Here are the links to the GPX maps we will be using.
|Daily miles||Ascent (ft)|
|Day 1||Land’s End to Polgooth||56.5||2788|
|Day 2||Polgooth to Horsebridge||38.5||2854|
|Day 3||Horsebridge to Cullompton||61||2952|
|Day 3 alternative||Dartmoor Alternative||60.4||3838|
|Day 4||Cullompton to Wells||63.3||1115|
|Day 5||Wells to Berkeley||64||2460|
|Day 6||Berkeley to Wichenford||56.4||1509|
|Day 7||And on the seventh day there was rest….|
|Day 8||Wichenford to High Ercall||58.1||2559|
|Day 9||High Ercall to Acton Bridge||51.6||356|
|Day 10||Acton Bridge to Glasson Dock||82.8||1541|
|Day 11||Glasson Dock to Grasmere||51.8||2230|
|Day 12||Grasmere to Dumfries||79.5||2362|
|Day 13||Dumfries to Stair||61.9||2230|
|Day 14||Stair to West Tarbert||48.1||1345|
|Day 15||West Tarbert to Oban||61.8||3379|
|Day 16||Data Oban to Fort William||49.2||1640|
|Day 17||Fort William to Dores||55.9||3051|
|Day 18||Dores to Lairg||71.5||2362|
|Day 19||Lairg to Shervadda||55.4||1673|
|Day 20||Shervadda to Thurso via JOG||68.4||2296|
You will also find below some notes about the areas we pass through on each day, together with some pictures for our Flemish friends and others not so familiar with the UK countryside. But first some general remarks about how we planned our route.
1. We are travelling south to north (LEJOG rather than JOGLE) because we always assumed that was the natural way to do it. We have since rationalised that choice on the basis that since we are travelling very early in the season it is better to arrive in Scotland later rather than earlier.
2. Most LEJOGers probably cross the Severn at Bristol and then work north through the Welsh Marches. But we keep a more easterly course up the Severn Valley so as to meet Peter’s brother near Worcester, where we plan to take a day off.
3. In Scotland we have chosen a West Coast route rather than a Central Highlands route for (what we believe to be) the better scenery. We have done this in the full knowledge that this early in the year that means taking a risk with the reliably unreliable Scottish weather, which is usually worst on the West Coast. In earlier Easters I have been frozen in a sub-zero whiteout with unexpected 60mph/96kmh winds on the Cluanie Ridge, and burnt red as a lobster in glorious and similarly unexpected 28 degrees centigrade sunshine in Torridon. So we are prepared for all eventualities.
4. With the luxury of three weeks time and an option on more time, our route is not designed for speed. And with a shared loathing of fast motor traffic (in fact, more or less any motor traffic) we have tried as much as possible to stay on country lanes and quiet roads, and to make use of canal paths and old railway cycle lanes where we can, seeing sites as we go, all the while maintaining a reasonably direct line and avoiding gratuitously adding up to ascent totals on each day. Different LEJOGers and JOGLErs have different priorities in their trip. And this is reflected in their routes. Some are out-and-out speed merchants who endeavour to beat official or personal records. Others aim to push the pedals more slowly through beautiful countryside on country lanes, stay off all the busy roads, and enjoy the sightseeing as they go, weather permitting. Needless to say, we are in the latter category.
5. Other than in some particular places where we suspect finding accommodation might be tricky we have not booked ahead, so leaving us flexibility to do more or less on a day, depending on the conditions and how we feel. The theory is this early in the year there ought to be lots of room. We shall see if that is borne out in reality!
6. Lastly, as a self-confessed map obsessive, planning the route has been one of the great joys of the trip already, albeit in view of the hours (actually, weeks) it has taken, my long suffering family might not necessarily agree. I owe them my thanks!
A hilly day of moderate length opens our campaign. First from Land’s End (below)
to Penzance, then by the sea to St Michael’s Mount (below), then on minor roads on the southern side of the Cornish peninsula, across the Fal river by the old King Harry Ferry, before finishing the day cycling through the hills of the beautiful Roseland peninsula.
The astute will note that towards the end the route passes by some of the greatest Cornish gardens – Trelissick, Caerhays, and Heligan. Maybe a good spot for tea, if we have time?
Day 2: Polgooth to Horsebridge
2854 feet ascent/870m
There are no two ways about it. In this part of the world avoiding the main roads means hills. We’ve compensated by setting a pathetically low daily mileage total that we might well beat. This is also spurred by the thought the second day of the trip is often a psychologically difficult one, so a low mileage also helps there as well. Our route takes us through St Austell early in the morning (pick up supplies) and then on past the Eden Project. North through the hills takes us up to Lanhydrock House where morning tea may beckon, and then beyond over the hills along the southern rim of Bodmin Moor. We finish the day by dropping deep into the Tamar Valley and finally leave Cornwall over the old bridge at Horsebridge, built by French Benedictine Monks in 1437.
Day 3: Horsebridge to Cullompton
2952 feet ascent/900m
A day in two halves. A steep pull out of the Tamar valley first thing, then across the hills to the famous hill-top church at Brentor. At the North East edge of Dartmoor we pick up the Granite Way cycle trail that follows an old abandoned railway to Okehampton, and then from there we round the northern prow of Dartmoor to Whiddon Down. After that the hills drop away and we ride through the red earth and sunken lanes of the mid-Devon countryside to Crediton. After that a cunning route east of Crediton sidesteps the Cadbury Hills and leaves us in the evening in the Culm Valley by Cullompton, near the M5 corridor.
Day 3: Dartmoor Alternative
3838 feet ascent/1170m
… if the weather is fine and we are feeling up to it, there is a more direct route across the top of Dartmoor (of Hound of the Baskerville fame) – see below, adding an extra 1000” to top out at 1496’ near the Warren House Inn on the moor. There follows a long downhill via Chagford, then a short steep pull up past the last castle built in England (Castle Drogo, built for an Edwardian dry goods merchant by Lutyens, who also designed all the Commonwealth War Graves in Flanders) to rejoin the main route.
Day 4: Cullompton to Wells
1148 feet ascent/349m
An easy day. A short steep hill at the start of the day takes us over the watershed of the Blackdown Hills, out of Devon, and into Somerset. There is then a day of easy cycling by minor roads and canal paths to Taunton and Bridgewater and across the Somerset levels (a sort of West Country Polders) to Glastonbury (below), of King Arthur and Festival fame.
We finish in the fine small country town of Wells with its exceptional cathedral (below).
Day 5: Wells to Berkeley
65.8 miles/106 km
2230 feet ascent/680m
Most LEJOGGERs on this day are heading for the Severn Bridge to Wales, and this means their route takes them through Bristol and industrial Avonmouth. With a more easterly route up the Severn Valley, we have opted to avoid Bristol and its surrounding industry altogether by swinging east through the southern reaches of the Cotswolds.
Again the day begins with an early morning climb, this time over the Mendip Hills, to finally take us out of the West Country. From there we tack north eastwards, passing south of Bath and using small lanes and off-road cycle paths to drop down into the Avon valley. We cross the Avon at the beautiful small town of Bradford-on-Avon (below), and then continue North West across the CotswoldHills, over the Fosse Way Roman Road and the more modern M4, past the Castle Combe motor racing circuit (this is for Peter) before dropping down the Cotswold escarpment near Wotton-under-Edge.
We finish the day in the flatlands of the Severn Valley in Berkeley, in whose castle Edward II (caricatured in the Mel Gibson ego-fest Braveheart) came to a rather unfortunate end.
Incidentally today we also touch the easternmost point of our route, just besides Corsham.
Day 6: Berkeley to Wichenford
Another easy day. The morning is dead flat as we follow the towpath along the Sharpness Canal all the way to Gloucester. In the afternoon we climb, but not by much, as we slant north west to the beautiful old black and white market town of Ledbury in Herefordshire. From there we cycle north beneath the Western Edge of the Malvern Hills (below), to finish at Peter’s brother at Wichenford.
Planning note: in theory it would be slightly shorter and flatter to have gone due north from Gloucester east of the Malverns and approach Wichenford from Worcester. But try as I might, I could not get the minor roads on this side to link up, so we always ended up doing miles on busy A and B roads. Anyway, the more westerly route is prettier. And the ascent total for today is hardly challenging.
Day 7: And on the seventh day there was rest….
Day 8: Wichenford to High Ercall
2985 feet ascent/910m
Today we follow a national cycle route north up the Severn valley along a series of minor roads and off-road tracks. The ascent total for today came in much higher than I anticipated: it must be the rolling hills along the edge of the Severn Valley.
This is a day I am looking forward to as it is an area I am not so familiar with, and we should pass through some nice country and attractive small towns besides the Severn like Stourport, Bewdley, and Bridgenorth.
Further north we cycle through Ironbridge Gorge, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution with the famous (you guessed it) world’s first iron bridge, and then on along the Severn to the ruins of the important old Roman town of Wroxeter. The last few miles see us leaving the Severn behind and stopping for the night in the middle of the Shropshire countryside, north of the Wrekin.
Day 9: High Ercall to Acton Bridge
360 feet ascent/110m
Easiest Day of the trip? Quite possibly. Very low mileage and an incredibly low ascent total takes us north over the Shropshire and Cheshire plains by minor roads and canal paths (below) to finish just south of the Mersey.
Originally we had planned a more westerly route following a national cycle route. The mileage was similar, but a glance at the relief map showed it went out of its way to find every sandstone ridge on the plain and cycle up and down it, resulting in a gratuitous extra 2500’ of ascent. Well, maybe if we feel like it…. But the other thing is our revised route finishes in a place with better accommodation options, and with a better jumping off point for the following day…
Day 10: Acton Bridge to Glasson Dock
1541 feet ascent/470m
By far the most complex day of the route to plan. There were three problems.
The first was to find a suitable crossing point for the River Mersey and Manchester Ship Canal, the options being either the bridge from Runcorn to Widnes or a smaller bridge just to the West of Warrington. We opted for the former. It’s all pretty industrial; but the thought was at least the Runcorn bridge (below) gives a spectacular crossing. And although the traffic on the road on the bridge is meant to be horrendous (a cyclist is said to have a lower life expectancy that a WW2 fighter pilot) the Cycle Touring Club forum helpfully explains there is a walking path across the bridge that cyclists may use on the eastern side. We shall see. We always have the route via the Warrington sewage works in our back pocket as an alternative if this proves illusory.
The second problem was to navigate the next 25miles/40km beyond the Mersey through the industrial badlands of South Lancashire, while avoiding a dense network of main roads. A first solution that took us through a seemingly nice patch of green land was scrapped when further research revealed this to be the private estate of the Earl or Derby. A phone call confirmed he does not welcome visiting cyclists to his grounds. The second solution, courtesy of Phil Horseley’s book on LEJOG, is to follow the canal paths in the region to wind through the worst of it. On paper this looks an intriguing and good solution. Again, we shall see.
Third, beyond Newton-le-Willows, we leave the canals behind and follow minor roads north through old market towns to finish the day at Glasson Dock just south of Lancaster, The only blot on the landscape in this section, literally and figuratively, is the need to cross though Preston to cross the River Ribble. By all accounts Preston is urban motorway hell, so we have carefully plotted a route that we hope will get us through relatively easily. Again, we shall see.
All in all an intriguing day. It may well be a tad too long. In which case we shall break a bit early once we are beyond Preston. As the next day is shorter, we have that option.
Day 11: Glasson Dock to Grasmere
2230 feet ascent/680m
A shorter and an easier day. Probably most LEJOGers aiming for speed take a more easterly route than us today, heading up over the hills at Shap Fell and then down to the Eden Valley and up to Carlisle.
With more time on our hands we have opted, at a relatively small extra cost in mileage, to head north via the Lake District. With any help at all from the weather this should be a beautiful day.
First we cycle north on the Lancashire canal path to Lancaster, and then continue north out of the town by the same canal path, including the crossing of the Lune River by a spectacular high level aqueduct (below).
From there we head around the seaside hills of Arnside Knott (below)
beside the enormous sand flats of Morecambe Bay. We then head north on minor roads past the extraordinary topiary gardens at Levens Hall (below)
– a good spot for morning tea? We then take the hills west of Kendal on minor roads to the passenger ferry on Windermere at Bowness (below),
cross on the ferry to the quiet off-road lanes in the woods on the Western side of Windermere where Beatrix Potter lived, and finally finish in Grasmere, home of Wordsworth. As anyone who has been there will know, Grasmere is a beautiful spot (below)
Day 12: Grasmere to Dumfries
2362 feet ascent/720m
A day in two halves: first hills then flat. We pull out of Grasmere first thing up to the pass that leads to Thirlmere. This is the easiest of the Lake District North-South mountain passes. We briefly considered the much higher and steeper Honister Pass further east to Ullswater, but having done it on another occasion we decided this trip was not the time to repeat it… We then head up to Threlkeld and under Skiddaw and Blencathra (below) and cross more hills, before sloping down out of the Lake District to Carlisle. A few miles north of there we cross to Scotland, and then plan to take advantage of the dead flat country along the coast north of the Solway Firth (below) to push out the mileage to Dumfries.
Day 13: Dumfries to Stair
2034 feet ascent/620m
The thing about route planning in Scotland is you have a smaller number of roads to choose from meaning each choice, individually, has larger consequences. South West Scotland is not an area I know at all. The essential task today was to find a way north over the hills of the Southern Uplands by the quietest possible route – some of the routes are meant to have quite heavy traffic. The chosen route is the one generally recommended on the Cycle Touring Club forum, so we will have to see how it plays out. Anyway, it gets some very good reports, and we should cross some good high ground.
The other thing on this day was the absolute paucity of places to stop for lunch. We think we have identified a few, but we shall probably need to carry extra supplies from Dumfries, just in case.
Day 14: Stair to West Tarbert
1640 feet ascent/500m
An easy day – provided the ferry connections work.
We start with 25 miles or so in the hills, dodging the industry along the Ayrshire coast, before we take the ferry to Arran from Ardrossan.
Arran is really the southernmost point of the Highlands in Scotland (below), and there are some big mountains in the north of the island. But we should be able to round those on the coast road, with just one large hill before we take the second ferry on from Lochranza to the Kintyre Peninsula (as in the McCartney song), where we aim to stop for the night in West Tarbert, just the other side of the day’s second big hill. All that time on the ferries makes for a low mileage day.
Day 15: West Tarbert to Oban
2887 feet ascent/880m
Definitely in the Highlands now and a much bigger ascent day. We head north along the coast before, if the weather is good, taking what is meant to be a very remote and spectacular minor road along the north side of Loch Awe (below) (if the weather is bad we have the option to stay nearer the coast).
The finishing point for today is something of a moveable feast. Oban, the town where a lot of the Hebridean ferries leave from, is one option. But we also have in our back pocket a cunning plan to get to a boat over Loch Etive (below) that would permit us to travel further north on more remote minor roads. In which case, if we did that, we may stay further east at Taynuilt.
Day 16: Oban to Fort William
1640 feet ascent/500m
An execeptionally short mileage day along the foot of some of the highest mountains in the UK in the Glen Coe, Mamore and Nevis ranges. There should still be plenty of snow on the tops. But hopefully not on the road.
The key issue in planning today was to avoid the notoriously busy A82. Supposedly the UK cycling charity Sustrans has just completed an off-road cycle way that takes care of the southern half of the A82 today. I suspect we will be one of the first in the season to check it out. For the northern half we are taking the more drastic expedient of crossing on the Corran ferry and then taking minor roads on the West side of Loch Linhe before crossing back again to Fort William (below) on the Carmasnagaul ferry. The very infrequent timetable for the latter ferry means there is no point seeking to get beyond Fort William today. The other advantage of this route using the ferries is the mountain ranges should show to best advantage in the afternoon. If the weather obliges.
Day 17: Fort William to Dores
3051 feet ascent/929.94m
Not so many miles. But one very big hill.
North through the Great Glen (below) today, again dodging the busy A82. The
first hour or so is on our first canal path since Lancaster on Day 11. Then we use forest tracks, supposedly cycleable, on the West side of Loch Lochy, then more tracks this time on the East side of Loch Oich to get us to Fort Augustus for lunch at the south end of Loch Ness (below). A large hill after lunch takes us onto the hills on the Loch’s eastern side, before dropping down to the Loch near the waterfall at Foyers. We finish at the North East end of the Loch at Dores.
Day 18: Dores to Lairg
2362 feet ascent/719.93m
A longish day working north up the East Coast. We start by passing through Inverness (below), then across the Black Isle to Dingwall. We use minor roads to avoid the industry along the busy A9 near Invergordon, before heading West to Bonar Bridge and then inland to Lairg. There are more direct alternatives for today, which involve cutting out some of the loops along the coast at the cost of some rather steep and large hills – we’ll see how we go.
Incidentally, later in the year a good alternative would have been to head east out along the Black Isle and then take the Cromarty Ferry north over the Cromarty Firth. But unfortunately this ferry does not run until June.
Day 19: Lairg to Shervadda
1738 feet ascent/529.74m
Quite possibly the remotest day on the trip (below).
Like a lot of other LEJOGers, we will be avoiding the busy and hilly A9 along the eastern coast for a direct route north to the northern coast through … the middle of nowhere. With good weather a spectacular and not too difficult day, with one strategically placed pub – the Crask Inn – amidst the mountains for lunch. We need to check it will be open. We finish on the very remote north Scottish coast which again, weather permitting, should be spectacular (below).
Day 20: Shervadda to Thurso via JOG
2001 feet ascent 609.9m
The final day. We head east along the north Scottish coast though Thurso to JOG (below), before winding back to Thurso, possibly taking in the Northernmost point in Britain, Dunnet Head, if we have time. From Thurso it is 13.5 hours by train the next day back to London.
On a planning point, why finish at Thurso rather than Wick, which is equidistant from JOG and also has a train to London? Three reasons. From Thurso the train goes half an hour later permitting a longer lie in. If we complete a day early there are ferries from Thurso to the Orkneys, giving a good option for a day out. And finally, somehow it seems more satisfying to spend the last night at the northernmost railway station.