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Travel writer plans to start ‘Britain by bike’ adventure in Unst

Simon Parker.

A TRAVEL writer with a thirst for adventure is preparing to kick off a marathon cycle across the length of the British Isles in Shetland in the autumn.

Simon Parker will arrive in Shetland on 7 October before travelling to the most northerly point of Unst.

The following day he will set off on his bike, camping equipment in tow, on a journey from Unst to the most southerly point in Britain in Jersey.

Parker, who has reported from over 100 countries for the likes of the Daily Telegraph and the BBC, estimates that the trip could take around four to six weeks to complete.

He will film parts of his trek as well as cover it for the Telegraph and Red Bull.

Parker is hoping to meet local folk along the way, especially in his two or three days in Shetland.

“Whereas Land’s End to John o’ Groats is the end to end of the British mainland, what I’m actually doing is what I think is a true end to end of Britain by bike,” he explained.

“As a travel writer, the whole industry has just imploded really [in the last six months]. In a normal year I was spending six to seven months overseas travelling in 30 or 40 different countries, and all of a sudden that travel has just stopped, unsurprisingly.

“Basically I’ve been in one place for the longest point of my whole adult life…I’m not asking for sympathy, but what I’ve realised is that if I do want to find that spirit of adventure, it’s important for me to try to find my next big journey and my next big travel adventure slightly closer to home.”

Parker, who will camp overnight on his trip, is hoping that the weather will play ball.

He plans to do 30 or 40 miles a day in Shetland to ease himself, and his legs, into the trip.

The writer stressed that it is “not a world record” and that he hopes to soak up some local culture and sights on the way, with a trip planned for example down the North Coast 500 route in the Highlands.

He admitted he has seen an “embarrassingly small amount of Scotland” despite taking in some of most obscure and isolated parts of the world.

“I want to meet people and see interesting things,” Parker said. “By trying to push 100 miles a day, you just totally lose the point of it.”

The writer, though, has history. Parker previously undertook a 2,000-mile bike expedition through Scandinavia, with resulted in the TV series Earth Cycle.

Prior to that in 2016 he also embarked on a 133-day adventure sailing and cycling from China to London.

He crossed the Pacific and Atlantic oceans by yacht, and cycled solo across the US.

Parker also has history with Shetland, having visited Foula last year to write a piece for the Telegraph.

“I know that the Shetland hospitality is second to none in the UK, I think. Hopefully I’ll meet people and find some pubs along the way,” he said.

“For me the hardest thing is potentially working out what you’re going to do each evening. Riding everyday is fine, but it’s quite nice to find rural pubs along the way where I can have a couple of beers, sit by the fire, use the wifi and camp in my tent.

“If you end up in places that’s so remote there isn’t any of that, it can be a bit of a long evening.

“If people see me, by all means invite me for a cup of tea or something. I’m a journalist and I want to meet people and say hello, and get to know what Shetland is like from Shetlanders.”

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