Day 1 – Lands End to Bridgwater 162 miles and 7549ft of climbing
The A30 is the main road from Land’s End to Exeter and the most direct route from Lands end towards Bridgwater until it turns south east round Dartmoor from Okehampton. Unfortunately it has a bit of a bad reputation with LEJoG cyclists, so the dual carriageway sections will be avoided where possible, however on Christmas Day the traffic should be a lot lighter and I’ll use some sections of it where it’s safe to do so, but where I can I’ll be on adjacent country roads. From Okehampton I’ll ride cross country to Tiverton (via Bow, Morchard Bishop, Puddington and Black Dog) and on to Taunton and Bridgwater.
Day 2 – Bridgwater to Whitchurch 159 miles and 5344ft of climbing
From Bridgwater, the route takes me to the west of Bristol and over the Severn bridge into Wales at Chepstow, from there, I’ll follow the A466 up to Monmouth and then onwards through the centre of Hereford and then Leominster and Ludlow on the A49 or any quieter B roads in the vicinity. North of Ludlow, the route will take the most direct route north to Whitchurch, passing through the Eastern fringes of Shrewsbury and finishing up for the day in Whitchurch itself. It’s expected that the main hazard for the day will be the Boxing Day shoppers, so the hope is to be clear of Bristol before the shops open!
Day 3 Whitchurch to Carlisle 168 miles and 5066ft of climbing
Leaving Whitchurch, the route will head north on the A49 towards Runcorn, where it’ll cross the Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal. From there, I’ll work my way north towards Preston and on through Lancaster to Kendal using the A6 where possible or adjacent B roads where its too busy. Hopefully this section will be relatively flat and a good opportunity to make solid progress, however from Kendal, the road ramps up to climb Shap pass, topping out at 1391ft. This will be pretty hard on the legs with the day’s mileage already above 120, but from the summit, its downhill all the way through Penrith to Carlisle.
Day 4 Carlisle to Pitlochry 171 miles and 5843ft of climbing
The longest day! Leaving Carlisle, riding parallel to the M74 the road starts to climb into the southern uplands as soon as it crosses the border into Scotland, climbing from almost sea level at Gretna to peak at over 1000ft just south of Elvanfoot before levelling out. At Abington, the route turns for Edinburgh on the A73 and 86 miles out of Carlisle and half way for the day, the route starts to descend into Edinburgh from Auchengray, passing through Livingston and Kirkliston before crossing the Forth Road Bridge. The route will then follow the M90 corridor to Perth on B-roads via Kelty, Kinross and Bridge of Earn. From Perth north to Pitlochry the route will follow sustrans routes 77 and 7 adjacent to the A9, hopefully passing though Ballinluig when the Motorgrill is open for a morale boosting bacon roll to get me the last 30 miles to Pitlochry.
Day 5 Pitlochry to Golspie – 143 miles 4685ft of climbing
Leaving Pitlochry on day 5 the route will take me up the A9 cycle path, over the Drumochter pass and into the highlands. I’ll continue following the A9 all the way to Moy where cycle route 7 leaves the A9 and makes its way cross country through Culloden towards Inverness. Once in Inverness, my route will take me past Raigmore hospital, along Harbour Rd and the Longman Rd and rejoin route 7 at the Kessock Bridge. Once on the Black isle its route 7 to Tore and A9 to the Cromarty Bridge before joining cycle route 1 at Ardullie and following it to Tain. From Tain I’ll be on the A9 proper and will follow it over the Dornoch Bridge and the Mound and into Golspie.
Day 6 Golspie to John O’Groats – 68.2 miles 2844ft of climbing
From Golspie its back on the A9 through Brora and Helmsdale before the climb over the Ord and into Caithness. From there, there’s the climbs at Berridale and Dunbeath to negotiate before arriving in Latheron and leaving the A9 to join the A99 to Wick and onwards to John O’Groats and a well earned dram!
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