Cycling during a school run is never pleasant, but soon I am winding my way through the Monmouthshire country lanes towards Newport. The NCR 4 will take me all the way to Fishguard for the ferry to Ireland in a few days, after cycling through the industrial landscape of South Wales.
Llanwern Steelworks dominates the skyline until I arrive at the wonderful Newport Transporter Bridge. One of only 8 in the world, it is a marvel of engineering and a fantastic way to cross the River Usk. Everyone is smiling and happy in the glorious weather. Everywhere is beautiful on a clear sunny day.
The castle at Caerphilly is an ideal time to stop for lunch. The whole town centre seems to be doing the same. All of us watching the geese nonchalantly waddling around looking for tidbits. A good rail track leads to Pontypridd, which would not be at the top of my list for a lunchtime stop and is followed by a steep, endless climb out of the valley and into the hills. The effort is worthwhile as the descent follows the Ogmore Valley. I can imagine the unspoilt beauty of this part of Wales in a pre-industrial era.
It took some effort to persuade the local campsite to let me stay. Even though the weather is grand, the ground is sodden and have not yet opened. It is a convenient stop, before entering Bridgend and navigating towards Port Talbot by way of the smoke stack belching from the steel works. There are well maintained cycle paths, a result of significant investment, with dedicated bridges to keep you away from the traffic.
After 38 days of cycling and approximately 4,000km I am back home. Cycling from Lands End to John o’Groats hugging the Atlantic Coast around England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. I generally followed the Sustrans National cycle routes 3,4 and 780; the Wild Atlantic Way, Hebridean Way and North Coast 500 on my trusty Thorn Sherpa. The weather was Wild and Windy, with many good clear exhilarating days. Mostly camping, with the occasional Hostel.
Now I have completed the North Sea Cycle Route and the Atlantic Seaboard, I am thinking of circling the Irish Sea and English Channel to complete all of the coastal options around the British Isles.
Cycling from Land’s End to John o’Groats (LEJOG) via the Wild Atlantic Way. Google MyMaps plan completed at https://goo.gl/raAtwt
I think I have a plan. Follow the NCR 3 and 4 from Land’s End to Fishguard and then catch a ferry to Ireland. Connect to the Wild Atlantic Way at Kinsale and follow the Irish coast to Ballycastle. Ferry to Islay, Colonsay, Oban, Barra (maybe Mull), then the Hebridian Way to Stornoway. Ferry to Ullapool and then coastal to John o’Groats. About 4,000km I think. Mostly Eurovelo 1, but with many diversions.
…after 12 years of sneaking time off and pounding the paths, I have finally finished all 19 National Trails. Some 3,000 miles, over 150 days, perhaps 6 million steps over the most beautiful and awe-inspiring countryside in the world.
Now, what to do? Shall I wait for the completion of the England Coast Path and completed the Wales Coast Path first? What about a Scottish challenge?
Actually, the plan is to cycle the North Sea Cycle Route next year, if time allows. Some 6,000km from Bergen to Shetland via Dover. See the Cycling section as it evolves.
I even got an LDWA Diamond certificate. How sad is that? There are only 25 odd members who have done them all.
(Photographs pre-digital era, scanned film prints)
A great alternative to the SWCP, if time is limited. An excellent introduction to the pleasures of coastal walking. Outside the holiday season the path is quiet and there are numerous remote cliffs, headlands and beaches to rival any in the British Isles. Rugged and rewarding. Pay attention to the tide tables at Dale and the military range closures at Castlemartin, as alternative routes involve road walking.
Completed in September 2004, my first National Trail, inspired by a journey I took when I was 15 and responsible for committing me to this life long adventure.
Time of year
Ideal times are late Spring or early Autumn, when the YHA hostels are quiet and the bird life is more pronounced. Seal Pups can be seen seen from September and wild flowers proliferate in the Spring. Continue reading →