Published: 11/10/2015 19:16 - Updated: 12/10/2015 07:18

Eat, Sleep, Cycle: A Bike Ride Around the Coast of Britain

ANNA HUGHES has always loved riding her bike.

Hooked on the freedom to go where she chooses, when she wants, at her own pace and at (virtually) no cost, the London-based cycling instructor and mechanic decided to embark on a 4,000-mile ride around the UK's coast.

In what turns into something of a voyage of self-discovery with epic highs and some pretty crushing lows, she depends on the kindness of strangers along much of the way, sheltering overnight in many cases with people she has never met but who are prepared to put her up, based on what she is attempting.

In becoming the first woman to have completed the round-the-coast ride solo, she survives near hypothermia in (you've guessed it) north-west Scotland; a hurricane (really) in Wales and tendonitis.

Heck, she even gets lost.

Meticulously planned in advance, she sticks remarkably close to her schedule, completing the whole thing in just 72 days.

The book is broken down into daily sections, outlining where she starts, where she finishes and the distance travelled. This is of immediate interest to cycle geeks considering something similar and to armchair travellers who may find themselves marvelling at some of the daily distances covered.

In fact Hughes makes light of many of the challenges along the way, born perhaps of a hard core cyclist's acceptance that on two wheels under your own steam, there's an up(hill) for every down(hill).

She hits the Highlands by day 20 after starting out in London.

Inverness to Golspie (64 miles by bike), Golspie to Lybster (41 miles) and Lybster to Thurso are dashed off in a few pages.

Ahead of her lies the stunning scenery of Scotland's North and North-West coasts. Ullapool, Gairloch and Applecross are destinations along the way. She escapes neither the infamous Bealach na Ba mountain pass to Applecross or the midges.

Her first-hand observations shed fresh light on the contrasting countries and regions which make up the UK. 

While she's often left alone to appreciate some incredible scenery on the solo ride, she also clearly relishes meeting like-minded souls along the way, sharing stories and, in some cases, parts of the journey itself.

In a pleasingly light style, she recounts her experiences and observations along the way, giving a feel for what it was like without over-egging the pudding. She knows that it took courage and strength to pull it off but also concludes "how simple it had really been".

Enjoying that simplicity and learning "to not worry about's around the corner" are amongst the lessons learned.

The love affair with the bicycle wheels is in fact intensified by the experience of making her own way, living on the road and having "as my constants the sea, the wide open sky, and the ceaseless whirr of my bicycle".

Eat, Sleep, Cycle by Anna Hughes is published by Summersdale and priced at £8.99 (paperback).

Hector Mackenzie


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