As promised here is a quick summary of ‘how’ I set up this bike ride and it is also an award page for all the lovely, lovely places and people I found to visit, meet, eat and stay with.
The route: this was purchased from http://www.bikeadventures.co.uk/ and they made all the bookings for the B and Bs which were all of a good standard and some were excellent. It’s a route on very quiet roads. You only do a few very short stretches on A roads. So it does wiggly a lot. You go north and south almost as much as you go west. This is not a route for someone who wants to just bomb from one side of the country to the other. But if you like to meander and see beautiful countryside, it’s fabulous. About 60 miles a day for 8 days. My only observation was that the last day was very, very challenging – 60 miles over some very major hills. I’d have preferred a longer penultimate day and a shorter day on the last day. As for accuracy, they get 9/10. One one day there was an 8 mile chunk of directions suddenly missing which threw me back on to using google maps on my phone for an hour and was frustrating. Otherwise the very concise directions were excellent, once you’d learned to read the rubric. You do need to focus on the directions, there is a turn every mile or two. But I loved that fact that I only knew the next step and wasn’t oppressed by constantly getting a big map out, locating myself and moving on. Each day felt very achievable because I just took it a few miles at a time. Pub and cafe information is included in the directions although some were shut and others appeared without warning!
Wales is very hilly and if you get bad weather it can be dispiriting. I had support back up while I was in Wales which meant I wasn’t riding a loaded and heavy bike for the last three days. If you were going solo all the way, Wales would be really quite tough.
B and B’s: This one was the standout best http://www.thehillcrest.org.uk
It is in Earls Barton (where I do NOT recommend the chip shop – the one bad eating experience of the week). This B and B was a really beautiful home, with a very warm and considerate welcome and a lovely breakfast.
A very close second was http://www.thecottagebandb.co.uk/
This was also a beautiful house and a huge room in Llandridnod Wells, conveniently close to restaurants etc and right on the route (as most were). But all the B and B’s were good, so no complaints there.
Best coffee of whole trip: Bakers of Tower Street Ludlow http://www.bakersoftowerstreet.co.uk/
Only £2 for a huge latte and I even got to join in with doing the crossword with the next door table.
Best lunch stop: The George in Spaldwick http://www.thegeorgespaldwick.co.uk/
Yummy chicken and cheese melt with perfect chips and a very friendly welcome.
Most welcoming churches: St James in Castleacre, open and with Churchgate tearooms next door.
St Andrews in Spratton and the Doris Cafe they hold in there twice a week. This place restored my sense of calm after the 8 unexpected extra miles – nice cookies. Thank you to them for fighting with their DAC for 2 years to put a toilet in the church!
Best tips: as you go out of Stratford don’t go on the A 439, turn left to Luddington just at the Racecourse sign and go through Luddington, the road rejoins the A439 a little later and puts you back on the route, you have added one extra mile but cut out a busy road section and a big uphill : -) Thanks, Tim B and B host for that one. (http://www.virginialodge.co.uk/) and for drying my washing.
Second best tip (from me): talk to people! You meet ever such a lot of interesting people, it didn’t really feel like a solo trip as there was always a good conversation to be had. One of the good ones was with the only other customer in the village pub in Everdon, he’d been farming in Snorescumbe (wonderful name) since 1943 and told me amazing things about the village which had SEVEN pubs in those days. Now there is just the one, but it is fantastically quaint, feels like it should be part of a film set for a film set in the 1750’s! The food was good there and the warm chocolate brownies with ice cream were the best I’ve ever had but what really impressed me was the huge pristine heavy linen serviette they brought with my order. How to turn a sandwich into an occasion! It was called The Plough but I can’t find any website link.
Finally, but by no means least, lots of credit to Simon at my local bike shop for fitting me out with shoes and keeping my bike ticking over. http://www.paddoxcycles.co.uk/