Here is a rudimentary photo essay of my journey around the British Isles by folding bike (for your enjoyment...)
The real start and end of any journey is leaving and returning to home (however you interpret 'home'...)
I started this journey in Northern Ireland, where I grew up, and set off from the rugged North Coast with a folding bike, a backpack and 19 days until I had to be back in London; minimalism is a stalwart of good adventure. I was reminded of that great Leonard Bernstein quote: "To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time."
For the first couple of days I pedalled around theCauseway Coastline, basking in unseasonable sun and realising from the amused look on people's faces that as a grown man riding a folder, I was increasingly reminiscent of the old time circus bears on tiny bicycles...
I reached the Mourne Mountains and began the long slog up Slieve Donard - the first of the Six Peaks
What goes up must come down - this is not exactly downhill mountain biking, but I was able to freewheel down the other side of Donard and begin the journey south. The bike would come up (and down) each hill with me, in an effort to make the journey continuous...
Irish roadsigns were helpful as always...
...and Tipperary wasn't as far away as I was led to believe
In County Kerry an old man berated me for taking pictures of myself...
...but I didn't listen. I crossed the Hag's Glen and scrambled up the Devil's Ladder of Carrantouhil, highest peak in Ireland...
...and reached the summit quite surprised (and invigorated) to be alive. One thing I will never to again is ascend the Devil's Ladder with a bike on my back...
The journey back across Ireland to Dublin was boring, and I'd already cycled the same journey on the way down so I got on a bus for 150 miles
I compounded the enjoyment of not having to ride a silly bicycle with a celebratory Guinness (but no oysters...) before hopping on a ferry to Wales
After cycling like a madman across Anglesey, I watched the bowed evening light fade over a mirrored lake...
...and set off the next morning up Pen-Y-Pass to the base of Snowdon (my third Peak.)
The climb was so beautiful, and the summit so spectacular, that I almost forgot about the stupid heavy bike on my back
One reward followed another, this time calorific goodness
Bloated from too many egg rolls, I treated myself to a rare night inside. My folding bike went under my bunkbed, and I met a German jenga champion...
The following day I rode along the North Welsh Coast to Liverpool and spent a full 25 minutes in that fine city before jumping on board a boat to the Isle of Man
I set off from sea level at Laxey Beach and rode, walked and climbed my way to the summit of Snaefell (Peak number 4.) On the way down I pedalled along the Isle of Man TT route (racing the leather clad motorbikers) and caught the evening ferryto Heysham back on the mainland
One of my favourite things about Britain is how you can hop over a hedge from a main road, walk 100 or 200 yards and have the most wonderful campsite all to yourself
I sweated my way north, but again got bored of endless pedalling with tiny wheels and a vertical stem that gave me all the streamlining of an elephant...
...and so I hopped on a train to cover 50 miles to the Lake District. On the way I had a lovely nap and a cup of tea, and didn't feel in the slightest bit guilty
The Lake District was in fine form, and I summited Scafell Pike in just a couple of hours. So too, it seemed, did half of England, such were the hoards on the hill that day. I quickly left and cycled north towards Scotland
Trying to make forward progress on a folding bike is like eating soup with a fork; you know somethings happening, but damned if you can see any results. Such was my slow and grey journey to the Highlands.
I was lucky to catch a rare glimpse of Ben Nevis, peak number six; it's craggy north face jutting out beneath the cloud in the middle-right of this picture
The climb was long, the summit grey, the reward: palpable. I was reminded of a great quote from the book 'Mountain Days and Bothy Nights'...
...and that night I went further north still to Loch Lochy (the lochiest loch around?) to spend a lovely, peaceful, atmospheric and midge-y evening on it's shores.
My return home was via the sleeper train from Fort William. I drank single malt Scotch and toasted the scenery as I sped south, leaving behind all that had gone before.
I arrived in London at 8.50am and watched everyone dash about in a mad, stressful panic to get to work on time. I would have given anything to return immediately to the hills.
This journey was daft and frustrating; too hot then too cold; too sweaty and tiring and boring. It was also one of the most fun adventures I have ever had, in large part due to all the above factors. The eccentricity of my means of transport was a great conversation starter. The scenery was as good as anywhere in the world. This was, above all else, a really good adventure.
A good adventure, I think, does not rely on expertise (although these things can help.) Nor does it necessarily require money, time, planning or any of the other things I didn't have on this journey. A good adventure is one where, more often than not, we make a decision to choose the challenging yet rewarding option over that which is easy and comfortable; it is one on which we have fun, either at the time or (equally often) retrospectively. Ultimately I think the marker of a good adventure is very internal and relies on us feeling like we have been challenged, and have not let ourselves down.
We, individually, are the best judge of that. Most people reading this will probably be much more competent than me, so I urge you to go, and keep going - it's a fine world for wandering.
If you found this interesting and are keen on this type of low budget/low-maintenance adventuring, then let me direct you to the superb microadventure project of Alastair Humphreys - small, short, close to home adventures for anyone and everyone. An excellent and succinct call to arms and instruction manual for how to get out there.
And finally...my first book - The Road Headed West - is out now, telling the story of my journey across North America by bicycle. Read it here