Visiting Hamburg and Lubeck

From the Netherlands we continued north, three days cycling brought us to Hamburg where we decided to spend an extra day looking around the city. This was partly due to a day of rain being forcast and partly because we had heard the city was beautiful. The town hall in particular was stunning. 

We bought a day travel ticket for €7.50 each, which allowed us travel on any public transport within the main city. This included the river boats so we enjoyed a cruise down the river past the impressive city buildings then the cargo docks and finally a huge airplane factory with its own runways. 

The next German city we stopped at was Lubeck, the medieval capital of the Hanseatic League, a defensive and commercial confederation of market cities on and around the Baltic Sea. We plan to visit many of the member cities on the Baltic Coast. It forms a common theme throughout the whole cycle tour. 

After Lubeck we caught a train to Puttgarden, which has the ferry to Denmark. There are three boats, one sailing every half hour. 

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Cycling through the Netherlands 

Before we start the Baltic Sea route proper we need to get to it. This amounted to catching a ferry from Hull to Hook of Holland and cycling for miles along the flat through the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. 

The boat took 12 hours overnight and so a cabin in compulsory. We thought the outside looked more like a prison ship than an €200 overnight stay. 

The Dutch like to eat raw herring by sliding it straight down into your mouth. None of us were keen enough to try it though…

It was blazing sunshine when we arrived in the morning so we spent the day exploring the Hague. Including Binnenhof, the Dutch houses of Parliament.

The statement that the Netherlands is one of the best countries to tour is completely accurate. We cycled for days along wide, flat cycle paths, and loved not dealing with busy roads. 

There are so many beautiful stretches through beech woodland, as well as other trees.

The cycle lanes stretched for miles, often with no one in sight when between towns. 

We saw loads of canals with magical floating bridges (for the boats to go under).

And countless windmills, many of which are converted into homes. 

A really special area we were shown by our hosts one night was the ‘Venice of the North’. So called because every house is on its own island, surrounded by canals.

Our final view of the Netherlands was a beautiful sunset over a canal. The next day we went over the border into Germany. 

But not before a final avenue of trees.

The Baltic Sea cycle tour

Phase 1: Ireland

The first phase of our summer cycling tour is complete! We spent over a month cycling through Ireland to the west coast and then up and back via Belfast. The total mileage was 1500 miles over 32 days.  You can read about the Ireland tour in these posts:

Part 1: Winding Westwards

Part 2: Starting the Wild Atlantic Way

Part 3: The Wild Atlantic

Part 4: Causeway Coastal Route

Phase 2: Eurovelo10 – Baltic Sea Route

The next phase is to cycle around the Baltic Sea, or Eurovelo 10. The whole route is 8000km (5000 miles!) but for obvious reasons we are avoiding Russia which shortens it a tiny amount. We will visit eight countries and experience a huge variety of cultures and sights. 

We were telling a friend of the plan and the response we got was ‘do you realise that it’s a shorter distance from Malmo (bottom of Sweden) to Rome than it is from Malmo to the tip of Sweden?’ Of course,  we aren’t cycling to the very north but the distance is no less daunting. 

Bicycle Touring through Ireland: Part 4

​Part 1: Winding Westwards

Part 2: Starting the Wild Atlantic Way

Part 3: The Wild Atlantic
Part 4: Causeway Coastal Route

We started the Causeway route after Londonderry and followed it all the way to Belfast. Having a sign posted route makes such a difference to how fast we could go. 

THE CAUSEWAY

THE FINAL BIT

The final section of the Causeway route followed hugged the sea and so was incredibly flat. We had the sea constantly at our side. This stretch continued for over 30 miles and made for fun cycling around the headlands. 

The final day in Ireland we decided to do an extra 40 miles up and down the flat coastal road to tip the Ireland total mileage to 1500 miles. 

And then it was back home to canals and even more rain. Next up, continental Europe and the Baltic Sea (where the weather will definitely be better!) 

Bicycle Touring through Ireland: Part 3

​Part 1: Winding Westwards

Part 2: Starting the Wild Atlantic Way

Part 3: The Wild Atlantic

The third week of the holiday consisted of gradually cycling up the coast and taking in the sea. 

The Cliffs of Loop Head Peninsula, we found that many tourist offices big up their local area and aren’t much use in narrowing down what the ‘must see’ spots are. Loop Head was one of the areas we were persuaded to cycle and turned out to be worthwhile. 

CLIFFS OF MOHER

The Cliffs of Moher were honestly a disappointment. We cycled up a large hill only to find the whole place was a tourist trap and flooded with people and buses. Dingle Peninsula  mentioned in the earlier post and The Burren that we cycled through the following day completely eclipsed Moher in terms of atmosphere. However, my observations may just be because I dislike large crowds of noisy people and it was a murky day when we visited. 

THE BURREN

The Burren is a national park stretching for miles along the coast before Galway. It was one of the most interesting spots along the Atlantic Way. The entire area was huge, cracked slabs of large limestone cliffs from the glacial era. 

The flat slabs made the perfect spot for a nap when the sun appeared for a rare moment. 

We whizzed by Dunguaire Castle, the name of which comes from the Dun (medieval Fort) of King Guaire, the legendary King of Connacht. 

WESTERN GREENWAY AND ACHILL ISLAND

We spent a day going along the Western Greenway, a 26 mile long cycle track stretching from Westport to Achill Island. The previous night we managed to wild camp beside it next to a river that reminded me of Dartmoor back home. 

Then the following morning we carried on to Achill Island. 

Throughout the holiday we repeatedly heard about how nice Achill Island was. We got there and it was blowing a gale in the opposite direction to us. We ended up doing a loop along the Southern coast of the island which has earned the reputation of being beautiful. 

The following evening we camped back on the mainland up the coast, it turned out to be midge central but out of the way enough to light a fire and so was really good.

GLENVEAGH NATIONAL PARK

We climbed up and up to Glenveagh National Park, just behind us the whole way where a trio of French cyclists. The pattern involved them overtaking, then half an hour later we overtook and left them behind.

And then we reached the end of the Wild Atlantic Way, with 4 days left to cycle to Belfast we decided to pop in on the Giant’s Causeway…

Bicycle Touring through Ireland: Part 2

Part 1: Winding Westwards 
Part 2: Starting the Wild Atlantic Way

THE RING OF KERRY

We joined the Wild Atlantic Way at the start of the Ring of Kerry, a famous coastal scenic route. It was shrouded in mist and cloud when we arrived and the day was spent plodding along in the rain.

Despite the weather earlier in the day we were greeted by a fantastic sunset. I think as long as the evening is dry, rain is mostly survivable. It’s the endless wet that ruins holidays.

Perhaps the best view of the Ring of Kerry we saw was from Dingle Peninsula further up the coast. It was funny to see the places we had been at the day before covered in cloud whilst we were in the sun.

That evening we explored down a lane leading towards the sea and found a spot sheltered from the sea.

DINGLE PENINSULA

By the end of the tour we concluded that Dingle Peninsula is perhaps the most beautiful part of the Wild Atlantic Way, mainly because unlike the Ring it isn’t flooded by tourists. It is also the westernmost point of Ireland and so we decided early on to camp as far on it as possible.

The wild campsite we found was just off to the right of the above photo… In another graveyard. Modern graveyards are a great place to camp, most have water taps, nice grass and tend to be out of view. We normally try to camp in a far corner in the unclaimed land.

The second rule of bicycle touring I came up with is:

‘If you camp in a public place, expect someone to come and use it for it’s intended purpose.’

And the story behind that rule is that we were boiling gammon for supper when someone came through the gate, they glanced at us then went to stand infront of a grave and pay us no more attention. We huddled down and tried to be invisible to avoid getting dragged into a conversation that would result in our eviction. A couple minutes later another two people arrived, then a group of three people, all standing in front of the grave. We huddled down further and weathered their shocked glances. After fifteen minutes, they all filed back out one by one. And we both breathed a sigh of relief.

Later on we went for an evening stroll towards an incredibly twisty slipway winding down the cliff, which can be seen further up the page. We got to the slipway, and what do we find? A car, driven half way down the slipway before the driver realised that he probably shouldn’t be driving down a slipway designed for taking sheep to market from the nearby islands. The poor chap was hunting around for someone with the skill to reverse a car up a steep incline with multiple sharp corners.

We checked whether he was still there again at 11pm and fortunately he appeared to have found someone capable of moving the car.

The next day was a 410m climb up to An Chonair, and then one of the most perfect descents possible. It was a narrow mountain road but one where you could see the next few bends ahead and so build up speed without the worry of crashing into a car.

The next few weeks were spent gradually working our way up the coast.

 Bicycle Touring through Ireland: Part 1

Part 1: Winding Westwards 
I spent the last 34 days bicycle touring through Ireland. Our soul aim for the entire tour was to cycle the Wild Atlantic Way and be back in England for a wedding.

People along the way often asked, ‘what do you think about whilst you cycle dawn till dusk?’ The answer inevitably varies depending on the holiday, this time around it was the best way of retelling the many adventures we were having in Ireland.

During those monotonous hours of peddling I decided that the best approach was to select the most interesting  photos and simply tell the story. The first bit of which is arriving in Belfast and finding the Norman Way.

THE NORMAN WAY

The first part of the Irish cycle tour was more of an accidental decision than part of a deliberate route decision.  We arrived in Rosslare and spotted signs for the Norman Way that were headed in generally the right direction. Following them led us past various ruined churches and castles. Our first night in Ireland was spent camping in one of the ruined churches along the route. We were overjoyed to find it as it was getting late and we were tired from the ferry.

After leaving the Norman Way we headed for Cahir and cycled past the castle in the town centre.

The next night something happened that really proved that the Irish reputation of being nice is well earned. We were cycling along at gone 6pm aiming for a campsite that I had found on the map when a man in a land rover pulls up and asks where we’re headed. He looks bemused when we tell him and it quickly becomes clear that there aren’t any campsites for miles. He offers us a spot in his garden and by the end of the evening we’re chatting with the family in the sitting room. So the first rule of cycle touring I wrote in my notebook was:

‘Don’t be afraid to accept offers of help!’

The following day we headed onwards to Killarney National Park. Passing many peat bogs along the route. Peat is the primary heat source in Ireland. It is cut during a dry spell and then left in large stacks to dry, where it shrinks to half the size and hardens. It is then piled up near the houses, a week’s worth of cutting can last the household all winter.

KILLARNEY NATIONAL PARK

Killarney National Park is one of the most well-known beauty spots in Ireland. It includes a mountain range with a huge lake at its heart. There are many islands dotted around and Torc Waterfall feeds into it. In the evening we walked partially around the lake and enjoyed the sun setting over islands.

One of the most impressive ruins I’ve seen borders on the Killarney lake. It’s an old friary that has been well maintained and so possible to walk through all the rooms and explore the upper quarters.

Muckross Friary 

In an inside courtyard grew a huge gnarled Yew Tree, stretching two floors up and overlooked by narrow windows.

And the following day we climbed up all morning and was welcomed by incredible views of the national park from the top.

The next stage of the journey is joining the Wild Atlantic Way and working our way upwards.

A Summer Cycle Tour

I’ve been super busy recently, I got home on Friday and since then have spent all my time preparing for the cycling holiday over the summer. I’m away 25th May onwards and so this is my last update for awhile. Look to the right of the homepage at the Instagram photos to get an idea of where I am at a given time.

I’ve broken down the holiday into two phases:

Phase 1: Ireland

Phase 1 – roughly 1000 miles to cycle, but the actual route will hug the coastline

This Google route map is only a rough guide, the actual route will be a lot less direct and hug the Irish coast. We’re cycling from home to Exeter, then catching a train to Carmarthen. We will meander in Wales for a day, then catch a ferry from Fishguard to Rosslare, Ireland. From there we head directly to Killarney national park and link up with the Wild Atlantic Way, a cycle route that follows Ireland’s west coast. Around the 18th June we start worrying about my brother’s wedding and cut straight along to Belfast to catch the ferry, arriving just in time for the wedding in Liverpool!

Phase 2: the Baltic Sea

Phase 2 is the big bit, we’re catching a ferry from Hull to The Hague, and then heading north to join Eurovelo 10 and cycle the Baltic Sea. 


We are mostly wild camping so regular updates are impossible, but I will attempt to keep you updated, either here or on my Instagram profile.

 

Hartland Moor Cycle

A beautiful ride indeed. I cycled along Bournemouth seafront and then across on the chain ferry to Studland. First stop on the ride was to try and find Old Harry Rocks, I tried in first year but kept seeing them on a different cliff to the one I was on (it got very frustrating). This time I was determined to find them, even though it meant walking/riding along a coastal path for 20 minutes with my bike. The question in my mind was: how far can you force a road bike along gravel tracks before getting a puncture? Fortunately for me, very far!

Once I finally found Old Harry, they were looking amazing in the sunshine, I stopped for a quick break and took some photos.

The views along the Purbeck Hills to Corfe Castle are stunning, and also a good place to go ridiculously fast down hill.

Stopped for a break by Corfe Castle and recieved the official phone call that I was now an uncle. Climbing the hill for signal gave me a good view of the castle too.
I made some friends, and discovered Arne beach.

I do confess to getting a bit lost in Poole, the roads there are why I hardly ever go out that way. New Forest is much easier to navigate without looking at a map constantly.

New Forest Exploration

I’ve finished university! To celebrate handing in my dissertation I decided to explore more of the New Forest and fill in a few blank spots that I haven’t covered before.

I found a woodland full of Beech trees in their spring growth. It looks perfect for some camping or hammocking, provided it stays dry.

My lack of exercise over the past few months caught up to me about half way around, I spotted a comfty looking tree and had a quick nap! Rhinefield Ornamental Drive is beautiful area to walk around, the Giant Redwoods and Douglas Fir trees are in contrast to the oak and beech covering the rest of the forest.

The original route was down the A338 towards Ringwood for a few miles but when I got there the traffic was too busy. So I went straight across and explored down a small lane, hoping it would curl back south  – it didn’t. The trouble with Dorset is that its littered with mansions and vast gardens that appear to link up roads on the map, but in reality there’s a massive gate in the way. On the plus side, I found a nice church.

Ellingham – St Mary All Saints

I made surprisingly good speed overall on the ride, my last ride in the New Forest will be a sad business indeed. If the weather holds up I plan to go across to Old Harry Rocks tomorrow, and then maybe Kimmeridge at the weekend.