The Gretna to Liverpool run would take us half way down the length of England and we would ride through some marvellous scenery. The weather was improving and it looked like we may be over the worst.
Our ride descriptions give an account of the ride that we completed. As part of the description we also provide links to Wikiloc or Google maps and elevation profiles based on mapping data available through the internet. The ride profiles are smoothed to give what in our opinion is a more beneficial view of the profile. We use paper maps, GPS and on line data to plan and conduct our rides. We are happy for you to use our descriptions, but be aware that we do not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided as situations surrounding any ride change over time.
Gretna to Liverpool - Dalston to Penrith Ride Profile
Today we would start the first of two England legs. We had a relatively quite night although the wind did get up a little.
By morning it was still warm and dry, but the wind was starting to build.
By the time we were on our way, the rain had started and it proceeded to get worse as the day wore on. For the first part of our Gretna to Liverpool ride we had planned to cycle to Appleby in Westmorland, a distance of some 55-60km. However, we battled continuously into a head wind and rain. The thought of having to pitch the tent in a gale made us decide to cut the ride short at Penrith and try to find a bunk barn or similar.
About 4 mile out of Penrith we stopped for lunch, dried out and checked our email.
Arriving in Penrith we headed straight for Tourist Information to find accommodation. They suggested an independent hostel called Fellfoot. We called and although they were not intending to open that evening felt sorry for us when we told them that we had been cycling in the pouring rain for the last 10 days.
Jackie and Alistair are a delightful couple, who are themselves seasoned adventurers. They made us exceptionally welcome at their self catering accommodation, which puts many B and Bs to shame. Although it was way beyond our budget we were not ready to argue and we were happy to have a bit of luxury.
We used the afternoon in the public library finalising our route from Gretna to Liverpool, sorting our photos and bringing our blog up to date. In the evening we agonized over our route to get to Settle in the Yorkshire Dales by Friday. It was going to be a compromise between distance and steep climbs.
Finally we decided to go to Kirkby Stephen, the next day carrying on to Garsdale Head and through Ribblehead to Ingleton where we intended to stay for the next night.
Gretna to Liverpool - Penrith to Sedbergh Ride Profile
Today was a good day. The sun shone. We were well rested in soft beds with fresh cotton sheets and feather duvets. We breakfasted on porridge with cream and strawberries. It didn't take long to pack as there was not tent to worry about so by 9-30 we were ready to leave and went to say good bye to Alisdair and Jackie.
They told us they had a present for us. We were full of excited anticipation. What could it be? A bottle of Whiskey perhaps, something for the journey, what? They proceeded to produce a large plastic bag and some pegs and told us how to use it to do our washing. grateful, but deflated we packed it into our panniers.
We started our Gretna to Liverpool ride on the C71 from Penrith, but only for a short while as we had planned our own, more direct route to Kirkby Stephen rather than via Appleby.
Shortly, just outside of Penrith, we came across Brougham Castle.
It was a lovely ride with gentle gradients along beautiful country lanes with views over the Pennines to the north and the Dales to the south. We stopped to brew tea and chatted to another cyclist who had pedaled up the hill towards us. After that we made good progress generally down hill to Kirkby Stephen. We decided to have lunch by the river, made ourselves comfortable on a seat, got out the stove to brew up and....Catastrophe!
A vital piece of the stove was missing. We realised that it had fallen out when we had stopped, earlier during the morning, about 10 miles back. Unable to contemplate the thought of cycling back to collect it, we found a taxi in the market square and Steve set off to go back for it. He was almost crying as he watched the taxi clock rack up the pounds. He arrived at the right place by which time the clock had reached £30! He was almost distraught. Having collected the lost item, the driver turned around and re set the clock. Arriving back by a slightly shorter route the clock read £22-00. The kind lady taxi driver gave us the whole journey for £20! The ability of people to be generous never ceases to amaze us.
We purchased our provisions and set off again on our Gretna to Liverpool run at about 15-00, traveling up the Eden Valley towards Garsdale Head. Although it was a B road it was very quite with little traffic. We were expecting an arduous climb, but in fact it was a pleasant gentle ascent. About 3/4 of the way to the top we were surprised to come across a large group of men, ranged along the moorland hillside, armed with cameras and large zoom lenses, obviously waiting for something to happen. Were we already so famous that the Paparazzi were there waiting for us?
In fact we found that the steam train from Carlisle to Settle, which only ran once per week, would be arriving in about 15 minutes. We waited and were rewarded with a lovely view of the train powering up the valley. We continued up to Garsdal Head expecting to ride from there on route 68 over the moors to Dent station, but one look at the road in the distance told us that we would not be able to manage the gradient.
We decided instead to take the easier route down Garsdale to Sedbergh. In the warm evening sunshine we hurtled down the beautiful valley all the way to our camp site on the outskirts of Sedbergh.
Gretna to Liverpool - Sedbergh to Settle Ride Profile
In contrast to yesterday, we awoke lethargically as we both ached from the previous days ride. We had a bit of a false start just out of Sedbergh. Our Gretna to Liverpool route originally followed route 68, but after climbing a very steep hill, it appeared to go off up a rough bridle track, so we turned around and went up the easier road to Dentdale. The ride was enjoyable and we were joined for some time by a solo road cyclist who dropped his pace to ride with us. He was curious about our bikes and equipment and never stopped asking questions all the time we rode with him. It was a pleasure.
Further up the dale we found a seat and feasted on Cornish pasties and Blue Wensleydale cheese as we looked over an idyllic country scene across the dale.
At Cowgill we left the C68 route to follow the C10 which took us up and underneath the railway track on an extremely steep hill of about 15% .
We stopped at least five times, but eventually made it to the top of Gayle Moore with spectacular views to stunning peaks of Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough.
We turned towards Ingleton, flying down the road at 25 miles per hour, stopping to take photos of the impressive Ribble Head Viaduct.
On our Gretna to Liverpool route we turned off towards Settle down the Ribble Valley. The route had great views but was hilly and their were a lot of motor cyclists. As we approached Settle, they were joined by a lot of large lorries traveling to and from the local quarry. As we struggled up a particularly steep and narrow section, one of them nearly wiped Steve off the road as he overtook on a blind summit.
Steve's swearing and gesticulating did little other than to make him feel better.
Arrived in Settle where their Tourist Information office helped us to find a nice camp site at Stainforth, just up the valley. It turned out to be a great find. It was the right price £8 per night and we got Internet access for the whole four days for only £4.
We had arranged to camp there with our old friends John and Mary for the weekend.
It was the weekend of the Mini car rally.
There were some wonderful historic Mini cars.
We also enjoyed the cricket in Settle on the Saturday afternoon.
Gretna to Liverpool - Settle to Clitheroe Ride Profile
Today, our Gretna to Liverpool route took us from Giggleswick to Bolton by Bowland across rolling countryside and there we picked up the C90 which is one of the local Lancashire cycles routes.
Along the way we stopped in Sawley to look at the Abbey ruins. Arrived in Waddington village, which was a lovely picture postcard village and then cycled into Clitheroe to do some shopping. Found a great Internet cafe at the new Grand theatre complex in Clitheroe.
Cycled off to the camping club site just outside the town
Gretna to Liverpool - Clitheroe to Wheelton Ride Profile
Unfortunately we didn't stay to watch the Tour of Britain cycle race (wish we had). We did see lots of cyclists making their way to watch the race and they were all very friendly. Our Gretna to Liverpool route took the C90 from Clitheroe and followed it through Whalley before turning onto the C91 which was a very long, but steady climb up to the village of York (yes there really is York in Lancashire).
We were heading for Dave Carr's place at Wheelton, but before we went there, we had to go into Bamber Bridge to Ribble Valley Cycles, to get Karen some new cycling glasses. She had knelt on them about a week earlier and Steve had been taping them up each day until we could get a new pair.
From there we got back on track using Dave's directions, but were distracted by a pint of Theakston's' at the Lord Nelson pub. A fatal mistake, particularly as there followed a very steep climb up Johnson's Hillock to the Top Loch on the Leeds and Liverpool canal, and then up even further to reach Dave's place.
We had a great evening with Dave, Pat and their lovely daughter Jenny, reminiscing about our old university days.
Gretna to Liverpool - Wheelton to Liverpool Ride Profile
As we had no tent to pack and our hosts were off to work, we had an early start. We got back onto our Gretna to Liverpool route and the south Lancashire route 91 which was started hilly but eventually flattened out into the intensive agricultural Lancashire countryside west to Southport. It was warm, sunny and no wind. We cycled passed field after field of vegetables ready to be harvested. First lettuce, then leeks. Cabbage as big as footballs. Spinach, potatoes. In fact we could have put together our whole shopping basket if only we could have carried it all.
We stopped at Mere Brow where our Gretna to Liverpool route turned towards Southport and stopped at a simple roadside shop for bacon butties and coffee.
The route to Southport was flat and unremarkable, alongside the main highway. Southport had little to endear it to us, but we had a lovely ride along the promenade.
Finally the route turned more inland and picked up the old railway track all the way into Liverpool. The worst thing about the route was that there were frequent anti motor bike gates, which were ok for an ordinary bike, but impossible to negotiate when fully loaded without a lot of awkward maneuvering.
At one such gate we met a mountain biker, that looked and spoke a bit like Lister off Red Dwarf, except he was white. He seemed to spend his time hang gliding, or para gliding and used cycling to keep fit for his airborne passion.
At points the track was enclosed on both sides as it went through rocky cuttings with trees overhead and not a soul along the way.
As we came into the outer extremities of Liverpool the Gretna to Liverpool route took us off the railway track and onto the tow path of the Leeds / Liverpool canal, which we followed until suddenly an arrow took us to the left up a steep set of steps onto the road above. They were so steep that we had to demount all our panniers and hand carry them individually up the steps to the road. (What a pain!)
As we were nearing the point that we needed to cut off the track, we stopped and asked an old Lady where we were. "Its Liverpool!" she said. We elucidated. "But which area of Liverpool?" She replied, quite seriously, "Well, its all Liverpool!". Trying to keep a straight face we sought further clarification explaining that we were looking for Childwall. Continuing on with the sages directions, we found our exit point and completed our journey to our son's house in Wavetree and the end of our Gretna to Liverpool ride. We took time out to visit this vibrant, buzzing city.
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