Trips: Cycling Hadrian’s Wall

Perhaps the title is a bit less than fully honest.  We are just back from a week cycling Hadrian’s Cycleway between Newcastle and Carlisle.  This is a chunk of the Sustrans National Cycle Route 72 (Coast to Coast) with loops added to take you up and around sections of the wall.   We armed ourselves with the Sustrans’ 1:100,000 map of the route before leaving home: a mixed blessing as it turned out.

Customs House, Newcastle
Customs House, Newcastle (Photo credit: xean)

We travelled from Aberdeen to Newcastle with East Coast Trains on their London King’s Cross bound afternoon train, arriving in Newcastle just on 19.00 hours in the evening.  The train takes only 4 bikes at a time so we had to pre-book.  Bookings can be made for passengers and bikes via their web site, but I referred to buy our tickets at the local Railway Station.  The bikes have to be loaded into the Guard’s Van and hung onto hooks by the front wheels.  Fine for my bike, as the rear wheel located nicely into a guide rail on the floor: less good for Jacqui’s as it proved too short to reach the floor and was left hanging in mid air.  Another time I’ll take a double of old bits of sponge to protect the rims and a strap to hold Jacqui’s bike in place.  However, neither bike came to any harm.

I was worried about getting the bikes off on the short stop at Newcastle, but all worked out fine.  Newcastle is where the guards swap over shifts and there was plenty time to retrieve the bikes.  We stayed at the nearby Holiday Inn Express and they were as bike-friendly as ever in our experience and allowed us to lock the bikes away in one of their unused meeting rooms overnight.

English: Holiday Inn Express, Newcastle
English: Holiday Inn Express, Newcastle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our evening in Newcastle was just lively enough and we ate at a local Tapas place.

All Smiles on the Tyne

Next day ought to have been an easy 30 plus mile route following the Tyne out of Newcastle and staying at the George Hotel In Chollerford. Unfortunately, we got hopelessly lost within a couple of miles of the start and did several council house estate circuits before finding our way to Stephenson’s Cottage for a tea and cake break.  Ron the local Sustrans’ Ranger told us we were 7 miles from Newcastle – we had travelled 13!

Ron the Ranger

Meeting Tony and Didi made our stop quite perfect as it turned out we had several colleagues in common and links to The Manse in Burghead no less.  It’s a very small world apparently!

Tony and Didi

Our next stop was Corbridge and this turned out to be a favourite town on the trip.  We enjoyed a timely fruit lunch before pressing on.

Map work at Corbridge

The George at Chollerford proved to be a very restful spot for the next two nights, allowing us to take in a cycle loop back to Corbridge and Hexham the following day.  Again, the bikes were made welcome and rested safe in a locked function room when not in use.

The George at Chollerford
Corbridge Cakes are… special!

The next day we set off for Haltwhistle and the Manor House Inn.  This was a short day of less than 20 miles, but full of hills and so we found it quite demanding.

Haltwhistle

We liked Haltwhistle a lot and especially enjoyed watching the Olympics in the Black Bull after our evening meal.

After Haltwhistle it was another short hop of 14 miles or so to Brampton.  En route we took in the Roman Military Museum (excellent and full of audio visual features) and got our first good look at the wall.

The Roman Military Museum
At Last – a Wall to Speak Off.

Brampton was less to our liking than Haltwhistle, but our hotel, the Howard Arms, was just great and became our base for the next two nights.

The Howard Arms, Brampton

Arriving at Brampton we met up with our Best Man, Mike (who we had not seen for 38 years!) and his partner, Linda.  It was great to feel the years fade away and be instantly at home in their company.

Yet another teashop break!

After two days we cycled to Carlisle to pick up the Virgin train to Glasgow and hence back to Aberdeen with good old Scotrail.  If you have not boarded a Virgin train with a bike, it’s quite an experience.  Let’s just say, look out for the “Bikes Alight Here” sign and don’t hang about when the train stops!