As tough as it must be for the competitors on the Tour of Britain, it’s hard not to be a little bit jealous of the unique opportunity they’ve been given to enjoy some of the UK’s finest scenery.
So as we enter the midway point, we thought we’d take a moment to look at some of the visual highlights of the Tour. You may not get similarly stunning appreciation of the locations from this article but, on the brightside, you won’t get saddle sore either! (Though if you do fancy your own tour, we’ve added a link to our search page at the bottom of the article).
First stage: The Devil’s Beef Tub
The first stage of the race saw the Skoda King of the Mountains climb above the iconic, and oddly named Devil’s Beef Tub, a large cavernous hollow in the land where raiders would hide their stolen cattle. Said raiders were often known as ‘Devils’, which at least helps to explain the name of this stunning geographic formation, if not adequately describe its loveliness!
The site also has other ties with Scottish history, as William Wallace’s sister married the Lord of the nearby Corehead Tower. Apparently this site was also where Wallace gathered his men for the first attack against the English. It’s a little more peaceful now, though there are still monuments to its colorful history – not that the riders had much chance to admire them!
Second stage: Blackpool
Top (middle and bottom) of the Tower!
After a day of climbing, you would imagine that no one would be happier to be beside the seaside than the Tour of Britain competitors. After an early part of the stage exploring Kendal, Grizedale Fell and a little part of the Yorkshire Moors, the second stage was set to finish with a nice flat sprint along Blackpool’s north shore, finishing at the foot of the iconic tower.
Sadly, it seems no one told Hurricane Katia, as her destructive influence on the weather caused a rest day for the riders. Still, if you have to take a rest-day, there are few better places to spend it than Blackpool. We’d recommend a trip to the zoo, a journey to the top of the Tower – making sure you visit the ballroom – and a stop-off at the Pleasure Beach.
Third stage: Trentham Estate
The beautiful Italian Gardens of the Trentham Estate near Stoke-on-Trent provide the starting point for the third leg of the event. According to the website, the garden’s planting scheme is ‘based upon a naturalistic style which combines herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses’, which in layman’s terms means it’s worth a visit all year round.
There’s plenty more to see and do at the Trentham Estate, including a shopping village, garden centre, labyrinth and monkey forest with 140 monkeys and 12 new arrivals!
Fourth stage: Wales
There are plenty of highlights on the fourth leg of the Tour of Britain – including some of Wales’ finest attractions. The stage is set at Powis Castle, a wonderfully preserved medieval monument that houses many treasures from India. If that’s not enough to keep you entertained, there’s also a 26 acre garden to enjoy.
Another highlight from the ‘Land of Song’ is, appropriately, the National Cycle Collection at Llandrindod Wells, which should come in useful if any of the riders get a puncture – assuming they can ride Boneshakers. Finally, the highest point of the Tour is a climb of the majestic Brecon Beacons mountain range.
Fifth stage: Dartmoor
The next leg takes place entirely in Devon, so it seems only fitting to choose one of the county’s most loved areas as its highlight. The wild moorland peaks and tors of Dartmoor make for a lovely secluded place to visit – though this is probably why it’s going to be the least popular with competitors!
The highest point of the Devon stretch is located outside The Warren House Inn. At 1425ft above sea level, this is said to be the third highest pub in England. At least if you make it up there you’re guaranteed a warm welcome – the fire inside the pub has supposedly been burning since 1845!
Sixth stage: Cheddar Gorge
The real life Helms Deep
With its steep inclines, dramatic peaks and amazing views, Cheddar Gorge in Somerset makes an ideal location for walkers, climbers cavers and cyclists.
The route up through the limestone gorge is the first serious climb of the day and, due to its popularity with tourists, is probably going to be one of the most crowded spectator spots on the tour.
The oldest complete human skeleton was found in the gorge. Supposedly dating from 7150 BC, ‘Cheddar Man’ subsequently upped sticks and moved to London when he became famous. He now resides in the Natural History Museum in London, though a replica is exhibited in the Cheddar museum. Another interesting fact: JRR Tolkien came to the area on honeymoon in 1916. It’s thought that the Cheddar caves may have inspired the cavernous stronghold of Helm’s Deep from The Two Towers. Whether that’s true or not is up for you to decide. Either way, it’s an undeniably otherwordly location.
Seventh stage: Sandringham Estate
Sandringham House Garden
The penultimate leg of the Tour finishes with a sprint to the Sandringham Estate, so you should have plenty of time to enjoy the house and gardens before it gets too crowded!
The official Sandringham website recommends at least 4 hours to explore everything, so let’s see what’s on offer…
Built in 1870 by the Prince and Princess of Wales, Sandringham is now the rather large holiday home of Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. Take a trip through the house and you’ll find guides in every room ready to answer any questions you may have. Some of the more interesting curios are held in the estate’s museum, however, which houses gifts from state trips abroad. If you have the energy there are 24 hectares of gardens to explore outside, so don’t be surprised to find yourself as tired the Tour pack when they arrive at the end of the stage!
Last stage: London
As a 24-hour city, it goes without saying that London is filled with activities, so we’re sure you don’t need us to recommend something to see or do! After several days touring through the relative tranquility of some of England, Scotland and Wales’ most scenic locales, the vibrant capital will make a welcome contrast for both competitors and spectators – though we wouldn’t surprised if everyone favours an early night after the finish at Whitehall!
Find more info on the Tour website.
Please visit the main cottages4you website if you fancy taking your own tour of Britain. You can search by map, region or price.