The European North Sea Cycle Route (Eurovelo 12) circumnavigates the whole North Sea. Although inspired by this route, I chose to design an alternative, and maybe even more challenging route. Exploring more of inland Sweden, Norway, Scotland, and England, it included many mountain passes.
This 4,300 km long bike adventure marked the beginning of my emigration to Norway. From my parental hometown of Apeldoorn, The Netherlands, I cycled to Lofthus in Norway to visit the Folk High School at which I was enrolled for a year of outdoor education in August 2006. Since I had a lot of time, I chose to bike back again to The Netherlands. 2006 was the last year car ferries serviced between Bergen in Norway, and Aberdeen in Scotland (via the Shetland Islands). Starting in The Netherlands, I cycled through Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, returning through Scotland and England. After a solo 1400-km stretch to Sweden, my brother Daan joined me for the remaining journey. In Scotland, we met up with our friend Sjoerd, who followed us all the way home on his Puch Maxi moped.
This inland alternative included a total of 34,000 meters of elevation gain. In fact, we did not see the North Sea coast that much. In return, we biked through, over, and along rugged mountains, snow and glaciers, waterfalls, fjords, lakes, forests, and more. It was a truly tough journey with a great variety in both landscapes and cultures.
Landscape-wise, the two most impressive countries were Norway and Scotland. In Norway, we crossed the southern belly of Norway from east to west, via the Østerdal Vally – peaceful and lush – and various mountain passes like Friisvegen, Per Gyntveien, Jotunheimvegen, Valdresflya, Golsfjellet, and the famous Rallarvegen, to the beautiful green/blue fjords of Hardanger. Waterfalls, various rock formations, snow-capped peaks, lakes, and more lakes: we never experienced a dull moment on the bike.
In Scotland, we had to get used to biking on the left side. We were met with sheep, whiskey, bagpipes, and lots of fog. Although we had already crossed sparsely populated areas in Norway, Scotland (better: the Highlands) seemed completely deserted. The colorful Norwegian wooden houses were replaced with gray brick houses with many chimneys. Fluttering Scottish flags were always present in the green hilly landscape. There was definitely something mysterious about this country, and the dense cold fog contributed to it all. We passed many castles and ruins, whisky distilleries, and medieval villages. The Highlands, The Great Glenn, Loch Ness, and Glencoe offered us stunning natural sceneries and true physical challenges. Less fun was the millions of midges harassing us at the campsites.
In England, we learned that The Pennines mountain range may not be very known or impressive, but for bikers, it provides a real challenge with its many up and down hills. After the beautiful historic villages of York and Lincoln, the landscape flattened out, providing us with some easy mileage on our final stretches back to The Netherlands.