If I were forced to use just one word to describe our entire UK road trip, it would be this:


That’s right.  Sheep.  Not castles or curries or funny place names or even cycling, though those things did factor heavily into our travels.  But starting in the Peak District, it seemed to be all sheep, all the time.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let me start by saying that this portion of the trip was largely dedicated to cycling and hiking, so that’s what we did.

Newark (56)

After saying goodbye to the husband’s family and departing Newark, we drove to the Peak District, the UK’s first national park.  We made a quick stop in the town of Bakewell to gorge on Bakewell pudding and Bakewell tart, checking off two more items on our What to Eat Where list.  I wasn’t surprised to find that the husband and I disagreed on which was better.  (It was the tart.)

Bakewell (3)
Both were delicious, and it was very close, but the frosting clinched the win for the tart.

We then made our way to Castleton, which would be our home for the next four nights.  We stayed at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Inn because how could we not stay at place called Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Inn?!

Peak District (81)

We knew going in that there would be no WiFi in the room, and we were prepared to live with that (until we realized how inconvenient it is to always go next door to the pub for Internet access – never again!!).  What we weren’t prepared for was how few hooks there were in the room.  Hooks?  Yes, hooks.  In a region crawling with cyclists and hikers, you’d think rooms would have ample space to hang up sweaty gear.  Not so – not even in the bathroom.  Aside from door handles, this was all the room had:

Peak District (112)
I got grief from the husband for hogging this rack.

Even still, it was a cute room with a charming independent pub next door that used the wooden ceiling beams to record every innkeeper from 1748 to present.

Though there’s not a lot to do in Castleton (other than outdoor pursuits), the town and surrounding countryside are very picturesque.

Being in a region with hilly terrain was a welcome change from the flat landscape where Newark is situated and in which we live now, but it spelled agony on the bicycle.  Our first challenge was Winnats Pass.

Peak District (36)
Bottom of the pass as seen from the top
Peak District (38)
A view of the top of the pass
Peak District (11)
Me, pausing to catch my breath and threaten the husband

Narrow, curvy, and exceedingly steep, the road up to Winnats Pass is off limits to buses, coaches, and certain heavy goods vehicles.  I wish it had been closed to cyclists.  With an average gradient of 10% and a max somewhere between 20-28%* (why is it so hard to find consistent statistics?), it is the embodiment of heaven for the husband and hell for me.  For the first time ever, I had to get off and push my bike up the pass – this would become something of a theme in the Peak District – with cars whizzing by to my right and sheep baaa-ing on my left.  Even pushing the bike up was a serious workout necessitating several breath-catching rest stops.  To his credit, the husband managed to stay on his bike the whole time, which also helped him keep a safe distance from me and my ire.

*For comparison’s sake, Alpe d’Huez, the famous oft-used Tour de France route, has an average grade of 8% and a max of 13%.

Winnats was just the first of many cycling ups and downs (literally) in the Peak District.

We also got our first exposure to narrow “B” roads, something we would have many adventures not just cycling up and down, but driving the van up and down.

Peak District (101)
One of Britain’s many “B” roads.  Encountering cars here made things interesting.

Fortunately for me, this section of the trip was not just about cycling.  We also hiked all around the bucolic countryside.  This is where we started to encounter sheep in earnest.  You see, we’ve all heard of African safaris, but did you know you could go on safari in England?  If you hike up to Mam Tor or Kinder Scout, or presumably any route in this area, you can have all sorts of encounters with the animal kingdom.

You see, England is set up differently than the US.  Hikers are allowed to walk through private grazing land.  They just have to be sure to close the gates so animals don’t escape.

Naturally, after our English safari adventures, I didn’t appreciate seeing this sign around town 😦

Peak District (111)
Suddenly, going vegetarian didn’t sound so bad.

Hiking provided a great workout and spectacular views, but all the animals are what made it so much more fun than your average hike.

One of the few sedate things we did during our time in the national park was to visit the Eyam Museum, which recounts the efforts of Eyam’s townspeople to stop the spread of the bubonic plague beyond its borders in 1665.  They managed this by essentially quarantining themselves in the town.  They got food and other goods by bringing money to a stone outside the village and leaving the coins in holes that they bored into the stone and then filled with vinegar.  This was known as the “boundary stone.”  Someone from a nearby village would bring food and other supplies and leave them at the stone, taking the wet, disinfected money in exchange.  How they managed to set this all up without text messaging, email, or telephones, I have no idea.  The actual boundary stone still exists, but the husband and I didn’t have time for the hike needed to get to it, so I took a picture of this half-size replica instead.

Peak District (106)

More reasons to be glad I live in the 21st century:

And then our time in the Peak District was finished.  I was ready for a break from cycling and pleased to be headed to Wales next, which was a designated “no cycling” portion of the trip.  However, I had no idea what physical challenge would be in store for us on our first full day there…

Costs associated with having a rental van for this portion of the trip:

  • $0.00 (Free off-street parking provided by Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Inn – yay!)
  • Subtotal: $1,253.98 (stay tuned for more charges)

Posts in the UK Road Trip series:

33 thoughts

  1. Your photos are wonderful and I long to visit this part of the UK. I don’t think I’d ever enjoy biking on hills like the ones you took on, but I would like hiking through the fields making sure to close the gates behind me. I remember doing that when I was in college studying in England, but had forgotten about it. I’m with you on Team Bakewell TART, btw. Clearly your husband is confused.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. No, I kept my own accent, but it was fascinating to hear how English kids said words differently from me. Occasionally, to this day, I’ll say *aluminum* British-style just ‘cuz it’s fun to say it that way.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sheep photos were so cute. I love animals too! Also, it looks like a charming town and I would love to visit a town like that one day.

    Doctor’s uniforms look sort of scary, yet it is so interesting to know about it.

    I like running in the nature too but never thought about biking, maybe I should give it a try, it seems tiring but rewarding, specially because of the views and the cute animals.

    Thanks for sharing your adventures.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fascinating stuff about the Eyam Museum and the boundary stone method of commerce – thanks for sharing!
    I completely agree about hooks in hotel rooms. I’ve seriously considered bringing & installing some nice-looking
    3-M Command Strip robe hooks to hotels I stay in, and leave them there. Hint, hint, hotels.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Stunning pictures!!! And again, wonderfully written. I am a pretty active traveler and even I sometimes get exhausted just reading about your cycling adventures. And intrigued. Now I want to go on one 😂👍

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Aw, so many sheep and sweet cows!

    My first pick for lodging would also be at an inn whose name included the name “cheese”. Did they have cheese in the lobby for guests. If not, they really should. As far as lack of internet goes, however inconvenient, it seems like a good excuse to pop over to the local pub. As if one would need an excuse.

    My husband is a strong cyclist (though doesn’t ride regularly anymore), but is kind enough to just hike with me instead when we travel. Our cycling tends to be restricted to Florida where I can handle the flat. I’d like to get back on the mountain bike but after two crashes am a we bit timid. I applaud you for tackling those huge hills!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kudos to the people of Eyam for anticipating the germ theory of disease by two centuries. Brilliant!

    But I’m confused on another point. In what culinary universe does frosting count as a positive feature on a tart? That’s the “tell” of low confidence.


      1. It does! The Life Bus will be there but I was essentially the only person posting and decided, why not do this on my own? Still same concept and same posts!! You may see a flood of things you’ve read before. Until I can get it all moves over!!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I can’t believe you cycled up the pass!! That’s an achievement! (Even if you did have to get off haha) The view from the top is incredible too. I’d love to go back to the Peak District, I was there very briefly in May and it really surprised me. Also Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese looks adorable!! And incidentally it shares its name with one of my favourite pubs ever (on Fleet Street in London). I might have to stay there one day too!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting read. I’m looking forward to reading the Wales post, I’m pretty sure sheep outnumber people by quite a bit in Wales haha.


  9. I really appreciated the animal sound effects of ‘moo’ and ‘baa’ – it really took me right there with you 😉 Also….tart. 100% Bakewell tart. Lovely photos too. It’s a good job I’m reading your blogs of UK while actually here or I’d be pinning (whereas at the moment I just want to get back to Thailand)

    Liked by 1 person

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