Orkney to Rome

As I have said before, I love the fact that people all over the World read my blog and contribute either through the comments or by taking time to email me. It is no doubt the nearest I will ever come to receiving fan mail (teenage school kids don’t tend to say thanks in letters to their teachers). The latest fellow long-distance cyclist to get in touch is Bill Vrabel (great name!) from Pennsylvania. As with many others, he has managed to trump me on either the start or end point of the journey; in his case his start point which is Orkney. No point repeating what he says in his email so over to you Bill. He writes in blue, my comments are in red;


I wanted to say hello and thanks for your blog, it’s been helpful planning my trip. My name is Bill, I am 31 and I’m from the U.S. (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) and at the end of August I’m planning a solo Bicycle trip from Orkney to Rome and for some of the way I’ll be on the EV5. I’ve never done this level of bike touring before (me neither!), although I’ve done the Rhine/Nekar in 2008 for less than a week and half of the Great Allegheny Passage here in Pennsylvania (and Maryland). I have a few maps and trip reports which I found online, and nothing of my trip mapped out but I’ll give you a quick run-down of my plans. I’m going to try and avoid the major cities and tourist hubs as I’m mostly interested in smaller towns, history, scenery, local culture. I have a hybrid bike, fairly new, so I’m hopeful it will match all the types of terrain. I also am giving myself somewhere between 2 ½-3 months.

I will fly into Glasgow, take train to Aberdeen, take ferry to Orkney, take ferry to Thurso (mainland) This in itself should be a spectacular journey cross the Scottish Highlands, cycle to Inverness (via Lairg) Take the NC route 7 down until Penrith, (I might take a train from Glasgow to Penrith to save time) follow the c2c route via Durham and ending at Seaham. Then I will just follow the national cycle route 1, all the way down to somewhere within a short train ride to London (my fav city!). From London, of course to Dover and across to France. Britain has a really good cycle network, so it seems. My itinerary for this might change since I’ve never been to Yorkshire Dales and might want to include that as well. The Yorkshire Dales is well worth a detour. I’m not sure if you found my posts on here from last summer when I cycled the Pennine Cycleway from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Derby. The middle part of the journey – in Yorkshire – was the highlight of the whole journey; beautiful scenery & wonderful cycling conditions. I would say that however because I come from Yorkshire. Do it! I followed route 68 (see the blog posts here albeit in reverse order – I set off on the 1st August so you’ll need to go back a few pages worth of posts to get to the start)

When I get to the continent (Calais), I plan on following the North Coast cycle route (have you seen the book by Bernie Friend?) , cut down through Bruges to Ghent, Namur, Rochefort, Champion, Luxembourg, Saarbrucken, Saverne, Strasbourg and down the Rhine until Basel. Follow my tyre marks! From there instead of taking the EV5 through Switzerland I’m going to cycle to Lake Bodensee and then the Bodensee-Koenigssee cycle path to Fussen, take the via Claudia Augusta route over the Alps, across Austria and down into either Verona or Venice my favourite ever city – I’m jealous , on to Florence – I plan to spend a 2-3 weeks in Tuscany before heading to Rome for my flight home.

I was sad to hear that the Italian Cycle network doesn’t exist. I know what you mean but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; following cycle paths is great if you have acres of time (which you do actually!) but they do tend to send you round every nook and crany and the ability to cover a great distance in one day is fairly limited. I’m all for taking my time (I have developed quite an aversion to “Audax” cycling while writing this blog – that comment should get me some hate mail from the purists), but it is satisfying to cover a descent distance. It will be interesting comparing how “satisfied” I am with my journey while in the cycled-pathed north of Europe to the un-cyled-pathed south.  This might force me to re-consider things and take a train from Verona to Florence and then rely on other transits to get to Rome. I have a book called Italy By Bike: 105 tours from the Alps to Sicily by the touring club of Italy – unfortunately most of them are small paths which means I’ll have to “connect the dots”

Nothing is set-in-stone right now and my plans are flexible, I’ll be following your route and if you have any advice to give me, please don’t hesitate. See above. It sounds as though you’ll be in the London area around the beginning of September so it would be good to meet up and compare notes (and for me to feel very jealous that you are just starting when I will have just finished and back to work!)

Thanks for reading this, in the next week I might set up a blog for my trip. Highly recommended; I have found when travelling by myself over the last few years that having something to write – either a blog or a journal (or both as I will be doing for this coming summer) – is a great way to make the most of your journey. It’s great to see your trip is coming up soon, good luck man and thanks again! Thanks for taking the time to write; good luck in your preparations!


1 reply »

  1. I was pleasantly surprised to see my words on your blog! I have been telling friends and family about my plans but to let my fellow cyclists know is something even more empowering and exciting. I’m getting my masters in Library Science in August (where at that time I can consider myself an official librarian) and that is part of the reason that I am taking the trip. The other part is that I hate my job and need to get away. Because I’m taking so much time off, I will most likely have to quit – What a better way to celebrate!!
    The Yorkshire Dales look amazing and will be a definite possibility, I’ll be around that way anyhow – I might have to add a couple of days, but it’s probably worth it. I’ve been through Northern England and Scotland before on those crappy crowded tour buses and always imagined what it would be like to actually enjoy the scenery – So what better way than on a bike!
    I’m going to get started on my blog and send you the link via email when I’m ready. Take care

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