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Diary Date York Rally Training Camp Tour Of Orkney


The York CTC Rally - by Tandem

Stuart & Janette Hamilton

For several years we had thought of attending the CTC rally – the premier event for all types of cyclist held in York which is probably the most cycle friendly city in the UK. We were put off by the 1000 mile round trip car journey for a two day event. At the beginning of this year whilst thinking about what to do for a holiday we had the idea of cycle touring around the North of England incorporating two days at York for the CTC Rally. This would still involve a lot of driving and the touring would be limited to day rides from a number of fixed bases - not really ideal. Then the penny dropped - why not cycle down to York, attend the Rally then cycle back. So, with that decision made we set to, to plan the route and prepare a schedule to cover the 500 or so miles to York, spend two whole days there then return home all within a 16 day period.

We broke the route down into segments which would allow us to build up the daily mileage over the first few days and subsequently taper down over the last few days on the way home. The final schedule was as follows:

Day 1 Thurso to Helmsdale approximately 50 miles
Day 2 Helmsdale to Inverness approximately 70 miles
Day 3 Inverness to Newtonmore approximately 60 miles
Day 4 Newtonmore to Perth approximately 70 miles
Day 5 Perth to Melrose approximately 90 miles
Day 6 Melrose to Consett approximately 95 miles
Day 7 Consett to York approximately 95 miles
Days 8 & 9 In York
Days 10 - 16 as days 7 to 1

Our aim was to follow minor roads and dedicated cycle ways as much as possible which added extra miles but made the journey more enjoyable.

The first leg of the journey was easy to plan - just down the "Strath" to Helmsdale - good cycling by any standards.

The second leg to Inverness was also easy to plan. There was no option than to take the A9 to Tain after which there was a choice of either making a detour via Alness and Evanton or sticking to the A9. We chose the latter since it was the weekend and the traffic was fairly light. This section of the route turned out to be most enjoyable - even terrain, good roads, Capaldi's ice cream and a very helpful tail wind.

The sections between Inverness and Perth were surprisingly pleasant. There is now no need to cycle on the A9 at all. From Inverness a slight detour via Culloden and minor roads to Tomatin takes you on to the Sustrans Cycle Way over Slochd summit. The Sustrans cycle way is a mix of newly created cycle path and sections of the old A9 accessible only to cyclists. Once over Slochd the route follows minor roads through the lovely little village of Carrbridge where, apart from the historic bridge, you will find the Old Bakery Tea Room (purveyors of generous portions of home made cakes and pastries). The route continues through Boat of Garten, Inshriach Forest to Kingussie and Newtonmore where we spent our third night in the lovely Glenquoich Guest House.

The fourth day took us over the draughty Drumochter pass on the newly constructed Sustrans / Scottish Office cycle path to Calvine then on minor roads through Blair Athol, Killiecrankie and Pitlochry. This section gently undulates to provide varied cycling against the spectacular back drop of the Grampian Mountains. The busy tourist town of Pitlochry provides a good choice of eating places and has a well stocked bike shop. The section between Pitlochry and Perth was slightly more demanding but nonetheless enjoyable due to the dedicated cycle way and minor roads through Dunkeld, Bankfoot and Almondbank to Perth.

From Perth our daily mileage increased substantially from an average of 65 to an average of 95. Perth to Melrose was a combination of pleasant cycling on quiet roads, nerve wracking confrontations with buses trucks and taxis on atrocious road surfaces through Edinburgh, and fast riding on the roller coaster of the A68. The reward for this was a fulfilling bar supper and a couple of drams in the delightful George and Abbotsford Hotel in Melrose.

The Borders region, Northumberland and the Yorkshire dales are undoubtedly picturesque which makes for some challenging but rewarding cycling. The two days cycling between Melrose and York took in Kielder forest, the Cleveland hills and the North Yorkshire Moors national park. The toughest climbs of the entire tour were between Hexham/Castleside and Helmsley/York. However, once into the Vale of York cycling was again easier and we were able to push along nicely at 20 mph through the 540 mile mark to clock a total of 545 mils on arrival at our B&B in York.

York is a lovely city and is very cycle friendly. It has been the venue for the CTC National Rally since 1954. The rally has something for all types of cyclist including demonstrations of some of the latest cycling developments, trade stands, arena events (such as track racing, cyclo-cross, trike racing, tandem racing, etc) and day rides for all abilities. On Sunday morning York Minster is the venue for a service for cyclists followed by a mass ride through the streets of York to the rally site at the race course. This is an awesome sight and a unique experience to be part of a gathering of hundreds of cyclists of all ages taking precedence over motorists. On Sunday afternoon the CTC awards are presented by the CTC president, Phil Liggett. Special awards are given to the clubs and members of CTC who cycle the furthest distance to the Rally. This year the male and female individual awards went to? us.

After spending two great days in York with lovely weather we headed for home looking forward to the downhill sections that we had battled up on the way to York and feeling strong enough to cope with the up-hills. However, the ride from York to Consett proved to be more tiring than we had expected due mainly to the heat. The remainder of the journey was in weather more suited to cycling, with the exception of the section through Kielder forest where we cycled through heavy rain into a fierce thunder storm. We were fortunate enough to be close to the Kielder Castle Tea Room where we took refuge until the worst of the storm had past.

On the whole the tour went very well and we clocked 1095 miles during a very memorable two week holiday. The route was easy to navigate and 100% cycleable on a fully loaded tandem (ie no need to dismount on any of the hills). The accommodation we booked was generally of a very good standard and all B&B's were able to provide secure storage for the Tandem. Details of the route and accommodation are available to anyone interested.

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