Coast to Coast by bike, The Way of the Roses. 4 days, 6 suicidal squirrels, 10 train crossings, 4 whiskeys and 1 chain off!

“Did you know its 20 times cheaper to maintain a bike than a car?”

With the original plan of doing an Ironman in Mallorca in October cancelled some time ago my husband and I decided that we would like to do some form of bike touring for our holiday instead. 🚴‍♀️🚴‍♂️

So following a few evenings of cosying up with mugs of tea, iPads and Google we decided to cycle the Way of the Roses from Morecambe to Bridlington. We would take the train to the start, book the first two nights accommodation and then play it by ear – there were after all lots of murmurings of lockdowns, closing pubs etc.

Map of the Way of the Roses taken from the website of the same name

As this was more of a holiday, enjoy ourselves and have some beers kind of thing rather than an achievement thing we decided to do it in 4 days and take it easy. My husband who is probably capable of cycling the 170 miles in a day left this decision to me. In all honesty, now having done it, I realise I could of done it in the more common 3 days and still had plenty of time for enjoying the ride and the post ride beers.

The route, for anyone who wants to cycle, run or walk it, is utterly beautiful all the way. Its incredibly varied from narrow country lanes, flat roads that wound their way through tiny villages with beautiful cottages, undulating roads, steep hills, some lanes with holes and grit and gravel, some that felt briefly ‘off roady’ and went through the middle of a large field. Every bit of it is however, completely doable on a road bike (even for me).

We arrived on Saturday by train in Lancaster and cycled to Morecambe for the start. The easiest way to do this was via the Way of the Roses cycle path which felt a little silly knowing that we would be retracing our steps an hour later.

Bikes ready – on the train to Lancaster. My husband carried two panniers and I carried an Ortileb bar bag in front of the handlebars.

After a nice warm brew in a seaside cafe and a quick kiss with Eric Morecambe we set off on our way to Settle.

Bring me sunshine Eric
In your smile 😁

Day 1 – Morecambe to Settle

The official start of the Way of the Roses

Day 1 was possibly my favourite in terms of the cycling terrain. It started off on flat cycling paths but soon went onto gorgeous undulating country lanes, the kind where you can not take enough photos. In fact I remember thinking this is the definition of ‘rolling countryside’. None of the hills were steep or if they were it was only for a few metres where you stood up fairly briefly and then sat down again but it was up and down enough to make it really interesting and give rise to beautiful views which went on and on (a bit like me lol). We saw hardly anyone for miles and miles.

Views between Morecambe and Settle
We saw the most beautiful rainbow on the way

Knowing that day 1 was only 35 miles to Settle and given a shortage of shops directly on this route we decided to simply push on and eat when we got to Settle. I did have some yummy snacks in my front pack including a cliff bar and some mini banana malt loaves. These helped us to keep fed but not stopping was a mistake, by the time we had booked into our hotel and found a cafe it was 3pm and we could of both happily eaten the table we were sat at.

We stopped at the Golden Lion which was fantastic. The room was lovely and the food at dinner and breakfast was excellent. The bikes were stored in a back part of the hotel which is locked up and hidden from view.

Leaving the Golden Lion

Day 2 – Settle to Boroughbridge

This day was hard!! In fact it was the only really hard day, I wish I would of realised this was the only hard day at the time as I might of been able to push myself more. Admittedly I was having a bit of a menopausal down day and feeling quite negative. Its not a nice feeling and it can diminish that normal sense of adventure and excitement and replace it with not only a lack of these feelings but a real lack of confidence too. Suddenly what was exciting and challenging yesterday becomes impossible and annoying today. Knowing upfront today would be quite hilly I tried to suppress this negativity and told myself right just get on with this, cmon Lorna.

With this in mind and knowing a big hill would be on the cards within a few miles we cycled out of the hotel around the corner and turned up a cobbled street which hit 17% almost immediately. Um where was my couple of miles warm up? My calves are still cold thank you very much! This was swiftly followed by a 20% sign and I thought wtf!!!! I tried to stay on my bike and cycle up this hill but when it turned a corner and looked like yet another 20% longer climb I got off and walked. I’m not proud to admit this and I’m sure all you cyclists reading this would be just fine but I had previously only cycled up a 20% hill (just one time) and combined with my state of mind I lost confidence in myself to do it.

The start of the 17% part of the steep climb

Of course once you are off and walking its really hard to get back on again so I continued to push my bike and walk up this hill until it started to flatten out again. After that it became a lot easier and it was also utterly stunning which cheered me up. We cycled across the top of the moorland which undulated for a while until coming to a lovely long descent with glorious views all around. The weather was perfect, cold but sunny with bright blue skies.

Bright blue sky

Feeling a little more positive, ok Lorna you got this now, I pedalled on. To my annoyance we were then met with numerous 17-20% gradients which tested both my physical ability and if I’m completely honest my mental patience. Further along we came to a particularly tough initial ascent and as I turned the corner I found myself almost coming to a standstill stomping hard on the pedals and muttering expletives (apologies to the people who were walking down the road at this point). I promise you normally I would say hi and smile at you rather than pant, swear and make grr noises. It really was just one of those days!

Taking a rest before the next set of hills

After this corner I could see more hills ahead and I started to really struggle again mentally. We stopped for a short rest, more to get my mind in gear than my legs. After a brief rest taking some pictures I found the climb I had seen in the distance was not hard at all. In fact the rest of the climb up to Greenhow was simply divine, never difficult, just enough to keep it interesting. Combined with that sense of achievement you get from climbing a hill, I felt great. Hurrah 😀.

Positive me was back woohoo! With this new sense of positivity and also the knowledge that this was the last hill today I flew down the other side of the hill into Pateley Bridge for lunch. Not even the signs saying be careful, ‘16% gradient’ & ‘watch out for cyclists’ could deter me from this sudden increase in confidence and sheer unadulterated joy.

Views out of Settle on way to Greenhow

We managed to find a lovely little cafe in Pateley Bridge where we could park our bikes around the back. Sadly the only available table was outside, it was freezing but it sufficed for us to have a short snack of beans on toast and warm mugs of tea.

Lunch outside at Pateley Bridge

With Cafe legs we set off from Pateley Bridge. During lunch my husband had set my expectations by mentioning that there was in fact a “small” hill to come but after that it would then be flat until Boroughbridge where we were heading. Hmmm normally this wouldn’t have phased me but on this particular day I simply couldn’t get my mind in gear for this and felt quite p’d off at the roads. Grrr how dare you give me another hill grrr.

It didn’t take long to discover the 19% and 17% gradients. Once again I could not shift my head out of my CBA place and got off and walked. I would love to do this particular section again on a day when I had the right mindset. For reasons I find hard to explain unless you have experienced menopause your hormones can give you really bad days that are very hard to simply brush off. After those last hills, during which I swore at them (lol), there is a lovely long descent from Brimham rocks where it did indeed flatten out and the rest of the ride to Boroughbridge was a rather quick and easy affair.

One of the many views on the way

We passed through Studley Royal, to my surprise, right through the middle of it on the same small path that people were walking, which I found a little awkward so I rode quite slowly and apologised a lot even though its apparently a cycle path. It was beautiful though.

In front of Fountains Abbey just before Studley Royal

After Studley Royal we passed briefly through Ripon and took an opportunity to have a photo moment in front of the Cathedral.

My husband outside Ripon Cathedral

We stayed at the Crown (Best Western) in Boroughbridge and we would both highly recommend this. The bed was so so comfortable we didn’t want to get up the next day! I think the food was great but in all honesty I must of had a few beers as I cant really remember the evening at all 🤔.

Day 3 – Boroughbridge to Pocklington

I woke up on Day 3 in a great mood. Typical really since todays ride was going to be extremely easy; 40 miles of flat terrain. It wasn’t boring though! The terrain varied enormously and we could of easily used the GoPro to video all of this day if we would of had enough battery to do this. Here’s just one short section which showed the beautiful autumn colours on the trees.

Gorgeous coloured leaves all around
Some examples of the varied terrain en route

Sometime after this we were passing through a little place called Ouseburn and my husband spotted a sign on the wall. It was a memorial for where a plane came down in 1942.

Memorial

On this day we stopped for lunch in York. The last mile or so coming into York took us through a park weaving our way along a narrow cycling path and over quite a few cattle grids. It started to rain and my husband started singing ‘why does it always rain on me’ with his wonderful dulcet tones clinging to the air as I rode behind him 😆.

It wasn’t until the last half a mile that you come onto a main road and are then quickly into a cycling lane, through an arch and then facing the York Minster. In fact we stopped at Bennet’s cafe opposite York Minster which was handy and their toasted crumpets with marmalade were to die for! Highly recommended.

Quick pic outside York Minster before hot crumpets

After lunch we set off for Pocklington with only 20 miles to go. It was beautiful and eventful all the way with no less than 6 suicidal squirrels running out in front of our bikes as we skidded to avoid them each time. I do have to wonder if they actually lie in waiting and then throw themselves across the road at the appropriate moment.

One of the many amazing signs en route

We stopped at the Feathers in Pocklington and again I would recommend this hotel. The rooms were separate to the hotel (like a motel) but none the less very luxurious. The lady who served us at dinner and breakfast was incredibly friendly and chatty which also made for a nice stay. Again the bike lockup was great, this time it was their food storage area.

In the evening we debated what we would do the next day and decided we would cycle to Bridlington to the finishing line but then cycle back again 10 miles and stay in Harpham overnight. From there it would be an easy cycle to Driffield to catch a train in the morning or maybe we could cycle on somewhere else, we’d leave it open.

Unfortunately our reservation in Harpham got cancelled in the end so after much discussion and a few whiskeys we decided to just get to Bridlington and get the train home the next day.

Day 4 – Pocklington to Bridlington and home

Again an easy 40 flat miles on the last day (hence why I’ve realised with hindsight I could of done it in 3). It was also just stunning views all the way, although this was somewhat marred by the weather which was torrential. It reminded me of a bit out of Forrest Gump (you have to do the voice though 😆) “We been through every kind of rain there is. … And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath”.

Combine this with the fact that I had trusted the weather forecast (yeah I know!) and not taken mudguards and that my “rain jacket” was shower rather than rain proof and the ride was a very enjoyable but nonetheless profoundly soggy experience.

We arrived in Bridlington wet through although I was definitely wetter and muddier than my husband who had sensibly had mudguards and a decent jacket. The sense of achievement, the joy of seeing the sea, the joy of seeing a warm cafe perhaps all meant I didn’t initially notice how cold I was.

After a delicious veggie burger and fries we cycled to the station and I changed into my jeans, sweatshirt, clean socks and shoes. Even after doing this I felt cold and it took me most of the journey home to really feel warm again. My husband stayed in his bike clothes as they’d dried out pretty much by this point.

So yes I’ve already ordered some decent mudguards!

So highlights from the trip?

  • The climb up to Greenhow and descent down to Pateley Bridge
  • The views coming in to and climbing out of Settle
  • The joys of riding in the rain
  • The gorgeous views
  • Getting better at descending
  • Definitely the views
  • A snickers bar (yes this is a highlight when you haven’t eaten a full sized chocolate bar for years)
  • More views
  • Realising I can ride on and on if I ride slowly
  • Seriously the views 😍
  • Knowing I now want to buy a bike for touring, practice with panniers (my husband carried ours for this trip) and get properly kitted out for the next adventure 😁👏
  • Bikes on trains is really easy, just check on some services if you need reservations. (The Journey from Romiley to Lancaster and Bridlington to Romiley was £80 in total for two!!)
  • The route signage is excellent, well done Sustrans! We used a GPS but you really don’t need to, just follow the roses 🌹

Useful links:

http://wayoftheroses.info

https://www.goldenlionsettle.co.uk/

https://www.bw-crownboroughbridge.co.uk/

https://www.thefeatherspocklington.co.uk/

Full video of our trip done with GoPro: https://youtu.be/Ix30gVGo_Tw

Trip Stats: 286 Km, 3044 m ascent, 14 hrs 16 min cycling time 😁

3 thoughts on “Coast to Coast by bike, The Way of the Roses. 4 days, 6 suicidal squirrels, 10 train crossings, 4 whiskeys and 1 chain off!

  1. Sounds like an amazing trip. A few years ago we cycled a little further north from Carlisle (through the Lake District) and then across to Newcastle and back. At the time we had no idea of the extent of the National Cycle Network but it was a fantastic trip and I am looking forward to doing more cycling in the UK.

    Like

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