About Frank

Having retired from a life in education, I now have the flexibility to explore further afield, with the bicycle being my habitual form of transport. Some teaching, translation and charity work still form a major part of my life, but so too does travelling and exploring, sometimes with Jenny, my wife, (occasionally astride a tandem!) and sometimes on solo expeditions. On a bicycle, you discover the ‘diamonds in your own backyard’ as you cycle the lanes and byways of your home area, and further afield the ‘distant jewels’ of lands yet to be explored.

  1. I am concerned at your advice to “shout at a passing herd of cows”…….Now I know that cows can run, but they aren’t generally known for doing it very well. Shouldn’t YOU be the one passing the herd of cows? Keep it up!!!

  2. Hi Frank, read your note at Brienne shelter and your blog. Like you, we stayed at Peronne with Father Nicholas.

    Glad you are enjoying your cycle trip. How long will it take you to Rome – 16 , 20 days?

    Walking is 3 months, all day with blisters – especially from the (mostly excellent) tarmac in France which made your cycling so easy. Sorry,”pilgrim” and “cycling” do not go together in my book, and I am a keen cyclist. Please do easy on the blessings.


    • Thanks Adrian. Now I have a computer I can acknowledge your message. I am in Aulla now. It has been an amazing journey, but I do admit it’s not very “medieval”, like yours. But it satisfies my soul!
      I wish you a “buen camino” or as I believe they say on the VF “salve”.

  3. Well done Frank. I do now believe that you are halfway to Rome and not skulking in some bar in Calais! And that’s only because I too believe messages I see left like sophisticated graffiti in cyberspace. Keep pedalling. Question – does K Jelly relieve the pain as well? Gerard.

    • Who me? Skulking in a bar in Calais……….you don’t know your little brother, brother! Seriously though, this has been an amazing journey thus far…..and there is still some to come. I’ll bore you with the detail one day.

  4. Hi Frank,
    I am a catholic missionary priest from Nigeria working in Haiti since 2000. Fr. Chris Newmann, in your parish, told me about you and the efforts you are making to help Haiti after the terrible earthquake. May God bless you. You represent the many nice people we still have in the world, people who do not remain indifferent in the face of sufferings and pains. May your bicycle keep you riding till you get to your set objective. Hope to see you when you get to Haiti. Goodluck and God bless you.
    Father Anistus Chima, CMF.

    • Thank you Anistus. I am coming to the end of my journey, about 70kms to go to arrive in Rome, and I understand the total amount raised and promised to help rebuild your school, is about £4000 (c. $6000US). We do hope this will be of help, and we all wish you well in the reconstruction of your mission and your lives in Haiti.
      “May god hold you in the palm of his hand”

  5. Enhorabuena, amigo.

    Fue un viaje muy interesante y entretenido, y nos gustó lo del cable que se rompió una vez llegado en Roma.

    Que serendipidad.

    P + A C

    • Me han ocurrido tantas cosas parecidas, que estoy empezando a pensar que la realidad (ie. lo que vemos antes de nostros misomos) no es la verdadera realidad. Es otra cosa. La vida es muy extrana…….

  6. Alexander Behrendt

    Hey Frank,
    here is one of the Germans you write about in your blogpart about Don Bruno 😉
    I have to tell you:
    the ministration does not falling on deaf ears 😉 o

    • Good to hear from you Alexander, and apologies if I failed to clarify the detail of that moment!
      Hope you all had a very good pilgrimage walk, and that life back at home has changed for you all in a most positive way.

  7. Filipe Cardoso

    Hi Frank!

    First of all: Happy new year 2011!!!

    Thank you for your message in my Blog. I have finished my journey and everything went well! I didn’t defend yet my PhD… The defense should be in the end of this month.

    Your plans for going to Jerusalem by bicycle from home are very good!!!! I have to say that I really enjoyed Israel and specially Jerusalem (the old town). I understand that diplomatic advice are against going there (my friends were saying the same) but to be honest I didn’t find any problem. I started in Tel-Aviv and this city was really a surprise for me. It’s almost an occidental city!!! I was staying in a hostel and most of the people were travelling alone. There were people from US, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, Germany, Italy … All of them were travelling in Israel and they didn’t have any problem neither.
    I cycled from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem by the road (I didn’t go by the high-way) and again I there were no problems and never felt in danger. In Jerusalem I stay in one of the hostels of the old town. This city is very crowded with natives and a lot of tourists. It is also a very special city, every stone has hundreds or thousands of years of history! In one of the days that I stayed in Jerusalem I took the bicycle to go to Bethlehem. It just a 10 km ride so it’s not a big deal. Bethlehem is in the Palestinian territory. So I had to pass a military check point. They just asked me for my passport and let me enter after seeing the Israeli stamp. The city is also nice and but more calm. The tourist agglomerate near the church of nativity which was built in the location where Jesus was born. I just stayed there one afternoon and came back to Jerusalem. After one more day in Jerusalem I cycled back to Tel-Aviv from where I flew to Lisbon. I didn’t have any problems of security in Israel and I thought the place pretty safe. But that was my experience…

    I don’t know if wanted to know more details. Anyway feel free to contact me if you need help in planning the trip. My e-mail is facardoso@gmail.com



  8. Bravo Filipe! I was so glad I found your blog address again and caught up with your progress. That was a phenomenal journey, and it was a pleasure and a privilege for me that we shared a few days together on the road into Rome. As I go around giving talks and presentations about my trip along the Via Francigena, I tell everybody about you. You are an inspiration!
    Keep me in touch with any future travelling projects.
    “May the wind be ever at your back”

  9. Frank,
    I love reading about your travels and experiences. I, too, have returned from Rome – Marie and Gary had given this as a present to me for retiring at 51!! Italy is truly spectacular – I am constantly amazed by how far your bike takes you. When I consider the craggy roads throughout rustic places I am in awe of your tenacity to battle them – you are truly a Don Quijote de la Roma!! – Blessings to you and your lovely family.

    • Good to hear from you Olivia! Yes, and my bike should be called Rocinante, but I’m still looking for my Sancho Panza!! One day someone will catch me jousting at windmills, and words will fail me when I try to explain what I’m doing. So glad you enjoyed Rome, the Eternal City. What a place! And enjoy your retirement!

  10. hi Frank,
    every year a group of us do a cycling trip. two years ago we did the lower part of the via de la plata and it rocked. this year we are thinking of the via francigena, as hopefully it is also more of the cycling along the track instead of just the road.
    can you advise on that? didyou cycle on the actualy VF or the Eurovelo5 path which i belive is on roads close to the VF?
    in the meantime have been reading your posts and getting excited about this bike trip already.
    oh, and also, we are prob just looking at doing gran san bernard to rome, as we dont yet have time for the whole path-unfortunately we still working 🙂

    • Good to hear from you Blair, and one of the journeys on my short list (having done the Camino francés in 1993) is to do the Via de la Plata too, followed by the Camino del Norte. We’ll compare notes sometime.
      I actually followed the broad outlines of Sigeric’s route, but on-road all the way (Kimbolton-Canterbury-Rome). The off-road sections, especially for the walkers, are not as extensively way-marked as the Camino, but it gets much better when you cross into Italy. I spent a few days cycling with Filipe, a lad from Portugal, and with his GPS he would take off-road sections from time to time, just for the variety.
      If you start at the GSB pass, you will be almost exactly halfway between Canterbury and Rome, starting with an exhilarating 50 miles of descent down the Aosta valley. What a way to start! Have a look at the website of the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome (http://www.pilgrimstorome.org.uk/index.html), there are some good guides and lots of useful information.
      They will have a practical session at their next meeting, and I will also be giving a presentation on my experience, so if you are in or near London, do come along. The details are as follows:

      Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome
      Practical Pilgrim Day 2011
      London – Sat 2nd April
      St James’s Church, Conference Room, 197 Piccadilly London W1J 9LL
      The programme (times flexible):
      Basic review of the route, its history, the way-marking and maps and guide-books by
      Joe Patterson
      Question and answer session.
      What do you want to know? Clothing and footwear, terrain, accommodation, tents climate, time of
      the year, expense, dogs, language, departure time of year, start point, end point, companions, etc
      Specialist groups for walkers and cyclists. (If numbers permit)
      Lunch break – tea/coffee supplied. There is a Tesco Express located two minutes away on the
      corner of Jermyn Street and Lower Regent Street and a Café Nero located at 35 Jermyn Street at the
      rear of the church.
      Canterbury to Rome: a Cyclist’s Tale by Frank Burns

  11. Frank,

    Thanks for the nice words about the books on the Yahoo group.

    Paul (today somwhere in the upper Amazon)

    • Paul,
      the Lightfoot Companion is an excellent background guide to the Via Francigena, and I know a lot of research went into its production. Thank you both for all your hard work. It added enormously to the enjoyment of my trip to Rome.

  12. Good luck with your forthcoming pilgrimage. We cycled in the other direction in 2009 – the Voie Litoral up the atlantic coast of France was superb! I was soo pleased to have some levellish cycling after the north coast of Spain – and most of it is in the shade of pine trees – watch out for the giant ants tho’!! your blogs look v. interesting – we too like to cycle in the uk – it is a beautiful land. I will try and read it all when i can.
    There is a new pilgrimage route being signed/set-up – at the moment through Devon and Somerset – but hopefully it will eventually cross the whole Uk – it follows the Mary/Michael Line and visits Christian and pre-Christian places en route. We are hoping to establish a cyclable route too.
    I have signed up to get your new posts and will follow your journey avidly! Bon Camino!!

  13. Liz Robinson

    Dear Frank

    Can I obtain a copy of the aerial photo of Ushaw?

    Best wishes
    Liz R.

  14. julian grubb

    Dear Frank,

    I was recently shown a newspaper clipping of your exploits and was pleased and impressed to see you still on your bike and pedalling the world. I fondly remember our bike trip to Scotland in 1984 (!) I wonder if you do!! and I would very much like to get in contact via email to let you know of my life and how you have influenced it!!

    Best of luck

    Julian Grubb (OK 1986)

  15. Edward Valletta

    Hello Frank
    This is the llink to Rebecca Bell’s blog – and her video of playing baseball with a machete!

    An insight into:

    · ‘Post Kimbolton School’ confidence

    · Adventures possible when choosing to study modern languages

    · Voluntary work available abroad

    · How to maintain your interest in biology whilst lamenting the fact that you didn’t take A Level Spanish

    · An excellent way to gain business/fundraising experience for the CV

    · The head-case that is my daughter


    The violin has gone too and is suffering a little from humidity but she is getting gigs at Costa Rican tea parties(!). There is a blog, but not for the prudish or faint hearted-


  16. Hello Frank,
    You came to see me after Ushaw grandweek some time back; wonderful to read your blog etc. At 67 I am thinking of cycling to Rome from Bradford along the VF on my new electric bike! Yes, I am just getting knackered by the hills! i would be most grateful for any tips etc…….Sam (Denis)

  17. María Pérez Narciso

    Hola Frank!

    Soy María de Teruel. ¿Cómo estás? Ayer llegué a Inglaterra y voy a estar un tiempo en casa de Melissa. Me gustaría que nos viéramos algún día. Puedes escribirme un email.

    Un abrazo!


  18. Hi Frank,

    Been following your blog for quite a while now and have to say it is one of my favourites. Really inspirational. Love your travels with the Moulton too, although have yet to try one! You made me laugh with the post in which you talk about Juan Carlos and his “Por qué no te callas?!” Keep up the good work. Saludos desde Londres. Alberto

    • Me alegra mucho que te haya gustado, Alberto. Y si un día consigues probar un Moulton, te aconsejaría que probase un Double Pylon, que ahora ha doblado de precio (£14,500!). Sólo es para probar…..no para comprar!

  19. Hi there Frank,
    I am planing to cycle the Canterbury/ Rome route later in the year to raise some money for a charity.
    I have heard about you daring feats through a mutual friend Yvonne Loftus who recommended that I should have a chat with you with regards to the journey.
    Would it be possible either to send you an e-mail or to give you a call in order to have a chat about the journey?
    I very much look forward to our communications.
    Happy Easter.

    With best wishes

    James Miers

  20. Hi Frank,

    Thanks for “liking” my posts. Would you like me to send you a complimentary copy of my debut novel, Sand Dollar: A Story of Undying Love? If so, please email me at sebastian@sebastiancoleauthor.com to tell me where to send it. Thanks and take care.

    Sebastian Cole

  21. Hi, Frank,

    Thanks for “liking” my recent posts. That’s great that you are able to follow your dream of cycling in so many place around the world. I’m not sure if you like fiction or not, and in my particular case, tearjerker love stories. But if you do, I’d be happy to send you a copy of my debut novel, Sand Dollar: A Story of Undying Love. Just let me know. Thanks and take care.

    Sebastian Cole

  22. Hi Frank, thank you for liking my blog! Your blog is wonderful and the pictures are so inspiring. 🙂 Best, Kartika

  23. Thanks for visiting carryoncouple.com, Frank. I enjoyed looking at your site and noted you have traveled one of the routes to Santiago, Spain. We are thinking of doing the traditional route (on foot) from the Spanish side of the Pyrenees. We are recently retired (like you, I also was in education). All the best in your journeys!

  24. Thank you for visiting and liking my blog. As I see that retirement may not be so far off, your blog helps me realize that, even though I will no longer be an active educator, there is yet much to be accomplished and enjoyed.

    • Good to hear from you Booklovinggrandma!(love your name!). Many people make the mistake of seeing retirement as ‘retiring from something’ instead of ‘retiring into something’. The day you retire can be the beginning of a whole new adventure.

  25. Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I love the title of yours. I admire people like you who follow their dreams wherever they lead. 🙂 I look forward to reading about your adventures.

  26. Hi Frank – Thanks for passing by and liking my post…May life continue to smile on you as you ride your bike into the horizon…

  27. Thanks for dropping by and liking my post – all power to your pedals.

  28. Hi Frank, Its Peter here, Luke’s Dad. Thanks for the “likes” on Luke’s page from so far away. We start the big ride on 8th Dec, stay tuned to the site for updates. Thanks Peter

  29. Hi Frank, congratulations!

    I have nominated your blog for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

    The rules of that award are at



  30. Frank, thank you for reading and liking my post. I too enjoy using my bicycle or my feet to more fully explore the area around me. Things just had a richer texture that way. Enjoy retirement!

  31. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  32. Thank you for liking my post! What an inspiring journey you’re on – hope you keep taking those long deep breaths so you can slow down and enjoy every moment!

  33. Thanks for stopping by my site!

  34. Awesome blog, Frank! I will definitely be returning.

  35. Thanks for stopping by my blog! My brother loves cycling and has almost completed a goal of riding 10,000 miles this year. He kicks my butt when we walk around Italy for miles on end!

  36. Frank,
    I’m also an avid cyclist and frame builder…(4,000mi. per year for several years now.) Thanks for stopping by my Blue 88 page. Hope you enjoy it. Be safe!

  37. Forgive me if you’ve answered this question elsewhere, but where was your cover photo taken?

  38. Hello Frank

    I enjoyed reading your posts about Joe Tasker. BBC Inside Out (North East and Cumbria) had an interesting feature on Joe in last Monday’s program. If you’ve not seen it already, it’s available on iPlayer til next Monday. (I didn’t want to post the URL in case this comment gets caught in a spam filter!)

    A question: do you have the reference details for the newspaper article about finding Pete Boardman’s body that you included in your post of 16 July 2011?


    • Thanks Thea. I was alerted about the Inside Out programme and managed to watch it on iPlayer. Very moving account.
      With reference to the newspaper article: I think I found it via a search engine on the internet, so I don’t have any reference details. Sorry about that.

      • Yes, very moving and some interesting archive footage in the Inside Out program – pity it doesn’t see the light of day more often.

  39. I’m nominating you for an award in my 6pm post tomorrow. I love your blog!

    • Thanks! I am delighted to be chosen to be on your list.

      • Hola Frank,

        I was amazed and delighted to find your blog via a Google search for why are there so many cyclists in Fuerteventura in the winter. We are out there now, enjoying some fantastic weather — I can hear the waves pounding the shore in La Pared as I write this. We have been driving about the island and admiring the stamina of the cyclists and wondering if they are all professionals. How exhilarating it must be to cycle up to the top of the mountainous roads and then sail back down. Maybe we can meet up back home some time, as I see we have other common interests, including Little Gidding.

        Kind regards from Fuerte and all the Best for 2013,


      • David, I remember you well. Good to be in touch. Over the years I have aimed to cycle all of the Canary Islands. The only ones to elude me, to date, are La Palma and El Hierro.
        You may know that Lanzarote has become a winter training camp for northern European cyclists (just like Mallorca). Now Fuerteventura is wanting a bit of the action. The Germans, in particular, go in great numbers, especially to the training resort of Las Playitas, down the east coast not far from Gran Tarajal. You should go for a drive down there. It’s a spectacular location, and the place is thick with very athletic-looking people.

        Bradely Wiggins does a lot of his training up and down El Teide on Tenerife, and generally stays at the Parador not far from the summit.

  40. Thank you for the follow on our blog. We came over here to see what you are doing and are now following. Thanks!

  41. camilla howard

    Hi Frank, I attended one of your talks at Rutland Cycling a while ago and I remember being very impressed that you managed to get all your gear under the 10kg mark. Next month I am joining a friend who is currently cycling from Cape Town to London through Africa. I will be cycling with him for 4/5 weeks. I’ve never mountain biked or done any long distance rides so I am about to get all new gear. Would be amazing if you could share some advice….which tent, mattress, bike etc you use. Many thanks, Camilla

  42. David Perzik

    Hi Frank – Last summer my wife rode the Trans America trail across the USA and liked it so much that we now want another bike adventure. We are very intrigued by your ride to Rome. My question to you is, can you stay on the actual VF trail the entire time? Is it a paved road the whole time? Is it a dirt track part of the way? Can you ride on the dirt track or do you really just take side roads and just stay near the actual VF trail? Do the walkers mind the bikers or do they get annoyed by the fast bikes like the do on the Camino? I will have a follow up question after I hear back from you…..Thanks!

    • All very good questions, David. The VF is hoping to reach the status of the Camino de Santiago…..but it still has a long way to go.
      Because the route crosses different countries, the signage and quality can vary.
      First of all, I am a ‘roadie’….so I stick to paved surfaces, usually roads (albeit minor roads sometimes). I can, and will, go off-road when the need arises.
      It’s four years since I completed the VF, so some of my comments may be ‘past their sell-by date’. Much of the northern sector (UK, France and Switzerland) was poorly signed, but once you cross the 8000 ft Grand St Bernard pass, things improve in Italy, and there are off-road sections that (I understand) are well signed.
      Anyway, I had no intention of slavishly following signs. I pieced together the route from an excellent background text by Babette Gallard Via Francigena Canterbury To Rome ISBN 978-2-917183-09-0 (available from the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome in London). For the most part, I followed roughly the route laid down by the notes of Archbishop Sigeric in the 10th century.
      The Confraternity is your best point of reference for information. Become a member, download their accommodation list, and be able to access their library of information. That would be the best advice I could give.

  43. David Perzik

    Thank you for your quick reply and I will have the book you suggested in my hands later today in Portland Oregon. The reason I asked about the “dirt track” vs. side roads was because it looks like many, if not most of the riders you are with on the VF have Mt. Bikes (with knobby wheels) and not road bikes. I assumed that was because you all had to work the dirt to stay on route. We thought it would be fun to follow the route completely if it allowed us to get off busy parallel paved roads…..that being said it would be much easier and faster with our speedy road bikes we used riding across the USA………Or are the Mt. bikes used because the roads are rough and uneven? Thank you again for answering our pointed questions as we begin to make plans!

    • My old trekking bike (now RIP), the one I used on the VF, was an adapted ATB, and I left the ‘nobblies’ on for that trip as a ‘just in case’. In the end I didn’t really need them. So, on my new trekking bike, I now use 35mm slicks, which are still good for doing some occasional off-roading.
      A road bike should be fine if you stay on paved surfaces. Depending on how much luggage you are carrying, I would say 28mm tyres would be suitable, but I have known people travelling on narrower tyres.
      My own preference for multi-week rides, carrying luggage and tent, is to have a more relaxed posture, using flat bars with bar ends…..the emphasis of the whole set-up being: comfort and stability. But, after several weeks of that, it’s always nice to get back to my light road bike back at home, and to zip around the country lanes.

  44. How super cool, Frank!

  45. Hi Frank! My name is Cameron Von St. James and I had a quick question for you! I was wondering if you could email me at your earliest convenience. 🙂 I greatly appreciate your time!!

    • I appreciate your contact, Cameron. I generally refrain from entering into private correspondence via my blog, but if you could indicate the general nature of your question (which I will not publish), we can take it from there. (Please note: respecting your privacy, your email address has been deleted from your comment above).

  46. Alexa Cobbold

    Hello Frank,

    I have recently discovered your blog and it’s an extremely interesting read. I came across this post https://frankburns.wordpress.com/2014/10/03/fat-birds-dont-fly/ and noticed it contains a reference to one of my clients. Would you be able to contact me via email to discuss this further?


  47. Hi, Frank. It’s Toru that you met at Taketa tourist info. Pleased to know that you stayed at Mr Oh’s place without problems, actually enjoyed it. Will take a look at your end-to-end journey occasionally from now on. Wish you luck!

  48. You’re welcome. Should you have an opportunity to drop at Taketa, please call at the info center again!

  49. Hi Frank, as you were my only follower(!) thought I’d let you know I’ve moved my blog to http://cornubia-chris.blogspot.co.uk/
    I’m not off until 1st June, but am looking forward to the trip. I am really enjoying your blog, I think it would make a good book if you have the time.

  50. The title of your blog on its own brings a sense of tranquillity to mind. I can’t quite explain why but it does. Plus, serendipity is on undoubtedly one of my favourite words.

    • Glad to hear that……everything from the pre-packaged holiday to the tightly scheduled lives we all live, everything militates against the setendipitous in life. We would all benefit from a bit more spontaneity…..

  51. Matthew Rawnsley

    Does the 300,000 miles club have a website?

  52. Hello Frank, what an amazing website you have, full of so many beautiful memories.
    I am planning a bike trip in November in Japan and I am desperate for some advice on the itinerary as I am not finding much online.
    Do you have any information or documentation that could help ?

    I thank you greatly !


  53. Hi Frank… Colin Calder here. I run the new Twitter account for Tandem Club and see you have just signed up! Have followed your blog on a personal basis thru my WordPress account and wondered if you would like to do likewise – Our blog is called MatildasMusings and is the only blog “written” by a tandem bike! lol! url link: https://matildasmusingsdotcom.wordpress.com/

  54. Hi,
    Just read your blog of your trip to Cuba. Very inspiring.

  55. Therese Cawley

    How might I contact you?

  1. Pingback: Real Neat Blog Award | PedalWORKS

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