Elsewhere on the site I recommended that you create your own route and I have set out below some ideas on how you could do this and the types of things you will want to consider when doing so.
However, now that this site has been active for a few years it is clear that many people would like to follow a route that has already been created, perhaps with a few modifications here and there. I cannot recommend the route I rode on my first end to end. In hindsight it is dangerous and not much fun, being largely on main roads. In fact it has concerned me that someone would try and ride it and end up getting injured or killed.
So, I have been on a quest to find a much safer end to end route than the one I rode in 2009. It has taken a long time but is now finally ready. It is a quiet route using mainly small roads and lanes and utilising old railways, cycle-ways and canal tow paths. The route is devised as a set of gpx files for use with a navigation device and comes with an accompanying book of information. Links to the route on Google Map are also included so that you can amend the route anyway you like. You can use the instruction on this site (and repeated in the accompanying book) to help you make amendments and to then create your own amended gpx files.
For more information about the route book click on the cover image below.
If you would like a flavour of the ride you might like to view the travelogue style book of my experiences when first test riding the initial route (Cycling the Google Route). The final route is still about 85% the same with the dodgy bits having been re-routed (and re-ridden). You can download a sample of the book (please note that I have to give you permission to access the file so it might take a little while for me to respond).
If you are keen to create your own route then, in principle, doing so is simple. You have a defined start and finish and it is basically up or down, depending on where you start. Of course in reality it is not so simple. There are many factors to take into account:
- How long are you planning for the tour? Do you have time to wander or will you have to go in as straight a line as possible?
- What sort of roads do you like to cycle on – flat, hilly, narrow, wide, quiet or busy (Busy roads do have some advantages: drag from lorries and juggernauts, they tend to be less hilly, average speeds are higher and there are actually less hazards on the main roads – but the consequences of an incident are much worse, so you’re less likely to have an accident or a spill but if you do you’ll probably be dead.)
- Do you want to go as direct as possible or do you want to make sure you cover at least a 1000 miles as an extra challenge?
- Why are you doing the trip – to see things or just to get there?
- Are there specific places you would like to see?, e.g. St Ives, Dartmoor, Bath, Chester, Lake District, Gretna Green, Loch Ness, Cairngorms.
- Do you want an extra challenge? For instance you might want to incorporate some extra UK mainland ‘extremes’ with little extra mileage, e.g. most southerly point (Lizard Point) – most north easterly point (Duncansby Head – not John O’Groats!) – most northerly point (Dunnet Head)
- What sort of accommodation are you going to use? Is it conveniently on your proposed route?
In most parts of the country there are many road options to get from A to B, so picking the right one is entirely dependent on your own personal preferences. That is why I am not proposing that you use the route I rode. For a start it would lead you direct to the door of each B&B I used and I wouldn’t necessarily endorse all of them! And anyway, they may no longer be trading as B&Bs.
What you need is a methodology to create your own route, based upon your own requirements. I am sure that many of you have tried and tested route creation techniques but others may feel, like I did, a little daunted at tackling a 900 mile route.
I started with a road atlas. I used the primary road map at the front to fix the basic route with the distance table providing the ballpark stopping points, based upon how far I intended to ride each day – 150 miles. This process pegged key points somewhere around John O’Groats, Fort Augustus (on Loch Ness), Glasgow, Windermere (Lake District), Shrewsbury, Taunton and Land’s End.
Having broken the 900 miles down into six daily chunks I then turned to the more detailed pages to try and find the most favourable roads for each day. With my requirements of speed and distance in mind I looked at the primary routes first. Where possible I selected old primary roads that often run alongside newer ones. They are usually in good condition but much quieter than the new road or motorway that has taken their place. Where the road looked good I marked it in with pen. Where I wasn’t sure I left blanks.
Having completed this process I had a road atlas with a route marked most of the way through the country but with big gaps around Glasgow and right through the midlands. Quite frankly the midlands had me quite scared. The road atlas was just a big spaghetti splat of twisting red, blue and green lines. I got headaches trying to follow roads from one page to the next. Having no local knowledge of the area it looked like a nightmare of urban sprawl. And the same was true of Glasgow but to a lesser extent, being a smaller area.
In the end I bit the bullet and penned in my line on the road atlas through the midlands but was still left with my Glasgow gap. So I turned to the internet and searched on www.google.co.uk [other search engines are available] for bike routes through Glasgow. I quickly found many possibilities and ultimately decided on a route that got me off the A82 at the first opportunity, to cross the Erskine Bridge. This avoided the bulk of Glasgow completely but directed me more westerly than I had originally intended. However, although it added a few extra miles to the route, ultimately it meant quieter but still primary route roads.
So, I now had my rough route marked in pen on my atlas. My next step was to find B&B accommodation at roughly 150 mile steps. With my Glasgow bypass this would now be roughly Fort Augustus, Kilmarnock, Windermere, Shrewsbury and Taunton. I returned to Google and searched for ‘B&B Fort Augustus’ and was presented with a list of options. I browsed each site to decide which was the most suited to my needs (close to route/en suite if possible/cheap) and made contact with my preferred option asking:
a) if they had single availability on my chosen date.
b) if they had anywhere I could store my bike.
c) if they would be willing to accept delivery of a parcel on my behalf a couple of days before my arrival.
d) whether potentially arriving late in the day would be a problem.
e) what the cost was.
I then booked the best option and printed out a directions map from the website to show the B&B’s location compared to my main road route. This process was then repeated for the other stopping areas. My only sticking points in the process were in the Lake District and around Taunton. In the former I ended up in Kendal rather than Windermere (because it was considerably cheaper) and in the latter I found few options near the route and had to detour down some twisty lanes for a few miles (as it turned out a detour well worth taking for the accommodation – see day 5 in the section describing my route).
Fortunately, probably because I was booking a few months in advance, I managed to get into my first choice accommodation at each stopping point.
I marked the B&Bs on my atlas and re-jigged the route accordingly. So now I had my entire route penned in on the atlas (a little messy in areas). However, I had decided that I didn’t want to carry any paper maps with me (no room in my bag – full of other stuff!) so what I really wanted was a written route sheet telling me which way to turn at each junction and the distances between instructions. Having taken out a small mortgage to buy a sat nav I thought it would be a good idea to have the route on there as well. The sat nav also had a map of the whole UK on it as back-up, providing the battery didn’t give up at the critical moment.
Back on the internet I Googled ‘bike route creation’. At the time there were only a couple of options available and I chose www.bikely.com. Following the instructions I created a separate route for each stage and then laboriously followed the route through on screen, writing down instructions of what to do at each junction and the distance to that point. These were later typed up to create my route sheet (see appendix).
Since then I have discovered a much better way to create directions and gpx files by using Google Maps.
Of course what you actually take with you in terms of directions and maps is a matter of personal preference. You could just set off with a list of town names you are going to pass through or near and navigate by road signs. Or you might want to have written directions and detailed maps of the whole route.
Whilst I did without maps I did have a very detailed route sheet. And when I did lose my way I used my portable navigation device to put me back on track. [Not my sat nav, which I hadn’t mastered when I started the ride. I used my mobile to call my wife who told me where to go. Luckily she also got the road atlas out and gave me directions.]
Kickstart your Lands End to John O’Groats planning
Everything you need to know to get you started on your Lands End to John O Groats adventure is contained within these three books: a How To, a detailed account of riding the Google Map route for LEJOG and a ‘safe’ Route Book using GPX files.
Available as electronic or paperback books from as little as £2.99 each or all three for £5.98. That’s less than an inner tube or a Costa coffee with a slice of cake.
Where to next?
The most popular pages on the site concern planning your End to End, including training for long distance cycling, thinking about the cycling equipment you will need, how to look after your bike, what you should be eating and drinking whilst cycling and how to create a route for Lands End to John O’Groats. Or you can read my own account of cycling End to End to get some idea of what to expect.