We love to travel by bike so when we came across a bike ride that spans the width of England and involves visiting ancient Roman sites, we were in! We booked our trip with only 2 weeks notice, which drastically limited our accommodation options but we got lucky and stayed in some sweet places. The ride was challenging but the kids did great. It was a rollercoaster of emotions for all of us so we renamed the ride “The Most Terrible Horrible Best Bike Ride Ever. Click “read more” below to see how we did. There is also a YouTube video with more details!Read more: Our Family Bike Tour across England Via Hadrian’s Wall
We took the train from Peterborough to Newcastle. We changed trains in Newcastle and headed to Carlisle. Because of the direction of the wind, this bike ride is typically done from west to east.
From the Carlisle Train Station we biked to the Cartref Guest House. This hotel is a family owned brownstone style home. On the top floor there is a cozy family room which we loved. The breakfast was delicious, the owners were friendly and very accommodating about our bikes!
We walked to town for dinner and found a great little dessert spot called The Sweet Tooth This place has every imaginable option for dessert. And believe it or not, this was the only time during the trip that we were stuck in a rainstorm!
Stats: 35miles (56km) and 2500 feet (760 meters) of elevation gain.
We started our journey from the Cartref Guest House and hopped on the Hadrian’s Wall Cycle Path. We were hoping to begin farther along the western coast but due to our last minute travel planning, all accommodations were booked. Carlisle was our only option.
Miles 1-10 were pretty mellow, miles 10-14 harder because of the hills, and miles 15-35 required lots of climbing. I was biking with a 37 pound (17kg) pack which was getting really heavy. I shed some tears.
We took at break at Birdoswald Roman Fort and had our first encounter with Hadrian’s Wall. We biked from there to Gilsland, where we found a great Children’s Play Area with a fun hill slide.
We biked from Gilsland to another wonderful playground called, Bardon Mill Village Hall Play Area in Hexham Bardon Mill. I missed most of this playground because I was exhausted and decided to lay down and get some rest. The playground was great though and the kids loved it.
The last stretch of this day was exhausting. Sometimes the hardest part of any long and physically demanding day are those last few miles. I was looking forward to our hotel and ready for the ride to be over.
Our first night we stayed at The Twice Brewed Inn which also had a wonderful family room. The family room had a large bed, bunk beds, and a bathtub which was great for my tired legs. The food was delicious, the beer was good, and the pub seemed pretty fun. Had we been without our three children, we probably would have spent more time there!
Stats: 29 miles (47km), 1390 ft (424m) ascent, 1906 ft descent
We biked from our hotel to Housesteads Roman Fort.
Set high on a hill next to Hadrian’s Wall, World Heritage Site, Housesteads Roman Fort takes you back in time to the Roman Empire. We wandered the site and admired the views. It’s wild to think that 2,000 years ago this was a thriving Roman Fortress! This site has a lovely gift shop and is a great place to stop, wander, and rest.
The section just after Housesteads to Hexham was my favorite. It was beautiful, there wasn’t much traffic, and it was mostly downhill.
We found another great playground called Tyne Green Country Park where the kids had ice cream and played.
As we started up the hill leaving Corbridge, one of the links on my bike chain broke. So we stopped and repaired the chain. I was tired and annoyed that the bike chain issue slowed us down. Then to make matters worse, the section from Corbridge to the next turn off was on the shoulder of a very busy road. The cars were driving fast and there wasn’t a lot of room for us which made me nervous. Luckily the section didn’t last long and we ended up alongside a local cyclist that biked with us. He told us a lot about the area, took us to Wylem and delivered us to the Ship Inn.
This was my favorite hotel. It’s a pub with hotel rooms upstairs. The rooms were charming, the pub had great food, a delicious breakfast, and a super cute dog!
Stats: 23 miles (37km), 1400 ft (427m) ascent, 1400 ft descent
On day three we biked from Wylem to Newcastle. This was probably the least scenic of all our days. Some of the areas coming into Newcastle were industrial and not very appealing. However once we got closer to the city, biking along the river and across the Milennium Bridge was great. Newcastle was a busy, colorful, and friendly town.
We took the children to The Discovery Museum which was wonderful. Rain was forecasted for the afternoon so we tucked into this museum for and waited for the rain to pass.
I didn’t take much video at the museum. But I highly recommend a vist. Use the following link to check out their website.
Unfortunately Newcastle wasn’t our last stop, we still had to finish the ride to Whitley Bay. One pedal stroke at a time and we made it.
We arrived in Whitley Bay and stayed at The Hotel 52; Sure Hotel Collection by Best Western. This hotel was basic and had another great family room option on the top floor. They were accommodating about our bikes and the staff was very friendly. We found some delicious Indian food down the street and went to bed early!
Stats: 19 miles (31km), 51 ft (15m) ascent
We started our day and decided to explore the coastline. We heard about a lighthouse up the road so we went to check it out. St Mary’s Lighthouse is a beautiful spot to visit. The lighthouse can only be accessed via causeway during low tide. It’s a great spot for seeing the sea lions and has lovely views.
On our way back to the hotel from St. Mary’s Lighthouse we hit our 100 mile mark!
We spent some time playing at the beach before heading in for lunch.
One of the staff members at the hotel tipped us off to a pleasure park and the kids were relentless about checking it out. While these places aren’t my favorite family excursions, Peter sided with the kids. He argued that it was the least we could do to repay them for how awesome they were for biking so far. Because of our ride to this site, we tacked on a few extra miles to our total distance.
On our way home from the pleasure park, I got a little too ambitious on a turn and ended up falling off my bike with Shiloh on the back. It was pretty scary for both of us. Luckily the driver heading toward us was paying attention. He immediately stopped, and got out of the car to make sure we were ok. Luckily we were fine. Neither of us were hurt, just a little shaken up. This moment was a reminder that it’s absolutely essential to wear a helmet, and to bike conservatively when biking with children.
Stats: 16miles (26km) 650 feet (198 meters) of ascent
On our last day we biked back to Newcastle from Whitley Bay and caught the train home. As we wrapped up our adventure. What I felt most was pride. We embarked on an ambitious journey and we made it! We had more joy than tears, And even though everyone, except Peter, fell off their bikes, no one got hurt. And now that it’s over, it’s especially satisfying to know that as a family, we biked across England!
For a more detailed look at our ride, some gorgeous views and laughs check out our YouTube video!
Thank you for the beautiful write-up, for 10+ yrs now I’ve cherrished your blog and am so grateful to have this as a wonderful reminder of all the beautiful things we’ve done together as a family. It’ll make it easy to go back and repeat these same trips many years from now and hopefully the same little cute B&Bs will still be available