‘Sherlock Holmes’ ride, Surrey, West Sussex and East Sussex by Matt Lamy
Cycling journalist and author of 'Rides of Passage', Matt Lamy reveals a southern counties ride that takes in some of the settings for Sherlock Holmes adventures and visits the homes of Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle.
Back in the glory days of the sadly now defunct Cycling Active magazine, I used to have a regular column called ‘Bikelock Holmes’, where readers would send in a picture of their bike and I, in the guise of super-sleuth Bikelock, would use any telltale details to do an effective character assassination. However, as a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, I also decided to come up with a ride route that pays suitable homage to both Holmes and his creator Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle.
We start in Farnham — the location for the suitably-titled Sherlock Holmes story, the ‘Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist’ — and soon face the long drag up to Hindhead, a very important venue on this route because, at the crossroads, you will see a building called Undershaw. This is now a school for children with special needs but it was originally built by Sir Arthur as a home for him and his wife, Louise, in the hope that the clean country air would help Louise’s tuberculosis.
Many of Sir Arthur’s greatest works were written at Undershaw, including ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ and ‘The Return of Sherlock Holmes’, with visitors to the house including such cultural luminaries such as Bram Stoker, J. M. Barrie and Virginia Woolf. Conan Doyle left Undershaw in 1907, a year after Louise died, and moved to Windlesham Manor in Crowborough — which is where we’re headed to, too.
So set off again, first through Haslemere then continue eastwards to Loxwood and eventually Horsham, scene of ‘The Five Orange Pips’, where Holmes experienced a rare failure to resolve a matter satisfactorily. Head into the woodland up to Turners Hill, where you’ll find a perfect lunch stop at The Crown pub. There’s only 20 miles left to Crowborough, but it’s not all easy going, so you’ll want to restore your energy supplies.
After East Grinstead, take a fun gravel cycle lane to Forest Row, where you’ll pass the Brambletye Inn, where Holmes and Dr Watson once lodged during their ‘Adventure of Black Peter’. Then there are some last challenging climbs into the Ashdown Forest, before dropping to the final destination in Crowborough. Find the statue of Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle in the town centre and pose for a photo with the great man.
(To read the full Bikelock Homes cycling adventure, click here.)