Last summer, my beautiful wife and I cycled most of the Highland 500 up in the remote wilds of north Scotland. We loved it, even though it was wet, windy and hilly.
This year, partly due to my wife starting her own cake making business (Bunny’s Bakes in Lancaster), we couldn’t get away in the summer, hence why we cycled in September. We also decided that our touring holiday should include a bit less cycling and a bit more sightseeing and enjoying the view. To that end we planned our route to include visiting a few relations, starting with Helen’s brother near Coventry and including two nights with my parents in Salisbury. Initially we had wanted to visit more of my relations in South Wales, but it was a struggle to obtain enough time off work, plus my sister was in the process of moving to Portugal.
Therefore, our cycling holiday would be eight days long; five days would be cycling, two rest/sightseeing days and one day travelling to Kenilworth. Same bikes as last year, a Jamis Aurora for Helen and a Trek 920 for me, although I had new yellow Ortleib panniers, a birthday present from Helen.
With Nelly, our loyal English Pointer taken to stay with Helen’s youngest son and our bikes loaded onto the car, we headed down to Kenilworth. It was good to see Helen’s brother Phil and his wife, especially as we were plied with good food and a beer (or two), followed by an early night.
The next morning and Phil had gone off to work while Helen and I had a relaxed breakfast. Just after 9am we set off through Kenilworth, before quickly finding ourselves on some nice quiet back roads. We pootled along, enjoying the pleasant weather.
Our first stop was after about 15 miles; well it is hard work heaving those heavy panniers along. Luckily we pulled over underneath the Edstone Aqueduct, the longest aqueduct in England and part of the Stratford-Upon-Avon Canal.
We walked up the steps to have a closer look. The aqueduct was made using large iron troughs welded together, with a lower walkway on one side (which made me think of the log flume ride at Alton Towers) and no barrier on the other, which must be a little disconcerting for the boaters.
Back on the bikes and it wasn’t long before we criss-crossed the route of a sportive that we had done two years ago. Deliberately making each cycling day a little shorter than last year, meant that we could have a laid back lunch in the town of Mickleton, watching the expensive cars clog up the place.
Unfortunately the roads then started to become a little busier, mainly due to road works and diversions off the A46, although the roads weren’t too bad. We continued into Broadway, which was an archetypal Cotswold chocolate box village; very posh and full of tourists. We continued on to another similar village, Winchcombe, which nestled on a long climb with idyllic cottages with names like Pear Tree, Toad Hall or Brexit Haven.
The road then continued up, and then up a bit more as we climbed Cleve Hill, and although the descent was brilliant it was over too quickly. We rolled into Cheltenham just before 3pm and surprisingly found the Premier Inn without too much of a problem. It was clean and tidy and they let us keep our steeds in the room.
A wander around Cheltenham, a meal at Bill’s, some take-out cans from Tesco and we were ready to hit the sack by 9pm. A good first days riding.