My goal for day two of my trip (read about day one here) was to cycle a full loop around the reservoir. At 40 km this would be by far my longest ever ride. On the whole I was looking forward to it, but in the back of my mind I had a few anxious thoughts about what could go wrong.

Thankfully those fears remained in my imagination and my day was characterised by some good decisions. The first two made before I even left the B&B…

  1. Opting for a sausage sandwich and small pot of coffee instead of a full English at breakfast.
  2. Choosing to wear the padded liners in my cycling shorts, despite the heat.
  3. Seeking advice about which direction to cycle around the reservoir… and then listening to it.

This last one, I believe, was the difference between me finishing the ride and being beaten by it. Starting at Tower Knowe and cycling anti-clockwise meant that I was descending most of the steepest sections. There were still a few uphill stretches that proved a challenge for me but in general they were more gradual rather than short and sharp.

I also managed to avoid any nasty tumbles. Only on one of the latter steep descents that included some sharp turns did I feel the bike slipping from under me. I was able to respond quickly and managed to regain control.

I set off a little before 10AM with the intention of taking my time. However, there’s little reason to stop on the north side and little shade, so bar a couple of short stops to take photos and grab a drink, I continued along my way for 19 km.

Bike leaning against bridge overlooking dense forest behind and water below.

I arrived at Kielder well before noon. This was originally where I had planned to stop for lunch as it’s roughly half-way. I was feeling relatively fresh, and not in need of anything more than a snack, so decided to keep going.

A few kilometres further on, near Matthew’s Linn, I found a quiet and shady spot next to a jetty to eat my sandwiches. I would have loved to sit here longer to read and enjoy the views but the lack of a breeze meant the midges were out in full force.

Six small sailing boats moored in water off the end of a concrete jetty.

At 27 km, stopping for a tub of ice cream (the flavour was cherry crush, in case you were wondering) at the Waterside visitor centre felt like a brilliant idea but when I got up to get going again my legs felt like jelly. Thankfully the next few kilometres were pretty steady, retracing the route around the peninsula that I’d walked the day before) and I got back in my rhythm.

View across Kielder Water from the top of a hill on the north side of the reservoir. Edges of the water lined with trees. The sun is shining and sky is blue.

With 5km left of the loop I hit a wall. The loudest sound I could hear was my heart thumping in my chest. A brief stop half-way up a hill to throw cold water over myself and refuel was necessary. That pick-me-up just about got me to the finish line, where I arrived around 2:30PM.

Before setting off for home I bundled my bike back into the car, thanked the visitor centre staff for their advice, refuelled with my remaining sandwiches and a coffee and chocolate brownie from the café. I’d intended to take myself for a celebratory pint on my return home, but instead crashed on the sofa with a cup of sugary tea.

Cycling stats

Distance covered: 40.11 km

Elapsed time: 4 hours 36 minutes

Moving time: 3 hours 1 minute

Average speed: 12.5 km/hr

Max speed: 30.3 km/hr

Max elevation: 231 m

Tags: #holiday #northumberland #cycling