Date of travel: Tuesday 28th July 2020
The alarm clock rang at 5.30 am and for a change, I leapt out of bed and didn’t waste time faffing or having too many cups of coffee. Just the one.
Exciting day ahead! It’s the Three Pubs Challenge.
You’ve heard of The Three Peaks Challenge where hikers conquer the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales in 24 hours. This is similar. The similarity being the words in “The Three” and “Challenge”. This one is riding your motorcycle and visiting the three highest pubs in Wales, England and Scotland. This is the order we rode in as we live in Wales.
A decision was made the night before not to load the bags first thing as the Sportsman’s Arms – the highest pub in Wales means riding away from the house to pass it again.
We reached the Sportsman’s Arms in one piece after the morning started with me dropping my helmet, nearly being taken out by a white van driver on a narrow country road (and never slowed down when passing us), and then dropping my phone when we stopped at the pub. Three mishaps within an hour, I figured we were safe going forward. Well, kind of.
The morning was beautiful, the sun shining through the rain clouds, making the views very atmospheric and the threat of rain never far away. It was 6 am, the pub was closed, we parked up, we took some photos and went back home for breakfast. And more coffee! Plus our bags for the next few days.
The next bit of the journey was via the A55 and the motorways, not very exciting until we turned off at Preston and followed the A59 to Ingleton. We were hoping for a more adventurous ride and to explore the lanes in the Forest of Bowland but the weather had turned, it was pouring down with rain and we were getting really cold. I was starting to shiver so much my feet were slipping off the pegs.
I spotted The Courtyard, and using the internationally recognised hand gestures for a let’s stop and have a brew we turned off at what looked like a cluster of shops and a cafe. It didn’t look very open but I needed to stop and add another layer to my clothing. Luckily, despite all the covid rules, the cafe was open and we were able to warm up with a hot drink and dry off a bit.
The weather had improved slightly once we reached Ingleton and we had a beautiful ride past the Ribblehead Viaduct and over to Hawes. A fuel stop was required and I was requested to move the visor down (I kept the helmet on) before approaching the counter by the woman sitting at her till with the mask on and behind the perspex wall. Because she could see my nose she insisted, I kept the visor down. Some people are so much fun.
The next bit of the journey was pure joy, the views were spectacular and the road reasonably well kept with not too many potholes and gravel on the road.. A couple of sheep crossing the road and the clouds hung low, the temperature still bloody cold but the views made up for it.
On reaching Tan Hill Inn I couldn’t wait to get inside the warm pub. We were about an hour late for our booking granted, and they did get us to a table eventually. Right across from the log burner. Winner, I thought. But there was no heat coming from the log burner, the door to another room was left open with a cold draft and it took 45 minutes to receive a bowl of soup. Hmmm!
While we never got to warm up as hoped, we at least had some food in us and we rode towards the M6 motorway where we joined it at Tebay. Time was getting on and there was still plenty of miles to cover.
The wind was relentless but at least the temperature had risen somewhat, plus I was wearing all my layers and wasn’t feeling the cold anymore. As always, it is great riding north because the traffic starts to thin out and the road surface improves. We turned off the M6 just north of Carlisle and took the A7 all the way to Hawick for fuel and a coffee break.
Somewhat on the opposite side of where we were going but the B711 looked like a fun ride and worth the detour and shortening motorway mileage. We weren’t disappointed with the road, the views and the scenery. You could be forgiven to think you are the only person in the world riding alongside the reservoirs, through the woodlands and over the tops of the hills. Nothing but a handful of houses and lots of livestock. Beautiful sights, the grumble of the Akrapovic exhausts and wonderful roads. A slight mishap and the subsequent roadside repair highlighted the fact that motorcycling can be tricky at times.
I have heard from a few people that roads around Moffat are pretty spectacular but the truth is, I think they play it down to stop people from making the roads too busy! I was blown away, it was incredible! Had we not been so tired we would have gone back up and down again just for the sheer fun of it! A steep single track opened up to an amazing lake and valley vista with a superb road running alongside, the house at the end of the lake was for rent but it was a long way to go for a pint of milk!
A quick blast up the A74(M) to junction 14 where we turned off onto A702 and followed B7040 on another epic road high in the peaks of the mountains until we eventually arrived at Wanlockhead. Feeling tired and no signal on the phone I nearly gave up trying to find the pub as it wasn’t on the main road into the village but luckily persevered and stopped for a well deserved drink.
The bartender was a lovely chatty guy and he even took a sticker and added it to the bar’s collection.
A short rest and we mounted our bikes for the last bit of the journey to the Trygony House where we were greeted by the most delicious dinner, incredibly welcoming staff and residents, not to mention the beautiful building in which the hotel resides.
Overall the day saw us ride 375.43 miles and boy, did my body feel every mile of it! This was the longest day on a bike for me, ever. Despite the rain, the cold and the occasional sheep near-miss I was grinning and quite giddy with the excitement of the day but I must confess I failed to finish the bottle of wine I ordered with the dinner.
I thought riding the Three Pubs Challenge was easier than walking The Three Peaks but now I’m not so sure. Although, given the choice, I’d be on the bike again in a heartbeat heading north!