cycle touring  / 

The joy of cycle touring

I discovered cycling, and cycle touring, late in life — and it’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done

I started to write this post in February 2020 — in another era — when the spectre of coronavirus was still just an ominous black speck on the horizon. My original intention was to celebrate the wonderful times my wife and I have had cycle touring in Europe. But now there’s some sadness in looking back. M and I are both in a ‘vulnerable’ coronavirus group, and we have no idea when, or whether, we will cycle tour again.

The signpost at Durness, at the top-left corner of the Scottish mainland

At the same time, we are so grateful for all the wonderful times we have had. Since I began cycling about 15 years ago, almost every holiday I’ve taken has been a cycling trip, on my own, or with with M (who began cycling too, after my first couple of years).

Yet, we’ve only travelled relatively short distances. I started out on 30 to 40 miles a day, but lately we’ve been happy with less than 25. My longest solo trip has been just four weeks.

Nevertheless, every journey feels like an expedition, bringing a happy anticipation during planning, and a real sense of achievement at the end. You don’t have to be very fit, or go very far. Yet you see so much more. And it always feels like an adventure — especially when camping with a bike!

I highly recommend cycle touring, and I hope I might persuade you to give it a try sometime — after this pandemic has abated, whenever that might be

Until then, here are a few photos that remind us of our wonderful countryside, and all the joy we’ve had, exploring it on a bicycle:

North West Scotland and the Hebrides

I began cycle touring with my first trip to the island of Mull in 2004. Since then we’ve gone together on several trips back to Mull and Iona. I’ve cycled and camped on most of the other Hebridean islands, and all along the length of the west coast from Arran to Durness.

It’s a sublime landscape: peaceful, remote, awe-inspiring, and exciting. There can’t be a better place for cycle touring (unless you’re unlucky with the fickle weather, or the midges).

Loch Torridon
Tarbert, Loch Fyne

Camping on Berneray in the Outer Hebrides
The western edge of Uist in the Outer Hebrides
Slogging up the road to Ullapool

Camping at Kiloran Bay, on Colonsay, in the Inner Hebrides

Mallorca

For a completely different style of cycle touring, we’ve returned again and again to the island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean. Cycling round Mallorca in Spring or Autumn is relaxing and easy. There are plenty of friendly seaside hotels still open, quiet roads, lovely scenery, and lots of places to stop en-route for a rest, a snack, or even a swim.

We always bring our Brompton folding bikes on the plane from the UK. It takes seconds to fold them up, they’re small enough to take on a bus or in a café, and they can easily carry our luggage between overnight stops.

Mallorca is the perfect ‘credit-card-touring’ destination. We hope it will quickly recover from this coronavirus, even though we might not return ourselves.

Pushing uphill along
the rugged north coast
Roadsigns in Mallorca

An olive grove near Inca
Cala at Port de Sóller
Port de Pollença from Formentor

Brittany (and Provence)

Our absolute favourite cycle touring destination is Brittany. Travelling with our bikes by train from the north of England to Plymouth or Portsmouth, we can just catch the overnight ferry to Roscoff or St Malo. This long journey is part of the fun, especially when we pedal fresh (and sometimes first) off the ferry the next morning.

Spectacular scenery
near Venasque⁩ in Provence
We cycled right round Brittany’s
glorious coastline, in five trips

Fully-loaded for camping
Not as heavy as it looks!
The tranquil Canal d’Ille-et-Rance

We’ve stayed at charming b&b’s, smart hotels, and dozens of municipal campsites all over Brittany. We’ve cycled along endless shady canal paths, and past breathtaking (pun!) coastal scenery.

Brittany’s got everything for the cycle tourist. Hopefully we’ll make it back again someday. Maybe you’ll try cycling there too?