Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Ideas for cycling trips

10th December 2006

Whenever a fine day offers, I’m off on my bike to work and often take a longer route home than I took to get there. Over the years, I have managed to get in the odd recreational cycle as well. When still in Ireland, I was wont to go for regular cycles around my native West Limerick during summer holidays, and in all weathers! These days, I am far more choosy about cycling conditions. In Scotland, my biking has taken me all around Loch Tay, up along Glen Lochay and across the Isle of Skye from Portree to Dunvegan and back, all on hired/borrowed bicycles. Since I moved south to England, I have taken a bike around Yorkshire, Cheshire and even Derbyshire. I must admit that I have never ventured into Wales with a bike, though.

When based in Skipton, my cycling forays took me up into Wharfedale. One took me on to Bolton Abbey, Burnsall and Grassington before I made my back to Skipton via Threshfield. Later on, I continued past Threshfield to Cray at the head of Wharfedale, taking in Kilnsey Crag, Kettlewell, Starbotton and Buckden. As if to prove how fast weather can change, a dull day turned into a fabulous evening in the space of an hour or so. As luck would have it, I forgot my camera; I have more than made up for that since then.

These days my cycling forays seem to be limited to Cheshire, though I did cycle back to Macclesfield from Stoke-on-Trent one Friday evening during this past summer. Tatton Park, Little Moreton, Astbury, Gawsworth Hall, Lower Peover: they’ve all been ports of call on cycling trips. One evening, I headed over the top to Buxton, a cycle ride involved steep hills that caused me to think that hillwalking might be a worthwhile activity when exploring wild places. I cycled there but a train took me back to Hazel Grove, from where I returned to Macclesfield. The thought of re-encountering steep slopes caused me to rethink my return.

Following the Buxton trip, I restricted my cycles to the flatter parts of Cheshire but the thought of extending my range beyond has come more to the fore this year. There are two sides to this: getting around the limitations of patchy public transport networks and reducing the amount of tedious walking (yes, it does exist).

As regards the first of these, one possibility that comes to mind is the area around Sedbergh and Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria. The paucity of public transport provision is patchy makes a bike look a very liberating device, especially when it comes to exploring the Howgills. Highland Perthshire is very like this part of Cumbria in this regard and having a bike would make exploring the mountains around Loch Tay a reality without the need for a car. Other parts of Highland Scotland are like this too. For instance, a bike would really make light work of the trek from Fort William to Gairlochy (a soul-destroying walk, if ever there was one) and open up the delights of Loch Arkaig. In the spirit of this, speeding along an estate road would shorten many a walk-in, a fact that has not lost on writers in TGO and Trail. One example that comes to mind is the prospect of exploring the landscape around Loch Ericht, a great example in my view.

When I was staying in Pitlochry, I had a passing cyclist joking that I, then in full hillwalking gear awaiting a bus to take me to the start of another walk, was doing things the slow way. Highland Perthshire, like many parts of the U.K., has its share of the National Cycle Network and that puts further ideas into my head. Coming south of the English border, Northumberland has a share and this raises the possibility of exploring Northumberland’s coastline by bike, an enticing prospect.

As you can see from this, I got quite a few ideas in mind. Now, all I have got to do it get around to turning them into reality and get over my fear of getting a puncture and missing a train home…

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