Due to the ongoing
uncertainty with Covid-19, my plans for the coming year remain tentative and
provisional. I have two repeat holidays in mind. The first is my regular fixed-centre holiday in the Scottish
Borders, the 19th edition of which had to be cancelled in 2020. The second is
the multi-centre exploration of two scenic Canary Islands, Lanzarote and
Fuerteventura (one of the last CTC Holidays to run before lockdown). This would
take place in early 2022; it's a great place to kickstart your cycling year!
Though relatively unknown, the Scottish Borders is possibly
the best area for cycling in the whole of the UK, with an excellent network of
quiet country roads and varied scenery ranging from rounded heather-clad hills
to rich rolling farmland dotted with abbeys and attractive small towns. This
fixed-centre holiday is based in a four-star country house hotel on the fringes
of Hawick, allowing us to explore what lies in all directions.Two daily rides of
different distances lead to varied destinations, from market towns like
Melrose, Jedburgh and Kelso to the Tweed valley, Ettrickdale and the Cheviot
foothills. Although it's a hilly area, each route allows plenty of time to
enjoy pristine landscapes, superb views and excellent cafes.
I have been combining my love of the outdoors and travelling through cycletouring for around 40 years, exploring many parts of the British Isles and Europe, as well as further afield in South Africa and the Americas. I was CTC Tour Leader for over 20 years, running 40 tours in total, 15 of which have been in Spain. I am now well versed in this country's culture and way of life, and speak reasonable Spanish too.
Participants on previous
tours have usually described my leadership style as ‘laid back’. Where required
I will lead the group on the road, for example to navigate out of a large town;
but mostly I tend to bring up the rear. This means that I am able to encounter
and help to resolve any problems that may occur during the day’s ride. I am
happy for anyone to ride with me, and in this way to guide them along the
route, but I am aware that my general style and pace of riding may not
necessarily tally with other people's. Participants are provided with both
turn-by-turn instructions printed on robust cards and a set of GPS route files.
The expectation is that we team up with others of similar pace and thus proceed
in small groups on the road. However, I do always try to ensure that no-one is
left riding on their own all day.
I always try to devise
routes that combine good views, quiet roads, convenient refreshment stops and
manageable distances for a reasonably fit touring cyclist. This means that as
you ride the unfolding panorama before you has lots of variety and interest, and
doesn't have to be rushed. It also means that the terrain tends to be fairly
lumpy (on the basis that scenery=hills). The majority of my routes are on
surfaced back lanes and cycle paths, with the occasional stretch of gravel
track or rural main road where this can't be avoided without a huge detour. On
longer tours I always factor in one or two possible rest days, usually in a
historic town where there's plenty to see.
Wherever possible I aim to use good quality family-run hotels and inns which can provide our evening meal and breakfast in the morning, as well as secure overnight cycle storage. Where there are no other alternatives I may arrange for us to stay in a multi-chain hotel or a youth hostel, but only as a last resort. Where establishments do not offer their own catering I get the hotel staff to recommend a restaurant nearby. In all cases both meals are included in the price.
To date my cycling holidays have been either in
the UK or around different parts of Spain. Apart from my regular fixed-centre
visits to the Scottish Borders (18 and counting so far), domestic tours have
tended to have a geographical theme, such as the Weymouth to Whitby 'Jurassic
Jaunt', the St Abbs to St Bees 'A to B' and the two 'Bolton Wanderer' trips. My
Spanish tours usually take the form of a multi-day loop through remote (and
often rugged) parts of both mainland and islands. Areas visited include the
Picos de Europa, Galicia, the Maestrazgo, the area around Cuenca, the Sierra de
Cazorla and western Asturias, as well as the Canary Islands. There are other
ideas in the development pipeline too, including the Spanish Pyrenees, the
Sierras de Gredos and Francia and the Montes de León.
Canary Island hopping
Bolton Wanderer (Home and Away Legs)
This comprised a pair of tours
designed to visit as many of the 80 places in Great Britain with Bolton in
their name as possible. With most of these located in northern England or
southern Scotland the tours involved a leisurely meander along minor roads
through lovely north British hill country. Both legs ran from south to north,
the first from Bolton (Lancs) to Carlisle, and the second from Sheffield to
Dunbar. The former passed through some of the lesser known stretches of rural
Lancashire and Cumbria such as the Forest of Bowland and the Howgills, linking
together a string of out of the way villages and hamlets. The second traversed
across Yorkshire, north-east England and south-east Scotland, through rolling
farmland, flattish vales, incised dales, forests and moorland. We looped
through the Yorkshire Dales and the West Durham Pennines and skirted the
Cheviots before tackling the Lammermuirs head on. Both tours involved
reasonable daily distances and comfortable hotel accommodation, and succeeded
in introducing participants to parts of Britain that they didn't know existed.
Spain - Galicia
This hotel-based tour traced a
clockwise loop around Spain's distinctive north-western region. Galicia bucks
the Spanish stereotype with its greenery, granite and Gallego language on the
one hand, and its Celtic-infused culture and speciality seafood dishes on the
other. A well mixed group enjoyed the blend of hilly scenery, coastal views and
historic sites, with the tour sampling contrasting elements of Galician
landscape and heritage We headed out through the remote hinterland of rustic
hamlets, isolated farmsteads and historic towns, crossing the high moorlands
and incised valleys between them. Our return followed the rugged Atlantic
coastline via the end of the earth (Cabo Finisterre), various other headlands,
lighthouses, fishing villages and beaches, plus a visit to Spain's northernmost
point. Two rest days allowed trips by train or bus to the pilgrimage
destination of Santiago de Compostela and the vibrant port city of A Coruña.