Category: travel

Basque Country Appendix

I was in the Basque Country as part of a longer tour from St Malo to Santander in Autumn 2011. I cycled down the Landes coast, from Bordeaux to get there.

I blogged about the Basque bit of my trip here; that’s the colour, this is the practicalities of the journey.

My planned route was heavily influenced by molesoup, who blogged about the route they took from Hendyne to Santander.  I  decided to head inland from Bayonne, rather than head  further down the coast to the border. I also ended up heading coastward a bit earlier than them.

The Basque country is crisscrossed with pilgrm routes and as such there’s good provision of cheap, basic accommodation.  Some of it is only available to those carrying a Pilgrims Credential, worth getting your hands on one if you can.


I had great weather, warm but not to hot, with a mix of cloud cover and sunshine, no rain. Although I was informed that the weathers not usually this good and indeed I had just missed heavy flooding.

Day 1 : Bayonne

16th November 2011. Zero Kilometres



Together Bayonne, Anglet, and Biaritz make up one urban sprawl. Bayonne is the one with the history and character. Biaritz is grand and has lots of surfers, and Anglet kind of joins them up. You can probably tell which one I rated.

Unfortunately the Musée Bonnat art gallery was closed for refurbishment.

Accommodation: I stayed at the Hotel Monbar, located in the old town, the internal open stair well was pretty cool, and free wifi.

Day 2: Bayonne to Elizondo

17th November 2011. 65km.

I started off round the coast on the cycle track, to check out Biarritz, then headed inland along the D255 to St-Pee-San-Nivelle. A Short stretch on the D3 takes me to the border. From the Border the N121b heads up over the Puerto de Oxtondo (602m), then down into the Baztan Valley.

Accommodation; I stay at the Kortarixar Aterpea (Albergue)  in Elizondo

Day 3: Elizondo to Tolosa

18th November 2011. 63km.

Carry on along the valley bottom on the N121b, heading towards Doneztebe/Santesteban, from here I took the NA170. There’s a steady climb of 26km from here up to the Porte de Usateguieta (695m), then some down to Leitza.  Theres a bonus bump (495m) , but then it downhill all the way to Tolosa on the GI2130.


Market day in Tolosa

The tourist information in Tolosa were super helpful with advice about onward accommodation and route choices.

Accomodation: I stayed at the Municpal Youth Hotel in Tolosa, just 7 euros for a dorm bed.

Day 4: Tolosa to Deba

19th November 2011.  63km.

Leave Tolosa in the direction of Villabona.  There are some backroads, but you’ll end up on the N1 for a short distance,. From Villabona you cross the railway and backtrack a little (there might be a way to avoid this), before taking the GI 2631 over to Zarautz. From here i took the N634 round the coast to Zumaia, i was a little worried it would be busy, but it was quiet.  Stay on this road over another hill to Deba.


The Busy coastal port of Zumaia

Accommodation: I stayed in the Pilgrim Hostel (keys from the tourist info, but you need a pilgrim credential)

Day 5: Deba to Bakio

20th November 2011. 72km.

To leave Deba cross over the bridge by the train station and take the GI 638 round the coast to Lekeitio.  From here there’s a choice of carrying on round the coast, but i choose to follow some cute boys on bikes along the BI 2238 to Gernika.  From Gernika the BI 2235 to Bermeo isn’t to hilly, but be warned the cycle path out of Bermeo is crazy steep (25% maybe). The BI 3101 to Bakio is very pretty.

Accommodation: I stayed at the very lovely Turismo Rural Gaubeka, the only drawback is that it was up a pretty steep hill.

Day 6:  Bakio to Bilbao

21st November 2011.  50km.

Carrying on along the BI 31o1, the day starts with a climb,   – but the views worth every revolution as you look out over yesterdays hills.  I then caried on round the coast on the BI 3152, and then the BI 2122 and BI 637.  In Algorta I spotted a cycle way that followed the dual carriage way a good way along the estuary.  The cycle way ends near the Potrugalete suspension bridge.  From here I just kept the river on my right and made for Bilbao proper.

Portugalete Suspension Bridge

The Portugalete Suspension Bridge


Day 7: Bilbao

22nd November 2011. Zero km.

Bilbao is a great city – spent a rest day checking out the Guggenheim and eating lots of great food in the old town.


Bilbao - great city


Accommodation: I stayed at the Botxo Gallery Hostel – million dollar views straight over the river and the Guggenheim, for 17 euros a night.

Day 8: Bilbao to Laredo

23rd November 2011. 65km.

I once again kept the coast on my right to leave the city, although you could backtrack to Portugalete and cross the river at the rather cool suspension bridge.  Then headed towards Castro-Urdiales on the N634, then on to Laredo.  I took longer to get out of the city (or more rightly cities) than i thought, and its not pretty.  On the bright side traffic was mostly light.


Alot of the day is spent going under and over the main highway

Day 9 Laredo to Santander

24th November 2011. 35km.

You can take in 2 different ferries on the route between Laredo and Santander – you can take bikes on both for a small surcharge. The first ferry takes you from  the tip of the Laredo peninsular to Santona.  I then followed the CA 141 to Somo and caught another small ferry (operated by Los Reginas) to Santander.  You can also catch this ferry at Pendrena. You dock right into the heart of Santander , next to the international ferry port – convenient.

Test ickles

an ickle tiny first tour

Testing my bike, and myself with a little mini tour.  After the incessant rain,  a weather window coincided with time off. Finished work mid afternoon and got the bike all loaded up then headed off South.

In an effort to recreate the forthcoming tour as completely as possible I got a ferry. OK so only across Winderemere, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to catch a ferry.

Windermere Ferry

The Windemere Ferry


The back roads to Cartmel, are very back, and not very road. Very cute though with grass down the middle – less cute with a hedge trimmer in full flow (no punctures though – first test passed!).

Cartmel village mostly means Pony club camp to me – so i have a big soft spot for it. I Stayed at the Cartmel Camping and Caravan site – which is right in the middle of the village. The village is pretty posh and very cute.  As I rode in, this sign greeted me -a good omen for me and my steel bike.

Steel Bikes

Good omen


Day two dawned with blue skys and a full moon. Time to decamp and head back to the Lakes

View to the Lakes

blue skys, heading home

Headed out to Greenod, picking up a bit of Cycle route 20 throught the Holker Estate, before heading down the east of Coniston Lake – Also time to test out my arty ‘me with bike somewhere pretty shots’ – not bad for a beginner!

Still Waters on Coniston

To pretty not to get the camera out


Nearly home and only one last thing, to ensure that all real tour ingredients where simulated fully – Cake.


In my head there will be lots of cake


Stove Choices

Which Stove? There’s 3 options really – Multifuel, Gas, or Trangia?

Tools of the trade, originally uploaded by lenoclimb.

I pretty much hated the Multifuel (petrol) stove we used have – well maybe it hated me – anyway i found it all a bit complicated and hard to cook on and not very stable and basically a pain in the arse. Then it broke. So that one got stuck from the list pretty quick.

So down to gas or Trangia – and it came down to enjoyment more than weight really. I just like cooking on Trangia’s more. There’s something quite methodical and calming about it all.

So yeah I bought myself a wee 27-2UL.


I have a [nother] plan – this one is to take myself and a bike off on a trip for a few months.

The plan was dreamt up in the heat of being newly dumped and hurting real bad.  The thing I most wanted was to be far away, the otherside of the world might just do. I’m not so newly dumped any more, but I”m still planning on going.

I think that i’m probably a tourer at heart.  I may ride a road bike – but i’m never going to be fast -and i love the big long days on the road (see, tourer).  There’s also some soul mending to be done, a restlessness that needs to be put to bed.  The journeys not about fixing me – but maybe more working out what it is that needs fixing.

If that all sounds quite dark – don’t worry it’s not. I’m quite excited by it too. Here’s some thoughts on destination

The other side of the world: New Zealand

It’s an amazing country – I’ve been and want to go back.  In particular i want to see more of the south island.  It’ll be right in terms of seasons – i’d be going for NZ summer.  I’ll also maybe never get a better opportunity to go back than this.

Set off from Home : Europe

This one is edging it slightly at the moment – it’s the one i feel more, but it needs more research.  I have some thoughts about what it might be like -but i need to investigate the reality.  I like the idea of not flying – and of setting off from home (although i don’t really have a home, but i know what i mean).  I like the idea of seeing France, and Spain, and Italy.  The language thing scares me a little – and the weather might not be that good.


Border Riding

I cycled from Gretna Green to Berwick-upon-Tweed yesterday.  107 miles, following the border on the Scottish side as close as the roads would allow.  It’s part of a bigger plan to cycle round the whole of Scotland, in bits.

Early starts were the order of the day, to catch the 6.50am (!) train from Windermere, and yes i cycled to the train. By 8.30am, and 3 seperate train rides,  i was stood on a very bleak platform in Scotland.  Sorry Gretna, but that station is bleak.

The first 25 miles took me to Newcastleton – The public loos there have a shower in (how good is that!).

By about 40 miles i was having a bit of a slump – which combined with a headwind and a slog of a climb to produce the worst 10 miles of the ride.  A cup of tea saved the day.  I just had a recollection that there was a Tea van at the Cater Barr summit.

The Best Cup of Tea in the World

The road from Cater Bar to Yetholm was awesome – single track, through great hills, but surprisingly amenable riding considering the scenery.  Note to self – go back to this area


The plan had been to stop in Town Yetholm (66miles)  for lunch.  Unfortunately i arrived a few minutes to late for real food.

lunch (ten past 2 style)

From Coldstream it seemed downhill (zoom zoom) all the way to Berwick.


Well timed arrival into Berwick, just in time to throw myself and bike onto a train to Edinburgh – which seemed very busy after seeing about 50 cars all day (seriously the roads in the Borders are deserted!)

I’ll add a map at some point.  (oh look i actually did)

Map & Directions

There’s a googlemap here

BorderRide on googlemaps

The directions I wrote for myself are here -  GoogleDoc : Gretna > Berwick