This cycle ride follows much of the Sustrans route entitled "Way of the Roses" but with a few diversions and add-ons so that we could incorporate some lovely pubs. And, believe me, there are some pub treasures on this route. The official distance for the "Way of the Roses" is 170 miles but with this Lancaster Loop at the start, a meandering day cycling from Bridlington to Hull, plus a few extras, we rode 350 miles. Don't let that figure put you off because, if you follow these directions, it can be completed at a leisurely pace over six days. We stopped to look at most places and locations of interest, called into some classic inns and enjoyed some of the most beautiful scenery. Taking in parts of the Lune Valley, Yorkshire Dales, Nidderdale and the Yorkshire Wolds, this is a ride to enrich your soul.
Some of our route deviations throughout this Coast-to-Coast ride were added to ensure we were in a busy town during the evening with plenty of pub choices but, more importantly, in locations where we could book into a Travelodge [see next column for details] and leave the bikes to explore places on foot. Not only did this facilitate a pleasant evening in Skipton, it meant that we opted to spend the first night at Lancaster. In order to fulfil our 'Coast-to-Coast' objective, I created a loop so that we could take the bikes to the official start line at Morecambe and take a look around some delightful pockets of Lancashire. This loop is 53.72 miles. Most people finish Day 1 of the "Way of the Roses" route in Settle, leaving themselves a very challenging second day tackling the notoriously 'lumpy' territory in the Yorkshire Dales. By stopping at Skipton, we found that the difficult climbs were spread across two days. My riding partner, La Goddess du Vélo, found this to be quite a bonus.
Reserving spaces for our bikes, we travelled to Lancaster on the Virgin Trains service to Edinburgh. And once out of the station concourse, we were off - straight into our journey of exploration. Just time for a quick look around Lancaster. So a quick whizz down Meeting House Lane and left onto a short climb up the cobbles of Castle Hill. I love riding pavé sections and will often go out of my way to fit a cobbled element into a route. Cobblestone, incidentally, is thought to derive from the Middle English term 'kobilstane,' something to ponder whilst your bones are being shaken as you concentrate on avoiding a wide slit between the 'setts,' the more accurate term for road cobbles. Kassei is the Belgian name for setts, a term that might come in handy next time you want to impress fellow riders when discussing Flemish racing!
Lancaster Castle was still being used as a Category C Prison until 2011. Given the state of security these days, this probably meant that inmates could nip out for a paper, put a bet on in the bookies and enjoy a quick pint in Wetherspoon's before popping back to the nick for dinner. The castle, built on the site of a Roman fort, has its origins in 1093 when Roger de Poitou, a cousin of William the Conqueror, built a motte and bailey castle on the site. The Pendle Witches were tried at Lancaster Castle in 1612 - if only they knew a famous beer would one day be named in their honour. Another very famous prisoner was George Fox, the founder of Quakerism. Around 200 executions took place at Lancaster Castle, 43 of them being for murder. Old Ned Barlow was responsible for 131 of the executions.
If you think you have enough time during your day the Lancaster Cottage Museum is just across the road from the castle. Here you can soak up life in Victorian days within a building that dates back to 1739. Also in the vicinity is the Judges Lodgings, Lancaster's oldest town house and once the home of the keeper of the Castle.
We cycled along Long Marsh Lane to circumnavigate Lancaster Priory before taking a look at our first pub of the trip. Formerly known as the Red Lion and the Carpenters' Arms, the Three Mariners is, according to the pub, "one of only two sites in Britain with an original gravity-fed cellar, and the only one to be cooled by a natural spring seeping through from the castle rock." The cobbled road in front of the building is all that remains of Bridge Lane, the thoroughfare that the pub fronted in days of old. The medieval bridge which the lane's name references was demolished in the late 18th century to facilitate the passing of ships into Lancaster's developing port at St. George's Quay. Fragments of the old bridge have been seen when the water is low. Indeed, a section of the old bridge survived until the mid-19th century and was shown on Victorian maps of Lancaster.
The Three Mariners dates from the late 17th century though it is thought that a tavern has existed on the site since the 1400's. Certainly, the pub is one of the oldest surviving vernacular buildings in the city, though it was extended in the 19th century, and restored in later years. As the Carpenters' Arms, the house had a shocking reputation in the 19th century. In 1849 the licence was only renewed after owner had "got rid of all the disorderly characters who occupied the upper part of the premises." In the same year the publican, Charles Swithenbank, was summoned for allowing prostitutes to gather in the pub. In earlier times, it is claimed that prisoners at the castle were given their 'last drop' at this public house before their execution.
We pedalled around some of the streets before heading uphill for the first time on the trip. The climb up to Williamson Park was not too difficult and we wound our way up to the Ashton Memorial, a building commissioned by Lord Ashton as a tribute to his late wife. Overlooking the city and surrounding countryside, the memorial was designed by John Belcher, the work being completed in 1909. Unfortunately for us, the building was undergoing restoration so we were unable to look inside and visit the viewing gallery to enjoy an outlook across Morecambe Bay.
The former Palm House has a café and shop, along with toilets - all good stuff for cyclists. The building has been transformed into a tropical oasis and houses a large collection of butterflies. There is modest entrance fee.
We rolled down the hill and followed a canal and river route to pick up a cycle lane to the north of the River Lune. This afforded views across to St. George's Quay, an important reminder of the town's role as a port associated with the Atlantic trade. The Quay was developed in the mid-18th century on glebe land downstream of the aforementioned medieval bridge. The cycle route passes alongside a purpose-built cycle track. Bike-friendly Lancaster certainly has good provision for cyclists with excellent cycle lanes around the city.
The cycle lane joins Lancaster Road and passes in front of the Golden Ball Inn at Snatchems, a colloquial name that possibly derives from the actions of Press Gangs who took local farmers and fishermen off to sea. Impressment also took place at the aforementioned Three Mariners. The road passing in front of the Golden Ball is subject to tidal waters at times - little wonder that the former Mitchell's-operated house is on an elevated position. At one time there was a ferry to transport customers across the River Lune. Nathaniel Thornton, landlord of the pub in the 1880's, used the ferry almost exclusively for his patrons. In the Edwardian period there were a number of huts next to the Golden Ball Inn which, during the height of the salmon season, were the abode of the local fishermen working the Lune Salmon Fleet. Mitchell's closed the Golden Ball in 2010 and put the pub on the market. It was acquired by Stephen Hunt who managed the pub with his children Joseph and Nicole.
The road out towards Overton rises slightly so you will not be surprised to learn that a windmill was once operated on this elevation. Located close to the mouth of the Lune, Overton once had a thriving fishing trade. Being on the road to sort of, well, nowhere, we were surprised at the volume of traffic in the village. Following the signs for the parish church, turn left to take a look at the sandstone building, the oldest parts of which date from the 12th century. St. Helen's was partly rebuilt in 1771. This work resulted in a chancel wider than the nave. Further work was conducted in 1830 and a restoration of the building in 1902, during which the foundations of an earlier canted apse at the east end was discovered. The church is midway along a lane heading out to Dunnal Point. There was a sandstone quarry towards the river, a source no doubt of some of the building materials. The churchyard is a tranquil spot these days - a nice setting to dismount and just listen to the sound of the breeze and the singing birds.
Leaving the church, one has to retrace one's pedal strokes to return to the Lancaster Road. Turn left and you soon come across the old Ship Hotel. It was during my research for this trip that I learned of the pub's closure in September 2014. Being ever-the-optimist, I had hoped that some brave soul had taken on the place and re-opened this outpost. The business folded following the death of Cynthia Webber who, along with her husband Geoffrey, had run the Ship Hotel for many years. The building was once operated by Yates & Jackson. However, the Lancaster brewers left things well alone inside and there were rare features such as the shuttered bar that had lower screens which could be moved to seal the servery. The rear games room was converted from Ma McLusky's living room. Her family kept the pub for around sixty years. In fact, it would seem that most publicans who kept the Ship Hotel didn't want to leave. Thomas Jackson was licensee for 48 years. He was a former oversee for the township, an honorary member of the Rose of Lune lodge of Oddfellows, and from 1907 until his death in 1924, a member of the Lancaster Rural District Council and Board of Guardians. He left the pub in 1922, a period when the Ship Hotel had a Blacksmith's Shop, Bowling Green and Pleasure Grounds. We would have loved to sipped a beer in this place.
You only have to cycle a short distance along Overton's Main Street until you arrive at The Globe, a pub that stands near to the lane that heads out to Sunderland Point. When the notorious George Slater was the gaffer in the 1930's it cost eight shillings to spend a night near the marshes. The publican's unique selling point in his advertising material was the "glorious views of Morecambe Bay" and that the building was "beautifully illuminated in the evenings and visible for miles around." The pub also boasted a putting green and bowling green. During the Second World War George Slater was pivotal in the arrest of Arthur Thompson, a Bootle-born soldier who was subsequently charged with the murder of Jane Coulton, former licensee of the Nag's Head Inn at Clayton Heights.
View and Download Map
The route map covers the entire day's cycle ride so it is not only this section of the route.
The route profile for this day of cycling shows that there are only a couple of climbs. Most of the route is gently undulating.
You may have downloaded my Garmin file for this route but there's nothing like sitting down with a pint and looking at the bigger picture. The entire route for the "Way of the Roses" is presented here in a manageable foldout map. Not only is the official route highlighted, but there is a useful mileage guide, local information and route profiles. Details of cycle shops are also included just in case you have a mechanical. The scale is 1:100,000 so don't expect every pothole to be marked but it's a useful lightweight addition to the pannier bag. Incidentally, the signposting for the official route is excellent so you'd have to be a bit of a numpty to get lost!!
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.
Choose Your Bike
My weapon of choice for this ride was a touring machine that was realised in the Spring of 2014 after I had collected together a Tifosi carbon frame and white components from a range of manufacturers. I had tested this custom build on a couple of century rides and it has proved to be such a comfortable bike - always go for comfort on long days in the saddle. I opted to ride with a compact chainset but for those who like an easier time going uphill you may want to consider a triple chainset, particularly if you are not used to riding with the weight of pannier bags. This route has a couple of challenging climbs in the Yorkshire Dales.
Clothing and Equipment
If you intend to ride for six days, as we did, ensure you take ONLY the clothes you will NEED. If you finish the ride with clothing or kit you did not use then you will have carried extra weight up hills for no reason. I used large sealable food bags [available from supermarkets] and allocated a bag for each day, labelling each one for easy identification in the panniers. As you use the clean kit you can then recycle the bags to store dirty clothing. By using your bicycle as a clothes line, air your spent clothing overnight before packing away in the plastic bags during your morning ritual of preparations for the next leg of the journey. We did consider normal 'civilian' clothes for our evening strolls but, after weighing our pannier bags, decided against the extra weight and simply packed some leg warmers.
At the end of a long day riding a bike the last thing we want to do is start erecting a tent in a field. Plus, after spending the evening enjoying a few beers, I prefer the comfort of a nice clean toilet a few yards away rather than tramping across a field to a shower block or getting stung by nettles when spending a penny in the nearest bush. Besides, we prefer to travel light, not lugging tents and camping equipment across the countryside. If you plan ahead you can sleep in relative comfort at very affordable prices at Travelodge. We use them for many trips as you can take your bikes in the room for extra security and added peace-of-mind. Admittedly, some are located next to busy motorways but, increasingly, they are being opened in ideal locations within towns and cities. On this trip we were located in the heart of Lancaster, Harrogate, York and Hull, all of which proved perfect for a nice pub tour during the evening.
If you wish the likes of Travelodge to continue allowing bikes within their rooms, please do not treat the place as a garage. Bike cleaning, repairs and maintenance should be conducted outside the building. Care should also be taken not to mark or scratch the walls and/or furniture.
More Images from This Route
As big fans of the Spring Classics, we never send up the opportunity to ride a bit of pavé. So, the streets and area around Lancaster Castle were an early bonus for us to get a bit of bumpity-bump through the bike frames and to check that our teeth fillings were still in good order!
Ducks always seem to feature on our cycle rides - we love them so generally stop to say "hello" and share a bit of our flapjacks. So, if you wish to share the love, remember to pack a of bit extra nosh in the morning in order to feed the birds you will meet en-route.
Between the Butterfly House and Ashton Memorial at Lancaster is a cobble mosaic depicting the Lancashire Rose. Designed by Maggy Howarth, the work was commissioned by the city council in 1987. The mosaic was designed ""off site" and delivered by truck as a giant jigsaw puzzle.
Some Inn Signs on this Route
"I came out for exercise, gentle exercise, and to notice the scenery and to botanise. And no sooner do I get on that accursed machine than
off I go hammer and tongs; I never look to right or left, never notice a flower, never see a view - get hot, juicy, red - like a grilled chop. Get me on that machine and
I have to go. I go scorching along the road, and cursing aloud at myself for doing it."
H. G. Wells
"One of two cyclists who were knocked from their machines while riding home from work Monday evening, when they were in collision with a
car, which is alleged not to have stopped, John William Gardner , of 73 Windermere Road, Lancaster, died from his injuries in Morecambe Hospital late last night.
The other cyclist, Joseph Gallagher , of Park House, Torrisholme, Morecambe, escaped with only a slight injury to his hand. The police traced the driver of the car
Lancashire Evening Post : April 10th 1936 Page 9.
"Walter Allinson of 15, Lily Grove, Lancaster was removed to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary yesterday afternoon, as the result of an accident
on Penny Street Bridge, in which he sustained a fracture of the left leg. He was cycling down South Road, and near the electric standard at the junction of South Road and
Ashton Road he collided with a motor lorry, which was being driven in the opposite direction by James Davies, Strawberry Cottage, Preston, being thrown on to the bonnet
of the vehicle."
"Accident to Lancaster Cyclist"
Lancashire Evening Post : March 26th 1920 P.7.
"Alice Thompson , of 58 Blades Street, Lancaster, yesterday received a suspected fracture of the right arm, shock, and bruises when a
pedal cycle she was riding down High Street hill towards Dallas Road, Lancaster, got out control and collided with a tree. She was admitted to Lancaster Royal Infirmary."
"Collided With Tree"
Lancashire Evening Post : January 2nd 1937 Page 7.
"At Manchester Assizes, today, Mr. Justice Atkinson awarded £400 and costs to Margaret Annie Houldsworth , of 33, South Road,
Lancaster, against William H. Stockdale , of Skibeden, Skipton, for personal injuries as a result of a collision between a bicycle and a motor car. Her injuries
included permanent slight deafness of the left ear, and a permanent scar on the face. The Judge said plaintiff was cycling down Langdale Road into the main road running
from Lancaster to Caton. The road was fairly steep, but ran at a very wide angle into Caton Road. He did not know exactly at what speed she was going, but she was well
on her own side. There was no suggestion that she was not. She got well across Caton Road to her own side, and within four or five feet of the kerb when she collided
with defendant's car. The collision must have been almost head on, and she was shot forward, and her head went through the windscreen. She fell on the left of the bonnet,
and then on to the footpath into the gutter."
"£400 for Lancaster Girl Cyclist"
Lancashire Evening Post : July 23rd 1934 Page 4.