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Community / Cheers! Travel writer reaches Unst after cycling up and down the length of Britain

Simon Parker celebrating after reaching the Muckle Flugga lighthouse earlier this week.

IT WAS a moment to savour. After cycling nearly 3,500 miles across the length of Britain and back, travel writer Simon Parker uncorked a bottle of champagne in front of the Muckle Flugga lighthouse in Unst.

The sweet taste of bubbly capped off a stint on the road lasting 77 days.

Parker, who writes for the Telegraph among other publications, undertook the first leg – from Unst to Land’s End – last year.

But he decided to complete a return journey, setting off from Scilly and cycling up the east coast of the British mainland.

On Monday he made it to the tip of Unst to complete his Britain By Bike challenge, in which he aims to write about his experience of travelling through “pandemic Britain”.

He said it was “great to be back” in Shetland.

Explaining why he decided to carry out a second leg from south to north, Parker said: “About half way through the third lockdown I thought to myself, well I feel like the story is only half told.

“So I’m going to go all the way back up to the top. It has taken me 11 weeks in total, and I have covered just under three and a half thousand miles.”

On good days the writer and broadcaster managed to cover around 95 miles, but the legs are feeling fine.

“It’s going to be hard to adapt to going back to living a more normal life,” he said.

It is estimated that he burned 400,000 calories on the trip, drank 750 litres of water and wrote 20,000 plus words.

It is the third time Parker has been in Shetland as travel writer – “I’ll be coming back definitely, I just love it here” – and the cyclist praised the isles’ roads and welcoming attitude.

He said the idea behind the project was to “see pandemic Britain at ground level, seeing it from the gentle pace of a bicycle”.

“That’s kind of become my niche area of journalism – travelling very slowly on a bike,” Parker continued.

“I feel like it’s a really unique and worthwhile way of seeing a country. I’ve done it all over the world – I’ve cycled across Europe, across America, across Scandinavia. This was my sort of big British trip.”

He was also keen to see how the country has adapted to living in a pandemic.

“Back in October there was quite a feeling of people not knowing what was going to go on,” Parker said.

“There was uncertainty, quite a cagey atmosphere. But now it seems to be this quite resilient, hopeful outlook.”

People can follow Parker’s travels on Twitter.