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John O’Groats To Land’s End: The Traffic-Free Way

June 19th, 2012 29 comments


Every year, hundreds of cyclists set out to bike the distance between the northern tip of the United Kingdom – John O’Groats – and the southern point of Land’s End.

The trip – often referred to as LEJOG or JOGLE, depending on direction – is about 1,500km long. It’s a great distance for a bike tour of anywhere up to a month (depending on your appetite for mileage) but not everyone makes this trip on the most quiet of roads.

There are alternatives, however, including one route that British cyclist David Piper created. It goes from end-to-end across Britain, on quiet country roads and bike paths. He took a few minutes to tell us about it. You can also view the GPS track, which we created from David’s map.

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Why did you create this route?

I live close enough to Land’s End to see streams of ‘End to Enders’ trudging up the A30 dual carriageway in the summer. While they’re fighting traffic and slashing their tyres on the broken glass littering the scant shoulder, I’m slashing my wrists in despair at their lack of imagination and planning.

I assume they have plotted the rest of the route in much the same manner when (with a little time invested) they could have taken the road less travelled along the blissful B-roads and scenic cycle tracks that criss-cross our green and pleasant land.

I’d been asked by the anti human-trafficking charity Bringing Freedom to plot such a route and I was so pleased with the results I thought I’d share it with you!

John O'Groats to Land's End (traffic free)
A rough outline of the route. Click for a bigger version on Flickr.

How did you map out this particular route? 

I wanted to use as many of the Sustrans National Cycle Network (NCN) routes as possible, and traffic-free roads wherever possible.

Scotland really stood out in this respect. It was a cyclist’s dream of empty roads, fabulous mountain-scapes and enough bird and wildlife to keep any budding David Attenborough happy. We saw lapwings and ospreys.

In the far north, we could even use some main roads. It’s wilderness up there, and we saw more wild deer than wild drivers!

Can you give us a quick summary?

Sure!

We started in John O’Groats. From there, we climbed over rolling moorland south of Beauly and dropped down to Loch Ness. We braved the A82 to the quaint town of Fort Augustus but on reflection it would have been far better to pick up the tiny road (NCN 78) that follows the southern bank of the lake.

Land's End To John O'Groats

We then went off-road, beside the Caledonian Canal. We rode past snow-capped Ben Nevis to Fort William, then south of Loch Leven on  parts of the old railway (NCN 78). Next we detoured around Loch Awe past the Falls of Cruachan and the underground hydro-electric plant pumping out millions of watts of clean, renewable energy. Hidden, silent valleys beside Loch Eck took us through the Argyll Forest to the Dunoon Ferry.

Next it was on to B743 and a handful of unclassified lanes. These took us east over the bleak and desolate Southern Uplands to Abingdon – Scotland’s highest village. From here, the NCN 74 uses a deserted road all the way to Gretna Green – where eloping lovers could once be wed.

Land's End To John O'Groats

We climbed into the Lake District on the B5299 (NCN 7) to Caldbeck, then south on Pasture Lane to the utterly beautiful Ullswater before tackling the only real mountain in the whole trip – the Kirkstone Pass, descending to the touristy waters of Windermere.

Land's End To John O'Groats

NCN 55 & NCN 5 took us most of the way from Preston to Worcester through the heart of England’s Industrial Revolution on miles of canal paths. Then it was on to the old railtrack NCN42. We were disappointed that only a little of this was complete but soon it will be a grand route from Cheltenham to Welsh Chepstow.

Bristol is the home of Sustrans so a traffic free route into the city wasn’t hard to find. It took us out again over Brunel’s iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge and later on the Strawberry Line (NCN26), heading south to the gorgeous gorge of Cheddar.

Land's End To John O'Groats

In Somerset, we traced a canal from Bridgewater to Taunton, followed by the B3227 for the 50 miles between Taunton and Barnstaple. Next it was the NCN27 Devon Coast to Coast route, making sure we stopped at the legendary Yarde Café for a pint of homemade cider.

Now in Plymouth, we crossed into Cornwall and rode the magnificent coastal road along Whitsand Bay, hugging the coast until Looe before following the river valley to Liskeard. A short blast along the A38 was unavoidable but we soon got on unclassified roads that trace the new A30 as far as Fraddon.

From there, the B3275 follows the Ladock Valley toward Truro. Cornwall’s tin mining heritage was evident along the coast-to-coast cycleway from Devoran to Portreath. From there, we were treated to a fabulous run along the North Cliffs on B3301. Finally, it was NCN 3 all the way to Land’s End.

What were some of your favourite parts of the trip?

In Scotland, we briefly followed NCN 78. It’s part of an old railway line and in a few years it should connect Oban with Loch Ness. It hugs the stunning coastline and is quite possibly the best cycle track I’ve ever ridden!

I also loved the area around Preston and Worcester. You ride through the heart of England’s Industrial Revolution on flat, pretty and traffic free canal paths. And don’t forget the added benefit of a smattering of lock-side pubs! Willows wept and otters leapt, whilst happy holiday-makers waved cheerily from their converted barges. Fantastic.

Land's End To John O'Groats

Did you ever need off-road tires?

Not really. We first went off-road beside the Caledonian Canal but the surface was fine grit so our standard road tyres could cope with it. This was also the case with the other unpaved sections nationwide.

Isn’t your version of JOGLE a little long?

Our total route was about 2,000km but so what if it took a little longer? That’s the whole point, isn’t it? If you want to sprint up the highway, the record is under two days, so knock yourself out! Or maybe the traffic will first…

More info:

Dreaming of a Bike Tour? see our Survival Guide
What Next?
Related Pages
 

26 Responses to “John O’Groats To Land’s End: The Traffic-Free Way”

  1. Tom Allen says:

    This is great. Why people expect 10 days of dodging hurtling metal boxes on the country’s A-roads to be enjoyable has always been a mystery to me!

    There is a fairly established off-road LEJOG/JOGLE route as well, which has been at the back of my mind for a few years now.

    Thanks!

  2. Thanks Tom – about 30% of this route is ‘off road’ i.e. traffic free and unpaved, but still rideable on a standard tourer

    • Mark says:

      Hi David, just looking at your route for mid April 2014. You mention 30% off road. Is the route likely to get muddy? I have a Dawes Galaxy, but don’t want to spend much time in the mud. Or were you referring to the other off road route in the comment above?

  3. This looks like a great route for LEJOG/JOGLE – great to make the most of the NCN. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Abd Rahman bin Abd Ghani says:

    Enjoy reading your articles……a good job

  5. andrew coe says:

    Have also just completed JOGLE. Can really recommend Sustrans route 7 down from Inverness through Central Scotland. We even went through Glasgow on cycle paths by the Clyde.

  6. Liz says:

    Great information. I’ve been wondering if there was an alternative to the A30 in Cornwall/Devon.
    My father cycled LEJOG on his retirement at 65 and again when he was 72. I feel I need to keep up the family tradition and complete it myself. I must set a date!
    Have you any information regarding B/B’s or hostels en route to keep the cost of accommodation down?
    Thanks.

    • richard ash says:

      I agree with Martin join the youth hostel association and also take a tent both are ways to cheapen your journey. B and Bs are expensive, they have raised their standards but also their prices over the years. By the way youth, as in YHA, is a relative term, I joined the Scottish YHA and got my old age bus pass in the same week!

  7. Martin James says:

    I’d agree Andrew – Glasgow cycle path all the way from Loch Lomond was one of the many highlights for me. You can then get on route 74 from Glasgow on minor roads through Carmunnock to East Kilbride, Limekilnburn, Quarter and you’ll barely see another car. Can I recommend your next mission? West to East, that’s Ardnamurchan to Lowestoft. .

    Liz, this might be a bit obvious,but the YHA is a really good starting point. It’s under £20 per night and you’ll meet other LEJOGers to help keep your spirits up. Take earplugs though – usually a lot of snorers! I tried David’s Cornwall route a couple of years ago (he was kind enough to let me sit in his slipstream for a day) and you’re right, it’s a belter.

  8. As I’d expect from you David, a brilliant looking route. Sorry I missed you in Barnstaple, Trevor (trailer) was misbehaving and I had to sort it. I’ll be finishing at Orchard cafe again. Be great to see you and catch up
    Cheers
    Graeme

  9. Mario Preston,Canada says:

    Thanks for sharing…that route in on my favorite list…

  10. Great reading your E2E journey. It bought back memories of my tour with my partner last year. It was interesting to read of the similarities (strawberry line, the wonderful Yarde cafe,Bristol) So many ways to choose, but like you we spent most of our time off main roads and chose canal paths, trails(Tarka, Camel) and followed the great network of sustrans routes. I have included our blog address for your interest.
    http://gandte2e.blogspot.com.au/2011_05_01_archive.html
    Cheers
    Toni Mostyn(Australia)

  11. Kieran Whelan says:

    Hi, just started the route planning for my solo JOGLE. I’d like to know if there is some software program I can insert some locations in I want to visit along the way and then for the program to provide route map linking those points on a traffic light route end to end? I’ll be taking my Blackberry 9900 but if I’d be better buying some Garmin + software then I’ll do that. I’ll be taking a map too! Any pointer to best on;line route planner would be fantastic. Thanks

  12. Dawn Turner says:

    This looks great. We did a similar thing through France last year (890 miles) from Calais to Coullioure on the Med and had a great time. We are in our 50s and cycled an average of 55 miles a day over 18 days – took in the scenery and met some lovely people on the way. I would recommend this to anyone and having always dismissed JOGLE in the past this route might change my mind!

  13. steve says:

    hi seen your page.i am looking to do the ride some time in june or july next year 2014 and would like to do your route. will you be doing the ride in any of those months so i could tag along. im doing it for a local kids football team so want to keep costs down. many thanks steve in barnsley

  14. Stephen says:

    This looks great. I was just wondering how long it took to complete the whole route? And are there any alternative routes also following the NCN route that pass through Edinburgh? Possible an East coast version?

  15. This route looks great, I am hoping to get a team together from my pub in Cumbria to do the JOGLE for a local charity in Seprtember 2014,and we have been looking at less busy traffic routes, most of our teams have Road bikes and will have a support vehicle, are there long sections or ‘off road’ that are not suitable for road bikes and not accessible by vehicle?

    Thanks Craig

  16. Kiran says:

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful route David. My partner and I followed most of the route this summer and it was great to be off the beaten path that the usual JOGLE route follows. We really felt like we got to see the country properly this way. I definitely would not have done JOGLE if I hadn’t seen this route. Great route and a great holiday!

    • Phil Coates says:

      Hi Kiran.
      I hope to cycle the JOGLA in May and was wondering how you managed to get a more detailed map of the route David Piper planned. I have attempted to open the GPS page, but unfortunately, without any success. The route described on the web site looks ideal for me as i would prefer to ride on a quieter (off road) type of trip rather than the more direct route normally recommended.

      Thanks.

  17. ian jackson says:

    hi david thinking of doing john`o groats lands end your route looks great to make it a little different i`am going to canoe inverness to fort william and also do the three peaks on the way what do you think

  18. ian jackson says:

    hi your route is just what iam looking for planning to do ride in september also thinking of doing three peaks and canoeing loch ness as part of it what do you think

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