I grab my breakfast and head up to Loughrigg Terrace in the Lake District to enjoy my favourite time of day.
Some days, you've just got to get up and go. I often have a free weekday here and there and so I often try to utilise these opportunities to do something a bit different. Setting off early to go for a 'dawn raid' and greet the sun as it rises is one of my favourites.
Taking your often mundane activity of breakfast and coffee with you on a ride combined with a sunrise makes for a great experience. With a planned 5am start I prepped everything the night before, and got my bike in the car, ready for a speedy getaway. It's definitely easier to stay warm in bed at that hour, especially when its dark and cold out. Knowing all your gear is ready to go makes this process a hell of a lot easier.
I chose to take the cross bike out for this ride. Being able to swap between my cross bike and mountain bike allows me to have a more diverse approach to all round riding. Although the cross bike is a surprisingly capable off road machine, the Lake Districts traditional rocky 'boulderfests' can be a bit much for her. This narrowed down my routes and I decided on the popular route around Loughrigg fell. A ride considered to be pretty un-technical by mountain bike standards but a route that I felt would provide an excellent position for sunrise and a more than adequate test for both the bike and myself.
Once your up there, making your brew just as the sun emerges you realise it was well worth the early start, and instead of another ride you've had a new experience. Plus you get to enjoy that feeling of exclusivity whilst most are still tucked up in bed. The quiet trails bathed in the morning light are a pleasure in themselves.
I've certainly failed my fare share of dawn raids, and although it's always good even though you end up arriving a little late, you can't help but feel like you should have just done your prep the night before and/or not pressed snooze on your alarm.
Here are some key points for a 'successful' Dawn Raid
- Prepare - Just get your stuff ready the night before! The less you have to do in the morning the better. Even the best of us morning people don't operate that well that early.
- Take lights - If your planning on getting up a hill for sunrise. It will take time and your going to want something to help light the way as you navigate your way up.
- An extra layer - Sitting around on a hill can be cold; I like to take a packable insulated jacket just to be on the safe side.
- When - Early spring, autumn, and even winter. The lights better, plus you don't have to get up quite so early.
- Check the weather - Obviously make sure its relatively clear.
- Timing - Find out when the sun rises, factor in your journey and adjust your alarm accordingly.
Planning isn't always necessary, and I would encourage spontaneous excursions as much as possible. Because of my journey up to the Lake District I had to plan the night before. If for example your setting out from your front door you can be a lot more impulsive with your 'dawn raids'.
My route began just outside Ambleside. I parked at 'Under Loughrigg' alongside the river Rothay. Close to the bridlepath that takes you up the fell. There is a good amount of free parking here but it's a popular route and you can expect that these spaces will fill up quickly. Ambleside has plenty of parking should you miss out.
The climb up onto the bridleway begins steeply on tarmac, before eventually becoming loose gravel. This bit certainly gets you warmed up. Eventually the path levels out and from the higher ground you can see views of Windermere and the surrounding hills. Here I found a good spot to sit and enjoy the sunrise.
After breakfast and coffee I continued around the bridle path that skirts Loughrigg fell, passed Loughrigg tarn, and round to Loughrigg Terrace (overlooking Grasmere and Rydal water). From there I took the 'old coffin road' that follows the opposite side of the two lakes (just above the A597) into Grasmere village. I then headed back up toward Loughrigg terrace and over toward Elterwater. Doing a little loop near hodge close before eventually making my way back up to Loughrigg and back toward Ambleside.
For future posts I will look into some GPS mapping to provide a more detailed and visual route. For now I've used google maps to roughly show the start location and general area. See OS map OL7.
Above: Exploring a few of the more vague tracks on the way back.