Cycling the Ruta Vía de la Plata

In May 2017 I cycled the Ruta Vía de la Plata from Seville to Gijón with Christine. It was the first time we've cycled in Spain but on the basis of this experience we'll be back. It's a brilliant route.

Spain hasn't invested in a cycling network like the French and doesn't have the equivalent of the Véloroute network or even the UK's Sustran trails  – both of which often use canal paths and abandoned railway lines – but does have a relatively empty countryside.  It also has the best transport infrastructure in Europe, and its new network of intercity motorways and rail connections mean that the local roads are virtually traffic free.  It is a biker’s paradise.

The fabulous N630

Stephen on the GR1 - a guest blog

What's it like walking the GR1 - great feedback from Stephen Mulvey

Most years I spend a week cycling with friends at the end of May – always in mountains, in France or Italy. In 2016, though, there seemed to be a lack of collective will, so I started thinking about a solo walk. I googled “long walks Spain” and came across John Hayes’ blog describing his walk along the GR1. Then I bought the book and decided to tackle the first three sections (skipping the last stage of section 2 – Fontecha to Berantevilla), starting towards the end of June. The referendum on EU membership took place on my day three, as I approached the Pena Espiguete, under blue skies, and crossed the Collado de Cruz Armada. Whenever anyone mentions this fateful vote, I see in my mind's eye a winding track leading along a valley towards a conical peak.
Tiny daffodils

Eurovelo 12 Warkworth to Sunderland

80 km 750m climb 730 descent

Today was a good day on an easy stretch of coast : no hills to speak of with nice going on mainly tarmac with a few gravel stretches. The way marking continued to be excellent. Dodging people with dogs and kids was the main hazard.

Eurovelo 12 Berwick upon Tweed to Warkworth

87 kms 900m gained 900m lost

The best day of trip so far, without a doubt; best scenery and best weather.

The Northumberland coastline is famous but it's the first time I've visited it so it was a genuine voyage of discovery. The thing that surprised me most were the castles, three huge ones within a space of 50 miles, all spendidly located.

The first one, Bamburgh I thought was the best. We didn't get to see it from the beach, which is apparently the best view, but seeing it for first time from the landward side was just awesome.

Eurovelo 12 Dunbar to Berwick upon Tweed

55km 820m gained 820 lost

Today we crossed the border from Scotland into England and we're staying in Berwick upon Tweed, England's most northerly town. It was quite a short day (we stopped early to avoid the afternoon rain) but a tough one, with two 200m plus climbs. It was also a really nice ride along another excellent route.
The first 10 km out of Dunbar were the least scenic with landmarks including a massive cement works, a nuclear power station and the hard shoulder of the A1.

Eurovelo 12 Dunfermline to Dunbar

84 kms 700m gained 730m lost

Today we crossed the Firth of Forth, sailed through Edinburgh, visited the coastal resort of Musselborough, and ended up in the old herring port of Dunbar. Despite another head wind, this time a cold one from the east, and our first sustained rain, it's been a good day.

With road works for the new bridge (not yet open for traffic) going on, finding the right route to cross the old bridge was complicated. After that the signing into and through Edinburgh was brilliant. Getting across a big unfamiliar city without getting lost once felt very satisfying.

To be honest I'm really warming to whole Sustrans network. It's completely different to the velo verte system in France, hasn't had nearly as much money spent on it, but in some ways is more fun. The routes tend to be quite varied, with scraps of usually traffic free cycling stitched together to produce something really interesting for a long distance tourer. You never know what's coming next: it could be a back street; a tow path on a canal; a path through a park; or a disused railway line, but it's never the same for more than a few miles. Although much of the surface wouldn't suit a road biker, it's fine for touring and perfect for our light weight gravel bikes.

Eurovelo 12 St Andrews to Dunfermline

80 km 1100m gained 1050 lost

Technically only half of today's route was on the Eurovelo which I think is Eurovelo madness. Why St Andrews is not on the route seems bonkers, it's on the North Sea (the theme of the Eurovelo 12), it's a beautiful city, and has some great pubs. The only downside is that getting away St Andrews inevitably involves heading west and that tends to be where the wind comes from. Today we had a 20 mph wind in our faces for half the route and, with 1000m of climb to contend with, it made for a tough ride. It's the end of Day 3, we still haven't crossed the Firth of Forth, and we're feeling a little knackered.

I shouldn't complain however. The countryside in Fife, although a little on the bumpy side, is very pretty. Everything is incredibly green, the trees are huge and beautiful, the roadsides are dense with wild flowers, and even with the wind in your face it's hard not to enjoy the ride.