Day 3 – Edinburgh to Preston
I think something that slightly blew my mind is that you can cycle 350 miles and still be nowhere near the Scottish border. It’s a big place. A big, beautiful place. Shame about the Irn-Bru.
Another restless sleep before another extremely early alarm call to shovel down some breakfast before departing in the dark. It was raining, obviously, but the mood was good – we had the English border in our sights today and Preston marked the half-way stage of the ride.
Getting out of Edinburgh was a massive drag, with thousands of traffic lights to contend with, along with what was a seemingly endless hill. We eventually left the city behind and daylight arrived. Spraggins got his daily ‘toys out of the pram’ moment out of the way early, apologising within 90 seconds for once again being an utter tool.
Jack then spotted a rather fetching Highland Cow that he wanted to take some photos of, which allowed me for the first time of the day to deploy operation ‘Tack On’. With quite a few days close to, but not over, 200 miles, I’d decided that one day I’d try and add on some miles to get over the line.
So, rather tragically, whenever the boys stopped during the day, you’d find me going up and down a stretch of road, adding on a kilometer here or there, in hope that the magical barrier would be broken. I needed at least an extra 10 miles, so it was probably going to be a bit of an ask.
The scenery in Scotland continued to deliver, as we climbed through some beautiful alpine vistas, before descending down into Moffat, which undoubtedly provided the highlight of the trip – the petrol station that sold the most amazing flapjacks. They had every topping you could ever think of. We bought four each.
The sun was out and we were enjoying some good, male bonding time, having conversations on topics so sacred they could never be repeated on here (Ross gets his eyebrows done). That was one of the best things about the ride for me – we got to know each other so well, mainly because we were forced to talk to each other for 12 hours a day.
Things took a turn for the worse when Jacks chain decided it didn’t fancy the ride anymore, and we came to a juddering halt at the side of the road. Ross decided the best thing to do would be to remove a link and get to the nearest bike shop (Carlisle) – he sprung into action and after confirming there was nothing else I could do to help, I continued to ride up and down the B723..
Back underway we hit the English border in Gretna, stopping for the photo op and a quick pat on the back. Job a bit done, but still a trucking long way to go. Carlisle away was always a football game I’d wanted to go to as a kid, so I was unreasonably excited about the prospect of going through it. I’d say if you were going, don’t get too excited about it, although it does have a rather nice castle.
Jack dropped his bike in a shop to be fixed, we enjoyed a supermarket sandwich and ice cream beside a dual carriageway, before I got back to the important matter at hand, namely, cycling up and down an industrial estate in Carlisle to edge closer to 200 miles (if we ever made it to Preston).
We left at 2:30pm with another hundred miles still to ride, knowing it was probably going to be another late arrival. Psychologically, I never looked further ahead than 25km chunks – the bigger picture was always slightly too overwhelming.
We were now in Cumbria, passing the occasional sheep auction and dodging some fairly hefty tractors on the road. Penrith signaled the edge of the Lake District, which welcomed us with a heavy rain shower. Here, we got a slice of luck, with the road we were going to take to Pooley Bridge closed, forced to take the main A6 instead.
When we found out we’d managed to shave off about 3km from the total distance to go, the celebrations were akin to England winning the world cup final – until I remembered I was meant to be doing 200 miles and therefore would have to make it up elsewhere. Fool.
We had an epic climb to the top of Shap Fell, before an amazing and fast 10km+ descent all the way down into Kendall. Here there was a quick smash and grab at the local supermarket, shoveling down fizzy sweets and coke in a matter of seconds, before the lights came out and we pressed on, knowing we still had a long way to go.
Our luxury accommodation for the night was the Ibis in Preston North, which had attached to it a Hungry Horse Pub. The previous evening, I’d called to find out they stopped serving food at 9:15pm – it was going to be close. The thought of potentially missing out on food fired up the Congleton express, and the 3 of us all had the bit between our teeth.
After 150 miles of riding already that day, it was amazing how we were able to lift the tempo. As it got dark, we were in the Forest of Bowland, the bright lights of Morecambe and Blackpool shining far off below in the distance. Our progress was only hampered by trying to descend in total darkness with only a small beam of light for visibility – slightly sketchy at times.
Slowly but surely the kilometers ticked down, finally exiting the forest and hills for the final flat miles into the city. The last couple of hours had felt like a right win in terms of progress and morale, and we quickly popped into Aldi to stock up on supplies for the following day.
I’d gone past the 200 mile mark just before we arrived – job done. We checked into the Ibis, quickly throwing on some fresh (not sweaty) clothes before heading next door to the pub with a good 15 minutes to spare.
‘We’ve stopped serving food early tonight’.
You are joking? We’ve just ridden 200 miles from Edinburgh to Preston, and everything else is closed. A cruel blow to 3 famished cyclists. Completely unbeknown to us, the Ibis also served food – we just couldn’t work out why they didn’t tell us when we asked what time the pub stayed open until..
Not one to easily give out praise, I’ve got to give a massive shout to Ibis here. The man on the front desk was quite possibly the nicest guy in the world.
Bikes in your hotel room? No problem lads.
Enough food to feed a family of 12? I’ve got it covered.
You didn’t order these extra pints of orange squash, but I thought you’d need them after the day you’ve had.
You’re leaving before breakfast in the morning, but take these bowls up to your room, you can use them for your cereal.
The man was the receptionist, barman and cook all rolled into one. As mentioned, we all ordered 2 main meals each plus some sides and starters. Glorious.
After enjoying another beer and making plans for the following day, it was straight to bed to try and sleep in the sauna that was my room. That’s the problem when you only have one set of kit, and you need to try and dry it before the following days ride.. #heatingonmax
Day 3 stats:
3,157 meters of climbing
12 hours 31 ride time
14 hours 7 elapsed time