Travellers’ Tales: John o’ Groats to Land’s End

The Birchalls, Adam Birchall, 13-year-old Joseph and Liz, crossing the Firth of Forth
Cycling UK member Adam Birchall and family rode the popular end-to-end route the other way, from north to south

What could be better for a family adventure than cycling the length of the UK? We (Adam, Liz and 13-year-old Joseph) decided to ride JOGLE – John o’ Groats to Land’s End – over three weeks in summer 2022, and spent the previous winter planning and booking.

We went north to south as we live in Cornwall so we’d be cycling home. Our route was based on the Sustrans guide, with adjustments to reflect past experiences and preferences. We used one-way van hire to Inverness, the bike transport service from Inverness onwards, and a fair few Premier Inns. Daily distances were around 50 miles. We rode by ourselves, without support – just us, our bikes and our panniers.

There were many memorable moments. In Scotland: the emptiness of Sutherland; the massive infrastructure of a wind farm near Lairg; 13 miles of cycle-path heaven downhill from Drumochter to Pitlochry; and cycling over the Forth Bridge.

In England, there was the steepness of Deep Dale; searing heat over the top of Bowland; seeing an otter in the River Irwell; passing Old Trafford as we traversed Manchester; the canals and heritage railways of the Midlands; the Strawberry Line to Cheddar; Exmoor in the late afternoon sun; the delights of the Tarka Trail; and a welcome from friends and family (and Camborne Youth Band!) at Land’s End, to the surprise of us and passing tourists alike.

Co-op sandwiches and sheltered churchyards sorted out many lunch times. We had no punctures and no breakdowns, just a huge sense of achievement – especially for Joseph.