Sunday, 3 July 2011

Cycling in Northumbria - Sustrans Route #1: Coasts and Castles

While on holiday in Northumbira we took the opportunity to try out some of Sustrans Route 1, the "Coast and Castles Route", which runs from Newcastle up to Edinburgh along the Northumbrian coastline.

We were staying in Alnmouth, about 35 miles north of Newcastle, so we decided to head to Banburgh along the cycle route, about 25 miles North of where we were staying.

The route is simply stunning; most of the way is accompanied by fantastic views out to sea, passing through tiny fishing villages every now and then which were bustling with active holiday-makers all eager to enjoy this fantastic part of the country. It struck us how far apart everything was, and even then how sparsely populated the villages were.

Another obvious difference was the elevantion of the area. Whereas Yorkshire has steep hills and areas of serious ups and downs punctuated with good periods of flat riding, Northumbria is all either up or down - mostly up, it seemed! The hills are usually long and sprawling, but there are also regular steep climbs requiring low gears and lots of stamina!

One of my favourite parts of the ride took us off-road onto what is mainly the walker's path. Tricky in places on hybrid bikes, this offered a really exciting and reasonably technical hour of riding, some of which required the wimp's option of getting off and pushing! It was hot and the breeze onto this path, which followed the line of the sea directly, was absolutely blissful!

The heat really was a challenge for both of us on this ride. While it's possible (or even probable) that it'll be a typical grey, drizzly English summer day on August 14th, if we wake up to blue skies and potential 20+C temperatures we'll really be struggling. This ride was a good opportunity to test how we work (or if we work!) in the heat, and gave us some foresight as to how we should best deal with a hot day of cycling.

We drank absolutely loads of water during the day, which seems obvious, but it's easy to forget to top up in a village store and be left with nothing a few miles down the road. We also enjoyed a short break in Bamburgh, where we had a picnic on the beach with plenty of salty crisps. We've also taken to packing up a couple of apples in our bags when we go out, as they provide fantastic refreshment as well as sugars, and are a nice change from cereal bars and peanuts!

This was a really great route in testing weather, which at one point pushed us a little far over the edge. We were both quite disappointed with Bamburgh, which boasted only two bike parks and was absolutely over-whelmed by cars. Still, it gave us a good turning point for the ride, which ended up being 50 miles altogether. A good day out, and a great route for exploring the Northumbrian coastline!

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