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Northumberland - The cycling gem of the North

Northumberland has 1936 square miles, including some of the quietest roads and most beautiful scenery in the UK. It is somewhere I have visited many times and I never tire of the views or the friendly people here.

Although we were staying in Felton for my birthday weekend, which is not too far from the coast, the two rides we had planned were further inland, where there is a feeling of remoteness, despite being less than an hour from Newcastle.

The route we followed -

The ride on day one began in Rothbury. This circuit of approximately 30 miles was rolling from start to finish. The main climb was to Winter's Gibbet, which although is not at all steep, is extremely exposed, as it sits within the wild Northumberland National Park moorland. Once you are past the slightly eerie lone gallows, where William Winters was hanged after committing a murder back in 1792, the descent begins; not steep but a wonderfully smooth road surface running alongside a forest. It heads in such a straight direction that the road seems to stretch out for miles ahead of you.

Although I can't speak on behalf of every motorist north of Newcastle, the very few cars we did see passed us with generous space and often with a smile or friendly toot of the horn.

The weather was surprisingly mild and my one layer of jersey and arm warmers kept me comfortable throughout the ride - unheard of in February!

Back in Rothbury we had a tasty pie from a bakery, before heading to The Northumberland Arms in Felton, which comes highly recommended for the gorgeous accommodation (who doesn't love a free standing bath in a bedroom?), delicious food and top notch hospitality.

Pictured is our Pretty Gritty Heathermoss jersey which pairs perfectly with navy or bottle green.

Day number two began with Eggs Royale at The Northumberland Arms - Well known for its powerful hill climbing properties, or so I hoped.

We headed south and after a brief wander around Morpeth, we drove to the village of Stamfordham to begin our ride.

Under slightly more overcast skies, I donned the Pretty Gritty Meadow gillet for warmth and we set out on another 30 mile loop on the quiet country lanes.

The route we followed -

This ride had less elevation than the first route but included one climb from the #100GreatestClimbs book which was The Ryals. This is apparently one of the best known climbs in Northumberland. Consisting of two main ramps, there is unfortunately a steady build up before that, which although only 7% means you are already shifting through the gears before the first serious section appears. At 15%, I was out of the saddle and stamping on my pedals, and just as you crest the brow, the second rise appears like a wall in front of you. A short sharp 20% plus section follows and then the road smooths out as you approach the village of Ryal itself.

We returned to the car just in time, as the grey skies turned to rain and we headed back down the road towards Yorkshire.

It's always good to do something you enjoy on your birthday and for me, exploring new places on two wheels definitely ticks that box.

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