Lake District Bike Trip 2008
As I had a few days of freedom left before starting my new job at Smartstream I decided to go on a bike trip. The original plan was to ride to Scotland but I decided I did not have enough time to do that trip, I think a Scotland trip will take about 6 days, so I decided to go to the Lake District instead. After my trip to Paignton I was also worried that I was not fit enough for a trip to Scotland.
Lake District Map
The ride up (~250 miles) to Windermere took about seven hours riding, mostly sticking to the A roads rather than motorways. I only stopped for lunch at a roadside cafe, an old converted caravan, where I had a toasted bacon and cheese sandwich. I think I now understand why truck drivers are mostly overweight and die of heart attacks!
Heart Attack Cafe, Shrewsbury
I stayed at Green Riggs Guesthouse which was really good value, only £26 a night. I think the B&B industry in the Lake District is very competitive, as every single house in Windermere seems to be a B&B and as it was early in the season and most had Vacancy signs up. After a quick shower, I walked down to the lake and went on a island tour and then off to The Oak pub for a beer. The barmen switched to gossiping in code (Afrikaans) because obviously no one can understand Afrikaans in England. When I left the bar, I was very careful to say Dankie to the barman
View from boat, Windermere
Since the craggs do not seem to have roads built to the top I decided to 'connect the meres' i.e. ride around the lakes. First I rode up the east side of the Windermere crossing Hawkshead to Conniston (where Donald Cambell died in Bluebird) and then across the Wrynose Pass.
Wrynott Pass, Lake District
I then rode the Hardknott Pass. The Wrynose and Hardknott passes were definitely a big highlight of the trip, and I think every biker in England should ride them at least once. The Hardknott Pass is acclaimed as the steepest road in England. In a little over a mile the narrow, single-track road climbs a staggering 1,289 feet in a series of almost impossibly tight hairpin bends. The roads are very narrow, very steep and you have to dodge the occasional sheep. I think I may have worn out my rear brake pads trying to control the speed into the hairpins on the way down. The lake district roads feature gravel on the apexes, closed corners, and dry stone walls and trees as run off areas so its not exactly about high speed riding. I think a 250cc trail bike would be the ideal bike rather than a 1000cc V-twin road bike!
Hardnott Pass, Lake District. Note narrow road
I then rode along the coastal road, where every exit seemed to be for Sellafield nuclear reactor. The coast is definitely not as pretty as the actual lakes as it is flat and most of the villages feature grey pebble dashed houses. I then turned inland again to go past Loweswater and over the Honnister Pass along Buttermere to Keswick. Buttermere is definitely one of my favourite areas as it is less populated and comercialised than Windermere. At Keswick I took the B5292 over the Whinlatter Pass to Cockermouth (giggle, giggle). The Whinlatter Pass was great fun, its not so much a pass as a fast, open corner bouncy road between the trees. It was great riding and I should have done it again, but instead I took the A66 to Keswick and the A591 to Windermere. All said I only did 150 miles on the second day.
For the final day's ride I decided to head north east as there were some really nice bendy roads on the map. Unfortunately the previous night I hooked up with some Aussies and drank far too much beer, so when I woke up I felt decidedly queezy. The "Hole in the Wall" pub is definitely the best pub in Windermere. I took the A592 over Kirkstone Pass to Preston and then the A686. The A686 is the best bike road I have ever ridden. I could live at the start and ride it every day for the rest of my life and be happy. The western slope is especially good as it has been resurfaced, it's just bend after bend. I almost managed to get rid of the chicken stripes on my back tyre, except I still don't have a lot of confidence in the front to really push it! When I got to Alston I passed a petrol station, thinking at 90 miles since the last fill I'd be fine to ride the A689. I spent most of it watching the fuel light blinking on and off (it seems to come on when going down hill, the sensor must be at the back of the tank) before managing to find a station, whew!
Kirkstone Pass, Lake District. Nice run off
Then I joined the A1(M) and M1 for a 200 mile dash south, unfortunately this is necessary because across the middle of England there are a number of big cities that ruin riding. At a refuel I met a bloke on a GSXR750 who was wearing a high vis vest that said observer on the back. When I asked whether he trained people to ride, he said he used to but that he wore it now in case he was caught speeding on camera in the hope that they would be more lenient on an observer. Funny, but I thought the opposite! The final day's ride was about 400 miles, not exactly Iron Butt but at my daily limit. In total the trip door to door was 818 miles in three days. I definitely would like to go back to the lake district, and maybe even walk to the top of one of the craggs.