Your Trips

Stunning ride – one of the greats

November 12th, 2012 by mark

We had previously cycled, the C2C, Walney to Wear and Hadrian’s Cycleway so this one would be different. We planned to cycle a fairly relaxed mileage – on mountain bikes with panniers – to give time to see things along the route. Time pressure meant we would be rushing if we started in Newcastle and we had previously cycled Newcastle to Tynemouth so decided to start at Alnmouth. East Coast trains only permit 2 bikes per train but there are so many that we had no problem, arriving within 40minutes of each other.
Our route started pleasantly with sections right on the coast, others meandering slightly inland and a stop in Craster for lunch.
Seahouses was heaving as it was a summer Saturday and the official route avoids the main road to Bamburgh, opting for quieter roads inland, but I had seen the main road recommended for the views. It was a good choice, although the main road had lines of cars parked on the verge there was limited traffic on the road itself and great views of the Farne Islands and, later, Bamburgh Castle looming right in front of us. We had to go down to the beach for a paddle in the freezing sea, with its great backdrop. More pleasant riding led us to Belford where we stayed at the Market Cross Guest House, a luxury B&B but very cycle friendly.

Sunday had a moderate southerly but the weather was OK, so a few gentle undulations led us back to the coast and Holy Island.

Holy Island isn’t on the route but is such a special place, a must if the tides are favourable, in our case the tides were fine but the southerly wind made hard work going onto the island and easy riding 15mph faster coming back.
Just north the track is most unusual as it crosses grassland next to the coast, I can imagine this might be hard when wet but when we were there the riding was delightful. On the section from here to Berwick the East Coast mainline is an ever present feature, the noise from trains is a frequent backdrop and not unpleasant and the track crosses at 5 level crossings. At one of these we approached just as the barriers lowered and stood by the barrier as an East Coast train came past; the sheer power, vibration and ground thump as the engine passed at full speed was remarkable. Another track squeezed between the train line and coast in the Cocklawburn Nature Reserve gave some great cliff top riding as we approached Berwick.

The signing on the route is generally excellent and leaving Berwick we made our only major error; we crossed the A1 and then immediately took a wrong turn uphill instead of down, it was only having climbed this hill, the longest so far, that we realised our error and returned. We stopped at the Honey Farm and lingered on the 2 suspension bridges.

From Berwick to Coldstream the riding was pastoral and undulating, and seemed to go on a long time, the wind had veered to southwest and was wearing. We were glad to get to Coldstream.
The next day was fairly uneventful, we stopped at the magnificent Floors Castle, then on to Newton St Boswells for lunch. The route by Melrose and Galashiels felt quite busy being close to traffic a lot of the time but after leaving Galashiels tranquillity was quickly restored and the final 17 miles to Innerleithen surrounded by increasingly attractive hills was a delight, even though the rain had started. Backcroft was another excellent luxury, cycle-friendly B&B.
The route then goes through the Moorfoot hills to Edinburgh. It rained all night and the forecast was for continued heavy rain until mid afternoon and our trains back from Edinburgh were booked for 5pm, so we had no choice but to get wet. Some day I would like to go back and ride this route again. The route appears to head for steep hillsides more than once but the glen then twists to reveal a new valley view and continue it’s ever so steady ascent  to 1000feet. This is a B road, the traffic was light, but the rain never stopped. There was no view from the top as we were in thick mist and descending there were a few flooded areas where cars were going through slowly in single file. The flooding was up tour cranks,we were soaked. The rain never let up all the way into a sodden Edinburgh but the route had some fine parts and nice railway track to arrive in the City Centre quite suddenly.
Overall the Coast and Castles is a great route, quite different in character to the Coast to Coast but its equal in quality – well worth doing.

David Bell