CYCLING THE COAST TO COAST CYCLE ROUTE
by Carl McKeating and Rachel Crolla
Published by Cicerone, 2023
Gloss laminate fold-out cover
isbn 978 1 78631 118 4
£25.43 both e.book and book
Reviewed by Steve Dyster
The Coast to Coast Route across the north of England has become just about the most popular short tour in England. It is also a popular single day challenge. Combined with Hadrian's Cycleway or the Reivers Way a double crossing can be made in a week or longer, just as you may wish. Something for everyone then. Great scenery, remote moors, urban riversides, and lots to see. Well, even if you do not agree with the authors that this is a route that everyone should cycle, you will have to admit that they have a case. There are lots of sources of information on the route, so what does the new Cicerone guide offer?
For those not familiar with Cicerone guides – and if you are not then they are an acquaintance well-worth making – there is a format which guides follow, with chapters covering the detail of the route sandwiched between general advice regarding the where, when, what, how, and, often, the why of following a particular route or touring a particular area or country, and specific detail of refreshments, accommodation, etc. The aim is to provide everything you need to plan and undertake your expedition. Having used their guides for years, more modern takes are the availability of the guides as e.books, .gpx files, and a guide web page which is updated if routes are diverted or there are other useful for things for travellers to know.
Despite the strict format and standardisation of Cicerone guides there is still room for author personality to show through. Carl McKeating and Rachel Crolla are obvious enthusiasts. Even better, they are vastly experienced. Whether you agree with their superlatives about the Coast to Coast Route or not, you may well find you pick up the bug and decide to ride it. I like their selection of points to highlight along the way; I admire the attention to detail that offers advice – very necessary advice, too – on how to use the public water supply point in remote and lovely Garrigill.
A feature of the Coast to Coast Route is the number of alternative routes one can take. This is built in, of course, with the different termini. However, along the way there are off-road, rough stuff sections and road routes to avoid them. Some are described as “official” and others are parts of the original route that have been replaced, but may be preferable. Assessments of the suitability of off-road routes for different kinds of bicycle and the quality of the surfaces can be quite subjective. Whatever the surface is like experience, skill, and adrenaline-toleration. The assessments in this guide seem to be quite realistic. By no means an adrenalin junky or the most agile bike-handler, I’ve ridden some of them in the not too distant past, and I’d agree with the authors’ judgements. You, and they, may find that reassuring or not.
There are lots of enticing photographs throughout the book. Not only do these show different types of bike in use, but even include one of cyclists pushing up a hill. Nice to see that there’s an emphasis on leisure and doing things as you please. The authors say that even if you are completing the route in a single day it should be done for enjoyment. That is my type of cycling.
A gripe? Well, not really, but £16.95 is certainly at the upper end of Cicerone’s prices. You get a lot more miles, not to mention pages, per pound sterling on the recently reviewed guide to the Rhone Cycle Route. Overall, however, this still represents good value of you like all your information in one place – a neat guide in your jersey pocket. There are those who ride the route with nothing but a satnav, whilst the Sustrans’ maps give more than just information for navigation. Perhaps those suit the challenge rider most, or the rider who is less concerned about knowing what is coming up next. Yet, many cyclists, especially of the leisure brigade like to know about cafes, places to stop and linger, along with those other little luxuries that make cycle touring such a pleasure.