With a bit of effort, I have finally got my head around using Google MyMaps. This is an extension to Google Maps that allows you to overlay points of interest (POIs), photographs and route information on top of Google Maps. This aids navigation and can be used to record locations on your journey for future reference.
Here is the MyMaps I used for the North Sea Cycle Route. It shows campsites, photographs (automatically geotagged), Ferries and other POIs.
Click on these links to interact with the map. You can switch each layer on/off and zoom into each country:
Every cyclist I meet on long distances routes seems to have their own unique approach to navigation. Some are dedicated map users, while others have committed entirely to electronic means.
When I set out to cycle around the North Sea, I did a bit of research to see what would be an optimal strategy for each country I would cycle through, while keeping the weight to an acceptable limit. I used a combination of the following:
Viewranger (Android and iOS)
Backcountry Navigator Pro (Android)
Each method has its uses, depending on the circumstances.
Mobile 4G coverage in Europe, even in remote locations, was excellent. Perhaps not so in the remote areas of the UK. Continue reading →
After cycling the North Sea Cycle Route in 2017, the Wild Atlantic Way has caught my eye. The Irish Tourist Board do a great job of selling this route and have a wonderful App for your smartphone that couldn’t be more helpful.
The plan is to cycle from Plymouth, around the South West peninsula crossing the Bristol channel at Weston-super-Mare to Penarth, then catching a ferry to Ireland. After cycling the WAW, I’ll then catch a sequence of ferries to cycle the Hebridean Way, and then from Ullapool to Cape Wrath and then perhaps to John o’groats. Some 5,000km and 50 days, thereabouts. Better take a good tent.
Catching a ferry is one of the pleasures of cycling the North Sea Cycle Route. I counted 26 in total but I probably missed a few. Some services run for just 6 weeks in summer, so careful planning is needed to avoid long detours.
This is a rough guide to the main ferry services, but it is not exhaustive and some of the ferries mentioned are not strictly on the NSCR.
Starting from London and working clockwise:
LONDON to SHETLAND
Brightlingsea Ferry from Mersea Island to Brightlingsea – brightlingseaharbour.org you cycle across Mersea island down a rough lane and then have to push your bike to the end of a shingle spit. There are no signs or indication that a ferry even runs, but phone the number and they come and pick you up
Harwich to Felixstowe Ferry – the Harwich Harbour Ferry harwichharbourferry.com takes you across the River Orwell and past the huge container port of Felixstowe, landing you on the beach near Languard Fort, very friendly, with a café at the Harwich embarkation point
I recorded my journey with a Garmin 520 GPS device, which worked very well. Here is a summary of each day for those who like statistics. My observations:
Longest day – Inverbervie – 9 hours cycling over 11 hours elapse
Furthest day – Netherlands – 165 km – flat and a ferocious tail wind
Quietest roads – Scotland (less than 10 cars per hour) – and the sun was out
Most off road sections – Denmark, mostly covered in sheep sh*t
% on busy roads – Sweden (busiest = more than 10 cars per hour), although England definitely heaviest traffic
Toughest day – Feda to Mandal, Norway (Max speed 60kph, 1889m ascent) – exhilarating descents, including one 450 degree bend (I had to think about that)
55 days elapsed, but 53.5 days actual cycling taking into account flights and major ferries (LHR to Bergen, Shetland to Aberdeen, Sweden to Denmark)
Highest average speed – to Grenaa to Ubdyhøj – 20.4 kph
45 nights under canvas, 2 on ferries, brothers house, 3 B&Bs, 3 YHAs and 1 night in Prison.
A total of 5,936 km (missing out the G20 conference in Hamburg by catching the Brunsbüttel ferry to Cuxhaven and also taking direct routes in Orkney and Shetland). 193,000 calories, 347 hours of cycling (6.5 hours per day average) at a daily average speed of 17 kph. 36,436 metres of ascent – phew!
What I did not expect is 74% of the journey (estimated and noted each day) was traffic free or on very quiet roads. By quiet roads I mean less than 10 cars per hour passing you. With a few exceptions (Aberdeen, Sittingbourne/Faversham and a few other locations), even the traffic roads were safe to ride, not needing cycle courier levels of skill to negotiate.
Most blogs I have read indicate a 60-80 day itinerary, which is probably a better bet if you plan to see more of the sights. A lot depends on ferry timings and availability, many ferries do not operate out of a very narrow summer season in Norway. I’ll write about the ferries soon.
I have been having fun with Google Maps. Now the whole of the North Sea Cycle Route has been mapped out as I plan the route and decide how how I am going to navigate. I have a few paper maps, but Google Maps, MyMaps, ViewRanger and BackCountry Navigator provide too many options. I have also used OpenCycleMaps too, downloading custom routable maps for each section that I can just about squeeze into my Garmin GPS. See http://garmin.openstreetmaps.nlfor more info and perhaps donate a few Euros to this project.
My Android Nexus 5X is more than up to the job of storing the maps, and the UK section is adequately covered by the Ordnance Survey offline 1:50k maps. Plus, at last, OS have re-released the Road Map series at 1:250k, which is nigh-on perfect for cycle touring, other than it doesn’t show cycle tracks, but it does cover the whole of the UK in 8 maps.
Now to overlay campsites, points of interest, ferries and find a means of attaching photos as I progress, as I mean to use this Blog in real time, with weekly updates. Just add StreetView and I can start now with a virtual tour.
I could sit and watch this for hours. I am glad I am a walker and not a sailor. Earth Wind Map. Also shows wind at various heights so you can see the effect of the jet stream. If you are a sailor you can see waves height patterns too.
For the past 2 years I have been using BackCountry Navigator PRO, a GPS App for most Android smartphones. This is not, as yet, my primary navigational aid. This remains a Harveys Map for the National Trails or an OS Map for other walks, plus a SILVA compass.
The National Trails are clearly sign posted and waymarked, so it is not unusual to walk the whole day without referring to a map at all. I plan ahead and visualise the objectives and main waypoints, typically for lunch stops, major navigational features and points of interest. Walking without a map is quite liberating, but sometimes I get lost, typically while daydreaming and missing an important signpost.