End to End: Planning a LeJog Journey
Lands End to John O'Groats (or the opposite) is the most famous journey in the UK. The route has been walked, cycled, skateboarded, run and swum. A chap even posted himself from End to End many years ago, but this Q&A is aimed at anyone planning an overland trip and the questions are the standard ones sent to me over the past few years.
Are the roads in the UK safe to ride along?
Avoiding A-Roads and high traffic routes is always recommended, and most of the time there will be a safer alternative route that doesn't add on too much distance. British drivers are no worse than others, but there are over 50 million cars wedged into a tiny island, which means traffic density is concentrated (especially near urban areas) and stress levels of driving can be raised — meaning attention or care for non-motorised vehicles isn't paramount.
If you want to go fast from End to End think carefully about taking the more direct routes, as these will be busiest.
- Check the Sustrans recommended cycling routes (often these are on quieter roads).
- Be visible and sensible. Wear a helmet and hi-vis jacket when on roads.
- Put yourself in the driver's seat — if you were driving would you be able to see you?
- Be respectful. Cars have just as much right as you to be on the road (they probably think they've got more right) but if both cyclists (skaters, runners etc) and cars follow law and etiquette they can get along just fine.
- There are parts of the route where winding country roads are lined with high hedgerows that limit visiblity. It goes without saying that riding around a bend in the middle of the road is asking for trouble.
- The A9 in Scotland can be a busy road and doesn't have a shoulder to ride on. Avoid this if you can (although I took it for over 100 miles)
Advice for the smaller wheeled traveller
If you're skating, blading or using any mode of transport with hard, small wheels your journey will be shaped by situations that a cyclist or runner wouldn't notice.
There's no conclusive map for road surfaces (niche waiting to be filled) so you're literally going to have to take the tough with the smooth.
In Scotland and Cornwall especially, don't roll hell for leather downhill if you can't see what's at the bottom. Falling at high speed isn't fun, neither is being out of control with speed wobbles when a car is approaching. And you certainly don't want to be skating at high speed over a cattle grid
Are there many roads only for bicycles or that kind of vehicles? Or otherwise tiny roads where there is not too much motorized traffic?
There are plenty of options and the cycle network in the UK is growing. Sometimes you'll find an off-road designated cycle path (note that these aren't always the best surface for skating). The Sustrans Cycle Network is the best place to find out information about recommended paths.
How did you find the best roads to board on?
Luck and a touch of judgement. When I longboarded John O'Groats to Lands End it was the first journey of its kind so I didn't have anyone to ask about this thing. But in reality things like roadworks, floods, personal journey choice (time vs experience) and endless road choices mean passing on this information isn't necessarily handy for the next person.
I chose my route based on safety. I kept away from lots of traffics as often as possible, and if the road was smooth then wonderful. If not, tough!
How did you make sure the cars noticed you on the roads?
I had a camera crew following me so their transport doubled up as a support van, which had a big flashing light on the roof and guarded me from traffic. If you're travelling without support (which I fully recommend as a simpler, cheaper and more freeing way to journey) make sure you have a helmet and where highly visible clothing. If light is poor have lights on your helmet and clothes and backpack.
Did you find a route where there were not too many mountains/hills?
I'm afraid this isn't going to be a flat journey! Naturally if you choose the coastal road rather than going through the Scottish Highlands you might miss out on hills but Scotland, Cumbria, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall are extremely hilly. Learn how to brake and tell yourself that you love the hills — it's a mental journey as much as physical.
Were there moments where you just walked because it was too dangerous?
Only in towns during rush hour. I opted to walk on the pavement now and then, but I walked less than 5 miles in my 896 mile journey.
Finally, if you go from John O'Groats to Lands End, is it downhill?!
I think that learning how to answer this questions when you get asked it a thousand times on your trip is the key!
In fact, as John O'Groats is at sea level and Lands End is at the top of a 100ft cliff, it's actually uphill if you travel south!
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