A long weekend in spring is the perfect excuse to take off along the Coast & Castles cycle route. 200 miles from Newcastle to Edinburgh (the direction for more favourable winds), the route uses sections of National Routes 1 and 76 and cyclists can expect a mixture of traffic free tracks and quiet minor roads, all well marked and at gradients accessible to most abilities.
True to its name the route certainly doesn’t disappoint, skimming the impressive North East coastline and offering beautiful beaches alongside lush countryside. Views to savour from the saddle include Holy Island, Tynemouth Priory, Chathill Station and Alnmouth with its colourful houses hugging the shoreline. Keep an eye out for The Ducket, the explanation of such an interesting building is worth stopping to read.
The route isn’t short of castles and spotting them keeps the ride interesting. The most impressive being Bamburgh, standing proud on the beach. A personal favourite is Warkworth, best experienced when the Daffodils are in full bloom.
To kick start the holiday feeling begin with lunch on Newbiggin beach while examining the Sean Henry statue of a couple in the sea. Make sure that feeling lasts until the final afternoon with lunch on the village green at East Linton.
Start and finish accessible by train (book cycle spaces to avoid disappointment).
Cheap and unique accommodation along the route at the Hideaway Hostel, Berwick and Bells Bothy Bunkhouse.
South Shields to Seaton Sluice and return. I've done this ride a few times and its a great way to shake off the cobwebs, either with friends or on your own.
From South Shields head west and meet any other riders at the Tyne Tunnel 'pedestrian' entrance (more info here:www.bridgesonthetyne.co.uk/tyneped.html).
Come out of the tunnel and turn right. Follow the cycle route up the slight incline and bear right. Cross the road after about 500 metres and go along the side of Percy Main Cricket Ground. Pick up the cycle way and continue straight on, following cycle way marked '10' - part of the Reivers Route. Continue for around five miles and as you hit a new cycle way turn off the route '10' heading north easterly to East Hollywell. Head down the farm track and follow the track into Hollywell village, tacking a right had turn into Holywell Dene Road. The road turns into track after about 100 metres and after a further 400 metres turn right onto the old railway track, a few miles on you reach a road where you turn right and pass Seaton Deleval Hall, a national Trust property of some granduer (see www.seatondelaval.org.uk/Hall.html). Continue down into Seaton Sluice for great views of the sea and the spot where Robson Green says he learned to swim! We usually stop at the Waterford Arms (www.waterfordarms.co.uk/) which does great fish and chips.
From here its south all the way, following Route 1 and the coastline. Past the spectacular St Mary's lighthouse and on to Tynemouth Priory, the burial place of three English Kings, though I can never remember which ones. From here it's best to head for the Ferry and avoid any traffic. The ferry runs every 15 minutes and takes you into the heart of South Shields, two minutes from the market square. There's a great pub called the Allum House right next to the ferry landing but I'll be giving it a miss - just because if I stop off there on Boxing Day I might not want to leave!
A good ride of about 25 miles.
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