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Route: Hawick – Lockerbie – Stonham Aspall – Harwich – Hook of Holland – Amsterdam – Hoorn – Terschelling – Bremerhaven – Hamburg – Kiel – Gothenberg – Halmstad – Helsingborg – Copenhagen – Malmo – Trelleborg – Pritzwalk – Berlin – (not cycled – Amsterdam – Newcastle – Edinburgh – Hawick).

Date: August and September 2017

Distance: 1350 miles or 2018 kilometres

Days: 58 

For our summer trip in 2017 we began by cycling to our nearest train station at Lockerbie.  I wanted to stay at Dryfehead bothy on our way and travel off-road as far as possible. Unfortunately, poor route selection on my part led to us having to camp overnight and so we only got to visit the bothy briefly next day.

From Lockerbie we put the bikes on the train and headed to our first festival of the summer – LFest in Loughborough.  Here is Joe going feral at LFest.

We then travelled by train again to Heff festival in Suffolk, where we saw amongst others, the incomparable Funke and the Two Tone Baby

At the end of the festival we cycled the 25 miles or so to Harwich, from where we caught an overnight ferry to the Hook of Holland.  We arrived the next day to a find a fierce tailwind pushing us towards Amsterdam.  The cycle paths were of course excellent – Joe was very impressed that we had our own little road just for bikes.

This is Joe’s face when he had just been told that he had cycled 100km in a single day – the most he had ever achieved at that point.  He went on to cycle 110 km all the way to Amsterdam on that first day in Holland.

We had a mini city-break in Amsterdam, visiting the science museum…..

….the Heineken brewery…

and cycling across a lot of canal bridges….

We did the tourist thing and went on an all-you-can-eat pancake cruise – this is Joe admitting defeat after his fifth pancake.

..and we got to see a bit of the Pride parade, which was of course, on boats.

From Amsterdam we rode north to the very pretty town of Hoorn….

….cycling around Hoorn…

…. after which we crossed the Afsluitdiyk – the 30km causeway/dyke across the Ijesselmeer. In Hoorn we met an Englishman who said the causeway was the hardest thing he ever cycled. We laughed at this all the way across – I honestly don’t know what all the fuss was about.

On a mad whim we caught the ferry to the island of Terschelling – off the north coast of Holland. As you can see, they took loving care of our bikes on the ferry…

We tried to have a beach day and swim in the sea but it was full of jellyfish the size of dinner plates!

Following a recommendation we visited the wonderfully retro Heartbreak Hotel diner, situated right on the beach in the north of Terschelling.

It served American sized portions…

Back on the mainland we continued east, finding this statue of the woman who used to raise the bridge along the way.

Sheltering under a bridge from a rain shower one day, we turned around and saw this graffiti on the wall.  Naturally Joe had to have his photo taken with it.

The cycle paths are a delight in Holland, criss-crossing the country in every direction and linking every town and village in a vast network.

When you are tired enough, even a concrete bench makes a comfy place to rest…..

We ate a lot of this – kibbelling and chips – it is small chunks of fresh fish, fried in batter while you wait.  The smell drifts out across the landscape and announces the presence of a kibbelling van many miles before you reach it.  When you have worked up a hunger after many hours on the bike, it is seriously good.

We came across a lot of these beautiful unmanned produce stalls with honesty boxes.  Unfortunately we didn’t have room in our luggage for much of it.

Here are our bikes at the border crossing with Germany, where the Germans immediately greeted us with a large sign full of rules and regulations.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the cycle paths in Germany, so it was a relief to find them almost as good as Holland.

We wild camped a lot in Germany as finding sneaky spots wasn’t as difficult as it had been in Holland, where we had mostly stayed on campsites.

The sunrise over the lake near Westerstede.

We crossed the Weser river on a tiny ferry, shortly afterwards arriving at our friend’s house, where we stayed for a few days.

This is how Joe and his friend spent ‘back to school’ day – the day kids in Scotland went back to school after their summer holidays.  It’s an alternative sort of uniform.

Back on the road again, we visited Stade and Jork and cycled along the Elbe towards Hamburg.

The very pretty town of Stade:

Wildcamping amongst the currant bushes in an allotment in Jork…

When you don’t spend money on accommodation you can afford to spend more on food…

We cycled the towpath along the Elbe and waved as the cruise ships passed by…

…and saw a funky old sticker-bombed VW along the way…

We rode along the industrial section of the Elbe into Hamburg..

…where we ate Hamburgers… of course…

We had planned on cycling north to Denmark at this point, but our route changed dramatically after I found out about a ferry from Kiel that would take us to Gothenburg in Sweden.  Having always wanted to visit Sweden it seemed to good an opportunity to miss.  We hammered up the road to Kiel and gratefully collapsed into our tiny cabin for the overnight journey, enjoying the bliss of sleeping in a real bed after a while spent in our tent.

Continued ….. Click here for part two of this story, including Sweden, Denmark and Berlin…..

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