As said in previous posts, TRAT is a six day ride from Land’s End to John o’ Groats, so stops will be quite far apart. Due to the need to ride an average of 146 miles each day we will be getting up at an early hour to get the most out of the day.
Stopping points are fixed, with accommodation already booked at every point so we have to make our target each day. I found that this worked for me last year, without the knowledge that your night stop was pre-booked it would have been all too easy to stop earlier in the day. We are staying in a wide variety of places, from youth hostels, halls of residence to religious retreats. The support crew will be feeding us at lunch stops in town, church, village and school halls every day of the ride.
On the first day we set out from Land’s End and will end the day in Taunton, having crossed Cornwall and Devon along the way – no mean feat to do that in a single day.
The second day will see us all the way to Telford via Gloucester (which means we miss out on the Severn Bridge, boo!). I’m hoping to see some of my family that evening as they live in Shifnal, which is just a few miles from the end of the ride that day. By not going through Hereford, I’ll miss out on waving at my brother as we go through.
Day three will probably be the least enjoyable as the route on this day inevitably goes through some of the most heavily urbanised parts of the country. At least we go through it in a single day. Starting off from Telford it ends up in Levens in Cumbria, to the south of Kendal and the Lake District. Maybe we can stop for Chorley Cakes in Chorley?
Day four should be great but challenging – we’ve got Kendal then the climb of Shap Fell fairly early on in the day, one of the hardest climbs of the route – unlike last year when I was riding the opposite way, there will be the support team waiting at the top with Second Breakfast, which will be an incentive. Later in the day we will make it to Scotland and the Southern Uplands, travelling via Gretna Green and ending up in Biggar.
Day five takes us through the Central Belt of Scotland, our last major urban area. After that we will be into the Highlands. If the weather is good, this may be a fantastic day as we will be travelling through some spectacular countryside. It being Scotland, it will probably rain of course – either way, we end the day near Aviemore and only one long day’s ride from John o’ Groats. My sister Mairi lives on this route and I’m hoping she might be able to get out and wave us on or even ride along for a bit (she teaches in Pitlochry though, so her schedule may not permit this).
Day six – this is a deceptively tough day of riding, the coastal road we will be following after Inverness and the Black Isle has amazing views of the east coast of Scotland and the North Sea but it drops and climbs a fair amount and has two very noticeable climbs at Helmsdale and Berriedale. There is a very nice cake shop just before Helmsdale though. It’s big sky country and it will still be light in the far north no matter how late we ride (unless things have gone terribly, terribly wrong).
I’m looking forward to reaching John o’ Groats again, it will be different to see it in summer and at the end of the long ride rather than in winter and at the beginning of one.
After John o’ Groats we are staying the night in Thurso before starting the long drive back over the following two days. I’m looking forward to the trip back – all I will have to do will be to sit down and watch the country roll by, this time not under my own power (this is what I mean about how hard the support crew have to work).
A few days after that of course, I get the train for France, Grenoble and the Marmotte.