There are plenty of countries where you can cycle the length or breadth. Some of these have become big things. Some for adventure. Some for racing. All are challenging.
The journey from Land’s End, in the south of England, to John O’Groats, in the very north of Scotland (LEJOG), is one of them. The typical cycling time to complete the course is 10 to 14 days (if not pursuing timed records).
The current men’s record holder is Michael Broadwith who set 43 hours, 25 minutes and 13 seconds in 2018. The current women’s record holder is Christina Mackenzie who set 51 hours, 5 minutes and 27 seconds in 2021. The timed record for this route on a Penny-farthing hasn’t been broken since 1886! Only in June 2022, an 82-year-old just broke the world record for the oldest woman ever to cycle the journey, taking 28 days. And this cyclist just made the route on a folding Brompton bike!
I will be cycling this route of 1577 kms (980 miles) over 9 days in September. Yes, it will be beautiful and scenic, but over nine days, it will be physically and mentally challenging. It means riding 160+ kms every day (and camping each evening). It will be tough.
I am riding from the very bottom of Britain to the very top to raise awareness and funds to support the work and advocacy of Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB). TBB is the only organisation in the world connecting refugees to international job opportunities, opening labor mobility as a complementary solution to traditional refugee resettlement.
I have been personally and professionally involved in supporting Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB) through this employment pathway since 2019, which has directly assisted the relocation and professional employment of (so far) five refugees and their families in Australia and the United Kingdom. This is soon to be six refugees in the coming weeks.
TBB's efforts prove labour mobility and that there are significant positive impacts for the economy and society as a whole. The current global skills shortage presents an economic imperative that the matching of skilled refugees should certainly be part of the solution.
If you are a business leader reading this, I encourage you to investigate the opportunity to access skilled talent through TBB for your business. The direct impact on the lives of refugees, and their families, and its flow-on effect within a business should not be underestimated. It has singularly been the most impactful social initiative I have led. If you want to talk to someone who has been directly involved in employment of skilled refugees, let me know.
ABOUT THE CYCLING
This is a well-ridden route and advice is to prepare for worsening road conditions the further north the route heads. I plan to ride a FiftyOneBikes Assassin (gravel) to allow larger tires (Pirelli Cinturato 700cc x 35mm), and also room to carry bags to get gear out of jersey pockets.
The British summer has been hot and hopefully some of this will continue into September. But the weather overnight in Scotland is still expected to be zero degrees, and planning for rain is essential. The Race range from Attaquer will provide all the options for smart layering and protection from inclement weather.
To give you an idea of what this route will take and some of the highlights, here is what 9 days looks like.
Day 1 - Land's End > Okehampton 170km 2510^m
Highlights: St Michael’s mount; stunning moorlands; China clay pits.
It’s a long way to John O’Groats and this first day will be a tough one. The ride begins with some of toughest climbs of the entire route but they will bring rewarding views of the impressive coastline, St. Michael’s Mount and Cornwall’s iconic china clay pits. The route will cross the edge of Bodmin Moor and skirt around Dartmoor, hitting the short, steep climbs and descents that Devon and Cornwall are famous for.
Day 2 - Okehampton > Bath 183km 2275^m
Highlights: views from the Quantock Hills; Cheddar Gorge; the ancient city of Bath.
Skirting the edge of Dartmoor, crossing the Quantock Hills and then route will climb the magnificent Cheddar Gorge. The stunning city of Bath will bring iconic sights of the UNESCO World heritage site which is built on an extinct volcano (that just means means uphill to the finish).
Day 3 - Bath > Ludlow 152km 1621^m
Highlights: crossing the Severn Bridge; Chepstow Castle.
Today's route will skirt the Cotswolds before crossing the sweeping expanse of the Bristol Channel over the Severn Bridge. Then it’s time for one of the most beautiful sections of the ride, along the River Wye.
Day 4 - Ludlow > Haydock Park 172km 969^m
Highlights: views of the iconic Stiperstones; Manchester's ship canal.
Today's route will cross the edge of the Stiperstones hill before hitting the Shropshire and Cheshire plains. Today will be a pretty suburban landscape as the route passes between Manchester and Liverpool.
Day 5 - Haydock Park > Carlisle 187km 1694^m
Highlights: the Shap Fell; dramatic views of the Lake District.
Through Wigan and Preston, the scenery will improve with views towards the Pennines and out to the Blackpool Tower over the Fylde Coast. The route will pass the end of Bradley Wiggins’ road and then continue north with the Lake District rising around the route.
Day 6 - Carlisle > Hopetown Estate 169km 1263^m
Highlights: crossing the Scottish border; the Lowther Hills; sweeping views of the Lowlands of Scotland.
Welcome to Scotland!
Heading North from Carlisle, the border of Scotland will bring some of the most dramatic scenery.
Day 7 - Hopetown Estate > Bellabeg (Strathdon) 181km 2235^m
Highlights: the Grampian Mountains and the Cairngorms National Park; the world famous Glenshee; riding along the River Dee; Braemar Castle.
Today will feature an epic crossing over the iconic Forth River Bridge, and then continuing into the stunning Grampian Mountains through the Cairngorms National Park.
Day 8 - Bellabeg (Strathdon) > Bablair (Bonar Bridge) 176km 2053^m
Highlights: Lecht Road; Tomintoul village-Whisky area; Dulsie Bridge.
What's better? Short and steep or long and less steep climbing? The climbs in Scotland are long, but aren’t as steep as the ones already climbed in England.
Day 9 - Bablair (Bonar Bridge) > John O'Groats 167km 1384^m
Highlights: remote splendour of the Strathnaver Valley; rugged North Atlantic Coast; views of the Orkneys; and the finish at John O’Groats.
The most remote and spectacular parts of Scotland and some of the best riding anywhere in the UK. The days starts with a climb up to the two highest points of the day's route – Cnoc Staign and Strath Vagastie – before winding through the Strathnaver Valley and on towards the rugged North Atlantic Coast and the finishing line at John O’Groats!
And that will finish an amazing journey across Britain in 9 days. I am sure it will be harder to cycle it than write about cycling it!