I woke up to enough fleeting sunshine to optimistically start speculating about where to ride this weekend. After all, I’m getting fitter, the weather’s getting better and… well, look, I’ve never really needed an excuse to get the bike out. Though my mate Mark pinging me a “Fancy a ride” message might count…
Bank holidays always say “seaside” to me. Like half the population. Which of course makes trying to get the family to the coast in a convoy of cars just about the most hellish experience possible. But on the bike? Congestion’s never a problem if you’re not on the same roads as the four-wheeled masses. And even if the final few miles happen to be the same, who cares? Getting past traffic is what bikes are best at.
So where should the weekend’s ride take me? I’ll be setting off from my girlfriend’s house in Newmarket… but I have a hankering for a bit of fresh crab. Having grown up in Norfolk, I always loved heading to Cromer and along the north coast. Loved hanging out on Cromer pier too (though I can’t now go there without thinking of Alan Partridge).
Mind you, if it’s a pier I want… Southend has the longest one in England, it’s handier for Newmarket and I haven’t been there for years. Surely that’s worth revisiting?
I quickly hash out two routes. Actually, when I check them both to choose between them, it’s obvious that joining them together produces a single ride that looks far better than either one would be on its own – that’s the benefit of a pier-to-pier review <groan>.
That sets my mind whirring. What other great piers are there, worthy of being linked by a decent ride? Weston-Super-Mare has a huge one, but there’s another small pier at nearby Burnham-on-Sea. It’s a short (pretty dull) jaunt down the coast or a fun ride inland – and even if going through Cheddar Gorge on a Bank Holiday will mean dodging tourists at low speed, it’s still scenic enough to be worthwhile.
The second-longest pier in England is at Southport in Lancashire… and you could hop from there to Blackpool pier. If you liked 30mph limits. But if you were to head to the pier at Saltburn-by-the-Sea, on the other side of England, you’d get to ride the Forest of Bowland and the epic Yorkshire Dales. That looks like a cracking ride.
When I was a kid, visiting my gran in Wales, our seaside treat was often a trip to the Gower Peninsula – where there’s the lovely Mumbles Pier. But allegedly the finest pier in Wales is at Penarth. Ditching the M4 to link the two produces a cracking ride through Ogmore Vale (even if comparing the two piers is, essentially, another Swansea v Cardiff rivalry).
I can’t think of any piers in Scotland. Neither can Mr Google. Probably sensible given the weather for much of the year – but summer in the Highlands is so gorgeous you’d want to get a fix of seaside sunshine. So that means ferries. Actually, that means brilliant riding to get to the most scenic boat trips: head to Skye over the quaint Glenelg ferry and go to Elgol for the Bella Jane boat ride in search of seals. If you stayed in Fort William, you could take the bigger Skye ferry back to Mallaig… and loop down through quiet Ardnamurchan to take the Corran ferry back to Fort Bill. If only I was close enough… that would be a brilliant Bank Holiday ride.
• If you fancy doing any of these rides, I’ve put them all live as downloadable GPX files here. Maybe I’ll see you at Southwold, Cromer or some point in between…