Q: My son and I are planning to cycle the length of the UK in June, 2002, including Wales and Ireland if possible. I need to find out who might help me in planning the route. Can you help? Thanks,
Steve Catterall, Chico, California
A: From pauper to posh, solo to social, there's a UK route planning resource for everyone:
British cycling advocacy group CTC www.ctc.org.uk has downloadable route maps covering all of the UK, including coast-to-coast and end-to-end itineraries in England and Ireland. Info sheets are free to members (membership costs approx. $38 per adult), as is their invaluable advice. Other perks: regional clubs to connect with nationwide, insurance packages designed for traveling cyclists, and discounted rates on rentals and transportation. Cost: low. Planning: high.
The next step up in convenience and cost is a pre-set tour, with or without a guide. Most outfitters stick to shorter routes, but you can cover quite a bit of terrain by piecing together separate itineraries. Himalayan Travel (www.himalayantravelinc.com; 800-225-2380) offers eight self-guided trips in England and Ireland. You could feasibly spend one week in the hills of Yorkshire, the next pedaling between Cotswold castles, and the two after that exploring the Irish peninsulas. The routes and inns are pre-determined, which some people see as a plus (though I'm guessing you won't). Your gear is shuttled from stop to stop. Cost: medium. Planning: low.
An finally there are a few outfitters that will help you design custom self-guided trips, though this option can be prohibitively expensive for a group of two. Holland Bicycling Tours (www.hollandbicyclingtours.com; 800-852-3258) has advisors who will help you set up every detail of your trip, from route advice to lodging, transport, and non-cycling diversions. For ten years they've been designing England itineraries for universities, corporate groups, and private cycling clubs. In Wales and Ireland, however, you're on your own. Cost: high. Planning: medium.