Destination: Gotland 

I’m currently on a ferry to Turku sailing through the Archipelago Sea. 

Since leaving jolly old England we’ve been cycling 24 days and 1300 miles. So it isn’t that surprising that we decided a holiday was in order. Originally I was keen on going to the island of Oland but we noticed on the map that we could take a ferry to Gotland and then another one back further up the coast. After much deliberation over the cost (£90 there, £60 back) we decided to get on with it and go.

The ferry left at 18.30 so we arrived around 21.00 and were treated to our first beautiful sunset on the island.

We camped at 22.00 in the garden area of a church, as no way were we going to pay for a campsite we couldn’t relax in all afternoon.

The next day we cycled back to Visby, the only city on the island. It has a massive fortified wall partly to protect town traders from farmers angry at the monopoly over trade.

After the great sunset when we arrived, we spent the following day getting into position for the next one. We cycled up the west coast and found a small fishing harbour to swim in. We pitched the tent in the woodland above the beach and then sat down to enjoy the sunset.

The sunset eclipsed the previous one in terms of beauty, maybe because we had time to find the best spot to see it.

Gotland is famous for its Rauk Stacks, the best ones are on the northernmost island but there are also many scattered around on the main island.

We saw our final special sunset from the east coast, I have a feeling that if we had seen it over the sea it may have been the best one yet.

The next stage of the tour is up to Stockholm and then across to the Aland islands and the Archipelago sea.

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Cycling Southern Sweden

I’m currently on a ferry to the Aland Islands, Finland, on my Baltic Sea cycle tour. 



I’ve been looking forward to cycling through the Scandinavian countries since we planned the tour. Sweden and Finland have a ‘everyman’s right’ to camp where you like (within reason). So whilst food is more expensive, we have yet to stay at a campsite. 

My third bicycle touring top tip that has come in incredibly useful in Sweden is:

“European churches and graveyards tend to always have water” 

Whilst ‘everyman’s right’ is great, it’s not much use mid-summer when most water sources are mosquito HQ. And so it is definitely worth finding a church with a grassy corner hidden away. We have yet to be kicked out.

So far, Swedish churches have been beautiful and the taps plentiful. 

Near Ljungbyholm we camped beside a large river in a beech wood. We walked along it hoping to find somewhere in the sun away from mosquitoes, when what do we find… A football pitch! It was overgrown so we decided to camp along one edge to catch the morning sun. 

After pitching we went for a swim in the river. It was incredibly deep with a strong undercurrent, holding onto a branch and staying still resulted in your legs being swept horizontal. 

For breakfast we had yoghurt and three berry muesli, all picked by us. 

Cherries we commonly find alongside the road, raspberries near the deep river and bilberries up the rocky valleyside we were camped in.

We  occasionally cycle past fields of flowers, clover is planted to put nutrients back into the soil for the following year. By far the best was this one, with a multitude of flowers mixed in and a traditional Swedish red barn in the background. 

On our way to the ferry port to Gotland we cycled through miles upon miles of woods. At times they seemed a neverending mass of brown and green. Having spent a month cycling in Ireland, I am of the firm opinion that moving on to different countries is important on long tours, this is as too much of one thing can become tiresome. Especially if all you can see is trees. 

On that thread, we decided to abandon the mainland for a time and cycle around the island of Gotland. 

Exploring Copenhagen

Copenhagen is beautiful. Its one of the best cities I’ve visited and certainly the most impressive thus far on the cycle tour. 

The main attraction is that it’s got many historic buildings, multiple palaces, Tivolis (amusement park), a harbour, and a famous restaurant street running beside the river.

The King’s Garden

Nyhavn Street

Known for its expensive restaurants and shops, the street runs along a waterway with boats moored along either side. A local told us how in the 1795 a fire ripped through the city and afterwards they were rebuilt based on  selection of generic plans. Now many of the houses are similar but have slight variations depending on the plan used. 

Amalienborg Palace and the Marble Church

Figuring out how to get to Sweden initially posed a problem. When we planned the route we knew there was a Copenhagen-Malmo bike ferry but upon arriving nobody seemed to know about it. We hunted down free WiFi and I spent ages clicking through Google trying to find it. After numerous websites I found a link to another site that explained that the ferry was supposedly active all summer but in small print at the top it said ‘services not running from 5th July to 26th’ and so that plan was scuppered. 

As the bridge is a motorway and trains cost a fortune, he only option left was to cycle 30km up the coast and take the ferry to Helsingborg. 

Reaching the Baltic Sea

Denmark is the first country we’ve cycled that properly borders the Baltic and so after nearly a week we have reached the beginning of the planned Baltic route.  The route is to cycle up through Denmark along the coasts of Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Germany. In Germany we stop off in Dusseldorf which signifies the end to the Baltic Sea tour and we start the process of getting home again. 

Our first Danish town was Nykøbing Falster, and the first town to truly feel European. The streets were full of colourful umbrellas hanging down and there was a traditional market selling all kinds of interesting foods. 

We took the the old bridge to Denmark’s main island, as the new one is immensely busy. It turned out to be a good decision as we had a wonderful view of a sparkling pathway over the water. 

A small problem travelling through so many countries is that we don’t know the languages. So our knowledge of Danish is limited and shopping is sometimes guess work. We spotted this carton in the milk section of a supermarket. It turned out to be fermentated yoghurt, originating from Mongolia! Needless to say, our tea tasted odd. 

In the late afternoon we swam from a pier by the campsite and enjoyed the blazing sunshine. Swimming consisted of constantly dodging hundreds of clear jellyfish. In the evening there was a beautiful sunset and in the distance by the bridge we had cycled a building reflected the sun, seeming as if it was on fire. 

The next day we spoke to a local further up the coast and he explained that the white jellyfish are the bad stingers, the clear ones we swam with are ‘just a bit nasty’.

The next day we arrived at Copenhagen and spent Sunday resting and exploring the city. 

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. 

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.