Day 1: Whitehaven to Troutbeck 45 miles.
So the day of our c2c attempt dawned, and we were already on our way to Newcastle Central Station to catch the 6.47 to Carlisle, and from there onto Whitehaven. We were due to meet Dan (the third wheel to our adventure (excuse the pun!)) at 9.50 and set off ASAP allowing us plenty of time to reach our rest point for the first day at Troutbeck. Unfortunately Dan’s 5.00am train out of Sheffield was cancelled, and meant he was delayed for an hour. This gave us ample time for a bacon butty at the Beacon Cafe, which was a little pricey but very tasty and the calories were very welcome!
We sat watching the several other parties leave (many of which we’d catch up with on the ride!) whilst eating our butties and were raring to go by the time Dan arrived! At 11.00am we were off! The path out of Whitehaven is easy to follow and after a mile or so you end up on a specific cycle path, which we followed through the rolling country side for the next several miles. All the time accompanied by views of the distant peaks of the Lakes. The path is a perfect start to the ride and allowed us to settle into a nice rhythm.
The first few miles flew by, and we were fortunate to have the company of Jed and Jim a couple of other c2c’ers. Their conversation was a nice distraction from the beginnings of a 3 day long very sore arse! Around Loweswater we started to hit more hills, of which the down bits were great, the up bits erm… not so much, however Dan (a much keener cyclist than us impostors) sped up them, way in front of us, but was always kind enough to wait (in fact he did a lot of this over the next couple of days).
Soon we were at the dreaded Whinlatter Pass! The first major climb of the ride. There’s no getting around the fact that it is pretty steep and quite long. Harriet did struggle with the climb especially as we entered the forest, but with some encouragement from our new found friends from Tadea (also fellow c2c’ers) we were soon at the forest visitor centre. From there we blasted down the forest tracks into Thornthwaite.
From Thornthwaite, we cruised through the next few villages to arrive in Keswick at precisely ‘beer o’clock’! As such we quickly settled into the Pack Horse and ordered pints and chips, after some cracking banter with some locals and holiday makers we were on our way. The stretch out of Keswick is a bit of grind as it’s all on a slightly up hill gradient, and my arse was also killing at this point!
We soon reached the rather ‘interesting’ deviation up to Mungrisdale, it seemed like a bit of a trek at the time, however, looking back it’s actually a really nice bit of the ride, and the pub in the village is meant to be great (although we didn’t stop in). During this stretch of the journey we treated to an exquisite sunset over the Lakes and some interesting antics from the local sheep.
Once back at the A66, we were only 10mins away from the Troutbeck Inn. I literally can’t recommend this highly enough. The room was great, the beer perfect and the food was brilliant – far beyond your standard pub grub!
Day 2: Troutbeck to Rookhope 47 miles
After a delicious meal and and evening stroll, we hit the hay ready for the ‘big’ day 2! We awoke refreshed and ready to ride. After an excellent breakfast we were ready for the off. We chewed up the miles to Penrith, only pausing to check out this awesome house:
On the hill out of Penrith I developed a puncture and was forced to swap inner tube, during which we were passed again by our fellow cyclists Jed, Jim and the Tadea team. Once rolling again we enjoyed the scenic landscape that brought us ever closed to the Hartside climb!!
There a couple of things I will say about Hartside; firstly, it’s bloody long, but not too bad on the road! Secondly; DON’T do the off road option on a hybrid, it’s not cool. At the top of the climb there is a conveniently located cafe, which does good grub and a mean hot chocolate! This was particularly lucky for us as low cloud had been rolling in all morning. Strangely I bumped into a couple of work colleagues who had been out for a walk in the hills. With their words of encouragement and those of our fellow c2c’ers we were off again to face the wrath of the Pennine hills before our second stop at Rookhope.
After the glorious downhill stretch into Leadgate, you hit some ‘proper’ climbs! The one out of Garrigill is big, the one out of Nenthead is big and the one out of Allenheads is big and the…….. put it this way there are some big climbs. But what goes up must come down and the downhills sections are an utter joy, the two best were the one between Nenthead and Allenheads and the one into Rookhope (which was no doubt helped by the fact that was our stopping point).
The section between Garrigill and Rookhope was my favourite of the trip, we were treated to a glorious afternoon in the sunshine, epic vistas and a sense of freedom with literally nothing to stop us (literally nothing, as I was wearing through my rear break pads!).
After the epic descent into Rookhope we were truly ready for our evenings stop. This came in the form of the B&B at The Old Vicarage, this B&B is in a perfect location for a second night stop on a 3 day c2c. The hosts Pauline and Colin were welcoming and friendly, however the accommodation is a bit tired and cluttered and our room was a bit chilly. Which was a shame as it was hard not to compare it to the plush night we’d just spent at the Troutbeck Inn for the same money. We ate at the pub in the village, which provided us with good standard hearty dishes.
Day 3: Rookhope to Tynemouth 48 miles
The final day dawned, and after a large cooked breakfast and a lengthy conversation between Dan and Colin we were ready for the off.
With the off road section closed for the grouse season we took the route that ascends out of Rookhope exactly opposite the B&B. It was quite a brutal climb to start the day, especially after a full English! However it’s a nice quiet road across the moor and we were soon in Stanhope and ready to face the daunting Crawleyside Bank. This is a particularly devilish climb, however we attacked it knowing it was the last substantial climb of the trip. And with that thought in our head we soon found ourselves at the top of the Waskerley Way.
This is a splendid bit of cycle path and we cruised down it into Consett. It was a glorious September morning and with the sun on our backs this section was an absolute joy.
Consett, is a bit of a pain in terms of navigation, for the first time the sign-posts aren’t great and we ended up off our intended path heading towards Sunderland. With the correct route identified with the help of several locals (some more knowledgeable than others!) we were soon back on our way and following the correct cycle path to Rowlands Gill and eventually Gateshead. All of a sudden the sights and sounds became all too familiar as we followed the path up Scotswood Road and into Newcastle.
After a quick beer and slice of cake from the excellent Cycle Hub on the Tyne we were ready for the final push. We sped through the last few miles and after cycling round the marina at North Shields, the Tynemouth Jetty came into view. It was a view that I met with mixed feelings, on the one hand we were nearly finished, but on the other hand I was a little disappointed the journey was soon to be over.
We weaved in and out of the crowds on the promenade up to Tynemouth and before we knew it we’d climbed the monument hill and we were on the beach about to dip our front wheels in the North Sea. We’d done it! Irish Sea to the North Sea. Cycled. Three days. What a trip!
We had an absolute blast doing the c2c, even though Harriet said it was the hardest thing she had ever done! I do think a bit of additional training would have helped, but hey ho. A lack of preparation certainly added to the adventure. We found the website http://www.c2c-guide.co.uk/ to be a huge help in the little planning that we did for the trip. We were able to stock up with all the cycling goods required for a reasonable price at http://startcycles.co.uk/.
Here are a couple of extra pics taken along the way: