By Joy Baxter
I became interested in the coast & castles cycle route after reading Melvyn Bragg's Credo with tales of the monks of Lindisfarne & King Oswald & Bamburgh Castle, not to mention St Cuthbert and Melrose. Les and I decided we would cycle the route from Newcastle-on-Tyne to Edinburgh (200 miles) in July this year.
I planned the ride over 7 days with a day in Edinburgh at the end. Then contacted the man who moves your luggage on each day, alas, he said the ride wasn't popular anymore and he would only move bags on as far as Berwick-on-Tweed ---------- re think!
We decided not to be beaten (at our age we need the luxury of light panniers) we would do the ride as a relay run with car and bikes alternating between driving and cycling. Great, we could still visit all those interesting places and do some cycling.
We drove to Newcastle on a Thursday and I set off in the afternoon just as the rain stopped. We met in Whitley Bay - "Stag & Hen party" centre for all the NE would you believe. From there we drove to our first B&B in Amble an interesting fishing port where we watched fishing nets being hauled and dragged off a boat with a tractor.
Next morning we went to look at the amazing Warkworth Castle. It wasn't open, so Les cycled and we met up in Craster, just beyond the reconstructed pre-historic dwelling at Howick. We then drove to a place from where we could walk to Drunstanburgh Castle, once one of the homes of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, son of King Edward III and brother to the Black Prince. The Castle can only be reached on foot.
From there we went on to visit Seahouses - a seaside holiday town - and so to overnight outside Bamburgh. Our bikes stayed on the car the next day as there was so much to see before our B&B at Berwick-on-Tweed. Unfortunately, Grace Darling's museum was closed for the summer but we visited her rather magnificent tomb. Bamburgh castle was amazing, a ruin transformed into a "fairy castle" by Lord Armstrong. We were fascinated by a museum of aircraft engineering in a corner of the castle. Lord Armstrong being the Armstrong of Armstrong Siddley and Vickers Armstrong, - names belonging to quite a few famous aircraft. Then we had to move quickly to catch the right tide for Holy Island to visit the castle and priory before they closed. Both well worth a visit. That evening we walked the ramparts of Berwick-on-Tweed.
The next day was Sunday and we both managed to cycle through beautiful countryside and small villages to get to Kelso. We were put to shame by a young Dutch couple riding very heavily laden bikes, they cycled up a hill without stopping. They had been cycling for weeks through Norway, Shetland, Scotland and were on their way to Hull.
Anyone thinking of staying in Kelso pick a B&B away from the very noisy cobbled main streets, too late for us.
Monday: Kelso Abbey - beautiful stone work; Floors castle, stately home; Melrose Abbey and its links with St Cuthbert and so to a nice quiet B&B well out of town.
Tuesday: cycling over the Moorfoot hills and our first rain and finally to our last B&B Musselborough where we stayed for three nights.
Wednesday: we left the car and both cycled into and around the wonderful city of Edinburgh and back.
Thursday: spent a lovely lazy day at North Berwick; gazing out to Bass Rock; wandering around Tantallon Castle; paddling in the sea, and watching sail boat races in the evening.
Friday: home through more of Scotland.
Coast and Castles guide book and cycle map is available from Sustrans. This is a route well worth doing by car there is so much beautiful coast to see and lots and lots of lovely places to visit but I don't recommend Alnwick, it's a rip off. If you want to see the castle drive through the town.
For the cyclists
The route was easy to follow well signed except for the odd faded sign. Cycling was easy with a few climbs nothing major and a few tricky bits along the sea-shore. Sustrans maps are very good and the B&B's we took from the guide-book were excellent with the exception of Kelso where the Queen's Head Hotel was on a cobbled street and it being a very hot spell the windows were open.
Anyone wanting more info www.sustrans.org.uk or
email jb . staff @ ecclescollege . co . uk