I have been on holiday to the Lake District over the last wee while and after the fun of Tour o The Borders I decided to cycle part of the route from Edinburgh to Elterwater. I was really looking forward to it actually, much as the roads are narrow in the Lake I have no problem cycling in traffic and I knew the views (and hopefully the cake stop) would make up for it. Well it didn’t go that well.
Using the wonder of technology (and the fact that I am cheap and slightly disorganised) I chose to use Google Maps on my phone to help me navigate from Penrith train station to Elterwater. The distance was around 30 miles and Google suggested it would take me around 3 hours. Now not to blow my own trumpet too much I know I cycle faster than that so I planned to be at the cottage 2 and a half hours after leaving Penrith, with a wee stop in Grasmere.
I woke up on the morning of the cycle with a headache and blocked nose, nothing too bad but why had 3 drinks spaced over 6 hours given me such a headache? I kept drinking water and packed up a few things in a rucksack for the journey. I had already sent the main amount of my stuff with my folks who were driving down.
The cycle from my flat to Edinburgh Waverley wasn’t fun. My head hurt and my temples ached. Hmmm, I tried to keep the positive thinking on the go though. The train journey was a lovely route and getting my bike on and off the Virgin train was a piece of cake. The only slight hiccup was when the ticket inspector told me off for not putting a ticket on my bike to let her know where it was going. The guards at Waverley hadn’t mentioned that to me and had said they would phone Penrith to let them know that’s where I was getting off. But to be fair to her it does seem entirely sensible to inform everyone where Cadfael was going as it is unlikely he would have hoped out at Penrith himself.
I arrived at Penrith on time and collected Cadfael from his carriage. Next I checked the map and had some more juice, took a wee picture and set off. To begin with the route took me quickly out of Penrith, I promptly forgot to turn right so had to recheck my map, retrace my steps and then turn right 🙂 Then I was on small country roads, heading through wee villages and having some beautiful views. There was a fair amount of climbing involved and I still didn’t feel great but that was made up for by the scenery.
I followed a couple of the major cycle routes (7 and 71) for a good few miles and was punted out onto the A66, a busy main road – in fact one of the main routes into the Lakes and a national speed limit road. There was a cycle route alongside which I followed for a while and then all of sudden the cycle routes went to the right while I had to continue straight on for a left turn in a few miles. I had to cycle on the main road and I hated every minute, I managed to find another wee road off to the right that took me away from the main road and allowed me a nicer route until I had to turn off the A66.
On the B5322 road again the scenery took over and it was lovely, a really nice part of the route. I was getting into the Lake District as I think of it so the hills were rising at the side and I cycled alongside Thirlmere. However, all too soon I was put back onto the main road again and at one point was on a section of dual carriageway. I had two cars pass me side-by-side and I will be honest it scared me. Very few of the cars slowed down for me and I felt really pretty unwell as I slogged up the hills. The views didn’t even inspire me anymore and it just felt like a trudge. I kept kicking myself as there had been an alternative cycle route to Grasmere signposted but I had gone with my Google Maps route and there was no way to get to the route unless I cycled back.
When I reached Grasmere, 4 hours (!!!), after I had left Penrith I gave up and asked for a lift for the last section over the hill. With hindsight that part of the route would have been one of the best sections as I walked it the next day, but realistically I couldn’t have done it any justice.
There are no pictures of the last part of the route as I was feeling truly terrible at this point. After the highs of the Tour o the Borders I probably under estimated how many hills this route would have (I know, I know it is the Lakes, mark me down as daft). I also truly wish I had taken an actual map, sometimes the classic options are the best. I have learnt my lesson on this one, I will always plan my own route and I will avoid the main roads if I can when doing a cycle like this – it was meant to be fun. But on the plus side it was a lovely holiday, more posts to come on that – including a more positive cycle one. Oh and I never got cake on that cycle but I more than made up for that during the rest of the holiday.