Why waste your ride of a lifetime on an uninspiring slog? This Land’s End to John O’Groats route takes in great tourist sights – Gloucester, Stratford, York, the glorious Northumbria coast, and Edinburgh – while minimising climbing.
In fact, we reckon this is the flattest route possible on quiet roads. It has 25% less climbing than the most popular LEJOG route, and only three climbs over 300m (vs a more typical 11). We’ve designed it for a three-week ride, with overnight stops in towns where there’s something to see. It’s almost all on country lanes or traffic-free paths, but it occasionally ducks onto busier roads to save a long detour.
We’ve planned this as a three-week route – or more specifically, 20 days, including a very short final day to John O’Groats so you have time to get the train home. If you’re used to long days in the saddle then you could polish it off in a fortnight.
We’ve designed this route expressly to be approachable by riders without thousands of miles in their legs. LEJOG should never be your first multiday tour: we’d always recommend you get used to the concept of 60-mile days before setting out on a tour like this. But you certainly don’t need to be a whippet-thin athlete to tackle this route.
Most LEJOG cyclists choose B&Bs and the occasional larger hotel. Some choose to book their entire itinerary in advance, though a fixed schedule can rapidly go to pot in case of mechanical trouble or inclement weather. Others may choose to book just a few days or hours before turning up, or even just arrive on spec – though we wouldn’t recommend that in the summer months.
Of course, you can camp as well; but if you’ve not done it before, bear in mind that a tent and camping gear will slow you down considerably. Youth hostels can be a great money-saver compared to B&Bs, though many have closed in recent years.
The great majority of this route is on-road (78%). There are a few unpaved trails – railway paths, canal towpaths and the like – but nothing that a laden tourer or a road bike with decent tyres can’t cope with. If you’re on thinner tyres, you can generally divert away from the unpaved sections, sometimes at the cost of more traffic. The most important thing is to choose a bike which will enable your daily mileage without tiring yourself out.
No, because there’s no single LEJOG route. That said, many miles of this route follow the National Cycle Network, and there’ll be entire days when you can just follow the little blue signs for a stress-free navigational experience. Still, we’d recommend you load a Garmin or smartphone with the route.
Probably thousands of LEJOG routes have been ridden through the years. Here’s a few starting points if you’d like to consider alternative routes:
Land’s End to John O’Groats (LEJOG) is the most popular route, but some people ride it in reverse (JOGLE). In fact, our research trip for the southern half of this route was done in reverse! So yes, you can take this route and reverse it – use the ‘reverse’ button on our route-planner/map.
Two things to beware of. On occasion, we’ve chosen a long, slow ascent followed by a fast, steep descent. You’ll want to adapt the route here, unless you really want to climb the 16% hill out of Newlyn (hint: you don’t). Second, and more significantly, you’ll be against the prevailing wind. You won’t notice this much in the Midlands, but on the flat, near-coastal route from Gloucester to Taunton, a headwind can seriously slow your progress.
The nearest railway station to Land’s End is Penzance, 12 miles away. Services to Penzance are operated by GWR and CrossCountry, both of which now have pitiful accommodation for bikes in upright-hanging cupboards. Book as far in advance as possible, including a bike space. Not all train booking websites have a facility to book a bike space, though GWR’s does. But we would strongly recommend going to your nearest staffed station if you can – booking office staff can sometimes find a bike space when the online systems are saying “no”.
See if you can get a reserved seat near to the bike compartment so you can keep an eye on your bike. When on the train, you’ll need to take your panniers off when hanging the bike up.
Consider too the Night Riviera service, GWR’s sleeper train from London Paddington to Penzance, which has space for four bikes.
By train: John O’Groats is 16 miles from Wick station or 20 from Thurso. Services are run by ScotRail. The bike space is a little less parsimonious than on the Penzance trains, but you’ll still need to book as far in advance as possible.
Train services on the ‘Far North Line’ are infrequent and slow! In practice, this means that getting to England in one day from Wick or Thurso (changing at Inverness and Glasgow/Edinburgh) requires catching a train around 8am. One alternative is the Caledonian Sleeper from Inverness.
If you do want to try for the 8am train from Thurso or Wick, we’d recommend changing your last few days’ stopping points: Tain (not Cromarty) at 965mi, Bettyhill (not the Crask Inn) at 1035mi, then the next day, reach John O’Groats at 1090mi, and backtrack to Thurso or Wick for your overnight accommodation.
By taxi: You can also consider a courier service from John O’Groats to Inverness. This is, surprisingly, quicker than the train and can help you make a daytime connection. Here’s one such service.
By ferry: This might sound counter-intuitive, but it’s definitely the most fun, and can be the quickest. Take the ferry to Orkney either from John O’Groats itself, or from nearby Gills Bay (a short ride back along the coast). Each ferry runs two or three times a day. Then ride across Orkney for 15-20 easy miles to Kirkwall. Take the overnight ferry from Kirkwall to Aberdeen, which runs around three times a week. You’ll arrive early morning in Aberdeen, ready to catch your train home.