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Lands End to John O'Groats - our 1000 mile adventure, by Sam Maude

Lands End to John O'Groats - our 1000 mile adventure, by Sam Maude

After a Christmas riddled with Covid and a winter locked inside, I’d had enough: I needed a challenge.

As someone who thrives on adventure and diversity, these lockdowns and restrictions were really starting to effect my mental wellbeing and motivation to do anything. So one day at work I messaged my friend, Laurie Kent to suggest the crazy idea of cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats, secretly hoping he would say no. However, Laurie being the fool he is, accepted the proposal…oops!

No backing out now. There we were, two lads in our early twenties, untrained in road biking, zero knowledge of the route with only two months to plan the trip, let alone train for it. What could possibly go wrong?

Well surprisingly, very little... Two months flew by and everything got sorted.

·        Kit arrived - check!

·        Bikes serviced  - check!

·        Bum toughened - check!

·        Route sorted - check!

·        Accommodation organised (ish) - check… kind of.

So there we were, on the 31st April 2021, ready to drive down to Land’s End for the start of our 1,000 mile adventure.


After a 7 hour drive to Cornwall and setting up camp in a pitch black carpark, we woke up to a stunning view overlooking the sea: just the motivation we needed.

A short drive to Land’s End and we were raring to get going. After the protocol of taking our picture by the famous sign (avoiding the usual £10 fee because this was 7am), we boarded our trusty bikes, gave each other a nod and set off.

red tent

The Cornish scenery was spectacular. Rolling hills and beautiful coastline. It felt amazing to be on the road with that sense of adventure. There is nothing that compares and at that point, I felt that annoying itch I’d had all winter was finally being scratched. After 60 miles cycling through Penzance and Truro, we got to our first ‘camp site’ near Fowey. A mate of a mate of Laurie’s Dad had a dairy farm here, we set up camp.

We woke up on day 2 feeling apprehensive as this was our biggest hill day of the entire trip. Over 1800m of elevation lay ahead for our already sore legs. As we were cycling towards Dartmoor, we both started feeling a bit low due to the long hills and initiation of many aches and pains. However, after reaching the top of Dartmoor, we both had this fantastic boost of energy when we saw the breath-taking views surrounding us. It’s incredible how your mood can be catapulted upwards just from your environment – something we were to discover time and time again throughout the trip.

After a beautiful downhill off the moors and a hellish uphill the other side of Moretonhampstead, we arrived at camp number 3 where Katherine (Laurie’s Mum) had prepared us a king-sized dinner of spag bol cooked on a portable BBQ. Just what we needed.

Day 3 and we were off to Glastonbury where we’d get a much welcome roof over our heads and the chance to wash our already hazardously smelling clothes. As we had a beautiful 40 mph wind coming directly from the west, we almost flew the whole way and before we knew it, were relaxing in a hot tub and feeling just a bit smug that we didn’t have to camp that night with gale force winds blowing.


Somerset threw at us something we weren’t expecting: the monster of all hills. Coming out of Wells was the destroyer of all quads, reaching 16% gradient at one point and lasting 2km. I honestly thought my legs were going to explode after that hill (they didn’t). It’s at times like that when just the presence of someone else (Laurie) with the same intentions (climbing the hill) really motivates you to complete your goal. Doing that alone would almost definitely have resulted in walking.

With a quick lunch in Bristol, we said goodbye to Andrew (Laurie’s Dad) who’d been following us on his Ducati Scrambler, and carried on to the looming Severn Bridge. With more gale force winds blowing, we were not feeling happy about the huge crosswinds which lay ahead. So, hand in hand, we slowly wobbled our way across the engineering marvel and 1.6km later, we’d made it into Wales.

That night we had more creature comforts, ditching the tents once again for an Airbnb which my parents (Charlotte & Jason) had rented, near Ross on Wye.

The next day was our shortest, only 50 miles or so to our friend’s house (Kit) in Ludlow. Not much to say about this stint apart from the fact that Kit has a hilarious number of cats, all called Sheelob!

The following day was our biggest. 100 miles all the way to Manchester. Initially the weather seemed to be on our side, and it was all the way up until Crewe. Then, bam, the heavens opened when we were at our least prepared with 30 miles still to go. Those 30 miles were the hardest of the whole trip, with our morale falling through the floor.

Although giving up wasn’t an option, that idea kept playing around in my head over and over as it was impossible not to wonder why I was putting myself through all this. The singular beacon of light which drove us through this period was the knowledge that the money we were raising for Mind over Mountains was going to help so many people get over their own fears. It so happened that we reached our fund-raising target of £3,000 that same day. That knowledge, plus the constant encouragement from the charity was an unprecedented source of motivation and was really the driving force for a lot of the trip, so thank you Mind over Mountains for keeping us going!

For obvious reasons, not many pictures were taken on this leg, but we arrived in Manchester in relatively good spirits and a very welcome steak and chips cooked by my mate Tom.


Manchester to Lancaster was tough. Although the weather was just about alright, we had constant urban riding to our destination. I won’t bore you with this stage as there’s not much to say, apart from don’t cycle in cities, it’s horrible! It made us appreciate all the more the motivation we had gained from the beautiful scenery further south.

Following a great evening in Lancaster with Alice (Laurie’s girlfriend) things weren’t looking good the following morning: rain, rain and more rain for the whole day. Not a lot we could do about it, so we packed our bags, put plastic bags on our feet – not a good look - and hit the road.

This stage fascinated me from a mental perspective. The whole day we were being absolutely drenched, from both sky and road, and missed all the fantastic view the Lakes presumably had to offer. Yet both of us were in such good spirits, especially compared to the Manchester stint. We’d had all sorts of weather thrown at us by now: rain, storms, hail and crazy winds, but we were feeling increasingly confident at our ability to cope with whatever else came our way.

As we were coming into Keswick, the sun finally broke through the clouds and it looked as if there was an oasis in the distance. What a fantastic way to finish a very, VERY wet day.

Alex Staniforth, co-founder of Mind over Mountain came to meet us in Keswick which was brilliant. It was great to learn more about the work they did and truly understand just how important the money we were raising was for the charity.


Today was the border crossing day and a big milestone for the trip. The cycle through the Lakes was spectacular, especially the most northern part as it was so barren. After a long downhill out through Carlisle we reached what was probably the least attractive of all border crossings (Laurie’s face doesn’t help!)

From here to Moffat was probably the dullest route of the entire trip. We were cycling on a service road that followed the A74 all the way. No scenery, no fun roads and worst of all, no podcasts as Laurie’s phone wasn’t working due to the rain…bad news.

Anyway, after God knows how many boring miles, things start to look up when we reach Moffat. Here, a lovely lady called Judith, with her husband and son took us in. Judith was the very best of Scottish hospitality: she’d responded to a post by Laurie’s mum on a farming website asking if we could pitch our tents in fields along our route through Scotland. But instead had insisted we not only stay in her house, but also enjoy a fantastic chicken roast and crumble. Thank you Judith!!! (View from her house below)

tent in house.jpg

The next morning and we’re off to the highlands, though annoyingly via yet more endless miles on that horrible service road. Nothing more to say about that day, other than the last 20 minutes approaching Loch Lomond marking the start of some stunningly beautiful scenery.

Here we met another lovely lady, Kay with her family in their amazing farmhouse overlooking the Loch. She let us set up camp in her green house to avoid the torrential rain. And best of all, brought us fish and chips! It was a real eye-opener to see how kind, supportive and hospitable complete strangers could be throughout the whole trip – especially during these crazy Covid times. I think that was definitely due in part to the fact we were fundraising for such a good cause.


Finally we are in the highlands. Our destination that day was Glen Coe and wowwww, what a ride it was. After being cocooned in jumpers and leggings since Dartmoor, we finally got the opportunity to get our legs out and damn it felt good. Of all days to be gorgeous weather, this was by far the best, the views were spectacular. I won’t ramble on about the beauty, I’d rather let you see for yourself from our pics. Enjoy.

After camping in Glen Coe, we had our eyes set on Inverness. This entailed going through Fort William, down the Caledonian canal and along Loch Ness. Once again the scenery had us mesmerised. At this point, we hadn’t washed our dirty cycling clothes for a good 6 days, so we thought we’d best treat ourselves and stay in a B&B so a mass decontamination could occur!

Two days to go and the days were starting to blur together. Although the scenery is spectacular, our routine was exactly the same every day, so you end up going into this weird autopilot mode. It’s quite a weird sensation forgetting where you’ve come from. Another lovely cycle through northern Scotland and eventually we get to a hotel called ‘The Crask Inn ’.

Surrounded by nothing more than a few sheep and trees, this was by far the most barren pub in the UK. No civilisation around for miles and miles. We got served a lovely three course meal then hit our tents early ready for the last day.hold bikes.jpg

Last day, we pedal to the metal! We woke up excited and confident that we were actually going to make it to our final destination. It was a long one though, about 90 miles and blimey did it feel long. We knew we had to head north until we reached the coast, then turn right and head east, but the coast just never came. Every turn or hill we expected to see the infamous North Sea but it just never happened, it was excruciating!

However, after a lifetime of pedalling, inevitably the big blue came into sight. Unfortunately, what lay between us and John o’Groats were some big coastal hills: just what we didn’t need. Five hills and four chicken, turkey and cheese wraps later, John o’Groats came into sight.

As we cycled down into the slightly strange end point, a huge sense of pride flooded our bodies. We had gone and done it! 1,000 miles (almost), 14 days, 2 unprepared lads, and by then over £4,000 raised. What a day to be alive!!!

Now, having had a chance to reflect on the trip, two factors really stood out for me. The first being my ability to do far more than I thought I was capable of. Overthinking and worrying inevitably brings doubt, which I had a lot of before the trip and this can really bring you down. So really seeing my capabilities helped grow my confidence - not just in cycling, but in all aspects of life, as I now know I am far more capable then I think I am.

The second is the support and generosity of people, be it friends, family or strangers. Everyone we met had such a strong desire to help us in any form possible, and this generosity really motivated us throughout the trip. It goes to show, most people out there are kind and caring, the problem is the media doesn’t portray that and therefore creates fear between strangers.

Feel inspired? If you’d like to fundraise for us you can select us as your charity of choice on JustGiving, if you want any support from us on planning, promotion or just some ideas, drop us a hello.

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