The C2C is a Must to Cycle
A few years ago my English friends, Don Mahad and Susan Dawson, told me that they had completed a ride called the “C2C," from the Irish Sea in the west to the North Sea in the east. When I asked them how the ride was, they said something like “challenging.”
Well, now I know that when two strong 30-something cyclists use the word “challenging,” it means something quite different than what it means to me as a 68-year recreational cyclist. After I did the ride in August 2008, I chuckled at their reference -- it was downright strenuous for me. But, I’d also say that it was well worth the effort.
The C2C is a 140-mile route that begins in the old coal mining area of West Cumbria and proceeds through the northern part of England’s Lakes Region, visiting Penrith and the Eden Valley before climbing the Pennine Mountain Range, best known as the “roof of England.” After exiting the mountains the route goes up and down through historic lead-mining country until it descends to the Durham Dales and the old industrial area surrounding Newcastle, before ending at Tynemouth on the coast of the North Sea.
As I learned, there is much to recommend for this ride.
• The beautiful fells (hiking hills) such as the Buttermere Trio (Red Pike, High Stile, and High Crag);
• The namesake lakes of the Lakes Region;
• The climbs over Whinlatter Pass and Hartside, the latter with its welcoming Hartside Café overlooking miles of semi-barren land;
• The descents on occasional grades of 20 to 30 percent, which I sometimes had to walk because of the smell of burning brake pads;
• Wonderful towns and villages, such as Keswick, Penrith, Garrigill, Consett, Shotley Bridge, Newcastle, and Tynemouth;
• Thousands of sheep, sometimes on the road and sometimes just looking silly in the fields and baaaaing as I rode past;
• The great pubs with all the good ale, beer, and pub food you could hope for;
• Excellent and reasonably priced B&Bs;
• The option to piggyback onto many other English cycling routes;
• Most importantly, the English people themselves.
I did the ride in three full, but slow days of cycling, stopping in Keswick, Garrigill, and Shotley Bridge. I rode my trusty Bike Friday folding steed with rear panniers fully loaded. I climbed 12,285 vertical feet … but who’s counting? I loved the experience, and you would too.
Tips for this adventure: You can get detailed information from the C2C website. The route is signposted the entire way by Sustrans, England’s sustainable transportation organization. Sustrans also has a detailed map and companion book that serve as a route guide and provide information on accommodations. It is recommended that you start the ride in Whitehaven in the west to take advantage of the prevailing winds. (An interesting factoid about Whitehaven: George Washington's grandmother, Mildred Warner Gale, is buried there on the grounds of St. Nicholas' Church.)