Riding in the south of England is tricky as you can either live dangerously on busy A roads or spend hours detouring to avoid them. Traversing North/South is easy as you can follow quiet B roads but as soon as you try to cut vertically across the country the roads turn into a mess of dirt tracks, farm driveways and dead ends. Our destination was Land’s End, England’s southwestward point, situated at the very end of Cornwall and used as a traditional cycling end point.
Despite the zigzagging it was not long before we had our first glimpses of ocean and the striking red cliffs of the Jurassic Coast. We stopped in Sidmouth for lunch which was quite possibly the prettiest beach town in England, with striped beach chairs scattered along the promenade.
Our friends David and James, who we met in Italy, had recommended a route out of Sidmouth which included Peak Hill, used in the Tour of Britain bicycle race. A 20% incline sign greeted us followed by 45 minutes of walking the bikes up the 1.64kms, with a few curse words directed at David and James. They did say that we would be rewarded by 5 miles of descent after the top, which was true so we forgave them.
James had kindly offered to pick us up from the next beach town of Budleigh to save us the last section of riding into Exeter, where he and his lovely Gran put us up for the night. With large quantities of Indian food, the waiter brought our food out on a trolley we ordered so much, riverside drinks and a running commentary of catch up we left Exeter with full stomachs and huge grins.
James recommended taking Okehampton Road out of Exeter and he was spot on with one of the best direct roads and barely any traffic. We rode into Okehampton early and got lucky with Meadowlea Guesthouse, a BnB that welcomes cyclists, being at the crossroads of four major cycle paths. We then joined the Granite Way cycle path, 11 miles following a former rail line. However after finishing the path we spent the rest of the day walking up hills, we barely had a single flat piece of road for the 85km.
The road did flatten momentarily when cycling through RAF Davidstow, a disused airport from WW2, now seemingly taken over by wild horses and free roaming sheep. At this point we had officially arrived in our final county, the county of Cornwall, famed for its seaside towns, cliff faces and clotted cream.
Google Maps was kind enough to welcome us with cycle paths that were clearly someone’s farm, used only by tractors.
After finishing a few muddy miles of mild trespassing we arrived at our campsite for the night, although windy we were protected by a cornfield.
The riding through Cornwall was quite challenging with sharp descents into beach towns followed immediately by an equally sharp incline back up to the cliff tops. The views made up for it with dramatic drops into the ocean but it was exhausting on the legs.
Heading down the coast road we had more fantastic scenery to gaze upon. Our campsite opposite St Ives had cliff paths right down to the beach.
We reached our final destination, Sennen Cove, where we would spend the next week catching up with Suyin’s family. Our campsite sat on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. Due to the forecast of rough weather we were put out the back to ‘protect’ us from the wind, instead of the usual beach side field. After a night of unbelievable rain battering down and the tent almost flattened to our noses by gale force winds we really wondered how we would have fared on the beach side field.
We woke to a bleak and still windy morning. After ensuring the tent was intact, the bikes and my wife had not blown away I emailed Marmot with some feedback on the tent’s ability to deal with rough weather (Not well sadly). Catching up with family we waited until the next morning for the wind to die down to complete the last couple of miles of our trip to Land’s End and officially finishing our England leg.
After the obligatory photos with the Land’s End signpost we set off to finalise our conquering of England by terrorizing the unguarded miniature village just outside the front gate.
Declaring victory we relaxed with an appropriately named bottle of wine. Eleven days of straight cycling, no rest days, and 579 kilometers of riding we had finished London to Lands End!