If you’re tempted by a coast-to-coast ride, but fear that the hills will be too much for you, Hadrian’s Cycleway is the one to choose.
Never too difficult and with great scenery along the way – from the wild coast to the rugged beauty of Northumberland – it’s the ideal short-break tour. Market towns such as Brampton and Haltwhistle are lovely places to stop, and the bright lights of Newcastle round off your stay.
It broadly follows the route of Hadrian’s Wall, which started near Carlisle and ended at Tynemouth, near Newcastle. Whereas the C2C climbs 600m above sea level, and the Way of the Roses touches 400m, Hadrian’s Cycleway doesn’t go much above 250m.
Yet there’s still a taste of the Northumbrian wilds, particularly around the Roman forts of Birdoswald and Vindolanda. The route darts back and forth from the wall, preferring quiet roads to historical fidelity, but if anything, that makes it more enjoyably varied.
The full Hadrian’s Cycleway starts on the Cumbrian Coast at Ravenglass. We concentrate here on the coast-to-coast section, from Carlisle to Newcastle, which has the best scenery and is the easiest to get to. If you have more time, you might consider adding the 87 flat, coastal miles from Ravenglass to Carlisle to your holiday.
It’s 83 miles from Carlisle to the mouth of the Tyne, so two or three days for most cyclists. Add another two days if you’re starting at Ravenglass. (But the really keen have been known to do it overnight!)
Any bike: the route is mostly on tarmac. There’s just one short bumpy section at Vindolanda, and a gravel path shortly before Haltwhistle where the road runs parallel.
You’re spoilt for choice. The C2C is the most popular pairing – either following the south bank of the Tyne then to Consett, or continuing down the coast to Sunderland then heading west. But if you’re feeling intrepid, the tough Reivers Route (NCN 10) starts at Tynemouth on its very hilly and remote course back to Carlisle.
It’s an easy route to access by train, with mainline services at either end. Virgin’s express services run from north and south to Carlisle, from where local trains pootle down the coast to Ravenglass. You’ll need to book in advance on the Virgin trains, both to secure a cycle space and to get an affordable ticket. The coast line is friendly and the guards are used to bikes.
Newcastle has connections to most parts of Britain. Again, you’ll need to book in advance to get a good price and a cycle space – particularly on the CrossCountry services, which have very poor bike accommodation.
The entire route is paralleled by local railway lines (Ravenglass–Carlisle and Carlisle–Newcastle), so you can easily catch a train back to your starting point or bail out halfway if need be.
Rejoice: you can now take your bike on the Tyne & Wear Metro. This makes getting back from the end of the ride much easier. You’ll have to get off at Manors, just before reaching the city centre stations, and cycle to your mainline train.