We began the 1050 mile marathon at John o' Groats on Thursday 26 August 2010, aiming to complete the journey in less than four weeks. Indeed, we finished at Lands End on Friday 17th September - despite some extremely wet weather, mechanical problems and  physical issues along the way.

We are still raising money for Marie Curie Hospices: please give generously at Or, you can buy one of the limited edition pin badges, suggested minimum donation £2. Contact Mark 0n 0044 7834 539685 or at to buy a badge.  As is always the case in our events, all of the money sponsored goes to the charity concerned.  We treat the 'ordeal' as a holiday(!) which we pay for out of our own pockets.

Friday 12 July 2013

The next adventure ..... 'Istanbul or Bust 2013' (Solihull to Istanbul)

So our next adventure is about to start ...... Thirty days to ride from sunny Solihull to Istanbul .... and hopefully rise £10,000 for the Marie Curie Hospice, Solihull, along the way.

You can follow our journey here:

We will keep the blog updated along the route.

Monday 20 September 2010


The Mayor of Solihull, Ian Courts shakes hands with Paul and Lady Mayoress Sheila Courts with Mark, on their return from completing the 1,050 mile cycling odyssey 'The Long Hard Way' from John o' Groats - Lans End.  

Monday 20 September and despite the best efforts of several rail companies, Robbo and Stokesy are now safely home.  Paul has returned to the busom of his family and the daily school run as a retired DS.  Mark to Force CID - at least for the time being and pending the result of the Government Spending Review.

The boys discovered at Newquay railway station on the penultimate day's cycling that the reason why their calls to Mumbai, India (they kid you not!) had failed to secure bike reservations for the return journey from St Ives to Birmingham, was due to engineering work in 'the Bristol area'.  The poor guys at Mumbai had not been told this.  Nevertheless and despite the cancellation of the second train on Saturday morning (forcing them aboard the 'Sardine Express' to Plymouth), the return leg was problem free.  However, the whole issue of taking bikes on trains in Great Britain can be described at best as problematic, with each rail company operating a cavalier selection of rules.  When these work it's great, but when they don't... And let's not delve into a fare charging structure that makes it cheaper (by some £35 each in their case) to split the journey in two and buy separate tickets, even though they were travelling on the same train!

To be fair, the outward journey from Birmingham International to London Euston and then by sleeper to Inverness, had worked like the proverbial dream - well oiled by the on-board bars, fine meal and some excellent company in the form of Hugh Fullerton-Smith, director of the European Nature Trust based at Dornoch in Sutherland.  His take on conservation issues in Scotland and beyond was both highly interesting and profound.

Friday 17 September 2010

Day 23: Final Day, St Ives - Land's End

Day 23 began with a heavy shower over St Ives and west Cornwall.  Consequently, we delayed our departure for the final destination, Land's End using the time to sort a final night's BandB and the convoluted journey home by rail.

Yet even on this final day's cycling, with clear skies, a tail-wind much of the way and the luggage left in St Ives, it was a tiring ordeal. As is so often the case, this coastal route involved short descents into coves, followed by muscle aching climbs. Nevertheless, come 1455 hours we cruised into Land's End, 1,038 miles on the clock - more than 1,050 by close of day. Moreover, Land's End could never look better, a near calm Atlantic Ocean glistening in the sunlight and the Scilly Isles clearly visible on the distant horizon.

We posed to have our pictures professionally taken by the traditional directions signpost, had a pint of Betty Scoggs each and soaked up the view - on a day like this the best in the world.

Finally, the four mile ride to the open air cliff-side Minack Theatre for a Cornish Cream Tea in between performances of Gilbert and Sullivan's 'The Gondoliers' by the Cambridge University Opera Society. Stuff the diet!

Many thanks to all who have sponsored us on-line. News came today that we have gone through the £1,000 marker and with some £1,500 of pin badge money still to come, we should excede the £2,500 target for Marie Curie Hospices. As always, all of the money sponsored goes to the charity. We treat the cycling marathon as a holiday (!) that we pay for out of our own pockets.

And thanks for reading.

Paul 'Robbo' Robinson and Mark 'Stokesy' Stokes

We did it!

Arrived at 1455hours
1,038 miles later.
Many thanks. Mark & Paul

Thursday 16 September 2010

Day 22 - North Cornwall coast

Day 22 - the penultimate day's cycling from Padstow to St. Ives and for once we had both fine weather and a tail-wind, the first since Day 4 in Sutherland, north-west Scotland almost three weeks ago.
However, the terrain along the north Cornwall coast is unremitting and every downhill surge is followed by a hard slog uphill. Consequently. it was past 6pm when we finally reached St. Ives after a mere 48 mile slog.

We're aiming to arrive at Land's End sometime tomorrow afternoon.

Robbo along the North Cornwall coast!

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Day 21: Two Moors and a Broken Chain

After yesterday's monsoon, morning brought us fine weather - for once.

On the road soon after nine, Robbo was worried about his chain - and with good reason: it broke a mile outside Launceston. However, the very friendly staff at Launceston Cycles soon fixed it and provided us both with coffee, tea and sound advice. Certainly, the most helpful bike store ever experienced and many thanks to Lisa, Nigel and Mike.

The fiercest of head-winds all afternoon, but once in sight of the Atlantic our route turned to the south and onwards to Rock before crossing the estuary to Padstow.

Good photo of Robbo outside the Pity Me Inn!

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Day 20: Bickleigh - Bearslake in the rain

We've averaged less than 6 miles per hour today, due to the undulating Devon countryside, incessant rain and attempts to book our return passage by train from St Ives: you cannot book accommodation for bicycles without a ticket reservation and...

Nevertheless, having spent much of the afternoon in the library (on the Net) of a very wet Okehampton, escaped by way of the 'Granite Railway Line' bike route to Bearslake, also on the edge of Dartmoor. Just 39 miles cycled today, but we have crashed through the 900 mile total.

Monday 13 September 2010

Day 19: Bridgwater - Bickleigh

Two Big Cheeses?  No, actually it's Robbo standing in front of a scaled-down representation of the Sun on the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal.  As you cycle along the towpath you pass similar models of the Planets - or at least those that haven't been nicked!  

By 6.30 pm this evening we had crossed the border into Devon and reached the village of Bickleigh on the River Exe. 886 miles covered since we left Wick (849 from John o' Groats).

Stokes's 'Stealth Bike' required a bit of a service first thing (trouble with the pedals as it turned out) followed by a puncture mid-afternoon. Some route-finding issues in Taunton town centre, although most of the day was spent on canal towpaths - the Bridgwater and Taunton and the Great Western to Tiverton, the cleanest canal ever witnessed and scores of wildfowl to boot - Ducks, Moorhen and 'Robbo Birds' (Coots, as in bald as a!)...

After Tiverton and with rain threatening, we called it a day at Bickleigh and checked-in at the pub bed and breakfast.

Spotted on the Somerset/Devon border!  Now there's a heart-warming example of generosity. 

Sunday 12 September 2010

Day 18: Wrington - Bridgwater

After our 83 mile epic on Saturday, we made it to the home of Lee and Dave Thorneywork, their grown-up children Matthew, Ellen and Dave's mother Betty, at the base of the Mendip Hills. Dave was a West Midlands officer based at Solihull and then Steelhouse Lane police stations, before he transferred to Avon and Somerset Police from where he retired in 2008. Before he married Lee, she had been nanny to comedian Jasper Carrot's family.

Anyway, Lee and Dave provided Paul and Mark with food, lodging and (of course) too much beer! Then on Sunday morning, after a fine breakfast cooked by Betty, Dave joined the boys on their cycle through Somerset to Bridgwater. Glorious sunshine and once they had climbed into the Mendips, fine views across the Somerset Levels.  They stopped for a light lunch in the City of Wells, dining al fresco in front of the Cathedral - the area more recently renowned as the scene of the 'bloodbath' at the end of the movie, 'Hot Fuzz'!

In Glastonbury, well known for its Arthurian connections and 'alternative' culture, the boys tucked into tea and cake before heading west across the Levels and bird reserves to Bridgwater.  Lee joined them for great tapas, beer and footie on the hotel bar TV, before returning to Wrington by car with both her husband and his bicycle on board.  Only 41miles covered today, but the most relaxing and enjoyable day's cycling of the trip to date.

The below photograph shows Dave Thorneywork with Robbo and a distant Glastonbury Tor behind them.

Saturday 11 September 2010

Day 17: Hay-on-Wye to Wrington

After Friday's deluge, it was still raining when the boys said goodbye to 'father figure' Ron Stokes and left Hay-on-Wye. Luckily, the rain soon stopped and 25 miles later in Abergavenny the sun was out and the
roads were dry. An easy ride to Usk followed by a hard slog to Chepstow before crossing the Severn Bridge into England. However, the industrial estates around Severn Beach were all but never ending in
the ride towards the Avonmouth Bridge (yes, cyclists cross alongside motor vehicles on the M5 crossing). A final 15 mile ride to the Somerset village of Wrington and the home of friends Lee and Dave Thorneywork. At 8pm this was the latest finishing to date.

Friday 10 September 2010

Day 16: Rhayader - Hay-on-Way

We had hoped to make Abagavenny by Friday evening, but another rain-drenched day put paid to that great plan. At least we got to see more Red Kites circling outside Rhayader as we headed south. Light lunch in Builth Wells in a cafe that didn't mind us dripping over their furniture. Ditto at a posh venue at Glasbury serving excellent cakes.

Argh, the joys of cycling in the rain! We finally gave up the ghost in Hay-on-Wye, to be met by retired Sergeant Ron Stokes. Ron had brought us a change of clothing - and an excuse to go on the pop!'

Thursday 9 September 2010

Day 15: Penmaenpool - Rhayader

By far the hardest day's cycling in terms of vertical ascent - courtesy of the Sustrans cycle route number 8. Indeed, if you're weighed down with luggage (like our heroes!) this is a labour from hell.
After Dolgellau it was up, up, up, followed by repeated losses during the descents to Machynlleth, Llanindloes and Llangurig.
Best parts of the day? Views of the Llyn Clywedog reservoir and sightings of numerous birds of prey, primarily Red Kites. Robbo spotted 20 soaring above the valley outside Rhayader'

A well-earned pint outside George III hotel!

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Day 14: Caernarfon to Penmaenpool. This has been a day of castles:

Caernarfon, Criccieth and Harlech. With Caernarfon Castle bathed in late summer sunshine, we followed the Welsh Highland Railway Sustrans route, before diverting to Criccieth.

A fine ice-cream and coffee at Cadwalladers with one of the best views in the world out to sea. Then on to Porthmadog, Criccieth and Barmouth.

Managed to just miss out on a heavy shower (sheltering with a coffee in a beach-side cafe), before crossing the Barmouth toll bridge and following the former railway line inland to Penmaenpool. Herons agogo in the estuary and a great hotel room in the former station - axed by Dr Beeching half a century ago. Paul reckons this has been our best day's cycling yet: he's right, but don't tell him!'

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Day 13 - Escaping the Dublin deluge

Tuesday dawned with blue skies, but as we walked through Dublin's fair city evidence of yesterday's gale force downpour could be seen in the dozens of wrecked umbrellas that lay abandoned on the pavements. Fast ferry to Holyhead and a 30 mile cycle through Anglessey and on to Caernarfon via the former slate mine railway line. Another great B&B in the Investiture city.'

Monday 6 September 2010

Day 12

After yesterday's 71 mile cycle ride from Belfast to Blackrock (the last 30 in pouring rain), today we'd hoped for some better weather. Some hope! A fantastic and cheap B&B in Blackrock .... but outside a gale was howling.
After a great Irish breakfast, we delayed our departure till 12 noon in the hope the rain would pass.... As if! There followed the worst day's cycling either of us has ever experienced!
Fifty-four miles to Dublin in torrential rain and with the joy of a gale-force head-wind. Moreover, as we entered the capital there was so much surface water in places we were aqua-planing ... a novelty on a bike!
Hollyhead to Caernarfon tomorrow. Can it get any worse?!

Sunday 5 September 2010

Day 11 - Blowing a gale!

We're currently drying out at a bar in Blackrock - where outside it's howling a gale!

Here's a picture of our crossing from Northern Ireland into the Republic of Ireland earlier today:

It has been a wet and windy day!

Saturday 4 September 2010

Day 10 - Troon to Belfast

We're now in Belfast and meeting an IPA colleague and PSNI friend (Pete) in an hour, for a much deserved drink after a rain-soaked day.

Friday 3 September 2010

Day 9 report

The Islay - Mull of Kintyre ferry took more than two hours, leaving us less than 35 minutes to cycle the six miles to the next ferry across to the Isle of Arran. We made it in the nick of time, the crew very kindly lowering the bow door to allow us passage!

A light lunch at Lochranza on Arran before starting the strenuous climb and 14 mile cycle ride to Brodick. The crossing to Ardrossan and Ayrshire marked our departure from the Inner Hebrides, accompanied by Fulmars, Dolphins and several Basking Sharks.

Finally, the 17 mile bike ride to Troon and the end of the Scottish section of our marathon.

Now in Troon

We've just made it to Troon and found a good bead and breakfast ready for tomorrow morning's Seacat crossing to Larne...... a full report to follow!

Race against time

We've just hada race across the Mull to catch a ferry to Lochranza on the Isle of Arran.
We're now at Brodick o Arran waiting for a ferry to Androssan on the mainland. The weather is beautiful again.

Another ferry crossing.....

Now on a ferry from Port Ellen on Islay to Kennacraig on the Mull of Kintyre.

It's another gorgeous day weatherwise and we could do with some sun cream!

Robbo was in bed by 9pm last night and Stokesy an hour later..... both of us were shattered after a tiring few days cycling and island hopping. It was nothing to do with the single malt!

Thursday 2 September 2010

Day 8 - R & R on Jura and Islay

Just a couple of pictures for now -  a write up will follow later.

R & R on Jura and Islay

Distillery - Bruichladdich (Robbo's feet sticking out the top!)

On Jura and Islay

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Day 7 Late Update

We're now at the Isle of Jura hotel on Jura.
So far we've covered more than 300 miles and raised £834 for Marie Curie cancer hospices.

Apart from watching Robbo's antics with a new tyre, the best bit of the afternoon's journey from Oban - Islay was seeing a Grey Seal (watching us) and three Dolphins racing alongside the ferry.

Day 7 update

Dear all - we're now on a ferry from Oban to Islay. We've just seen a grey seal and three dolphins!
We had planned to get off at Colonsay, but if we do will be stranded for a week!
Instead will be cycling 10 miles on Jura tonight to the hotel we've just booked.

A couple of pictures from earlier today:

The Marie Curie cancer care - 'Field Of Hope'

Robbo on safari!

Day 7 - South Uist - Islay

Today will be a day of ferries:
first the 0855hrs from Lochboisdale to Oban, where Robbo needs a new tyre for his bike and then on to Port Askaig on Islay.