Day 17 – Rest Day – Edinburgh
Day 18 – Edinburgh to Melrose – 103 kms
Yesterday’s rest day was a total washout weather-wise – heavy rain just about all day. So it was a good day not to be riding and a good day spent ducking in and out of the attractions, pubs and eating establishments! Believe me, Edinburgh has no shortage of pubs – I merely scratched the surface!
Today it was much easier leaving the big city than it was entering. I picked up the bike route about half a mile south of my hostel. I was going to ride to the coast, but changed my mind and decided to follow Cycle Route #1 for a while anyway. I’m glad that I did, as I had a very pleasant ride over the Moorfoot hills from Dalkeith to Innerleithen – and although the route was hilly with climbs to about 400 metres, the scenery was fabulous and the weather was perfect too – lots of sun, but not too hot.
I had smaller rivers for company going south which flowed into the River Tweed that I followed east. The route kept me off major roads and had me riding on relatively car-free backroads, with sheep a plenty. I had to stop at one point and let a herd of them pass me – they were covering the whole road – I realised that there was actually someone tending them after a little while – the shepherd and dog were not visible over the crest of a hill. Good job I saw them – it looked like an angry mob looking for lamb curry eaters at first!
Melrose is a very nice clean little village with a hostel and super clean campground – I elected to camp tonight as the weather was fairly good – although I’ve had to put my fleece jacket on as a strong wind has whipped up and cooled things off somewhat – according to reports there should be no rain until Sunday – I hope that it’s further away than that too! Melrose has a good sized Abbey/ruin, so it is quite an attraction for the tourist buses to stop here – makes for reasonable amenities in the small village too. One of the local pubs had Tetley’s beer on tap – of course I couldn’t resist! The better pubs seem to advertise “Real Ale,” still have hand pull pumps and bring in “guest beers,” – I see myself as the “guest beer” drinker!
Anyway, I’ll be following Cycle Route 1 for a while tomorrow, then I’ll head for the coast down to the Newcastle area. I met quite a few cycle tourers today, and one Dutch couple told me that there is a cycle tunnel and ferry across the river Tyne, so that is a help with my plans, as I was trying to avoid the big city of Newcastle as much as possible.
Adam K. & (how about a “guest beaver?”) Basil.
Day 19 – Melrose to Berwick-upon-Tweed – 70 kms
A shorter day today and it was nice to arrive in Berwick-upon-Tweed at a reasonable hour and do some sightseeing of the old walled town. Of course, today was my last day in Scotland as Berwick is in England – although it did change hands many times through the centuries – interesting and busy little town.
I found a campsite just south of the Berwick bridge – another one of the caravan club sites that the Melrose campground was affiliated with too. Very clean with modern facilities, and today with a view overlooking the harbour and pier in Berwick.
The weather for the ride today was ok – a little cloudy, but comfortable for cycling. After putting up my tent and showering, I rode back into town to get some supplies. Along the way, I saw some other cycle tourers who seemed to be looking for something – campground perhaps? Dutch people again – for once, the Germans have been outnumbered regarding my encounters with cyclists. I’ve met Dutch people very frequently – I suppose that it is easy for them to visit now with the ferry from Holland to the Newcastle area and with EU restrictions being minimal for visitors from other EU countries.
So a relatively easy ride today except for the bugs – very small flies, not midges, that would cover me constantly. It was very annoying as they would find their way into every nook and cranny – my glasses kept getting covered and they would stick to my bare arms and legs – this went on for miles and miles, pretty well half the ride today. I was glad to get here and have a shower to wash the little buggers off.
I know that I keep complaining how expensive it is here, but it only makes me realise that we have it quite good in Canada regarding our living expenses. The only things that I found moderately cheaper here are beer and wine – yes, two of life’s essentials, but food costs soon offset the small benefit of cheap booze. As I mentioned, petrol is expensive, but so is my fuel – food – so even though I don’t have to fill up at the gas station, I still take a hit at the food store. But I guess that if I was driving, I’d have to do both wouldn’t I?
Anyway, that was just a couple of things that I pondered today. I don’t plan on riding far for the next few days as I will be following the cycle route along the east coast, which is hilly, but scenic with side trips to various attractions and scenic venues.
Adam K. & (I’m glad that I wasn’t facing forward chewing those bugs all day) Basil.
Day 20 – Berwick to Alnmouth – 76 kms
Well I expected a shorter ride than yesterday, but didn’t count on the cycle route taking me over every hill in Northumberland and meandering through some remote tracks and roads – so by the time the zig-zagging and climbing was done, the day was actually quite tiring.
I picked up the cycle route just outside the campground and rode onto a disused road – ok for now. The road got narrower – read… “ended” – and joined the Coast Path, which is exactly what it was, a walking path along the tops of the cliffs of the Northumbrian Coast! It was basically like riding non-technical single track, but my heavy load made it technical. Anyway, this went on for quite a few miles until I was about even with Holy Island, then the route led me back to paved roads, but with frequent steep hills.
I’ll add that I not only rode the tops of cliffs, but through farmers fields, yards, pig pens etc. I rode across rocks, gravel, mud; through sheep shit, cow shit, pig shit and the occasional doggy-doo too! Through gates and rocky lanes and even an old military area that signage proclaimed may have occasional quicksand or unexploded ordnance – lovely, eh? Nevertheless, I was rewarded with some exceptional scenery along the coast sections. I’m sure that my photos won’t do justice to what the naked eye saw.
I was happy with my views over the North Sea from my campsite last night – avec la table de picnic, I’ll add. I watched ships going by and boats leaving the harbour – just the smell of the sea was a tonic for me. But riding through the small seaside villages today was even better – scenic places such as Seahouses, Beadnell and the fabulous castle at Bamburgh even topped the abbeys that I saw the previous day. So a tough ride, but special all the same. I just love this east coast of England and plan to spend some extra days in some memorable places along the way south.
I elected for a B&B in the very quaint seaside village of Alnmouth – weather’s changing for the next day or two, so time to pamper myself with digs. Spectacular beaches and historic houses/buildings here, not much else in the village though; one shop, two or three tea rooms – lots of B&B’s and five, yes five pubs!
Guess where I’m typing/eating tonight? Lots of fresh North Sea seafood around too! The village was a seafaring/smugglers port in days of yore, hence the abundance of ale houses which did a roaring trade – still do, but from different clientele. The B&B is super and is a newly started business; by the look of the “No Vacancy” signs on other places, I was lucky to get this one. It’s difficult to get a single price for rooms, lots of places charge for two people in the room – it’s pricey enough without having to pay for Basil too! OK, here comes my grub – better get another pint in!
Adam K. & (Typical, I get stuffed in the bag so that he only has to pay for one person) Basil.
Day 21 – Alnmouth to South Shields – 65 kms
The riding was a lot easier today than yesterday apart from a strong crosswind from the west – a sign of changing weather!
I rode mainly on relatively major roads today, but figured that they would be quiet on Sunday morning and they were. I still rode mainly along the coast and had some great vistas over headlands etc. Once again, I passed through many seaside towns and rode beside many beach areas which were surprisingly not too crowded even though the weather was nice. Well hot anyway – the sun kept coming out from behind clouds but it was very muggy.
The towns started getting scruffier as I neared the Newcastle area – many businesses were shuttered and closed in the town centre areas. In the town of Blythe, there wasn’t one place that didn’t have bars or shutters. I managed to catch a small passenger ferry across the Tyne estuary from North Shields to South Shields – this saved negotiating the cycle tunnel under the Tyne and added a few more miles to my ride.
South Shields is a mini Blackpool with amusement park/arcades, long stretches of beach and tons, but tons of people. I’m glad that I’m only overnighting here – not a place to be out late on an evening. My B&B is once again super – ensuite and TV again – it’s nice to catch up with the news if nothing else. Just as I figured, it started raining almost as soon as I got here – another good reason for a nice warm room! Lots of pubs here, but the striking thing is there must be at least 20 Indian restaurants and takeaways here – even the fish and chip shops are outnumbered! I guess that it’s curry tonight for dinner.
If I would have taken the photo above in the evening all you would have seen is people, but in the early morning all is peaceful!
No bugs today – I forgot to mention yesterday that I ran into more big swarms of the little black flies again – I was covered with them – they would stick to my sweat and I looked like I had the plague or something. They were in my hair, ears, mouth and everywhere else that was exposed. I told the lady at the info centre about them and she said that they were called “Thunderbugs” – I never heard that expression before. At least they didn’t bite though – but very annoying all the same.
Two more densely populated areas to negotiate tomorrow – Sunderland and Middlesbrough, then quieter places thankfully!
Adam K. & (Where did all these people come from?) Basil.