The Art Of Travel

Winter. My bike has been stranded at the downwind end of Orkney Mainland since December 23rd – unwilling to tack home into the prevailing westerlies that have prevailed pretty effectively for a month.

So, much of my travel is in the hands of Stagecoach buses and takes place in the dark.
Except for the bit that involves map-based scheming or book-based dreaming.

In the latter category recently, Alain de Botton’s The Art Of Travel. In which we learn that while it may be true to travel is better than to arrive, there’s a strong argument too for just staying put.
He makes a predictable case for enjoying the mundane wherever you go and neatly diagnoses the gloom of returning home from a holiday. But there’s no mention of the apparent futility of going to the far end of the middle of nowhere with the sole intention of turning round and coming back.
Has deadending snuck under the philosopher’s radar? Or is it beyond explanation?

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Artists Valley: rainforest and other Plant life

Marketing is one of those wretched things the world might be better without. But few would deny the value of an eye-catching name. Especially if you’re a delightful little Mid Wales valley and all you’ve got to attract people (assuming you want to) is a tiny sign, high up on a lamp post, visible to motorists for less than a second as they round a bend.


Deadenders should let those cars speed on along the A487 to/from Aberystwyth, and enjoy this peaceful up-and-down ffordd gul a mannau pasio that ticks every bucolic box as it winds four damp miles to Blaeneinion.
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Warbeth, Orkney. Poet or pirate? Duck or seal?

Even by Orkney standards, this place is isolated and windswept. You’ll love it.

Stromness – an alleyed seaside shambles of a town – is home to two thousand souls. When it stops being their home, Warbeth Cemetery often adopts them. For a community that’s lived by and from the sea for generations, it’s an apt place for folk to rest in peace. Or as much peace as There are warning of gales in Fair Isle… will allow.


Start at the 1905 Library on Stromness’s main street. Go west up cobbled then steep Hellihole Road and out of town towards Innertown for ¾mile. After the postbox, follow the sign that claims Warbeth Beach ½.

Laid out before you now, to the south, is a classic Orkney scene. Dry stane dykes hem in the green fields to save them falling into the sea.
The backdrop is the churning water of Hoy Sound and beyond, the vertical seacliffs of Hoy itself. In the foreground a road winds one whole right-angled mile towards… is that a tiny old kirk and three burial grounds? Continue reading

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Northern climes and Northern Lights

Ness Point in Stromness, Orkney, is technically a dead end but far from a classic spot. It’s got a boatyard and a campsite where high winds and a neighbouring golf course introduce an element of danger into any trip to the loo.
But for a few hours on February 27th 2014, it looked pretty special:


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Cheese Lane: Your days as a big shot reach a dead end

This tiny cobbled street in Bristol offers several attractions to a dead end pilgrim…


If you’re anything like me though, it’s the 1960s concrete tower that will strike you first. Sure, it’s historically interesting and was saved from demolition in the 1990s by a public outcry.
But let’s cut to the chase, how many other cities lay claim to such an enormous concrete phallus? And celebrate by awarding it grade II listed status.

I invite you now to scroll down its mighty edifice… Continue reading

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Trefil: a dead end where the doctors will see you now

Want some thinking space? This dead end lies in the shadows of South Wales’ highest mountain and greatest politician, its industrial revolution and intergalactic reinvention.

You need only be (a) slightly a Welsh patriot, or (b) British and born/ill since July 5th 1948, to have cause to pay homage to Aneurin Bevan, the post-war Labour health minister who drove the foundation of the NHS. (Or as he called it, the Tredegarisation of Britain.) Continue reading

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Welcome. Anything to declare?

There’s been a flurry of readers the last few days so this is a quick post to welcome new and returning visitors to Deadendia, the No Through Road nation.

The government of Deadendia welcomes your thoughts about this blog – whatever occurs to you, perhaps including:

  • When, where, how did you drop into Britain’s best dead ends today?
  • Do you like or use the map?
  • Would you rather the write-ups were longer (incorporating stories and information that have only been linked to) or shorter (more pictures, more linking out to other websites)?
  • Is the how to get there information helpful?
  • Do the tags/categories seem logical and interesting to you?
  • And lastly, er, are any of the jokes funny?

Deadendia Customs Officers are waiting to see what you have to declare. Especially if you can improve the standard of the jokes. Continue reading

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Broadstairs: where The 39 Steps hit a dead end

Spoiler alert. The Thirty-Nine Steps story hinges upon what/where the eponymous steps are. I’m about to tell you.

The protagonist in John Buchan’s 1915 thriller is Richard Hannay, an Empire-trotting Brit who hunts spies while happily bandying round terms such as Free Trader and The Gold Standard like we’re all minted city financiers.
In The Thirty-Nine Steps he swashbuckles his way across Blighty, ticking various items off his to-derring-do list:

  • Jump from a train between stations
  • Decode “39 steps”
    Reach them
    Ideally before the Germans
  • Mend road potholes you find along the way (Note to MI5: please do more of this)

You however won’t need much adrenalin for this day out. Broadstairs is better known for care homes than counter-espionage. You’re more likely to find its genteel residents in the hands of the National Health than the Security Service. Buchan – something of a multi-tasker – combined the two by writing his so-called ‘shocker’ while laid up in bed with a stomach ulcer.
His home at the time (summer 1914) still stands on Cliff Promenade – and in front of it lies a hidden staircase down to the sea, a perfect escape route for spies.

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