In August, a friend and I cycled 220 miles from Newcastle upon Tyne to Edinburgh along the Sustrans national cycle route #1 called ‘Coast and Castles’ (very well signposted).
The 4 days of cycling were absolutely amazing with stunning scenery - miles and miles of coastline along the Northumbrian coast, plenty of castles of course, beautiful quiet country roads and some stunning off road sections. I've written about each of the four days in my blog, but the route was so brilliant I wanted to share my highlights.
Highlight #1 Holy Island & Lindisfarne - this is an optional extra on the NCN1. You cannot always get over to Holy Island as it is separated from the mainland by a causeway which is covered by the tides twice daily, so check your tide times, or you will get stranded or swept away. The causeway itself is 4 miles long and pan flat but so interesting cycling through the marshes which you know will all be underwater in several hours. Holy Island itself is home to Lindisfarne castle and Priory, it has a fascinating history. Founded by monks in the 7th century it is known as the place where Christianity first arrived in England, it then suffered a terrible raid by Vikings in 793 AD. Definitely worth a visit and cycling across the causeway is something quite unique.
Crossing the causeway
Highlight #2 the Moorfoot Hills. These sit between Innerleithen and Dalkeith in the Lothian region of Scotland. You essentially have 15 miles of beautiful remote, unspoilt Scottish scenery. You start by cycling through the pass and then you gradually climb (around 4%) for several miles, seeing nothing but rolling grassy covered hills, when we were there the hills were also largely covered in heather. The road was incredibly quiet and you really felt like you were in the middle of nowhere. I can't describe how beautiful it was, you reached the top and then you have a little bit of a downhill before you take another small climb up - where you then have spectacular views down towards Edinburgh and the coast before an exhilarating 5 mile cycle down, where I reached speeds in excess of 35 mph. Absolutely loved this extraordinary pass.
Highlight #3 off road section along the East Coast between Almouth and Craster. This part of the NCN gives a road and an off road option, but if you've got the right tyres on your bike, 100% take the off road option. It’s only a short distance but really was quite idyllic, cycling within a few feet of the sea, sandy, quiet unspoilt beaches and Dunstanburgh castle in the distance – Beautiful. Once you come off the path also take the short diversion to Craster a pretty little fishing village (famous for its kippers), and from there you can take (by foot) the National Trust path to Dunstanburgh castle.
Bonus highlight – 10 mile off road section from Beal (just after you leave the causeway from Holy Island up to Berwick upon Tweed). This part of the route is so lovely, I could not believe it was part of the official cycle network, as it felt like it should be a protected site. You cycle alongside sand dunes and marshes and then along the edges of cliffs with rugged coastline views. It is unspoilt and remote and very special.
It was hard to pick only 4 highlights of an amazing route. if you'd like the details and pictures of each of the 4 days please do look at each of the days in my blog.
Day Two - Warkworth to Berwick upon Tweed via Lindisfarne