Anna Hughes sets off on a 72-day, 4000 mile cycle around the coast of Britain. The journey is full of adventure, magnificent landscapes and the kindness of strangers who provide accommodation for Anna during her trip. The title of the book perfectly sums up the focus of this journey, the daily task of pedaling, eating, sleeping and then doing it all the next day.
This is a familiar story of someone who gives up their job to go on a long-distance cycling trip. Anna is clear that you do not need to travel far to find adventure:
"I hadn't wanted to travel halfway round the world to have my adventure. This was about finding the unusual hidden within the usual, about seeking adventure from the things that we take for granted."
The book is divided into five parts with a map at the start of each part showing the route. There is one chapter per day of cycling and most of the chapters are just a few pages long. It is an easy read with a mixture of short conversations, journey descriptions and the thoughts of the author.
Anna does the journey a bit differently to some of the other cyclists who have published similar books. She uses her contacts to hook up with other cyclists along the way. They accompany her for parts of the journey. Her previous job at Sustrans, who manage the National Cycle Network, provided invaluable access to Sustrans staff across the country who were happy to join Anna for sections of the ride. She also uses the website Warmshowers.org to find cyclists who are happy to provide fellow cyclists with free accommodation.
I looked forward to reading about Anna's impressions of Scotland. She cycles to Cape Wrath, something that I have always wanted to do, but she doesn't enjoy it because the road is in a terrible state. She doesn't say very much about the scenery at Cape Wrath, but you get a good impression of the raw beauty of the place:
"The wind howled across the plateau, rustling the stubby vegetation and whistling between huge bald rocks. I took a deep breath to steady myself, gripping the earth beneath my fingers, and leaned out to look down at the water. The seagulls circled far below, mere dots from this height, the deep blue punctuated with foaming ripples. The ocean stretched into the distance, powerful and beautiful."
I felt that there was generally a lack of detail about the places that are passed through on this journey. For example, in the chapter that covers Rattray Head to Elgin the author cycles 78 miles, but only uses 4 pages to describe it. This is a beautiful part of Scotland with so much to see and do, but you will not get this impression reading this chapter. This book has a lot less detail about people and places when compared to the excellent One Man and his Bike, which i also read. Once I got used to the fact that this book is more about how the journey was and the challenge of completing it than sightseeing and meeting locals I started to get into it and enjoy it.
The author writes in detail about all of the challenges she faces, including terrible weather, hills and long distances. You get the impression that the journey has changed her in a positive way and given her much confidence, which is inspirational to anybody thinking of doing a similar journey.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.