Travel Stories - Cycling Across the UK and Ireland

Idil Birben | Live the World

November 23, 2022

'A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving' says, Lao Tzu. To be honest, even though I call myself a decent traveller, who does her best to create time for travelling, I am yet to become a 'good traveller' and in this path there are some people and trips I look up to. The people who have the courage to take that impulsive big step into a life changing journey or a series of self-challenging journeys has always been a source of great inspiration for me and their stories are definitely worth telling. Therefore, I thought to myself what is the best way of telling these stories? I mean writing about a trip I didn't take is not that interesting, so I decided to make interviews. Real people, real trips and real tips for you guys!!

The first person who will share his travel story and passion with you, fellow travel enthusiasts will be Richard Solomon. He has taken some amazing trips which I have enviously followed on Facebook for years and thought his 2000km long cycling tour around the UK will inspire you to plan your next trip or to buy a bike, I mean bikes are pretty damn amazing... Enjoy!

Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about the first ever inspiring trip of yours? My name is Richard Solomon, originally from London UK, and I am currently a personal trainer and a Gym business consultant in Dongguan, China. My first ever trip that others have found interesting and inspiring would actually be a very short trip - from London to southern Spain. I’d just finished working for the summer and had a week to kill.. and I woke up one Wednesday morning and realised I could, if I wanted, attempt to go anywhere, or see something new. After remembering my best friend had told me he was visiting family in south Spain I decided to book a flight for the same evening and just left. Later that day I landed in Jerez, walked from the airport to the city(12miles) and got on the first train to Malaga via Sevilla. It was the first moment I realised how impulsive I could be and the cool things that can be achieved if you just act. I think I was 19.

You have done a UK trip on your bike and I was following it step by step on Facebook:) Where did the idea come from and how did you prepare both financially, physically and mentally? Yeh the bike trip was awesome - 2012km crossing England, Wales and Ireland - the idea was to do something physically challenging and also to go and see family I’d never met in Tipperary, Ireland. I prepped financially by really working hard for about 5 months prior to the trip to top up my savings, and cutting out many unnecessary spending habits. There wasn’t so much in the way of physical prep as my job is exercise, so I trusted my body, and mentally, I’ve always been very bullheaded when it comes to decisions so I just went for it!! Although, there were moments during the hilliest, windiest, wettest and longest rides where my mentality and my legs were really tested!!

Through your trip, how did you figure out the accommodation? Did you chose camping, staying with people that you know or hotels? A total mixture! I stayed with people on Couchsurfing, camped in plenty of places, stayed in hostel dorm rooms, stayed with relatives in Tipperary, and even treated myself to one night in a fancy hotel in Bantry, as I needed some comfort after a really long tough ride in the rain. But camping and hostels are definitely the best for me.

Do you have any tips for the cyclists who would like to tour the UK? Get some good advice on your bike and your panniers. Be prepared to spend money on those two things, unless you can borrow or get a reliable secondhand bike. Teach yourself the basics of bike repair, unless you trust yourself to learn as you go. Prepare a route but also prepare for a lot of readjusting the route as you meet people and swap good ideas! Stay in hostels, but also take a tent, because sleeping outdoors is awesome! Make sure you take appropriate clothing.. I nearly froze to death on the side of Brecon Beacons because I thought I was tough! Waterproofs can be vital. There’s also loads of useful websites and tips online about touring. The Sustrans, warmshowers and couchsurfing websites are good places to start.

Where is your favorite location to cycle? The west coast of Ireland is INCREDIBLE! Please go. They’ve signposted the route ‘The Wild Atlantic Coast’ to make it easy to navigate, and it doesn’t let you down!

Did you plan your entire route ahead or go with the flow throughout the trip? A mixture of the two; it’s good to take a rough idea of what you want to see and explore, but as you meet people and get new ideas, be flexible enough to incorporate a slight change if you want to. I only really had two goals in mind; see family in Tipperary, and cycle over 2000km.. that was kind of it!

Can you tell us a little about your route, were there any breath taking scenery or a really difficult road to cycle on? Like I mentioned before; the west coast of Ireland is outstanding - such a changeable and rugged landscape; the Cape Clear Islands, Molls Gap, the Glengarriff-Kenmare road, Skellig Michael, the Loop Head peninsula/Aill Na Brun, the Burren, the cliffs of Kilkee and the cliffs of Moher, and finally the Achill Islands. In terms of difficulty, it felt like my entire second week, cycling across wales was endlessly uphill! Plus I had a particularly insane day of weather in the loop head peninsula where I was battling driving rain and 100km/h winds! I’ve never been more physically tired than after that day!

Do you have any inspiring words or tips for the fellow travelers? Keep learning, be a nice person, make little footprints, tidy up after yourself, share your thoughts and listen to others. Share everything, even if you find it difficult to socialise with others, try to conquer that fear, you won’t regret it! Keep conquering your fears, it’s difficult to do it, but more painful to live with it! JUST KEEP GOING!!! And it’s never too late to start.

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