Friday, 21 March 2014

Day 4: 20 March 2014 - Whitby to Scarbrough (20 miles)

This was our last day of cycling, and was not really with the aim of getting somewhere, but just an excuse to get a few more miles in the legs before catching the train home to rest up over the weekend. We ate our breakfast and left the hotel around 9:30, in order to allow plenty of time to make our train home and, if possible, allow time for lunch in Scarborough.

Arrival followed by fish and chips.
We left Whitby by climbing up the fearsomely steep (and cobbled) road leading up to the abbey, before winding round the back for the very windy road that would lead us to Robin Hood's Bay. Right from the start the wind was against us and it was a real effort to keep cycling. We eventually reached the main road before rapidly turning off again to join the B road to Robin Hood's Bay where we just missed the turn-off we required. Fortunately, we realised before attempting the very tempting 30% downhill gradient down to the beach front, which we would have surely had to climb up again had we had the wherewithal to go down it in our error.

The harbour at Whitby bay.
Fortunately we caught ourselves in time and turned back to head back to the main road for our next turn-off. On our way back to the main road, we saw the turn-off for the Whitby to Scarborough cycle trail that we had previously noticed before arriving at the main road. We decided to give it a go to shun the presence of cars and in the hope that it would provide us with some much needed shelter from the horrific wind that seemed to be following us everywhere we went. Although not ideal terrain, being built on a former railway and being surrounded by trees, we were sheltered from the wind in large part and did not have such fearsome gradients to contend with, as railways inevitably can only manage gradients of a certain degree.

The steep climb out of Whitby.
We carried on in this manner for some way before coming out at Ravenscar, where we needed to decide between carrying on the cycle trail or rejoining the road way and feeling tarmac beneath our feet. I decided we should head back on the roads for a bit, which I briefly regretted given the wind going against us again, but at least we gained a small amount of speed back to allow us time for lunch in Scarborough.

On the coastal trail from Whitby to Scarborough.
We approached Scarborough eventually with time to spare, but with some real effort being put in due to the endless wind meaning we had to use the path at certain points to avoid being blown into an oncoming vehicle! Fortunately, being midweek, the roads were not too busy and we were largely free to enjoy the roads for ourselves.We stopped briefly by the Welcome to Scarborough sign for a photo opportunity showing we had made the trip (and survived) before cycling three miles further on to Scarborough station to park up the bikes before heading into town for some lunch.

View round the headland. 
Upon wandering into town, we found a pleasant little cafe by the cliff-top lift that led down to the seafront, which was both affordable and decent food to keep us going for the journey home. Tiredness was clearly getting to us however, as I asked for luxury chips and a home-made hot chocolate, rather than the other way around - I even had a little laugh to myself, so the woman behind the counter must have thought I was a bit crazy. Still, having cycled 120 miles or so with no effort other than my own two legs, she'd probably be right. Having eaten our fill we dragged ourselves up the hill back to the train station and boarded our train with time to spare. As much effort as it took to get up some of those hills or ride into the wind, I wouldn't change a moment of it and am already planning the next one. Here's to our big bike ride in Slovenia! Until the next one, Clifford.

Day 3: 19 March 2014 - Thornton-le-dale to Whitby (24 miles)

We got up even earlier for this our third day of cycling, with our main destination 24 miles ahead of us following a gruelling ride over the moors with no rain but some wind to keep things challenging. With a planned route via Dalby Forest and Goathland, we knew there would be no short of energy required today, so we left the guesthouse in good time following a hearty breakfast, knowing we would need every ounce of fuel we could muster.

Going Ape in Dalby Forest - looks like fun!
Things started off in high (or low) gear right from the off, with a brisk climb towards Dalby Forest testing our legs right from the off. Fortunately, our turn-off came sooner than we anticipated and we passed through Dalby Forest enjoying the long straight smooth road. We in fact enjoyed it so much that we missed our (admittedly easy to miss) turnoff and headed round to the right before we realised we wouldn't be reaching our destination any time soon that way. Having passed Go Ape (an airborne assault course that looks like GREAT fun) we turned back towards High Dalby house where our turn-off just so happened to be a mud track heading over the river that fortunately was reasonably cycleable to begin with.

The turn-off we SHOULD have taken...
Having made it back to the main road, we headed slightly downhill to turn off to the pleasant and isolated villages of Lockton and Levisham. Into Lockton was a nice easy downhill whilst into Levisham was an even steeper downhill (20% gradient) with a wonderful downhill following a magnificent view over the valley. Heading down into the valley we were soon met with another punishing 20% gradient back up into the second village which we knew we weren't going to manage on our bikes, so off we hopped again before clambering back on following a brief rest at the top of the hill. Levisham is basically two rows of houses on either side of the village green, and is genuinely very remote but still has it's share of B&B's and a village pub.

Checking we're going the right way.
We headed out of the village onto open moorland, having passed a woman walking her dog who told us we could expect some wind out on the moor. Fortunately, this didn't prove to be the case, and we had a pleasant 3 mile saunter over relatively even terrain that none-the-less would not be optimal riding over a long period, but did allow us to experience some genuine seclusion. This brought us back out onto the main A169 towards Whitby which gave us our first proper downhill of the day.

Resting after a 20% climb into Levisham.
Following this good run, we turned off for the village of Goathland, famous for being the village where ITV's Heartbeat was filmed, and very popular during the 1990's. The village itself is full of souvenir shops and cafe's selling all sorts of Heartbeat memorabilia, and you'd be forgiven for thinking you were no longer in 2014. Our ride into the village was over open moorland was indeed very windy, and we were almost blown into some sheep a few times. Fortunately, we made it into the village and after a brief-rest stop, went on our merry way again.

The picturesque yet remote village of Levisham.
Leaving the village brings a fierce 1 in 4 (25%) gradient that even the best of road bikes would be hard pressed to manage. We passed the scenic North York moors railway (stopping for a photo) and then out of the village for the more gradual (yet still windy) incline that would lead us back out on to the main road for the highlight of our trip - the incredible downhill run that is Blue Bank.

Crossing the moor on two wheels.
Blue Bank is surely famed in this area of the country for it's sheer drop, as there is an escape lane 800 yeards in for cars that cannot handle it and need to stop in an emergency. Fortunately, being much slower than cars, yet able to get up to speed easily on the downhill run, Blue Bank is a cyclists dream, whilst being curvy enough to test your bike's steering and braking skills. Fortunately for us, we didn't need to stop once, and must have hit around 40mph before we got to the bottom and entered the village of Sleights. A nasty shock hit us when we realised there is a nasty uphill before us right at the bottom. Fortunately, we were able to turn off just before hitting any more ascents, with huge grins on our faces following the adrenaline rush gained on the downhill run.

The downhill run to the next village.
The right turn brought us to the pleasant village of Ruswarp, where we stopped briefly to decide whether to join the main road to Whitby or to turn right and find the Scarbrough to Whitby cycle trail that would bring us out in the centre of Whitby. We decided on the latter, following a brief but nasty climb that led us over an old railway line that gave us a good view of Whitby in the distance before planting us right in the centre of town. Having reached our destitution, we decided to buy some good old fish and chips before seating ourselves on top of the hill overlooking the town near Captain Cook's statue and simply savouring our achievement at making it 100 miles from home to here. In reality, with a few diversions and other distractions, I think we had actually hit 106 miles by this point, but as we had hit three figures, we revelled in our glory and, having eaten our fill, headed to our place of lodging for the night.

Last stop before Whitby - choosing which way to go.
Captain's Lodge where we stayed was a curious mix of old and new, but had a saving grace in the fact that there was a very comfortable sofa in our bedroom just begging for the weary traveller to relax in.  Having washed ourselves and relaxed for a while, we headed out to explore the town, before later on heading to a traditional 1940's pie restaurant where you can get a range of pies and mash for the humble price of £5.99, with a wonderful dessert of Jam Roly Poly to fill you up afterwards if you're hungry enough (I certainly was). After this we were flagging with tiredness, so headed back in to rest up for the night before the 20 mile trip down the coast to Scarborough where we would catch our train home.

Day 2: 18 March 2014 - York to Thornton-le-dale (30 miles)

Day 2 dawned bright and early, where we rose around half past 8 in the morning for an early breakfast and a brief review of the route we would be taking that day. Our destination for the second day would be Thornton-le-dale, our first 'real' stop in North Yorkshire and where we would get some taste of the countryside to come. Today would break us in gently to the climbing to come, with a relatively flat route for the first 10 miles, then a few hills to test us in the middle part, before another fairly gentle ride into the village we would call home for the next 24 hours.


We set off from our hostel just before 10, ploughing through a housing estate with a very convenient tarmacked cycle path on the central reservation, which brought us out a roundabout. Veering right, we would be aiming for Strensall to the north of York, then basically following a zig zag pattern. As always seems to be the case when leaving urban areas, we got slightly lost in the maze that was the housing estate, but soon found our way out again with (fortunately) a link-up that would lead us back on to the B road we would be following for a good 5 miles or so.


Once on the B-road we were sailing through fairly flat foresty areas with trees overhead and a few golf course and a shooting range to our right. We could hear the guns being fired for quite some way before the sound finally died out, and we could breathe a sigh of relief that no bullets found themselves in our sides. After around 5 miles we came out at an old railway crossing. Rather curiously, it was the old-fashioned type where you have to press a bell for attention to cross, or in the case of bikes, just stroll through the gates. The road on the other side was more remote than previously, and was not really the best terrain for road bikes. Fortunately, it eventually petered out and we found ourselves on a pleasantly tarmacked downhill that marked our entrance proper to the start of the Howardian Hills.


Sadly, the downhill was not to last. Stettenham Hill lay before us with a beastly 20% gradient. Having first headed sharply downhill and, having lost all our momentum, decided to give up the ghost and walk up, as there was no way we could get a decent foot (or pedal) up that hill easily. Having passed through the village of Bulmer, we turned left at Wellburn for a brief yet soggy downhill towards Castle Howard before upping the pace for a brief uphill into the castle car park, where we would stop for lunch.

After a pleasant lunch in a nice cafe, and with us by far the youngest and least sophisticated of the bunch in our sodden cycle clothes, we had a brief walk around the castle grounds and into the shops before hopping back on the bikes for our next big test of the day as we approached Hepton Hill to our right. Fortunately, this one was not too bad and we managed to remain on our bikes until the left turn towards Amotherby, where we enjoyed a wonderful view before veering sharply downhill into the village and crossing straight over the crossroads for a downhill once more into Habton.


Turning off once more we headed towards Kirby Misperton, following which we would reach the A169 which leads directly to Whitby. However, to reach our destination we had to turn sharply back on ourselves to head south before making the turn-off necessary to get a straight run into Thornton-le-dale. With no more hills to taunt us, we ended up having our first taste of the wind for a miles as we were buffeted and swayed along the fairly quiet A road until we blissfully reached our turn-off. We arrived at our B&B in good time to allow us to have a little wander around the village, and to relax in some comfort.
We had decided to go somewhere a little more comfortable and homely for our last two nights, and we had certainly chosen well. Warrington Guest House comes highly recommended and with a good breakfast to boot. Modern yet cosy, there is secure cycle storage and it is well-equipped for the weary travelling with a reading room and evening meals and packed lunches available if necessary. After nipping out for some pleasant dinner in the restaurant area of the nearby pub, we turned in for the night ready for what would be our most gruelling day to come tomorrow as headed towards our final destination - Whitby.

Day 1: 17 March 2014 - Doncaster to York (via Selby - 42 miles)


So me and a friend had an idea (or rather I did) to do a multi-day bike ride that would start in my home town and take us 100 miles to Whitby, a pleasant coastal seaside town 100 miles to the north-east, before cycling back down the coast to Scarborough for the train home. Rather than do it over one day however, and in order to make a bit of a trip out of it, we decided to break it up into a 4 day trip with a few overnight stays along the way, in order to fully appreciate both the scenery and the places we were visiting.

On the NCN
Our first day consisted of riding to York via Selby, a total of 42 miles riding and barely noticeable elevation, as the terrain in South Yorkshire (my county) is largely flat. We set off around 10am in the morning to pleasant conditions, heading towards town on the main road before turning off past the train station and under the underpass onto the old North Bridge. This lead us onto the old York road where we joined the Transpennine cycle trail, one of many off-road paths (relatively) suitable for road cyclists that enabled us to avoid cars for a while. Fortunately, the section we were on was pleasantly tarmacked.

Off-road tarmac - cycling heaven!
Turning off a mile or two later we ended up on the A19 northbound, however as per our planned route we did not stay on here for long and veered off onto the country lanes to our right for a brief while, in order to avoid some of the mundaneness that comes from riding on long, straight featureless roads, and to give us a taste of what was to come. We passed a few small hamlets along this way and crossed our first railway before turning back onto the main road for a few miles before turning off again.

A random fisherman on the national cycle route
This brought us to a nice pleasant country lane where we overtook a woman somewhere in her late 60's, possibly early 70's who claimed cheerily that 'You beat me!' as we sailed on past with the wind in our helmets. This left us within only a few miles of Selby or so I thought, where we ended up joining the cycle path that goes alongside the river and brings you all the way out into Selby. We stayed here for around an hour or so stuffing our faces with a pleasant lunch (and a guilty dessert) before having a brief stroll to allow our stomachs time to settle.

An impressive sight in York.
Selby is a small market town with a reasonably impressive cathedral, and is a logical stop on any tour of this part of the country. This left us with only 14 miles to go to reach York, so after lunch we carried on up the A road for some way before turning off to join the Selby to York cycleway that fortunately is tarmacked the whole way and allows for some pleasant if fairly featureless riding through open countryside. This brought us out towards Bishopthorpe in the city of York, where we turned off to join real roads once again. This brought us out close to the city walls and we stopped off at York station to get our tickets for the train back on Thursday and guarantee we could get cycle space in order to avoid having to cycle all way back home as we did some years previously at Delamere forest when the instructor insisted there was only room for one bike.

Our resting place for the evening
That all sorted, we cycled along side the river in York to our accommodation, a hostel just on the outskirts of town, where we had booked a private room with own bathroom, to save the embarrassment of having to strip out of cycle gear in front of a room full of onlookers (and, of course, for our own comfort). Having showered and changed we headed into the centre of York for an early dinner and a couple of cheeky drinks before retiring for the night. With 42 miles in the bag and 78 left to go, we were well on our way to being ready for the next day, which would take us to the village of Thornton-le-dale in North Yorkshire on the edge of the moors. Good night!