Our four hour train from London Euston pulled into Carlisle Station at 10 pm. Sleepy-eyed we wheeled our bicycles off the secure bike storage carriage and navigated to the station exit. To our surprise the cheap and cheerful Ibis hotel we booked was a mere 2 minutes across the road. Brilliant. We swiftly checked in before getting an early night.
Day one of our biking adventure began with a buffet breakfast. We fuelled up to our limit, enjoying baked beans, hash-browns, mushrooms and porridge with fruit.
There was even time for a quick wonder around Carlisle, home to a castle built in 1092 by the Romans.
At the entrance of the city is the Citadel built in the 16th century. This used to be the gate into the region.
We officially got on our bikes at 10 am. However, we struggled to find the start point of our route. Let’s just say we ended up cycling in confused circles around Carlisle for quite some time. The signs we were looking for were marked ‘72‘ – the name of the National Route along Hadrian’s wall we wished to complete.
When we did find 72 signs we whooped in joy. This was slightly premature. The signs lacked some vital information. Were they pointing to the east or west. We wanted to make sure we were heading in the right direction on route 72. To overcome this, we decided to head towards place names instead (these were sign-posted clearly). With our new plan of action we were well on our way.
As it turned out at some points route 72 went in several directions. So following place names is advisable.
The start of the journey was along a mixture of trails, park paths and quiet roads. It was magical. Green fields surrounded us, neatly divided by hedges and stone walls. We were extremely lucky with the hot weather. The sky was bright blue with not a cloud in sight.
Our first historic stop was Lanercost Priory founded in 1169 and lived in by a group of righteous priests.
Grazing outside the religious building were new born lambs being guarded by their protective mothers.
After several hours of cycling up beastly hills we were rewarded with our first glimpse of Hadrian’s wall. To the right of the road were ruins of what used to be a turret, otherwise known as a watch tower. One was built every Roman mile. A couple of soldiers would live there keeping a watchful eye for the enemy.
We propped our bikes against a stone brick wall and slumped to the ground to enjoy a delicious mushroom and marmite sandwich (which we naughtily made at breakfast).
While munching away a group of 3 cyclists stopped by. Turns out they were aiming to get to Newcastle too.
We had a nice chat before bidding farewell and trekking up another intense set of hills. On a few occasions we had to get off our bikes and push them.
Later on our end point felt in sight. In the process of finding our hostel we found ourselves on a main road (B6318). This busy road was uphill and getting off the bikes as cars whizzed past was not an option. Consequently, we slogged on.
Along came a pub call Twice Brewed, followed by signs to our hostel. And then our hostel itself. 56 km and 2,500 feet up hills later we had made it to our first checkpoint.
The Sill hostel was brand new, it had a secure bike shed, clean rooms and kitchen facilities. At £25.99 for a bed in a 4 person dorm room it did the job.
We met a lady who had walked 32 km in one day – just as crazy as us.
I’m not even embarrassed to say we fell asleep before 9 pm exhausted.