Thursday, 3 September 2015

King of the Mountains

From Penrith there is an ‘A’ road that connects the Lake District with the North East. The A686 twists and turns and loops up to Hartside Top, a dizzy 1,915 feet then descends to the town of Alston. Next week it will be the scene of fierce cycling activity as the Tour of Britain passes through. There is much local anticipation, with flags and yellow-painted cycles decorating the route. It is not a good place to take a caravan!
I’ve told myself this before: Plan your route. In advance. Do not rely on satnav to do this for you. And I did. Honest. I had the whole thing figured out, but then I became seduced by the dulcet tones of the girl in the box. She seemed to have a better idea than me, with a plan that shaved off a whole six minutes from the five-and-a-half hour journey to Northumberland.
As if towing over Hartside Top isn’t bad enough on a quiet day, the upcoming Tour of Britain had brought out cyclists in their hundreds, keen to try it for themselves. So now there were dozens of pelotons to overtake along the way. Passing bikes is hard in a caravan. You have to make plenty of allowance for getting clear without swiping any of them into a ditch. On a twisty gradient, and with 50 mph lycra bullets coming at you the other way, downhill, it is the stuff of nightmares. People watched our progress, pointing and gasping in wonder. Who is that nutter, dragging a caravan up here? What is he trying to prove? The back of my neck still glows from the embarrassment.

The tale ends well, though. We didn’t kill any cyclists. We didn’t plunge down any ravines on the descent. We reached Beadnell Bay, in Northumberland, without incident, where we stayed for a few days with the CCC’s Motor Caravan Section at their Temporary Holiday site.

I adore Northumberland. It is a beautiful part of the country. The untamed coast alternates between long, golden sandy beaches and rocky coves, all interspersed with castles straight out of fantasy fiction. We last stayed here seven or eight years ago and we vowed to return, and not just for the fish and chips, although fish and chips was high on our to-do list.
On our first full day we walked and paddled along the beach, then over the headland into Seahouses, where the best fish and chips in the world are served. They do say one should eat local, so we did. Twice.

Now, a bit of advertising (sorry), or at least some sharing of good news. I’m chuffed to see that Travelling in a Box has been picking up some four and five star reviews of late, on both Amazon and Goodreads. Woohoo! Available on Kindle and in paperback.

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