkery Beacon, The Quantocks, Cheddar Gorge, The Mendips, Avon Gorge, The Black Mountains, Radnor Forest, Wenlock Edge, Ironbridge, The Way for the Millennium, Tissington Trail, Cut Gate, The Pennine Bridleway, Leeds-Liverpool Canal, Cam High Road, Lady Anne Clifford’s Highway, The Maiden Way, Craik Forest, Black Law, The Trossachs, The West Highland Way, The Great Glen, Gleann Mor and the wilds of Northern Scotland…

 


Riders:

 

The full route                                                      James Spencer and David Broddle

Land’s End to Much Wenlock                             Jon Doyle

Much Wenlock to Hebden Bridge                        DT

Austwick to Castle Cary                                     Cameron Irving

 

 

Maps Used:

 

We used Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 software from Anquet Maps (http://www.anquet.co.uk/) to plan the route and then printed out, double-sided and laminated strip maps which could be fastened to a small handlebar mounted map board.

 

 

 

 

Occasionally the 1:50,000 scale was not detailed enough and we used the Outdoor Leisure maps for backup in places like Exmoor and the South Pennines.

 

We also used a Garmin GPS unit mounted on the bars to give ongoing confirmation of position and direction and, although very rarely, used the goto function to head for a known position or landmark.  A GPS may seem a bit of a gadget to take on a trip like this, but it definitely saved us time and gave us confidence of our position.  They do eat batteries though, so keep stocked up with spares as we went through a set every day!  Garmin sell a handlebar mount for their units which is well worth the investment.

 

Accommodation:

 

We booked all our accommodation in advance.  You will find a list at the back of this document.

 

 

Gear:

 

We did the trip largely unsupported in that we carried everything we needed.  As we were riding full suspension bikes we could not carry any bags on the bike so we carried everything on our backs using Camelbak Transalp/RimRunner packs (hence we travelled extremely light!)

 

Bikes were Santa Cruz Superlights.  Thanks to Stif of Leeds for supply of bikes and technical support.

 

The only mechanical problems were punctures (carry two spares each plus repair kit) and the need to replace brake blocks/disc pads frequently.  Don’t forget to carry chain oil and use it every day.

 

 

Food:

 

Eat and drink as much as you can!  A big breakfast is vital and try and plan a couple of food stops during the day.  Keep stocked up on chocolate and snacks and always think ahead – you can’t afford to run out of fuel.  The larger Camelbak backpacks are useful as they hold three litres of fluid but it’s also a good idea to carry a bottle on the bike as well.

 

 


Travel to Land’s End and from John O’Groats:

 

Unless you have a support vehicle and driver, the easiest way to get to each end is by train.

The nearest station to Land’s End is Penzance and the nearest to John O’Groats is either Wick or Thurso.  The crucial thing is to book for people and bikes well in advance as there are limited bike spaces on trains (four on express trains, but only two on the northern Scotrail routes).  We had to bully our way onto the train at Thurso as there were already other bikes on board; if we hadn’t we would have had to wait another day to leave!

 

 

The Land’s End to John O’Groats Club:

 

The club, based at Land’s End, provides a logbook for collecting evidence of progress along the way.  Details can be found at http://www.landsend-landmark.co.uk/enders.html or write to:

The Land’s End John O’Groats Club, Custom House, Land’s End, Cornwall, TR19 7AA

 

 

Key to abbreviations in the text:

 

N – North          S – South          E – East           W – West

L – Left             R – Right

BW – Bridleway                         MR – Minor Road

RUPP – Road Used as Public Path

NCR – National Cycle Route (numbered, on small blue signs with a bike symbol)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Day One – Land’s End to Truro

 

A varied day of sometimes complex navigation enjoying some fine Cornish tracks.  Plenty of accommodation etc in Truro.

 

From the Theme Park at Land’s End (don’t forget to collect your documents and get your proof sheet stamped!) pick up NCR 3 and then the A30 to Treave where you take the track around Carn Brea (very thorny!) then a good BW to Grumbla.  Then MR and BW (good track) to the A3071 near Jericho Farm.  Where the A3071 meets the B3318 (406318) take the good track over the Beacon past the strange radar installation, then turn R along BW and MR to Bosullow.  Follow track over the Nine Maidens (tricky navigation in heather on top – may have to drop into Tredinnick) past Iron Age settlement at 445354 and follow track (boggy in places) to the N of Mulfra Hill to MR. Then take farm track from Higher Kerrowe across Conquer Downs (more tricky navigation – may end up in Chysauster).  Proceed via Crowlas or Canon’s Town to track/BW through Trewinnard Manor and up excellent gully climb past Tremelling.  Follow MR to Gwinear Downs where you pick up the muddy farm tracks past surreal travellers settlements to Penhale Moor and here join NCR 3 on MRs and tracks passing Camborne and Redruth to Crofthandy.  Here take one of the bike trails down through the splendid Goon Gumpas and follow NCR 3 into Truro.

 

Day Two – Truro to Launceston

 

Starts off with a high tarmac content but made up for by the Camel Trail and then the assault on Bodmin Moor.

 

Leave Truro following NCR 32 via some quiet and pretty MRs, crossing the A30 via the BW at Tolgroggan to Zelah.  Take MR via St. Newlyn East and Benny Mill past the steam railway to White Cross.  More MR via Quoit and Providence to the B3274 at 975618.  Go straight on along the track to the MR to Tremorebridge.  Then MR to Brocton (past a collection of military vehicles in a garden!) where you join the Camel Trail in the direction of Bodmin.  There is a good tea garden on the Trail at Boscarne.  Ignore the fork to Bodmin and continue along the Camel through the wooded valley to Tresarrett.  Here rejoin the tar (NCR 3) via Blisland back to the A30 at 136736.  Cross the A30 and follow MR via Temple (to avoid A30) then join the A30 (over fence!) and follow (hopefully with a good tailwind) to Jamaica Inn.  Take the MR towards Codda and then pick up the BW across Bodmin Moor which starts off well defined, crosses a good ford and then disappears when you get to the Moor proper.  It is recommended to use a GPS (“goto”) or compass and head for Black Rock and then the end of the BW at 205817.  This is all rideable; there is just a lack of a defined track.  Care is needed to pick the correct exit from the moor and avoid straying into walled fields.  Follow MR via Tresmeake and the Rising Sun pub to Launceston.

 

Day Three – Launceston to Fremington (Barnstaple)

 

The longest day of week one but not too taxing as much of the ride is on the Tarka Trail with a sweeping long descent down to the sea and a finish by the beach.  Dinner in Instow is highly recommended.

 

Leave Launceston on MR following the Two Castles Trail.  Take the white road under the A30 avoiding Liftondown, MR past Lifton staying on the Two Castles Trail to BW across fields and through woods to the Steam Village and then MR and BWs (muddy fields) to Lewdown.  Follow the MR to the centre of Bridestowe village then turn R on the MR following the 2C Trail to join the BW at SX528889 which after a short while takes you to the old railway (the Tarka Trail) which you follow in a NE direction to Okehampton (tea at the steam railway).  Pick up NCR 37 through Okehampton , turn L from the B3217 onto the MR at SX593963 and then take the track on the R through Brightley Woods.  Follow the Tarka Trail on MR to Hatherleigh and then take the A386 N via Hele Bridge to just before Meeth where you turn L onto a track following NCR 3.  This track skirts the clay workings, picks up an old railway and rejoins the Tarka Trail which is followed all the way to Fremington.

 

Day Four – Fremington (Barnstaple) to Blue Anchor

 

A massive day incorporating the full crossing of Exmoor.  An easy start on the Tarka Trail, some great Devon coombes and two fantastic descents at the end of the day.

 

Take the Tarka Trail to Barnstaple and then follow NCR 3 on its traffic-free route through the town and then on MR to Goodleigh.  At Goodleigh Cross pick up the challenging RUPP going E to Stoke Rivers, then the BW heading N to join the MR into Bratton Fleming.  Take the MR NE, cross the A399 at Four Way Cross and then join the BW at Northland Corner (SS672392).  This BW is tricky both from a riding and navigation viewpoint but should take you past the farm at Buscombe and onto the MR at SS687395.  Turn L then R into Challacombe (good lunch at the pub!).  Take the BW from SS692406 which climbs steadily and eventually turn L to cross the B3358 and follow the BW to Wood Barrow.  Before the barrow turn R and follow the path past Pinkery Pond and Exe Head to the B3223 at SS768411.  Proceed via Simonsbath to the BW at Clovenrocks Bridge to Warren Farm.  From here follow the BW across Elsworthy to the MR at SS824415 which you follow NE to the BW SE across Almsworthy Common to Hillhead Cross.  Follow the MR NE to join the BW to Dunkery Beacon.  Descend the fast but technical BW from the Beacon to Wooton Courtenay and at SS947433 turn L and climb on the BW into the woods.  When you reach the ridge turn R and follow the track down through the trees into Dunster.  Follow the A39 to Carhampton and then the B319 to Blue Anchor.

 

Day Five – Blue Anchor to Barrow Gurney

 

Combines the superb, if short Quantocks with the flat of the Somerset Levels and some surprisingly good terrain from Cheddar across the Mendips.

 

Take the coast road from Blue Anchor to Watchet and then the MR to West Quantoxhead where you pick up the BW at ST113414 that takes you up on to the ridge of the Quantocks.  Follow the ridge along via Crowcombe Park Gate to descend past Quantock Farm on the BW through Great Wood to Pepperhill Farm then MR to join the white road at ST194374 to the MR at ST214374.  From here follow the MR into Bridgewater, cross the river and leave town on the A39.  Cross the M5 and turn R in Horsey on the MR to Bawdrip.  In Bawdrip take the old railway NE to Cossington and then follow MR across Chilton Moor to the BW at ST388455.  In the village of Mark take the B3139 to Blackford and then the BW to Middle Stoughton.  Follow MR and the B3151 to Cheddar.  At ST458542 take the BW N to Ashridge Farm and then the BW over Black Down to Link.  Go R on the A368 and then L on the BW to the A38.  Cross the A38 and follow MR through Wrington to the BW at ST475631.  This BW takes you past Bristol Airport and through The Batch to the MR at ST499677 on Backwell Hill.  Follow the BW via Barrow Hill to Barrow Gurney.

 

Day Six – Barrow Gurney to Abergavenny

 

Easy going around Bristol into Wales, some Welsh hills and a pleasant towpath run into Abergavenny.

 

From the centre of Barrow Gurney (ST532679) follow the MR N to Long Ashton and then through the village to cross the B3128 at ST554712 and through the arch into Ashton Court Country Park.  Follow the lanes through the park and exit L onto the A369 at ST558727 then R onto the MR and L to pick up the track that descends through the woods in Nightingale Valley into the Avon Gorge.  Follow the track that runs alongside the River Avon all the way (W) to the M5.  Take the cycle path that runs alongside the M5 on the Avonmouth Bridge and then follow NCR41 past Lawrence Weston and all the way to the Old Severn Bridge that carries the M48 into Wales.  Take the cycle path alongside the motorway across the bridge and then MR into Chepstow (bike shop).  Follow NCR42 on MR via Shire Newton to pick up the track into Wentwood at ST449948, turn R onto the BW through the woods to the MR at ST422948, turn R onto the BW heading NNW and descend to the MR.  Turn L and follow NCR42 to Usk.  Leave Usk on the B4598 to Chain Bridge and take the MR to the Monmouth and Brecon Canal at Goytre.  Follow the canal towpath N to Abergavenny.

 

 

Day Seven –Abergavenny to Forest Inn

 

A tough day with huge climbs and wild Welsh moorland.  Pray it doesn’t rain!

 

Take the A40 W out of town and turn R on MR at SO267155 which becomes a white road.  At SO256173 turn R to take the track through the forest and then join the BW that skirts the western slopes of the Sugar Loaf before taking the BW left past Cwm-bwch to the MR at Dyffryn and then MR/BW N to Nantybedd (SO257269).  At the car park at SO253285 take the BW NW to Grwyne Fawr Reservoir and then ascend to the summit at 690m (highest point on the ride)before descending on the BW (turn R on the descent at SO198332, easily missed!) and grassy downhill to the MR at SO189348.  At the crossroads at SO182347 turn R and take the white road and then MR through Velindre to Little Lodge and then white road/MR to Glasbury.  Follow the A438 to Llowes and then the BW N to the MR at SO194428.  Follow the MR to Painscastle and then MR NW to BW at SO144490.  This BW takes you past Doctor’s Pool and Mawn Pools, over Glascwm Hill to the MR at SO166534 and straight across on the BW to Cwm Kesty.  Take the RUPP and BW to the A44 and Forest Inn (or the Red Lion at Forest Inn).

 

 

 

Day Eight – Forest Inn to Much Wenlock

 

A long day with lots of hills, getting easier towards the end with the interesting crossing of Wenlock Edge and the descent into Much Wenlock.

 

Leaving Forest Inn take the A44 E to the RUPP on the L at SO193591.  Follow this RUPP to SO165637 where you take a R on the BW to the forest and then N on the BW to SO173673.  From here take the RUPP to the A488 at SO184680.  At Fishpools take the RUPP to Bleddfa and then the A488 again to Monaughty where you take the RUPP to SO251702.  Follow the MR to Knighton.  Out of Knighton take the BW from Paupunton to SO275749 and then the BW and RUPP E past Vron and Great Hagley to Hopton Woods.  Follow the trails through the woods and out to Hopton Castle.  Take the MR NW via Three Ashes to Clungunford and the Roman Road to Craven Arms, and then take the MR NW to Moonwood and the BW through Wolverton Wood to SO483879.  Follow the MR NW through Middlehope and then the BW to Lilywood.  Then follow the BW/Jack Mytton Way along Wenlock Edge, skirt the quarry and descend into Much Wenlock.

 

 

Day Nine – Much Wenlock to Fenny Bentley

 

A very long day in terms of mileage but on relatively easy terrain with some lengthy waymarked routes.  A little too much tar but that’s inevitable as we cross to the start of the Pennines.

 

From the centre of Much Wenlock take the MR via Broseley to the famous iron bridge at Ironbridge Gorge.  Then follow the NCR along the old railway to Coalport and pick up the Silkin Way which leads you through Telford on cycle paths.  After leaving the Silkin Way go to the Donnington Wood roundabout at SJ709123 and go E to the car park at Granville Country Park and then follow the track N to the golf club.  Then take the MR to Lilleshall and turn R at SJ732155 onto the white road that passes through Lilleshall Park (go R at SJ761158 and then L at SJ764157).  Optionally, visit the Hall which is now the National Sports Centre, for refreshments.  At the A41 go L then R on the MR to Stockton and then follow the BW through Stockton Grange Farm and out across open fields (tricky navigation as the BW crosses a cornfield) to the disused railway at SJ773184.  Go E on this which is now the Way for the Millennium and follow it all the way to Stafford.  Go N through Stafford and at SJ930260 take the BW N to Enson.  Cross the River Trent on the B5066 then follow MRs for a number of miles to Rocester and then on to Ashbourne.  At SK175469 pick up the start of the Tissington Trail and head N on this old railway to Fenny Bentley.

 

 

Day Ten – Fenny Bentley to Dunford Bridge

 

A gentle beginning to the day along the Tissington Trail followed by climbs in the White Peak and finally the cruel Cut Gate into Yorkshire.

 

From Fenny Bentley village follow the A515 N for a short while to rejoin the Tissington Trail at SK173512.  Follow this old railway all the way to its conclusion after Street House Farm at SK110673.  Take the track N to the A515, then R and L to pick up the Midshires Way.  Follow this track to the MR where you go straight across and then take a L to follow the track down to the A6 at SK 129715.  Follow MRs to the track downhill from SK133718 into Millers Dale.  Take the track N out of Millers Dale (café) to join the MR near Monksdale House, then follow this road through Tideswell to the A623 at Lane Head.  Cross onto the B6049 heading NE and then take the MRs via Great Hucklow and Hucklow Edge to Abney where you go R and join the BW over Shatton Moor and on to Offerton Hall.  From here double back L along the track to Shatton village and the A6187 at SK203826.  Cross the A road and the garden centre car park (café!), skirt the football field and pick up the old railway at SK201830 to the Ladybower Reservoir dam.  Cross the top of the dam and follow the cycle path round the E side of the reservoir to pick up the BW N on the E end of Ashopton Viaduct.  Follow this BW all the way past Ladybower, Derwent and Howden reservoirs to Slippery Stones and the start of the classic Cut Gate route at SK170954 (don’t miss the turn!).  After the tough, technical crossing of Cut Gate descend to the bridge at SE198006.  Follow the BW through the forest, taking care at the crossroads at SE198010 where you go straight across (not right) and on to cross the A628 at SE197014 near the Flouch roundabout.  Take the short BW through the woods and turn L along the old road and R at the houses at SE192015 along the BW to join the Trans Pennine Trail going W to Dunford Bridge (there is an interesting singletrack diversion on the right a few hundred metres after joining the railway that rejoins the railway a little further on).  At Dunford Bridge try the Stanhope Arms for refreshment and accommodation.

 

 

Day Eleven – Dunford Bridge to Hebden Bridge

 

A hard day in the South Pennines; lots of gritstone climbs and descents with a welcome canalside run in to Hebden Bridge.

 

From the old railway bridge take the track that climbs the front of the dam wall (from R to L) and then head across the top of Winscar dam and follow the MR from the car park up the hill to the BW L at SE151039.  Follow the BW through the old quarry to the MR at SE145043, turn L and then take the gated track down through the woods on the concessionary path/track and take a L at SE136054 and L again at the crossroads of tracks.  Go straight across the MR and follow the track with rocky downhill that eventually takes you past Yateholme Reservoir to join the A6024 Holme Moss road at SE102053.  Turn R and then take the 2nd L in Holme village to cross Digley Reservoir dam and then climb on the MR to the BW that ascends Bradshaw to join the A635 Saddleworth road.  Turn L (W) up the A635 and then R at the summit on Wessenden Head (tea caravan).  Then follow the BW/Pennine Way descent to Marsden, then MR to Standedge at SE019095.  Here pick up the Pennine Bridleway (a new national trail, see http://www.thepenninebridleway.co.uk/) and follow it past Castleshaw, Readycon Dean and Ogden reservoirs, up the stiff climb from Ogden Reservoir and then under the M62 viaduct at SD947139.  Take the MR past Hollingworth Lake and then proceed to the Rochdale Canal at Littleborough.  Follow the towpath N via Todmorden to Hebden Bridge – alternatively, at Warland follow the Mary Towneley Loop (part of the Pennine Bridleway) via Mankinholes to Hebden Bridge.

 

 


Day Twelve – Hebden Bridge to Austwick

 

Leaving the South Pennines, a taste of Lancashire before the Leeds Liverpool Canal lands you in the Yorkshire Dales proper for a feast of limestone climbs and descents.

 

From Hebden Bridge centre take the A6033 towards Howarth and then L on the MR towards Hardcastle Crags.  When you enter the woods at SD988292 take the broad track through the woods and up the valley side to Walshaw and then the BW to the MR at SD947324.  Follow the MR past Widdop Reservoir (tea at the Activity Centre SD902365) and on via MRs to Colne and the Leeds Liverpool Canal at Foulridge Wharf SD889426.  Follow the canal towpath N to Gargrave and a good lunch stop at the cyclist’s café in the village centre.  Take the track from Gargrave to Bell Busk and then MR to Hellifield.  Take the track N across the railway that climbs onto Hellifield Moor and then turn L onto Lady Anne Clifford’s Highway (track) to the MR at Scalaber Force.  Follow the BW downhill past Lodge Farm and then the B road through Settle and Giggleswick, climbing Giggleswick Scar to the BW on the R at SD797658.  Follow this BW across typical limestone scenery via Feizor to Austick (stay at a B&B but eat at the Gamecock pub).

 

 

Day Thirteen – Austwick to Appleby in Westmoreland

 

A hard day with tough Dales climbing and boggy, rutted moorland tracks leading you out of Yorkshire into the ancient county of Westmoreland.

 

Take the walled BW from Austwick to Wharfe and then the BW over the hill via Crummock and Sulber to the B6479 at Selside.  Follow the B road N to the T junction near Ribblehead Viaduct and turn R (tea van).  At SD785803 follow the Dales Way (BW) up Cam Fell, rejoining the Pennine Way.  Turn L at SD830834 and skirt Dodd Fell to your R and follow the (very rocky!) track down to the B6255 at SD860895.  Cross the road and take the BW to Thorney Mire House and then pick up the A684 at Appersett – there is a worthwhile diversion here to the café in Hardraw.  Leave the A684 at SD839923 and follow the very steep grass climb on the BW up to Cotter End.  This is Lady Anne Clifford’s highway again.  Follow this rutted and boggy track all the way to the B6259 at NY783004.  Follow the B road N and after passing Pendragon Castle turn L onto the MR and then R along the BW which follows the River Eden N via Wharton Hall to join the A685 into Kirkby Stephen.  From here follow MRs to Appleby.

 

 

Day Fourteen – Appleby in Westmoreland to Longtown

 

A Roman road and the Maiden Way take us eventually across Hadrian’s Wall and within a stone’s throw of Scotland.

 

From the centre of Appleby take the B6542 NW, pass under the railway and then take the BW that follows the course of the Roman Road.  Then follow the MR into Long Marton where you pick up the BW which runs along the S side of the railway to the road at Stamp Hill Farm (if access is blocked follow the track alongside the conveyor to the road).  From here follow MRs to Kirkland and the Maiden Way (BW) over Melmerby Fell and the white road to Alston.  Alternatively, follow the Pennine Way BW from Kirkland to Garrigill and then the road to Alston.  Follow the road N from Alston to Williamston and then the BW on the E of the river to Eals.  Then make your way to the BW that starts near Burnfoot at NY664604 and follow this W to the A689 at Coalfell.  Follow the A689 into Brampton and proceed through the village on the A6071.  After crossing the River Irthing, take the MR R to Irthington and then the BW from NY496613 NW, crossing Hadrian’s Wall, to Laversdale, then the BW to the MR at NY466630.  Follow the MR through Barclose and then R to the BW at NY438641.  Follow this BW to Howberry and then MR to Westlinton, and then take NCR7 via the old railway to Longtown.

 

 


Day Fifteen – Longtown to Tibbie Shiels

 

Leaving England, immediately the terrain seems to change.  Scottish Estates, shooting tracks and forest trails all make up the typical terrain.  A tough finish but a fine descent for a well earned pint.

 

Leave Longtown heading N on the A7 then at Dickstree Cottage take the MR L to Sarkhall and then across the Scottish border Milltown where you join the B6357.  At NY345758 take the track N to Tomshielburn and then MR to the track NE atNY339795.  Follow this track to join the A7 and then on to Langholm.  From Langholm take the B709 NW to Burnfoot and then follow the estate track along the N bank of the River Esk to Kirktonhill.  From here take the MR N to Glendinning where at NY300969 you take the track heading N to Loath Knowe in the forest.  Pick your way through the maze of forest tracks to the B709 and follow this to Tushielaw.  Turn L on the B709 and at the top of the climb (NT276201) take the track heading W to Earls Hill and then descend to the Tibbie Shiels Inn.

 

 

Day Sixteen – Tibbie Shiels to Castlecary

 

A very long, hard day with lots of climbing to start and then a good deal of tarmac in the middle section of the day, but still enough off-road to keep it interesting.

 

From the Inn take the A708 N alongside St Mary’s Loch.  At Cappercleuch take the MR W to Meggett Reservoir dam and at NT208234 take the track N over Redsike Head and then the MR N to Macbeth’s Castle.  At NT 207342 take the track WNW to Dawyck Mill.  At the B712 turn L and then R on the MR to Broughton (café).  From the church take the track NW to Skirling.  After a short section on the A72 take the track N to Candy Mill, then the MR to Elsrickle.  Follow the track N to Walston and then the MR via Weston to join the track at NT035475.  Follow this track to the A70 and then on to East Yardhouses.  From here follow MRs to Forth and join the B715, following this all the way to Meadowfoot where at NS922599 you take the track L through the forest (waymarked) to the B7066 at Eastfield.  Take the track N out of Eastfield that crosses the M8 and takes you through fields to Blairmuckhill where you go R on the MR to join NCR75 at NS898658.  Follow this former railway W all the way to Hillend Reservoir, bypass Caldercruix on the B road and take the track N at NS826684.  At the MR turn L and follow MRs NW to Palacerigg Country Park.  Take the track NW, on the W edge of the Park, which ends at the MR at NS776746.  Follow the MR past Kilt Farm to Castlecary.

 

 

Day Sixteen – Castlecary to Kingshouse, Strathyre

 

A great day leading into the Trossachs and some excellent forest trails and lochside paths.

 

Leaving Castlecary join the towpath of the Forth and Clyde canal at NS789787 and follow it W to the MR at NS737774.  Proceed N to cross the A803 and take the track N past Banton Loch and Riskend to the MR.  Follow this over the top of the hill and at NS735815 take the track L into the Carron Valley Forest.  Follow the forest track that skirts the S edge of the reservoir to the B818 at Todholes.  Follow this road W to Fintry and then take the B822 N to Balafark.  Here take the track NW to the A811.  In Buchlyvie (café) turn R onto the B835 and at NS567943 pick up the old railway which takes you NW to Barbodoes.  You have to leave the railway here, as there is no bridge over the River Forth, and take the A81 N to Cobleland where you rejoin the railway (now NCR) to Aberfoyle.  From here join the NCR7 N through the forest all the way to Loch Venachar and Callander.  Continue on NCR7 which follows the old railway as it climbs slowly up the Pass of Leny and past Loch Lubnaig to Strathyre (café).  Follow the A84 N to Kingshouse (hotel).

 


Day Eighteen – Kingshouse, Strathyre to Kinlochleven

 

The West Highland Way – fantastic trail riding and awesome scenery – a magnificent, albeit strenuous, day.

 

From the hotel at Kingshouse follow NCR7 N along the old railway through Glen Ogle to where it joins the A85 at NN558284.  Follow the A85 to Crianlarich where at NN384251 you take the track W into the forest and then join the West Highland Way (WHW) following it NW to Tyndrum (café).  Follow the WHW to Bridge of Orchy and then take the MR (this section of the WHW isn’t passable by bike) to the Inveroran Hotel (tea!) and Forest Lodge.  From here rejoin the WHW off-road to the Kings House Hotel, then climb (walk) the Devil’s Staircase and eventually enjoy the long descent into Kinlochleven.

 

 

Day Nineteen – Kinlochleven to Fort Augustus

 

More West Highland Way delivers a tough start but then a flowing descent into Fort William followed by easy riding along the Great Glen.

 

Depart Kinlochleven on the West Highland Way and follow this all the way to Fort William (café, bike shop).  From the centre of town take the cycle track at NN105744 past the castle and along the B8006 to the Caledonian Canal and Neptune’s Staircase.  Now follow the Great Glen Cycle Route (GGCR) NE along the canal towpath to Gairlochy and then the B8005 and GGCR along the N shore of Loch Lochy to Laggan Swing Bridge.  Continue to follow the GGCR alongside Loch Oich to Bridge of Oich and then along the towpath to Fort Augustus.

 

 

Day Twenty – Fort Augustus to Contin

 

Great trails along the Great Glen and an easy afternoon ride leaving Loch Ness behind.

 

From Fort Augustus rejoin the Great Glen Cycle Route and follow it along the N shore of Loch Ness to Drumnadrochit (café), then at NH531301 join the Great Glen Way as it climbs out of the glen.  At the MR at NH541357 go NW via Fassock and a section of white road to Belladrum Farm.  Join the A833 N at NH520427 and then the A862 to Beauly and Muir of Ord.  Then take the A832 to Marybank and MR to the power station at NH446545 from where you take the track N to Contin.

 

 

Day Twenty One – Contin to Lairg

 

Superb long forest trails and shooting tracks, followed by a tarmac finish.

 

From the centre of Contin take the forest trail that starts at NH454567 and follow this past Rogie Falls to Strathgarve Lodge where you join the MR.  Cross over the A835 at NH400636 and follow the forestry track through Longart Forest to rejoin the A road near Inchbae Lodge Hotel (tea).  Follow the road NW to Black Bridge and then take the long track N along Loch Vaich and Gleann Mor to the MR at Glencalvie Lodge.  At NH473909 turn R and follow the MR NE, E and N to Culrain.  Follow the cycleway from the station, over the river and alongside the railway, to Invershin.  Take the A837 and then the B864 past the Shin Falls to Lairg.

 

 


Day Twenty Two – Lairg to Forsinard

 

Leave civilisation truly behind and experience Scottish Wilderness.  More long tracks and only one tea stop make this a lonely but rewarding ride.

 

Leave Lairg heading N on the A836 (NCR1) to the Crask Inn (tea).  You could avoid some of this (albeit really a single lane MR) A road by finding a route via the forest tracks on the E of the road.  After refreshments at the Crask Inn (the only tea opportunity of the day), backtrack slightly to NC524246 where you take the track that heads E across the moor.  This starts off quite boggy and difficult but eventually becomes a good shooting track passing Loch A Bhealaich and Loch Choire to Loch Choire Lodge.  From here take the long track NE to the B871 where you go R along the Helmsdale River to Kinbrace.  From here follow the A897 N to Forsinard and the hotel which is by the station.

 

 

Day Twenty Three – Forsinard to John O’Groats

 

A day of two halves; more endless shooting tracks at the start give way to an unavoidable tarmac finish.  John O’Groats as a location may be a touch anti-climatic, but the feeling of achievement is tremendous.  Phone for a taxi to Thurso and celebration!

 

From Forsinard follow the A897 N to NC904486 where you go R onto the track that heads SW around the S side of Sletill Hill.  Follow this track to cross the railway at NC999452, go L at the junction and follow the track past Altnabreac Station and alongside the railway for a while before heading off to join the MR N of Loch More at ND091472.  Follow the MR NE to Westerdale and then take the B870 to Watten (tea).  Continue NE on the B870 to the B876 and then at ND265608 take the MR NE to the A836 and the finish at John O’Groats.  Don’t forget to get your card stamped and if you’re still feeling energetic take the track to Duncansby Head.

 

 


Statistics

 

 

Day

From

To

Distance

Cum. Dist.

Average

Climb ft

Tot climb

Av Climb

TF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Land's End

Truro

46

46

46

3950

3950

3950

18

2

Truro

Launceston

56

102

51

5890

9840

4920

33

3

Launceston

Fremington (Barnstaple)

58

160

53

4740

14580

4860

27

4

Fremington (Barnstaple)

Blue Anchor

44

204

51

6155

20735

5184

27

5

Blue Anchor

Barrow Gurney

52

256

51

4400

25135

5027

23

6

Barrow Gurney

Abergavenny

52

308

51

4396

29531

4922

23

7

Abergavenny

Forest Inn

42

350

50

7270

36801

5257

31

8

Forest Inn

Much Wenlock

55

405

51

7210

44011

5501

40

9

Much Wenlock

Fenny Bentley

70

475

53

4050

48061

5340

28

10

Fenny Bentley

Dunford Bridge

38

513

51

4550

52611

5261

17

11

Dunford Bridge

Hebden Bridge

49

562

51

7350

59961

5451

36

12

Hebden Bridge

Austwick

48

610

51

5630

65591

5466

27

13

Austwick

Appleby in Westmoreland

53

663

51

6500

72091

5545

34

14

Appleby in Westmoreland

Longtown

61

724

52

5920

78011

5572

36

15

Longtown

Tibbie Shiels Inn

52

776

52

6800

84811

5654

35

16

Tibbie Shiels Inn

Castlecary

67

843

53

6509

91320

5708

44

17

Castlecary

Kingshouse, Strathyre

59

902

53

5940

97260

5721

35

18

Kingshouse, Strathyre

Kinlochleven

55

957

53

6700

103960

5776

37

19

Kinlochleven

Fort Augustus

46

1003

53

4550

108510

5711

21

20

Fort Augustus

Contin

47

1050

53

6000

114510

5726

28

21

Contin

Lairg

45

1095

52

4300

118810

5658

19

22

Lairg

Forsinard

54

1149

52

3200

122010

5546

17

23

Forsinard

John O'Groats

51

1200

52

2100

124110

5396

11

 

 

 

 

1200

50

 

124110

5171

 

 

 

 

Note:

 

TF (Toughness Factor) combines the distance in a day with the height ascended to try and give a comparison of the difficulty level of each day – the higher the TF the more difficult!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Accommodation

 

Day

To

Accommodation

 

 

 

0

Penzance

Woodstock Guest House 01736 369049

1

Truro

Bay Tree House 01872 240274

2

Launceston

Bakers Arms 01566 772510

3

Fremington (Barnstaple)

Lower Yelland Farm 01271 860101

4

Blue Anchor

The Langbury 01643 821 375

5

Barrow Gurney

The Fox and Goose 01275 476555

6

Abergavenny

Kings Arms 01873 855074

7

Forest Inn

Red Lion Inn 01544 350 220

8

Much Wenlock

Gaskell Arms Hotel 01952 727212

9

Fenny Bentley

Bentley Brook Inn 01335 350278

10

Dunford Bridge

Stanhope Arms

11

Hebden Bridge

White Lion Hotel 01422 842197

12

Austwick

Woodview b&b 015242 51268

13

Appleby in Westmoreland

Royal Oak 017683 51463

14

Longtown

Briar Lea Guest House 01228 791538

15

Tibbie Shiels Inn

Tibbie Shiels Inn 01750 42231

16

Castlecary

CastleCary Hotel 01324 840233  TPG

17

Kingshouse, Strathyre

KingsHouse Strathyre 01877 384646

18

Kinlochleven

MacDonald Hotel 01855 831213  LR

19

Fort Augustus

Richmond Ho Hotel 01320 366719  - web

20

Contin

Achility Hotel 01997 421355  TPG

21

Lairg

The Nip Inn 01549 402243

22

Forsinard

Forsinard hotel 01641 571221 web

23

John O'Groats

The Station Hotel, Thurso 01847 892003