Cycling in the Yorkshire Dales

Cycling in the Yorkshire Dales

The Ribblehead Viaduct

The beautiful Yorkshire Dales can give you challenging cycling, both in terms of distance and hills, although there are also less rigorous cycle routes available as well.

There is no doubt it is a fantastic area – a National Park with fabulous scenery, including Swaledale, Wensleydale, Nidderdale, Ribblesdale and Wharfedale.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park (from the Harvey map, Yorkshire Dales for Cyclists)

Cycling has become very popular in the Dales and you will find a good number of accommodation providers and eateries who very much welcome cyclists.

You will also find there are very good cycle maps and guide books.

In the page below you will find sections on:

  • Suggested cycle touring and cycling holiday hubs
  • Gentle / family bike rides
  • Circular cycle tours
  • Guide books and maps for cycle touring
  • Waymarked long-distance cycle routes
  • Mountain biking / off-road cycle routes
  • Cycle-friendly holiday accommodation
  • Cycling maps and guide books

Suggested cycle touring and cycling holiday hubs in the Yorkshire Dales

There are plenty of areas that can provide you with accommodation for cycle tours or as a hub for daily rides. Here are some suggestions:

  • Ingleton, on the southern border of the Yorkshire Dales, has easy access from the A65 and lanes leading into the Dales towards the Ribblehead Viaduct and Horton-in-Ribblesdale
  • Hawes is very central in the Dales, with various lanes and off-road routes within easy reach, and the Wensleydale Cheese factory
  • Grassington is in the south east of the Yorkshire Dales, within reach of the West Yorkshire towns and cities and the A1 with its links north and south
  • Settle, on the south-western side of the Dales, has good access to the Dales and is an excellent place to stay over, as well as lying on the Settle-Carlisle Railway

Gentler bike rides in the Yorkshire Dales

The Yorkshire Dales are not known for being flat. Much of it is really quite challenging as regards cycling! There are a few more moderate routes, such as the following:

Skipton to Bolton Abbey

A 13.5 miles gorgeous there-and-back route from Skipton to Bolton Abbey with its tea-rooms, walks and stepping stones over the river.

It’s not a flat road, but is described as ‘undulating’ in the Family Cycle Rides book below.

Allow family time in Skipton as well, with its castle and canal basin.

Guide book: Bradwell’s Family Cycle Rides in Yorkshire

The Swale Trail

This is a 12-mile-long mostly off-road route that would suit a family on mountain bikes or similar. It follows a valley bottom and so is flat-ish, though not completely.

The first half, from Reeth to Gunnerside is the flattest, while the continuation to Keld is less so.

It is a really good route, a family-style challenge.

Read more here.

Cycle touring in the Yorkshire Dales

You can create your own routes through the Dales most easily using the Harvey map, Yorkshire Dales for Cyclists, a 1:100,000 map on tough hard-wearing paper.

It’s a clear, beautifully-drawn map, showing long-distance routes and challenging climbs, as well as marking cafés, pubs and bike shops.

The Sustrans pocket-sized maps are also good:

Kirkby Stephen circular route

One of the quietest routes in the Dales, starting in Kirkby Stephen in the north west of the Dales, taking in the village of Keld and the highest pub in England, the Tan Hill Inn. A 26.6 mile route shown on the Sustrans map which also covers County Durham.

Map: County Durham and North Yorkshire Sustrans Cycle Map

Alternatively, you can follow routes in the Cicerone guide book, 24 circular rides including:

Wensleydale and Swaledale from Leyburn

28 “reasonably challenging” miles according to the Cicerone guide book (route 21) with potential café stops along the way at Reeth, Fremington, Askrigg and Bolton Castle.

Guide book: Cicerone’s Cycling in the Yorkshire Dales

Dales and Tarn from Settle

A “long challenging” 30.7 mile route in the Cicerone guide book (route 10), starting in Settle and including Malham Tarn.

Guide book: Cicerone’s Cycling in the Yorkshire Dales

Long-distance cycle routes in the Dales

Tour de France 2014

The first three stages of the 2014 Tour de France took place in England, with the first of those traversing the Yorkshire Dales.

128.6 miles from Leeds to Harrogate, and including on the way Reeth, Gunnerside and Hawes, Wharfedale, Wensleydale and Swaledale.

Perhaps too much of a day-long challenge for the vast number of cyclists, but split into stages?

Guide book: Cicerone’s Cycling in the Yorkshire Dales

The Yorkshire Dales Cycle Way

This is a 130-mile circuit in the Yorkshire Dales, with access from Skipton and Ilkley.

It passes through Malham, Settle, Ingleton, Dent, Hawes, Gunnerside, (close to) Reeth, Wensley, Kettlewell and Grassington.

A magnificent route, it is shown in one map as a complete circuit:

Map: Harvey’s Yorkshire Dales Cycle Way or can be followed on Harvey’s other map of the area, Yorkshire Dales for Cyclists

La Vuelta a Dales

A 6-day tour of the entire Yorkshire Dales, over 200 miles and over 4,300 metres of ascent.

With a start point in Settle, the route takes in all of the main valleys. An amazing route. And tough challenges along the way!

Guide book: Cicerone’s Cycling in the Yorkshire Dales

The Pennine Cycleway

The Pennine Cycleway is a waymarked Sustrans cycle route all the way from Derby up the spine of England to Berwick-upon-Tweed.

It arrives in the Yorkshire Dales National Park near Gargrave and takes a fantastic route up the west side of the National Park to Appleby-in-Westmorland over in Cumbria – about 70 miles.

There are potential stops in Settle, Ingleton and Sedbergh on the way.

This is a beautiful and often very quiet territory to explore, and there are direct trains between Gargrave and Appleby for a return route on the famed Settle-Carlisle Railway.

Maps: Pennine Cycleway South and Pennine Cycleway North

The Pennine Bridleway

The Pennine Bridleway starts in Derbyshire and finishes in Northumberland, with some of the best riding in the Yorkshire Dales. This is off-road riding, some of it reasonably challenging unless you are used to it.

The Yorkshire Dales section starts in Long Preston and goes via Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Garsdale Head to Ravenstonedale and is around 51 miles.

It is best followed using Cicerone’s guide book, which has excellent maps and riding instructions, plus height graphs and what to see and do.

Guide book: Cicerone’s Cycling the Pennine Bridleway (Lancashire and the Yorkshire Dales)

The Way of the Roses

The Way of the Roses is a Sustrans coast to coast route from Lancashire’s Morecambe to Yorkshire’s Bridlington, via – of course – Lancaster and York, the red and the white roses.

It is a very popular and varied ride, 170 miles altogether, including passing through Settle, Burnsall and Pateley Bridge on its way to Ripon and York.

You can read more about the Way of the Roses here.

Map and guide book: Way of the Roses Sustrans Map and the Way of the Roses Cicerone Guide Book

Walney to Wear

The Walney to Wear route starts in south Cumbria and wends its way over the Pennines to finish in Sunderland.

The W2W includes the very northern border of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. You can read more about the Walney to Wear route here.

Mountain biking / off-road cycle routes in the Yorkshire Dales

Lovely - if often challenging - cycle routes in the Yorkshire Dales

The guide book Cycling the Pennine Bridleway (Lancashire and the Yorkshire Dales) from Cicerone in fact has a number of mountain-bike loops in the Yorkshire Dales very well described and mapped. Examples are below, and a full list can be found by clicking on the link to the guide book itself:

  • The Settle Loop is 10 miles long, of which 7.5 is off-road. It is quite a challenge with a great deal of climbing, but excellent views and very good downhills to finish. Graded: Medium.
  • Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Helwith Bridge, Sulber Nick – 12.5 miles, 0f which 6.75 miles off-road. Graded: Easy.
  • The locations of the loops are shown below:
Cycling the Pennine Bridleway - the route

Another excellent guide book, Yorkshire Dales Mountain Biking from Vertebrate, has 26 mountain bike routes all around the Dales, including around Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-ghent, Swaledale, the Howgills and the Swale Trail.

Routes include an “easy” 16Km from Austwick, an “epic” from Settle to Malham Cove, and “enduro” from the Ribblehead Viaduct and the Tour d’Ingleborough as a 40Km “killer”!

Cycle-friendly Holiday Accommodation in the Yorkshire Dales

Section still to be completed

Maps and guide books

Using the Ultimate UK Cycle Route Planner

Using the Ultimate UK Cycle Route Planner

by Richard Peace, cycling journalist, guide book author, map designer: https://richardpeacecycling.com/

UK Cycle Route Planner
The Ultimate UK Cycle Route Planner

As a cycle guide publisher we’ve done quite a few shows in the past, displaying our range of cycle books and maps to the general public and it’s always interesting to get people’s reactions. The good ones make you feel like you are doing something right but the critical are often just as helpful.

It’s been very noticeable at the shows that many people pick up our Ultimate UK Cycle Route Planner and once they have done so are extremely reluctant to put it down, studying it intensely and making ums and ahs of interest and enlightenment.

But why is it a different tale with some online reviews who occasionally criticise the map? Typical comments include ‘Not enough detail to follow correctly’ and ‘at best it is an indication of where cycle routes may be.’

So to clear up exactly what the planner is and isn’t and how it will hopefully keep on proving useful to buyers, here’s a bit more background about the contents and how it we envisage it being used.

1. The Scale

With a scale of 1:588,000 this is an overview map for planning your routes so you can see how all the UK’s main leisure cycle routes are interconnected. So it’s not meant for navigation as you ride along.

It’s simply not possible to fit all the UK’s major cycle routes onto one map at a great level of detail – if you tried you would end up with an unmanageably large sheet of paper.

1080mm x 880mm is the unfolded sheet size and is as large as we wanted to go – any larger and it becomes too much of a handful to inspect when unfolded, especially if outdoors in the wind.

It folds down to the size of an OS Landranger map and so will handily fit in the map pocket of an outdoor type coat.

2. What Routes are Shown and Who is it Aimed at?

Leisure riding
The National Cycle Network (NCN)

The UK Cycle Route Planner is aimed at leisure riders. The National Cycle Network (NCN) is shown in its entirety and stands out in bold red along. NCN route numbers are included. As the traffic-free sections (many are former railway lines converted to paths or upgraded canal towpaths) are amongst the most popular these are made to stand out in even broader red and white dashes.

There is more traffic-free info in the form of green numbers next to traffic-free sections. A separate box out names each numbered traffic-free section, allowing you to search out more detailed info online or in other guidebooks. There are 305 traffic-free sections listed and those that we know to be in rougher condition are indicated with red MB lettering to show that a mountain bike may be a wise choice on them, even though the gradients are likely to be unchallenging.

In addition to NCN routes the traffic-free numbering system also identifies easy going traffic-free trails that are not on the NCN but still legally cycleable, such as some sections of the Leeds-Liverpool canal or a route through the Forest of Dean.

More Challenging Routes

For those want more of a challenge the map also shows a selection of routes in dotted green lines. These are National Trails and other long distance off-road routes that allow bikes.

cycle maps and guide books
Southe Pennines and Peak District Off-road Cycle Map

Examples include the Pennine Bridleway and the Moors to Sea route in the North Yorks Moors. If you want to know more about the kind of track used by these routes see the BikeRideMaps blog here on the routes in the South Pennines and northern Peak District.

A selection of long distance classics are also indicated on the map including the C2C, the Way of the Roses and the Devon Coast to Coast. The map also shows 46 regional signed routes – these are also often multi day rides and fully signed on the ground but less well-known than the iconic long distance routes listed above.

Attractions En Route and Transport Links

To aid the ‘joining up’ of all the above routes the map also shows suggested minor road links and the lengthier sections of traffic-free route sometimes found alongside major roads.

The UK’s rail network and all stations are shown in full for those wanting to access their rides by train.

This allows you to make up your own bike tours; an almost infinite number of possibilities await…

Last but not least you can see where there are attractions on or near the cycle routes such as stately homes, castles, museums and many other historical sites.

3. So Just How Would You Use It?

We have had feedback from an End to End rider who said they took the map with them en route and found it invaluable. But it can also be used to discover day rides in your local area or a holiday area you don’t know that well or to make up your own multi-day rides.

As we always try and make clear to potential buyers, when out cycling you are likely to need a more detailed, larger scale map of the area you are riding in to aid you if you get lost en route.

Where the Planner comes into its own is allowing you to see easily and clearly at a glance all the many different types of route in any area of the UK you choose to look at.

That’s something we think no other publication will let you do.

Richard Peace is the author of many cycling guide books, including the best-selling C2C cycle guide, Cycling Northern France, Cycling Southern France and the Devon C2C cycle guide.

You can read more on the Excellent Books web page.