61 miles and 3,740 feet ascent.
Now this is a day we were both looking forward to. Not only did it see us getting to the half way point but we also planned this route to take a welcome diversion from the main LEJOG thoroughfare through the Lake District. It started with a flattish ride for 30 miles through Lancashire before crossing into the Lake District National Park headed for Lake Windermere. We took a short ferry across the Lake to take us past Hawkshead to Ambleside before turning north again at Troutbeck to climb over Kirkstone Pass. With a 1,350 feet climb this was the biggest hill of our whole journey. Fortunately, today was ‘only’ a 61 miler and we planned to finish mid-afternoon to enjoy a Bank Holiday beer in the sun (?) at Patterdale.
Today’s journey in three words: Kirkstone Pass, sheep, dry stone walls.
What actually happened:
The best day so far. Cycling through the Lake District on a gorgeous summer’s day was just perfect.
We made good time from our campsite near Garstang and blessed by light winds and flat roads we reached the small ferry over Lake Windermere by 12.30. The roads did start becoming hilly the nearer we got (we’d almost forgotten what hills felt like) so we were glad of lunch in Ambleside. Thanks to a couple on an Orbit tandem we took a cycle path along the western shore of Windermere to save a few miles and hills. Being a bank holiday Saturday Ambleside was heaving; everyone enjoying the superb weather.
But after Ambleside the REALLY BIG hill of the trip cruelly started immediately at the foot of the town. Rather than detour east we decided to head up the lane directly up to Kirkstone Pass. We discovered that this road is called “The Struggle” … and it more than lived up to its name and reputation. The 20% gradient was punishing and went on for about 1.5 miles until it slackened off for the final ascent up to the Inn.
Now, I had decided that I was going to pace myself. I have nothing to prove; life’s not a race. So I took things at a leisurely pace: ride a little, push a bit (well, a lot), take a few photos; repeat. And I have to say that I really enjoyed it. Yes, really ! I’m not an emotional person but the hills, the scenery, the fabulous weather meant that this was for me the highlight of the whole trip. Even though I could hardly push the heavy weight of my bike, panniers and bar bag up the 1 in 4 gradient. The memory of Kirkstone Pass in the sunshine – and a welcome drink in the pub at the top – will stay with me for a long time.
Duncan – amazingly – cycled the whole way up. Wow !!
The descent was if course exhilarating. I topped 40.5 mph. It would have been more but I had to slow down for a Landrover Discovery (yes, Discovery drivers again !).
I finally managed to wash some clothes and get the tent dried out at our bunkhouse in Patterdale (Shepherd’s Crook Bunkhouse – recommended). It’s a working farm; bleating lambs everywhere and our bikes propped up in the cowshed.
The high points:
- The scenery
- The weather
- Kirkstone Black ale
And the low points:
- None: a superb day.
- 58 miles cycled (we took two shortcuts)
- 514 miles cumulative distance
- 40.5 mph top speed (new record)
- 2 double nougat ice creams and some Kendal Mint Cake consumed.