How to ride Land’s End to John o’ Groats with kids
Author of 'Britain’s Best Bike Ride' and Cycle Sprog contributor, Hannah Reynolds, reveals the best route to ride from Land’s End to John o’Groats with your family with tips to make cycling together easier.
Taking your kids on a 1,000 mile cycle ride from Land’s End to John o’ Groats sounds on the surface a holiday riddled with logistics, not to mention the challenge of the distance! So, my brand new LEJOG1000 route breaks it down into 30 bite-size stages, designed so you can create your own itinerary to suit your time frame, fitness and interests.
Each section has a map, route description, photos and tips on where to stay and eat, as well as attractions to see along the way.
It’s taken us six years of thorough researching to establish what we believe to be the definitive and best route.
We’ve stuck to the quieter roads, sought out the most beautiful views and picked the most interesting places for over-night stops. In the six years we’ve worked on this project we have gone from being a free-wheeling pair to a family.
The final part of the book was completed with a three year old in a trailer!
Here is what we have learnt from researching our LEJOG1000 route.
Every day is a school day
Since he was very little we have been throwing our son a map to keep him amused, showing him how to trace train lines and rivers or find the little map symbols. Now he is out on the road with us and more aware of his surroundings he is learning to relate one to the other.
Whatever age – adults included – there is no better way to learn about history, landscape or geography than being confronted with it in real life.
Imagining Roman sentries huddled on the windswept mile-tower on Hadrian’s Wall, or seeing the magnificent engineering of the Forth Bridge up close can spark something that photos in a book never can.
You can go a long way in small chunks
1,000 miles is a daunting distance when looked at as a single figure, but there is nothing to say it has to be done in one go. To prove this point we met a woman at John o’ Groats who had taken 20 years to walk LEJOG over a series of yearly holidays.
We design our guide books in 30 stages of roughly 20-40 mile chunks and these form the building blocks to design your own trip.
We try and make each stage a similar difficulty by ensuring hillier sections are shorter in distance to make them easier to string together. This ‘building-block’ system lends itself really well to cycling with children.
Researching with our son we did a few single stages, taking a train back to the start, or short multi-day trips. Using this approach we covered the whole distance little by little.
Cyclists are welcome
It’s becoming much more commonplace to find accommodations with bike storage, laundry facilities and even mini-workshops. This was a surprise to us.
Our first book France en Velo was full of places that supported cycle touring and we rejoiced in finding them as they were so different to our cycling experiences in the UK.
It's pleasing to see the UK is now rapidly catching up with other European countries in recognising cycle tourism, so whenever we found places that went out of their way to support cycling we added them to the book.
Meeting new people
One of the great joys of cycle touring is that arriving by bike breaks the ice with everyone you meet. Few can resist asking where you are going and how far you are travelling.
Our son loved the interest he received from people he met, very happily and proudly telling them about his day on his bike or where we were going next.
Talking with locals is one of the way we refined our route choices - speaking to the people who know the area best. But we guarantee there will still be more to discover if you chat to the folk you see along the way.
It’s not all about cycling
It can be hard to accommodate “getting there” with “seeing everything”, especially when children make quick stops an impossibility.
We designed the LEJOG route to go through places of interest, not by-pass them and we found that stopping every hour or so ensured that everyone remained happy.
We wanted to keep the cycling interesting and varied as well as show off the best of the UK so we naturally pass places that may encourage you to stop cycling and discover more. We pass ruins, old castles, dark-woods which all make for good imaginative play.
Nearly every small town and village the route goes through has a play-park and they were always well received. Viewpoints, café’s and the inevitable ice-cream also kept the days ticking along.
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