Round-and-Round and End-to-End (Swampland to the Highlands) - Lots of photos

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by slartidbartfast, Jun 14, 2008.

  1. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

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    Forewarned that the local police do not look very kindly upon motorbikes, we took it easy. With a warm sun and dry roads, we were having a great time and the curvaceous, well-paved highways in the area are fun to ride at 'sensible' speeds, just enjoying the scenery. The few miles to Caernarfon passed quickly.

    When we pulled up by Caernarfon Castle, I was pleased to see another example of bike-friendly behavior. The parking was not free like the Severn Suspension Bridge toll had been but it was only 50p and the attendant cheerily waved us into a parking spot right in front of his booth where he could keep an eye on the bikes. :thumb We locked away the helmets and set off on foot.
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    There's an interesting footbridge right by the castle that swings or pivots around to open up the channel for boats to pass. We strolled across to get a better look at the imposing edifice of the castle. This was the most imposing angle, although parts of the castle and bits of thick walls spread throughout a fair portion of the town.
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    Did I mention that it was a nice morning? - Everyone seemed to be enjoying the sun.
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    Photo opportunities abounded
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    These gorgeous classics were parked close to the bikes
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    This is an Alvis (they both were) in case you can't read the badge
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    We bought some stickers and chatted with several of the locals and other visitors. Everybody was very friendly.
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    DewNmoon was fascinated with the ornate lightning rods (at least that's what I assume they were) which graced the roofs of several nearby buildings
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    We split up. DewNmoon paid to visit the inside of the castle while I went in search of a tire pressure gauge. He got more interesting photographs than I did :D
    #41
  2. Juice Box

    Juice Box Got Ink?

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    Awesome job guys. Remind me to buy yall a beer when you make it back home on the bayou.
    #42
  3. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

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    DewNmoon's been back for a few days. I'll be gone for a while yet. I think Dew's internet connection is down or he'd be sharing in the posting
    #43
  4. LovemaX

    LovemaX The Riding FreeBird

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    Awesome ride post and pics
    I like the whole description with a personal touch of all the action and the small sight seeings..

    thanks for sharing
    ~m~
    #44
  5. summerinmaine

    summerinmaine Hells Atheists MC Supporter

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    Not a Morgan, nor any car I recognize, but somehow it has the appearance of a kit car. :dunno

    This is an example of the pre-War Flat Rad four wheeler (Morgan went from three wheelers to four in about 1936 IIRC):

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    and after the War, they went to the round cowl style:

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    Great report!
    #45
  6. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

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    Thanks! ...and sorry we didn't make it to say hi in London.
    #46
  7. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

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    We took two digital cameras each - one pocket camera and one with a bigger lens, etc.

    DewNmoon was having a good time experimenting with his new camera, as well as just capturing what he saw. Here are a few of his shots of the castle.

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    The castle was built in the late 13th century by the English King Edward I both as a defensive fortress and symbol of power. When complete it was near impregnable with walls twenty feet thick. Attackers would have had to cross a moat and break through multiple doors and portcullises to get inside.

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    DewNmoon said that the spiral staircases were so steep that the rope "handrail" in the center was nearly vertical.
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    The bikes get some more attention - I think DewNmoon was pretending to shoot at tourists from the walls.
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    There were some great views of the town to be had from the battlements.
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    #47
  8. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

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    I had no luck finding a tire pressure gauge. One place had a replacement battery but it cost more than a new gauge would have done. A helpful fellow in Woolworths found a tiny screwdriver to dismantle the pressure gauge, then spent five minutes crawling around on the floor looking for the screw he dropped - and I didn't even buy anything!!!!!

    Anyhow, we headed on from Caernarvon (or Caernarfon - the Welsh spelling - take your pick!) toward the island of Anglesey, "The Garden of Wales".

    Almost all place-names and other signs in Wales have dual spellings on the sign posts. While many (but not all) Welsh speak English as their first language, there is still a great deal of Welsh spoken everywhere and quite a bit of nationalistic pride about it. The use of Welsh is far more common than other Gaelic languages such as occasionally used in some of the more remote Scottish areas and islands or in Cornwall (where the local language was almost dead a few years ago but is undergoing a small revival - although spoken as a first language by none.) If I remember correctly, there was a lot of hubbub about the use of the Welsh language on road signs in the '70's, resulting in the decision to use both names and always put the Welsh name first.

    Welsh spelling and pronunciation is an utter mystery to those with no prior experience and numerous people had asked about it when perusing DewNmoon's UK map prior to our trip. I don't think anyone believed me when I told them about the tiny village (not shown on the map) with an unbelievably long name. So when DewNmoon asked about it and I realized we would be close by, we added it to our itinerary. Known to locals as Llanfairpwll or Llanfair P.G., the full name is too long to fit on any normal signpost. We headed for the train station....

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    DewNmoon trying to type the name of a waypoint into his GPS :lol3
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    The full meaning of the name is (supposedly) descriptive if you read/speak Welsh:
    "The Church Of Mary In The Hollow Of The White Hazel Near The Fierce Whirlpool And The Church Of Tysilio BY The Red Cave". We didn't stop to look at Churches, hollows or hazels and saw no whirlpools or red caves and the village seems to be a tourist trap based upon the name alone. Hey, why not - It attracted us!

    We chatted about our trip with another visitor whom we parked next to, and he went on to tell us about his biking days with an old Sunbeam in-line twin. I have heard about this model but never (knowingly) seen one in the flesh. I swear we passed one on a trailer a few days later, although DewNmoon thinks I imagined it.
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    #48
  9. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

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    There are two picturesque bridges accessing Anglesey from the mainland: The Brittania Bridge over which we arrived was originally designed by Robert Stephenson, son of the locomotive pioneer George Stephenson, and opened in 1850. It was an engineering marvel at the time with unique construction. Originally a rail bridge, it was rebuilt following a fire in the 1970's and the road deck was added on top of the rail.

    Also a pioneering and outstanding feat of engineering at the time of it's construction, the older and original Menai Bridge was designed by the brilliant Scottish engineer, Thomas Telford, and completed in 1826. At the time it was the first iron suspension bridge of its kind in the world, had the longest single span at 580 feet, and at over 100 feet above high-water, sailing ships could pass underneath. Although repaired and upgraded several times, it is amazing that such a bridge is still in use after more than 180 years.

    In addition to being of historical and engineering significance, the Menai Bridge is quite photogenic and we stopped to admire it.
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    The chap we chatted with in Llanfairpwll told us a tale about a friend who supposedly raced flat-out across the entire bridge on his Vincent Black Knight, on the wrong side of the road, after passing a car on the right at the entry and being unable to cross the central curb back onto the right (right, as in correct or left) lane.

    When we approached the bridge, there was quite a backlog of traffic and we did a bit of lane-splitting to get to the front, only to find a solid jam at the approaching roundabout and a police roadblock due to a tourist coach (bus) trying to back down off the bridge as it was too big to fit through the arches in the bridge towers. What a charlie foxtrot!!!!

    However, in a biker-friendly act, another BMW (oilhead) rider and the two of us were waved past first, going round the bus on the pavement (sidewalk) while a hundred other vehicles sat and stewed.

    Crossing the bridge, I captured some video with my digital still camera, which was velcroed to a Saeng platform outboard of the right handlebar and can just be seen in the last photo of the previous post. This was my very first use of this set-up. It's pretty poor quality but have a look and tell me what you think. [Tech note: This clip was recorded in my camera as a Quicktime .mov file which, after a lot of playing around with formats, I eventually uploaded wholesale to Photobucket. This meant I had no ability to edit/truncate the video on my PC - any suggestions?]

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    Next stop: Llanberis pass, on the flanks of Mount Snowdon...
    #49
  10. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

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    The GPS took us quickly to Llanberis where we stopped to have a look at the Snowdon Mountain Railway. The railway is a narrow gauge rack-and-pinion (cog) railway that climbs 3000-feet up Mount Snowdon to within a few feet of the summit. It has been running for more than 110 years, always as a tourist attraction. Some of the locomotives are original, dating to the opening of the railway in 1896. They look really strange, with their boilers tilted so that they are horizontal only on the steepest sections of the track. Last time I was here, there were only steam engines but the railway has added some diesels to the mix in recent decades (yes, it has been THAT long).

    When we pulled up by the railway, DewNmoon asked me what was burning. For a moment, I couldn't work out what he was talking about until I realized it was the distinctive smell of coal smoke and steam. As I noted earlier, we had several encounters of one sort and another with steam trains during this trip. We parked across the street with several other bikes. The couple on the Harley were from Southeast England and the couple behind The Duchess were from Germany. They were not, however, riding a fully loaded Teutonic tourer but a (fully loaded) Suzuki Burgman.
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    DewNmoon chatted with the other riders while I went to get tickets. I was disappointed to discover that the trains were stopping half-way up due to construction work at the summit. This proved to be irrelevant, however, as we had already missed the last train of the day. We had an ice cream instead and DewNmoon wandered over to take some photos.
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    Not to be outdone, he also shot some video of one of the locomotives, presumably having been over-fired at some point and with excess steam to vent at the end of the day.
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    The road up the pass from Llanberis is extremely scenic, quickly passing the ruins of Dolbadarn Castle (should have stopped there - oh well!) and Llyn Peris (Lake Peris) with a view of the huge Dinorwig slate quarry in the opposing mountainside. From there, the road runs more or less straight up the bottom of a glacial valley (straight is a relative term, you understand and does not imply that the road was in any way devoid of twists and turns). In fact, it's a hoot to ride with little incentive to stop until the top (and walls either side with narrow shoulders and tourist buses going past) which are my excuses why we didn't take any photos. A Google Earth snapshot looks a little weird with its simulated 3-D effect but certainly gives the idea.
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    At the top of the pass, at Pen-y-Pas, we stopped to admire the view down the other side. There is a youth hostel here which would be an extremely nice place to stay if you were into mountain hiking. I have hiked to the top of Snowdon from here and it was an enjoyable and memorable experience.
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    A short ride down the east side of Llanberis pass and we turned right at Pen-y-Gwryd, headed for Beddgelert. Unable to resist, we stopped again for more photos. The couple on the Burgman pulled in at the same place and for the same reason.
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    Half-way down the Pen-y-Gwryd pass, we pulled over yet again to soak up the views. At this rate, it was going to take us all night to get back to Abersoch but who cares.
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    There was another bike parked there already with the rider sitting serenely in the grass a few yards away, apparently lost in profound contemplation of the splendiferous setting - either that or he was having a fag!
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    The riding on these passes is fabulous with ever-varying curves, camber and radius. They're not too challenging and tons of fun but it's not advisable to go too fast due to the solid walls, rock faces and/or drops, the odd blind corner or rise and the chance of finding gravel, water or hikers in the road or of meeting someone coming the other way crossing the centreline. Not to mention that you can't properly give deserved attention to the road and the scenery at the same time. We saw loads of other bikes out enjoying the same thing - a significant proportion of them Beemers.

    The potential hazards were reinforced as the German couple on their scooter came past, obviously having a great time and waving like mad, then promptly ran wide on the blind corner right in front of us, riding straight into the path of an oncoming car who was cutting the same blind corner. Somehow, both vehicles managed to stop with mere inches between them, the Burgman's back tyre smoking. I yelled at DewNmoon "Did you see that?" and when I turned back, the Germans were on their way, presumably in need of a change of underwear. I know my breath was short and my heart pounding and I was only watching.
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    From the lake at the foot of the pass the road winding along the right-hand side of the valley is barely visible.
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    #50
  11. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

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    Stopping for groceries at a tiny store in the picturesque village of Beddgelert, we chatted with some more locals.
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    Everyone seemed pretty happy and agreed that it had been a marvelous day. Little kids in rubber boots just seems to be so... British!
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    On to Porthmadog, where we bought a frozen lasagne and an extra data card for my camera. It was only a few miles back to Abersoch and we savored the wide, smooth roads along the coast, arriving as the sun began to get low in the sky.

    We bunged the lasagne in the oven and headed back into the village of Abersoch to try and get some shots of the harbor.
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    This place really has some charm. It seems to be a popular place for tourists, second homes and various boating activities. We saw a lot of sailing boats and there is a powerboat shop of all things.
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    Well the lasagne was not a memorable dish (at least not for the best reasons) - It was hot but extraordinarily bland. Somehow, we finished it anyway. I don't remember stopping for lunch so maybe that had something to do with it.

    DewNmoon found a bottle of Glenfiddich in the drinks cabinet and couldn't resist sampling a finger or two. Then he had another. When we decided to ride to the headland at the tip of the peninsula to see the sunset, he hopped on the back of The Duchess. It worked out well, as he managed to get some video over my shoulder as we rode.
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    I somehow couldn't seem to find my way to the west side of the headland, following one road after another that got smaller and smaller until eventually petering out at a campsite or farm. Still, it was a nice warm evening and the riding was sedate and enjoyable.
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    "Red sky at night, shepherd's delight!" It should be another great day tomorrow!!
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    #51
  12. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

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    Red sky at night, shepherd's delight?

    .......Wrong! It rained half the night and was trying to rain some more when we got ready to leave.
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    Our plan was to ride through Bangor, then cross the Mersey at Liverpool, stopping at a couple more castles along the way. However, as we set out, it started raining again. At Bangor, we decided to just make a short journey of it as long as the rain continued. Trying to avoid riding motorways the whole way, we detoured to Settle on the edge of the North Yorkshire moors. The rain kept up steadily all the way so our cameras stayed under cover.

    Actually, the ride along the N coast of Wales was not bad, despite almost continuous misting rain. The road follows the coast much of the way, including a section with a couple of tunnels where steep, loose cliffs are constantly dropping rocks that might endanger an open roadway at the foot.

    Settle is a great little town in a pretty area (when you can see it for the rain that is). It's a hub for hikers and tourists visiting North Yorkshire and has several interesting shops selling hiking, climbing and caving gear. I used to come here for the caving when I was at college.
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    We ducked into a fish and chip shop. Settle is well known for their unique style of potato and fish cakes which pretty much all the 'chippies' in the area sell. I had a couple of big, strongly pickled onions and a cuppa with mine - Delicious!!!
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    DewNmoon had the haddock. He didn't want to try the onions (all the more for me!) and couldn't get over the idea of having strong vinegar on his chips instead of ketchup either (my 12 y.o. daughter loves it - and also always has to have a bag of 'scratchings' whenever we visit her cousins in England.)
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    Well, I lied.... It wasn't really raining on the way to Settle.

    When we left Settle for Ambleside in The Lake District - that's when it started to rain....
    #52
  13. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

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    This is more or less the route we ended up taking. One way or another, it took us most of the day.
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    From Settle, we cut across to Ambleside, at the head of Lake Windermere, in the heart of The Lake District. Once again, it was actually quite a nice ride, with some great roads - It just woudn't stop raining - traditional British 'cats and dogs' rain that soaks into every nook and cranny.

    We didn't stop in Ambleside and from there it was just a couple of miles of increasingly steep, narrow and wet roads to find the Langdale Youth Hostel (once again, descriptions such as steep, narrow and indeed wet, proved to be relative terms)
    #53
  14. DewNmoon

    DewNmoon Been here awhile

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    From the unpronouncable names to Caernarfon castle through Wales' most mountainous region (Snowdonia) the riding here so far seems a playground for exploring on a motorcycle. Rolling foothills rising to sheer crags, riding here is an exhilarating experience. From Porthmadog thru Beddgelert (which apparently means "the grave of Gelert", a loyal wolfhound who was mistakenly killed by Price Llewellyn after the dog had rescued his son from a wolf.

    Leaving the Cambrian mountains and on to the coast of the Irish Sea before navigating past Liverpool and Manchester north via whatever motorway heads north. We zoom past whatever micro cars here only to be passed by a seemingly endless number of German imports (VW, Audi, Bimmer, Mercedes) who only slow for the Gatsos and slower moving vehicles.
    #54
  15. DewNmoon

    DewNmoon Been here awhile

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    Of course we get to the Youth Hostel outside Ambleside. Riding up increasingly steep and narrow roads the TomTom seems to be confident in our destination but I'm a bit skeptical until that last 135 degree turn uphill and a large lodge looking place with a variety of vehicles around and people w/ backpacks milling about proved to be the destination.

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    Course minutes into the registration process and an alarm goes off, (I didn't do it) , Everyone starts to pile ou into the cool mountain drizzle (the usual weather around here?). The fire brigade soon arrives, hmmmmmm

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    Umm I'll take the bottom bunk, another escapade like this and I don't want to fall very far.
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    Next day on to THE Pass
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    #55
  16. DewNmoon

    DewNmoon Been here awhile

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    It is said that the Brits love their gardens and their dogs....
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    #56
  17. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

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    The Youth Hostel in Langdale was great. It's a huge rambling old building with wings, corridors and rooms going off, seemingly in all directions. I would imagine the views are stunning (when you can see them). The beds were less than ten pounds each, for which you get a bunk in a shared room, access to a shared shower/washroom and a clean set of sheets which you have to install (is that the correct terminology?) yourself. Langdale also has a stone-floored drying room in the basement. We unloaded the bikes, trying to find gaps between the rain squalls, then went downstairs and found space for our jackets and gloves amidst dozens and dozens of raincoats, trousers and steaming hiking socks.
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    Owing to a bit of a mix up in room allocation, we had to traipse up and down the stairs four or five times. We were given a pot of tea and some biscuits (cookies) in front of the fire as compensation.

    The following morning, for a further four pounds or so each, we enjoyed a massive breakfast buffet in the dining hall - everything from porridge to black pudding (and, yes, baked beans) was available.
    #57
  18. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

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    A thing about The Lake District... there's a reason why there are so many lakes. It rains here a lot. Somebody once told me about the Lake District: "If you can see the other side of the valley, it's going to rain. If you can't see the other side of the valley, it's already raining."

    Beloved place of so many great poets and writers, the crags and fells of The Lakes have been a favorite place for British hikers, climbers and holidaymakers, probably for a couple of centuries. My experience has been that you have to be doing something that really, really makes you happy when you're there, otherwise the weather will quickly have you so depressed you'll be lucky to survive the experience.

    We took family holidays here several times when I was young and always seemed to spend most of the time looking at rain coming down. Still, I enjoy the place a great deal. Some day I'll come back with more time for hiking and hope for fine weather to do it in.
    #58
  19. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

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    The road from Ambleside to Eskdale over Wrynose and Hardknott passes has probably existed as sheep tracks for millennia, but a paved road was first constructed here by the Romans. Whatever might have been left of that road was destroyed by the military who used the area for tank training during WW-II and a new road was constructed after the war.

    Hardknott, in particular, is supposedly tied with a road in Yorkshire as the steepest road in England and there is one street in a village in north Wales steeper but it's now a one-way road, down only. Hardknott is a single-track road with multiple tight turns which are extraordinarily steep on the inside. The road between the turns maintains a severe gradient also.

    I seem to have had a bit of a fascination (obsession) with the road over Wrynose and Hardknott passes for most of my life. I vividly remember, as a young kid, my mother and I sitting on the bonnet (hood) of my parent's car in the pouring rain to try and get more weight over the driving wheels as my father made a second attempt at a particularly steep, slippery hairpin-bend (switchback.) The car had slid back down the first time and I was distinctly uneasy due to the drop-off and steep slope at the unguarded edge of the road.

    I have been to "The Lakes" many times, usually staying in Eskdale, which is on the other side of Hardknott pass. Sometimes I would come by train to Ravenglass and ride the narrow-gauge steam railway up to Eskdale - but if you came by car, sooner or later you'd go over this road.
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    Thousands of bikers who've been over this road would probably yawn at my excitement, and I'm sure it's not that big of a deal to the locals, and there are roads on Dartmoor almost as steep (several places I can think of with 20-25% grades) but it just seemed like a fun challenge.

    My last foray around this area was in 1987, driving my beat-up old Triumph Spitfire. It chugged up the steepest bits quite easily but then the weather was grand that day. I've just never done it by motorbike.
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    #59
  20. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

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    The weather report was foul, calling for rain and strong winds all day, with gusts of up to 60mph. Hmmm... not sure about this. I really wasn't looking upon this as a potentially hazardous experience, but getting slammed by a 60mph gust on a steep wet road with tight bends on an exposed hillside might not be a terrifically safe occurrence. What the heck... let's do it anyway.

    The rain picked up as we were loading luggage and trying to check tyre pressures - "Yeah, they look okay from here" had to suffice in the end.

    Once again... no photos for most of the way due to the rain. The wind certainly made things interesting as did the sheets of water pouring down across all the steepest corners, but it was not blowing as hard as expected. On the way to the foot of Wrynose (just a few miles from the youth hostel) we passed a group of adventurous looking bikers coming down the road from Great Langdale past Blea Tarn but they (possibly sensibly) headed off in the opposite direction.

    We crossed Wrynose, which is steep and twisty but definitely the milder of the two and rode down across the intervening valley. The Duchess maintained a steady 3-4000rpm in first gear the entire way up Hardknott, arriving at the top without incident.
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    You could only see one or two corners ahead of you on the way up and the view from the top was similarly obscured by the rain although by this point it had eased sufficiently for me to risk my camera.
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    I flagged down a woman driving up from the Eskdale side and handed her my camera through the window of her car. I'm pretty sure she told us we were nuts.
    [​IMG]

    We were going to stop and wander around the Roman fort but water was starting to seep in already so we rode straight down the west side of the pass without stopping and right through Boot to Eskdale (following the slowest driver I think I've ever come across, in a small panel van - surprisingly a really young guy - maybe he was practicing for driving a hearse?) and kept going out to the coast. With 275 miles ahead of us, it was going to be a damp ride.
    #60