Featuring some fabulous landscape, this is a lovely cycle ride around part of the Yorkshire Dales. There are a couple of difficult climbs but these add to the drama of the day. It will all be worth it because the ride calls at one of Yorkshire's pub treasures that, once visited, you will want to relocate to a neighbouring cottage in order to make it your local. I have mapped the ride from Gargrave Railway Station so that it opens the route up to anyone wishing to use public transport. In my case I was cycling with friends with whom I was staying at Mill Lodge in Bell Busk. This is only a short distance away from Gargrave.
Gargrave is quite a busy village so you'll be able to obtain cash and purchase water and snacks in the Co-op supermarket before setting off. You will pass the Masons' Arms as you cycle into heart of the village and you may wish to check in here on the way back before catching your train. It is a fairly traditional pub with Timothy Taylor Landlord Bitter and Black Sheep Ale generally on tap, along with a guest ale. Pub food is served at reasonable prices. An alternative is the Old Swan Inn located on the High Street. One irresistible feature in Gargrave are the stepping stones across the River Aire, though take care if you are wearing cycling shoes!
The A65 road from Skipton to Kendal is very busy so, rather than follow this up to where I set off in Bell Busk, I have set the route to follow pleasant quiet lanes to Winterburn, a small village that I cycled through on the way to Hetton. The route passes over the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and on towards Eshton Hall, a large country house rebuilt in 1825-7 by the Kendal-based architect George Webster. Designed in the Elizabethan revival style for the Wilson family, the property has since been converted into apartments.
Winterburn Lane passes St. Helen's Well, once a site of pilgrimage. A chapel once stood near the site of the well. Bronze age artefacts have been found around the nearby Pillow Mounds or Giant's Graves. Just a little further along the lane is Friar's Head, a fine late-16th century house erected on land once managed by Furness Abbey. Modified over the years, this remains a most impressive mansion. From here you pedal along to Winterburn before heading eastwards to Hetton.
During the inter-war years you could drink for free at the Angel Inn on bonfire night. Mr. T. W. Irving, a well-known figure in the Craven district and the Bradford wool trade, who resided at Rylstone House, would invite the children of the local area for a supper before a fireworks display. Afterwards the adults would be provided with sandwiches and beer at the Angel Inn. In more recent times, the Angel Inn was noted for being one of the first gastropubs in the region. Indeed, the pub's late owner, Dennis Watkins, was dubbed the "Godfather of the Gastropub." The high standard of the food has seemingly been maintained and the Angel Inn was featured on BBC's "The Trip" when, following a wander around Bolton Abbey, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon tucked into some food here. Us poor licence fee holders probably picked up the tab!
Crossing over Skirse Gill Bridge, the road forks right and rises slightly to a level crossing on the old Yorkshire Dales line that closed in 1930, though goods trains still operate from the Swinden Lime Works north of Cracoe. There were ambitious plans for the Yorkshire Dales Railway to run all the way to Darlington but it never made it beyond Grassington and Threshfield. If you pause at the level crossing it is possible to see the remains of the platform for Rylstone Railway Station. Opened in the summer of 1902, there was a fairly substantial station building but this has since been demolished.
A little further along the lane towards Cracoe is Coonlands Laithe, home of the Dark Horse Brewery. I was tempted to go and have a look but owners Richard and Carole Eyton-Jones were probably busy and didn't need some herberts on bicycles disturbing them. Luckily for me, I managed to try a couple of their beers later in the week at The Victoria in Kirkby Malham - and very nice they were too! Housed in an historic laithe, the Wharfedale Brewery, as it was originally known, opened in December 2003 amid some pomp with the Duke of Kent performing an opening ceremony. A deep borehole had been drilled to draw upon the water below which has excellent qualities for brewing. The firm operated until 2007 until its closure. However, Richard and Carole Eyton-Jones bought the brewery and renamed it Dark Horse. Following the installation of new plant they rolled out their first beers in May 2008.
Look for the stone building on the left where the lane joins the B6265 because this used to be the Bull's Head Inn. A roadside hostelry of some antiquity, the licence of this public house was seemingly extinguished in 1917. The house was kept by the Sharp family during the reign of King William IV. If you are feeling peckish there is a café in Cracoe just before the Devonshire Arms. Business was no doubt brisk when the Tour de France passed through the village in July 2014. The Devonshire Arms is renowned as the birthplace of the Calendar Girls in 1998. It was in the old snug that several of the villagers met up and mooted the idea of producing a Women's Institute calendar to help raise money for a leukaemia charity. The launch of the world-famous calendar took place in the pub during April 1999. A £5,000 target fund, thought to be beyond reach at the launch, has been exceeded by several million pounds!
The interior of the Devonshire Arms has changed since those days but remains a popular pub by all accounts. It was all-too-popular for the village bobby in the 1920's. He would spend many a happy hour in the back room - that is, until he was spotted by a customer who happened to be Police Superintendent Bell. In fact, the publican, John Blake, was the one hauled before the magistrates and fined £5 for harbouring the police officer whilst he should have been on duty. Not that there was ever much for the local bobby to do in a village where the most heinous crime is having a weed in your front garden that is spotted by the chair of the parish council. A big case for the police in 1887 was the arrest of George Thompson, a labourer subsequently charged with having stolen two newspapers from the tap room of the Devonshire Arms.
Bearing left at Raikes Plantation, continue northwards before turning right along Lauradale Lane towards Linton and Grassington. Catchall Farmhouse stands on the apex of this road junction. This early 19th century building of coursed rubble was once a public house named the Catch All Inn and, for a spell at least, also traded as the Railway Tavern. Mind you, the relationship between publican and railway workers was not always harmonious. For example, in May 1902 Hugh Clark of the Catch All Inn, brought a successful action against the contractors working for the Yorkshire Dales Railway, claiming 22 shillings for stabling and for the loss of his goslings on the railway itself.
Look out for the listed milestone in front of the wall for Catchall Farmhouse. Dating from the 18th century and featuring pointing hands, this was actually a little further up the road in the coaching days. It was possibly moved by fifty metres to the junction due to its historical importance. Anyway, you aren't far from Grassington now so no need to worry about the number of pedal actions.
The most attractive route to Grassington from Cracoe passes through Linton, a name that reflects the village's association with the flax trade. If you get the chance during the ride you can divert and head to the clapper bridge, stepping stones, Vanbrugh's hospital and almshouses plus much more in this very attractive village. You could even call into the Fountaine Inn, a mid-18th century building that has found favour in newspapers such as The Guardian. As early as 1955 the Fountaine Inn was one of 52 public houses scheduled by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government as being of outstanding historic or architectural importance.
With plenty of miles to go, we rode through Linton and Grassington - I will include these places on another ride around Wharfedale. Talking of which, it's time to head up the valley, a road that I love cycling along. Actually, there are two choices for a route to Kettlewell - the western side has the Tennants Arms and Kilnsey Crag but has more traffic. The side we elected to ride was the eastern bank through Conistone. Generally, this is a very quiet lane all the way up to Kettlewell. Actually, you probably get a better view of Kilnsey Crag from this side of the river.
I know that I have called this ride Kettle Hell but it is merely a tongue-in-cheek title to describe what is about to follow. It is not a slur on Kettlewell because I love the cycling in and around this village. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, "when a cyclist is tired of Kettlewell, [s]he is tired of life!" The great news is that there are a couple of good pubs here selling decent beer - I will discuss these on another ride that passes through the village. For now, it was mid-morning so it was time for a cup of tea. And here in Kettlewell is one of the great cycling cafés of The Dales. With plenty of bike racking and a menu designed for high cadences, Zarina's is an excellent port-of-call.
A local lass who grew up in the locality, Zarina has been in charge of the tea rooms since 2004 and has since added bed-and-breakfast to the business. Always friendly, she makes time for customers and even took photographs of us so that one person wasn't missing from the image. Despite munching on a substantial breakfast, I felt the need for a door-stopping scone to continue my journey. Whether I needed the extra weight in my belly is another issue for we were about to tackle the hardest part of the ride.
Actually, we'd had it easy up until Kettlewell. The route is only slightly undulating with just a few short hilly digs. North Yorkshire has little in the way of pan flat territory. The lanes were a little damp with some slight rain and conditions were a tadge chilly so the hills acted as welcome warm-ups. The sun did come out however but, boy, were we about to get warmed up! Yes, we were heading up Park Rash, two words that send shivers down the spine of those in the know, those who have been there, those who have suffered. As we were climbing the initial ramp out of the village, a few local folks couldn't resist reminding us that there was worse to come. Oddly, the first 25% climb on Cam Gill Road is not part of the official climb - that is the ascent according to cycling guru Simon Warren, an uphill uberstar who came up with the ingenious idea of compiling Britain's toughest climbs into a handy volume in order that lesser mortals can traverse the nation ticking them off. This, and subsequent books, have become vélo encyclopaedias for those who seek self-inflicted anguish, torment coupled with a fair degree of discomfort and distress.
Although Simon Warren describes the initial ramp out of Kettlewell as a "nasty little climb." it apparently counts for nothing when it comes to uploading your digital distress to Strava, a website that stores and displays your suffering to the worldwide peloton. Anyway, once you wave goodbye to Kettlewell there is a little bit of flat during which one can recover from the shock of the gruelling gradient. One thing to look out for on the right is the remains of a smelting mill that is thought to have been operational in the late 17th century. You probably won't be in the mood for such industrial archaeology and simply be in the recovery stage of the climb out of Kettlewell. However, do try to enjoy the fabulous scenery in the valley created by Cam Gill Beck - in other words, try not to worry too much about what lies ahead. And then Park Rash comes into view. At first, you think it must be a joke. Monsieur Warren's tome claims that the hill, when "viewed in profile looks a good 45 degrees" and he is not jesting. The sight of the rising tarmac is highly disconcerting. I would recommend you visit the toilet facilities at Zarina's before embarking on this section of the route because when this hill comes sharply into focus you may make a mess of your saddle and seatpost.
As you make a slight right turn you present yourself at the foot of a tarmac wall before you and commence franticly selecting your easier gears. Alas, the severity of the climb is such that the rapidity of the desperate gear-changing brings you to your largest sprocket and you are suddenly out of options. This state of affairs, familiar to many a cyclist, is the dawning of your miserable situation - the point when you have to flick through your pocket dictionary to look up endurance and survival. Jens Voigt, a German member of the cycling deity, coined the catchphrase "Shut Up Legs," a useful maxim to lodge in your grey matter when dealing with the mental anguish such hill gradients can induce.
There is a left-hand switchback that has to be ridden on the wrong side of the road - the alternative being something like a 40% gradient. Suddenly, the thought of a 25-30% gradient can seem like a bonus! Following a right-hand turn, there is an opportunity of lung recovery during a relatively 'easy' 18% section, a gradient that would find you smarting on another day but here, on the slopes of Park Rash, you will readily grab with both hands. In fact, you'll find yourself begging to sign up for anything to stop the leg-burning agony! Climbing an 18% section is suddenly re-evaluated to "piece of cake" territory. Things get gradually easier and you can almost wheel out Kenneth Wolstenholme for his immortal words of July 1966 but press pause as there is another 20% section up the road before you can say "it is now!" We all grovelled our way to the top of the climb but, unfortunately for us, there was a mist at the summit and we were denied the anticipated panoramic views. The ride down Coverdale is apparently magnificent and I wish I could report on its majesty but our visibility was suddenly down to a few metres and, combined with my shades misting up, I was concentrating on looking out for potholes and sheep shit. Oh well, I'll just have to come back and do Park Rash all over again. Ironically, by the time we got down to Braidley the weather was bright again - these things can happen in The Dales.
Coverdale is one of the lesser-visited valleys and this is perhaps why people fall in love with the area. Some say it is the loveliest of The Dales. I certainly enjoyed the roll down, though the road is a bit hairy in places. Nice smooth roads are something we take for granted these days. In Coverdale however, tarmac is a relatively recent addition. There was something of a campaign during the 1930's to improve the road from Wharfedale. Despite the fact we think the indigenous population don't want us ruining the place, many residents in Coverdale wanted the increase in tourist trade that a good road would bring. Moreover, the improved connectivity would improve their own local economy and ease unemployment. Until the post-war years most commercial traffic had to make their way over Kidstones Pass. A report of 1935 suggested that local people were "willing to put up with partial loss of aesthetic values for the sake of practical gains."
The road from Kettlewell still seems pretty remote to me - we only encountered one vehicle travelling in the opposite direction. And so you roll down through remote hamlets such as Braidley and Horsehouse, the latter having a traditional rural boozer that I would definitely have patronised if the door had been open. Apparently, the pub does manage to keep going through local trade throughout the year boosted by tourist numbers in the warmer months. My hope is that the Thwaite Arms remains as resolute as some of the people who live in Coverdale. For example, in December 1949 the local press featured Miss Annie Weatherall, who as postal delivery worker, walked 11 miles a day delivering mail in the upper reaches of Coverdale. In her 14 years as a postwoman she had covered about 44,000 miles in all weathers, and was known to Dalesfolk as "the woman who never fails us." Annie Weatherall had succeeded James Lofthouse who served as the postman for 20 years. He was the last Coverdale man to work in the local coal mine at West Scrafton. The postman no doubt entertained regulars and visitors in the Thwaite Arms as he was noted for being a clever musician, and could play a variety of instruments including the organ, concertina and clarinet. He was also an expert on the tin whistle. One of his proudest possessions however was not an instrument but a heavy mahogany truncheon used by his father, Robert Lofthouse, the last resident constable for Carlton Highdale.
Then there's the story of Nurse Shepherd who, in March 1942, "received a telephone call at her East Witton home that a baby was to be born at Horsehouse, the remotest hamlet at the head of Coverdale. Snow had fallen all day, adding a foot to drifts already so deep that villages of the Dale were isolated. It was impossible for Nurse Shepherd to reach Horsehouse by car or on horseback. So, taking a garden hoe to measure the drifts, she set off on foot, through the dark and a high wind. Horsehouse was nine miles away. At the other end of the Dale, the baby's father came out to meet the nurse, but after covering half a mile turned back convinced that nobody could get through. At 4.30 a.m. Nurse Shepherd arrived, soaked but smiling, and saw a little girl called Pearl into the world. The nurse stayed at Horsehouse until the afternoon, when she was called to patient three miles away across the high moors, over immeasurable snowdrifts. She walked there with her garden hoe and then she walked home to East Witton." The newspaper report added that Nurse Shepherd is small, but in stature only."
We rolled down through Gammersgill and into Carlton where there is a community pub called the Foresters' Arms. The pub actually closed down in 2011 and was rescued by the local community who, collectively, acquired the business and installed Keith and Lesley Sharpe as tenants. By all accounts this has been a successful venture. There is a good range of locally brewed real ales as well a wide range of reasonably-priced meals made from locally-sourced ingredients. The pub also offers good accommodation. I wonder what it is like to be the publican where many of the customers are shareholders? Must keep you on your toes. The Wensleydale Brewery was started at the Foresters' Arms but has since moved to larger premises at Bellerby, to the north of Leyburn. The pub does however remain on the brewery's list of regular outlets so you could be lucky when you call in and find Wensleydale Gold or Black Dub.
The Foresters' Arms was kept by the Walls family during the 19th century. The name almost certainly derives from the fact that the long-serving publican Williams Walls was an active member of the Ancient Order of Foresters, a society with origins in Yorkshire during the late 18th century. The Court Banks of Coverham [No.508] held their meetings at the Foresters' Arms from 1836. The pub would host an anniversary each year throughout the 'reign' of Brother William Walls. In 1841, for example, officers and brethren assembled early in the morning when the court was opened for business and new members were initiated. The court would close mid-morning after which there would be a procession to the church. Led by the Leyburn Brass Band, the officers and senior members would ride on horses with full regalia followed by the rest on foot wearing green sashes and emblems of the order. After the church service there would be a similar procession back to the Foresters' Arms where William and Ann Walls would host a dinner. At five o'clock the band would strike up to assemble for a procession through the town, then to Melmerby and back. On returning, the Court would re-open for further initiation of members before the court room was opened for the "reception of wives, sweethearts, and female acquaintances of the brethren, who were regaled in the most liberal and handsome manner." The brass band, who were putting in a long shift, would then entertain the villagers for the evening.
William Walls was born in Carlton in 1809 and married Ann Coates in 1832. In addition to running the Foresters' Arms, the couple farmed 18 acres of land, part of which no doubt included the castle motte behind the pub. Their children helped in the fields. It was hard work and took its toll when they lost William, their eldest son one hot July in 1878. Along with a younger brother, he was putting hay into a stack when he remarked that he could not bear the heat any longer. He drank some draught beer and proceeded back to the Foresters' Arms. However, on the way he became giddy. Exhausted he became speechless so his younger brother laid him down and ran for assistance. Doctor Cockroft of Middleham was sent for but the surgeon was unable to save him. Within two hours he had died.
William and Ann Walls kept the Foresters' Arms for most of the 19th century and both died at ripe old ages. The pub passed to their son Joseph Walls who sold up to Theakston's in 1910. The family would have been familiar with one of Carlton's larger-than-life characters who had a verse, inscribed in a tablet, above the doorway of his home at Flatts Farm. This is just up the road from the pub so you can go and have a look. Leaving a space for the date of his death, Henry Constantine intended the tablet to be a perpetual monument to himself. Born in 1791 and known as the Coverdale Bard, he was described as a fairly well-to-do owner of land and property, and looked after and scrutinised the tithes, rates, and other financial matters in the parish. He knew everything about the area and nothing escaped his notice. He probably had many a tale to tell in the Foresters' Arms.
The garage in Carlton entered into the spirit of things for the 2014 Tour de France and decorated the doors with a bike featuring the colours of the leader's jerseys. We stopped to take photographs before heading over Melmerby Moor towards West Witton. The mist was back on the high ground and we were once again denied what are reportedly fabulous views across the landscape. Featuring a left-hand switchback, there is a steep drop down to West Witton. There are a couple of pubs here and, depending on your budget and preference, you can choose from the Wensleydale Heifer or the Fox and Hounds. Back in the day there were a few more taverns, including the Duke William and the Star Inn. Despite the pub's name, the Wensleydale Heifer specialises in seafood. In what is billed as a boutique hotel, fish and chips here can set you back almost twenty-five quid. The tavern wasn't always so upmarket - in 1893 the local residents opposed the renewal of the pub's licence so one assumes it was quite a bawdy establishment during Victorian times.
Talk to the locals and they will remark that the Fox and Hounds is a proper pub. The gaffers advertise that they are a friendly and welcoming family-run pub, offering a range of cask conditioned ales including some from the Yorkshire Dales Brewery and Salamander of Bradford. Using locally-sourced ingredients where possible, they also offer a range of home cooked meals. What I really like about the Fox and Hounds is that traditional pub games are upheld. They have a weekly dominoes knockout night, coupled with darts and quoits pitches.
The is apparently no connection to hunting but the pub's name was reportedly changed to the Fox and Hounds in the mid-late 19th after trading as the Punch Bowl. The Fox and Hounds is central to West Witton's annual burning of "Owd Bartle." Every year the villagers gather together outside the pub for the purpose of burning an effigy of their patron saint, Bartholomew. One theory put forward is that the ceremony dates back to the massacre of Huguenots in France on August 24th, 1572. The slaughter began on St. Bartholomew's night and has since been known, rather incongruously as the "Massacre of Saint Bartholomew." At the time, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, England was mainly Protestant and was naturally in sympathy with the murdered Huguenots, of whom more than 70,000 were allegedly put to death. The unfortunate Saint Bartholomew was consequently adopted as a scapegoat and annually burnt all over England for some years afterwards. West Witton seems to be alone in maintaining this ceremony. Perhaps the villagers have always felt that they had sort proprietary interest to it, as Bartholomew is their patron saint. However, the meaning of the doggerel rhyme which accompanies the burning still seems as obscure ever.
Some villagers are uncomfortable with the burning of their revered saint and hang on to the other theory that Bartle was a sheep-stealing git who, in ancient times, was driven out of the village and burned. During the inter-war years George Stockdale held the post of chief executioner, a time when the feast used to be famous for cheesecakes! During this period, the local vicar, Richard Fryer Gatenby became known as the "cycling preacher" because it was estimated that he had cycled nearly 40,000 miles to preaching engagements.
Our time in Wensleydale was all too brief, though we did return later in the week. For now, it was time to start heading back. Of course, this was going to involve a hill. We pedalled through Swinithwaite, where there's a decent café at Berry Farm, and passing beneath the remains of the preceptory of the Knights Templar to Burton Bridge and the foot of Kidstones Pass. This is a most enjoyable long climb up Bishopdale. Like our journey over Melmerby Moor [see above] we were once again riding through a fairly thick mist. It wasn't until we got up to the top that the sky opened up and we were basking in glorious sunshine - another case of one side of a hill enjoying completely different conditions than that of the other. The hardest sections of this Kidstones Pass heading southwards are around 16% but for the most part it is less than this and easy to chug uphill.
If you are trying to sample them all, there is another Fox and Hounds just off the route in West Burton. However, it is not too far until you reach the Street Head Inn at Newbiggin. Here you can take advantage of a locked garage for your bike whilst you sample some of the real ales and tuck into the hearty meals on offer in this historic tavern and hotel. A sizeable crowd gathered here in July 2014 because the Street Head Inn had the distinction of being the finishing line of the first sprint of Stage One of the Tour de France when it came to Yorkshire - I was at the finishing line in Harrogate that day.
The reward for cycling a long climb is the downhill that follows. The descent to Buckden is fantastic. Nice and safe with a good quality surface you can really fly. Sorry, I was too engaged with my flying descent to call at the White Lion Inn at Cray, an old drover's boozer. Indeed, there was no stopping at Buckden, Starbotton or Kettlewell as we were keeping our powder dry for our visit to Arncliffe, home of the magnificent Falcon.
Riding through a gloriously sunny Wharfedale and Littondale, the ride to Arncliffe was fabulous. One of our riding group is familiar with the area and had patronised The Falcon in the 1970's. He was rather nervous of the forbidding character who had a reputation for taking a dislike to customers as soon as they ventured through the door. I am delighted to report that our reception was most hospitable. Friendly chat and banter ensued between publican, regulars and visitors. The only snag is that I do not reside in Arncliffe as I would love this to be my local - it is a very rare example of a traditional rural pub. Not traditional like the big breweries and pubco's would have you believe in their marketing slogans. Forget the bogus concepts conjured up by company charlatans for here in Arncliffe is the real deal - a veritable bona fide village pub that hasn't changed for generations. Indeed, the pub has a history of being run by the same family for generations.
I couldn't resist wandering around soaking up the building's character and atmosphere for as long as possible in what was a cruelly short visit. Having pedalled in the heat from Wensleydale, I was parched so was pleased to benefit from the pale hoppy White Rat beer, an ale produced by a microbrewery operated by Ossett Brewery. The citrus overtones hit all the right notes and in the right order. By the way, the pub is noted for serving Timothy Taylor's beer in a ceramic jug in true old school fashion. This has caused outrage by some who have posted negative reviews on Trip Advisor. Indeed, this is a pub that seems to divide opinions - it is not a place for the Ikea generation who crave homogeneity wherever they go. No, this is a hostelry of some authenticity and is wonderfully quirky and eccentric. I particularly liked the comments of one reviewer who remarked that "if the Falcon was a car it would be a lovingly maintained Morris Minor Traveller with varnished timber and those sticking-out indicators of yore."
Perhaps I'm a little late for my first taste of The Falcon. Not so long ago, the pub's owners Robin and Elspeth Miller refused to stock lager or other fizzy stuff. Even the guest ale was barred. These recent additions have been introduced by new tenants who have made a few alterations to the business whilst rigorously maintaining the pub's integrity. It was in May 2014 that Arncliffe-born Joanne Hodgson and her husband, Steven, took over the reins. Joanne had previously helped Elspeth Miller so knew the one side of the counter whilst Steven had become very familiar with the other side having patronised the place for many a year when relaxing from his job on Joanne's parents' farm, Castle Farm, in the village. I must stress that the vast majority of reviews left for this couple are wildly positive and are posted by people who have a sense of history and value pub tradition. So, how do I feel about The Falcon? Well, I would put this place in my Top 20 pubs in the UK. For some, it may be out of time. However, The Falcon is of its time. I'll drink to it remaining timeless.
It would be great to report that it was all downhill from here but the road to Malham means climbing up the tremendously steep Brootes Lane from Littondale. The lane runs parallel to, and provides views of Yew Cogar Scar across Cowside Beck. Providing your aren't in a whole world of pain the views are lovely. Crossing a cattle grid at Nab End, the road drops down steeply to Darnbrook House from where there is a pleasant long climb up to Water Houses and Malham Tarn. This is another wonderfully remote part of The Dales where few people seem to venture. The next steep drop is down to Malham, a road that needs to be treated with caution. There is one tricky left-hand turn down the steep slope and it is easy to drift wide and into oncoming traffic. One also has to remember that such a descent requires concentration so do not allow the fine view of Malham Cove prove too much of a sidetrack.
After the relative isolation experienced in some of The Dales, I generally find Malham too busy and containing too many people. I generally cycle straight through and on towards Airton. Although a picturesque village, there is a key issue for us - it's dry! Historically, it is a Quaker village, though there was a pub many moons ago. The 17th century Quaker Meeting House was formerly a barn. Today, the building hosts a number of events and exhibitions. In addition, it provides overnight accommodation for Duke of Edinburgh groups, climbers, walkers and cyclists!
We headed in the direction of Bell Busk but I have plotted the route back to Gargrave where you will have started out earlier in the day. If you have good weather, I am sure you will agree that this is a wonderful ride. Indeed, I think it is such a pleasant journey that I will undertake the ride again in the future.
View and Download Map
This route map shows the route criss-crossing at Kettlewell so it is possible to make it easier if you want a shorter ride. However, you would miss out on some lovely riding and, of course, the pubs!
The route profile shows a couple of red zones on the steeper climbs. Don't panic, although I enjoy the challenge of the climb, you can always get off and walk - after all, it's supposed to be fun!
A useful book to store in your back pocket or panniers is the second regional guide to Britain's toughest hill climbs compiled by Simon Warren. Indeed, there is a possibility that all of the UK's hills will be known as "Warrens" in the same way that Scottish Mountains over 3,000 feet are called "Munros." Yorkshire has so many great climbs there may be a second volume just for this county. But here in this book you'll find classics such as Fleet Moss, Park Rash and Rosedale Chimney. All of the climbs are presented with a photograph and description and are all rated out of 10.
If you prefer online accounts of hill climbing - and a whole lot more - then click on Tejvan Pettinger's wonderful cycling blog and marvel how he quietly goes about his business. It's often understated but this is a man who lets his bike do the talking. Featuring plenty of great photographs, his accounts are insightful, frank and highly informative.
Have Your Say
If you would like to share any further information on this route - perhaps you drank in different pubs? Or maybe you spotted something I missed en-route? Whatever the reason it would be great to hear of your stories or route guidance for others. Simply send a message and I'll post it here.
More Images from This Route
The cycle route through the old estate of Eshton Hall is lovely. This is followed by a gentle climb up past Friar's Head, a magnificent late-16th century mansion. You are never too far from Eshton Beck until you arrive at Winterburn when you head eastward to Hetton.
Between Hetton and Cracoe the route passes a level crossing on what was once the Yorkshire Dales Railway that was originally planned to run all the way to Darlington.
The narrow road from Conistone to Kettlewell is always a pleasure to ride along. Affording views of Wharedale, including Kilnsey Crag, this is a lovely - and flat - section of the ride.
You have done all the hard work of climbing Kidstones Pass so let rip and enjoy the descent down to Cray and on to Buckden - a terrific piece of road.
Some Inn Signs on this Route
"... a hardened and shameless tea-drinker, who has, for twenty years, diluted his meals with only the infusion of this fascinating plant;
whose kettle has scarcely time to cool; who with tea amuses the evening, with tea solaces the midnight, and, with tea, welcomes the morning."
"Leslie Flavell , labourer, of Longside Lane, Llsterhills, Bradford, was sentenced at Skipton today to three months' imprisonment for
stealing a bicycle, valued at £16. at Skipton on Saturday. He was also sentenced to three months' imprisonment for attempting to commit suicide in a police cell. The
sentences are concurrent. It was stated that a cyclist left his machine outside Skipton Town Hall on Saturday afternoon, and when he returned in half-an-hour it was gone.
He reported the theft to the police, and Flavell was found about two hours later at Cracoe, riding the cycle towards Grassington. He was taken to Skipton Police Station,
and at 11 a.m. yesterday Police Constable Norton found him hanging in his cell. He had torn his shirt into strips, made a rope and fastened one end to some bars, which he
could reach by opening a ventilator in the cell roof. Flavell told the Bench that he did not know what he was doing. It was stated that the defendant had previous
convictions for larceny in various parts of the country, and had been in prison. He was bound over for three years at Bradford last year."
"Hanging in Skipton Cell"
Yorkshire Evening Post : April 13th 1942 Page 5.
"Thomas William Riley, Arthur James Burton, Archibald Rosenberg, and Harry Nossell, all of Leeds, were charged at Selby today with breaking
into the Foresters' Arms at Carlton on March 25th and stealing £70, two gold watches and watch guard, of the total value of £80. Mrs. Elizabeth Palframan, of
Camblesforth, said that she saw Riley and Nossell in a motorcar at the Foresters' Arms. There were three men in an open car. Mrs. Annie Moore, Mill Farm, Carlton, said that
she saw six men in a motor-car in the lane which divided her farm from the Foresters' Arms. She noticed Misses Newton, who kept the inn, leave the house and go out for a
walk. Later some of the men came to her house and bought eggs. She saw the men try the door the inn. She identified Nossell and Burton as the men she saw. Mrs. Agnes
Pocklington, widow, of Carlton, stated that a car containing six men got fast in the mud in a lane, and a horse was requisitioned to draw it out. She was afterwards given
a lift in the car, and she identified Burton as the driver. A further remand was ordered until April 17th. Burton was granted bail, himself in £50 and one surety of
£50. The other prisoners were remanded in custody, applications for bail for Riley and Rosenberg being refused."
"Inn Theft Charge"
Yorkshire Evening Post : April 9th 1923 P.10.
"A rally of cyclists at Malham Cove yesterday was
attended by over 200. The meeting had been organised by the Cyclists' Touring
Club, and attracted members from all parts of Yorkshire. Among the speakers were
Mr. W. D. Wills, M.P. for the Batley and Morley Division. Mr. A. O. Banks, the
writer on cycling, and Mr. C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne. the novelst. Mr. C. A. Cheetham,
of Austwick, presided. Mr. Wills, who was formerly a Scout Commissioner for the
Craven district, said that an open-air life was one of the means of restoring
that spirit of adventure which was lacking in the country today. Mr. Cutcliffe
Hyne said the Architect who designed the human body made manual labour, or some
kind of exercise, one of the main ingredients of health."
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer : September 12th 1932 Page 3.