CYCLING HADRIAN'S CYCLEWAY
By Carl McKeating and Rachel Crolla
Published by Cicerone, August 2020
Paperback Gloss Laminate
Reviewed by Steve Dyster
Hadrian’s Cycleway - a well-established route - is a C2C trip with a twist, taking in a long stretch of the Cumbrian Coast, before heading for the east coast of England. Of course, Hadrian’s Wall is the main feature between Bowness-on-Solway and South Shields, where the 174 miles of the full route begins, or ends. From Ravenglass to South Shields, or vice-versa, this guide covers pretty much all you need to know. Be aware that it is not a guide to Hadrian’s Wall. It gives a brief overview and points to the best sites and museums, but those who want a full survey you’ll need to dig deeper. Mind you, who wants to cart the full findings of years of archaeological research around?
Cicerone guides offer a familiar format. Overview, summary tables, background, advice on equipment, bike etc. Then comes the guide, followed by a series of appendices covering accommodation etc. This is pretty much tried and tested.
Of course, things change, so checking for updates on the books page on the Cicerone website will be a good idea at some time in the future. By the way, route files can be downloaded from there, too.
Guidance is mostly focussed on less experienced cyclists, but never purely so. It is always handy to find out in advance if a section is not suitable for a tandem, trailer, or if a surface is manageable on narrow tyres or not. There are always grey areas when it comes to different types of bike, but there’s enough here to make an informed decision. Choice of footwear is probably more important on this ride than many. If you want to see the best bits of the Wall, you will need to walk some distance, so the advice is worthy of attention, for example.
Of course, opinions will differ on places to visit. I think Hexham, for example, is much more attractive than do the authors. Opinion on that aside, the authors suggest lots of interesting places to visit, although you’ll need a week or so to stop off everywhere.
A three-day schedule is suggested. Needless to say, you do not have to follow this. The schedule is yours to decide. The guide contains a number of useful suggestions and options. There’s a “More Wall Alternative” that sticks closer to the Wall to the north of Haltwhistle, visiting important sites rather than descending to visit the town. As the Tyne Ferry, has an early finish on Sundays – which the authors perceptively point out, is the day many cyclists are likely to reach their destination – an alternative route is suggested, even an alternative finish in Tynemouth. There’s also sound guidance on keeping height when the official route descends only to lead to a reciprocal climb.
GPS devices mean that the guide maybe used for planning and then banished to the bar-bag. However, it fits nicely into the pocket of my cycling jerseys, for. It would be entirely possible to follow the route using Sustrans’ Pocket Guides to the NCN. These give full mapping, but general information is much more restricted. On the other hand, Sustran's recent decision to 'un-sign' some sections of the NCN (busier-than-desirable roads for example) may possibly have some effect on continuity on some sections of the route. Neither may not bother more experienced independent travellers. Frankly, almost £12 seems to be a lot for a slim volume. However, in this case, there are some really helpful sections for that experienced traveller. For the new-comer or less experienced cycle tourist, it covers all you need for a tour.