Start & Finish: Skipton
Make your own way to Skipton. Picture perfect and without a stone out of place, the literal meaning of the name is sheep-town. The Norman castle here dates back to 1090 and was being strengthened in the 13th century against the Scots. It is now one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England and worth a visit if you have time. Skipton has one of the oldest mills in North Yorkshire (1310), High Corn Mill, powered by the waters of Eller Beck.
From medieval times Skipton became a prosperous market town, trading sheep and woollen goods. In the 19th century it became a small mill town connected to the major cities by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. In 2016 it was the second time that Skipton was voted the best place to live in England in a poll by the Sunday Times.
Accommodation: Situated just a 5-minute stroll along the canal path to the centre of Skipton town, this small restaurant hotel offers quiet, comfortable and pleasant bright rooms with spaces to relax.
Introducing the moors, hills, rivers and dales of Yorkshire, your cycle ride gets underway from Skipton. The ride starts through the lovely village of Embsay and then with a long hillclimb up to 300m /984 feet along Barden Road giving superb views across Embsay Moor and as far as Ilkley Moor. You then descend to the babbling beauty of the River Wharfe and Wharfedale town. You pass charming Appletreewick, essentially a medieval village with gorgeous stone cottages reflecting the limestone nature of the surrounding geology. Indeed some of the buildings seem to have grown out of the ground having been there since the 12th century. Perhaps pause at the pub, the beautiful ivy covered Craven Arms with a long trestle table terrace. Then, continue cycling along the river as it flows through Burnsall, a dramatic village with an imposing stone bridge, as well as a Grammar School built in 1601. Have a riverside break here before ascending Elberton Hill, your last major climb of the day before a gentle downhill into the village of Airton. Join the River Aire in Upper Airedale and continue up through Kirkby Malham to reach the popular village of Malham.
Malham is a pretty place, surrounded by dry-stone walls and a stream running right through the middle of the village. It has been a settlement for at least a thousand years and was once a place of mills and mines. Mind the ducks as you walk to the pub. Either tonight or tomorrow (whenever the weather is best), walk up the valley to the beautiful and dramatic limestone amphitheater of Malham Cove. If you can manage the footpath above it, you will end up on the rocky pavement (a setting in Harry Potter) with great views back down the valley.
Accommodation: Your small hotel is set in a quiet spot in the village. Parts of the building date back to the 1660s and there is a small bar and drying room.
A cycle ride deep into the Yorkshire Dales is scheduled for today. Prepare for about 15km (9.3 miles) of wild and remote riding before you reach the first village! Steeply ascend Malham Rakes to the rippling waters of the glacial Malham Tarn. You now have some quiet hilly moorland riding before descending into Stainforth - the ancient Stony Ford once a colliery town on the river Ribble. Following the river, your bike ride passes the old milling village of Langcliffe before you arrive in Settle.
The market place is surrounded by a variety of glorious buildings, most notably the Shambles (1675) and the Town Hall (1832) now housing a great selection of shops, galleries and places to eat. The Victoria Hall opened as a music hall in 1853 and still has regular shows making it the oldest continuously-operating music hall in the UK. If you are a railway enthusiast, visit Settle Station with its working signal box and water tower. The iconic Settle-Carlisle Railway is a heritage treasure trove.
Ascent 457m /1,500 ft, descent 495m /1,625 ft.
Accommodation: The guesthouse has six delightfully individual en-suite rooms, which blend period features with contemporary decor.
A day of riding, passing limestone caves and waterfalls and a leg-testing amount of elevation gain! The cycle route follows gentle hills through peaceful countryside to the village of Clapham. You may be ready for a coffee before you continue riding into Ingleton, a pretty village which has a beautiful gorge and waterfall walk. To do this just lock up your bike and spend a couple of hours exploring. From here the route heads up into the glacially formed Kingsdale Valley. On your right, you have Yorkshire's highest peak of Whernside and there are wide and wild views which you can contemplate on the long ascents. At last you roll down into Dentdale and Dent village hidden between the Howgill Fells and Pennines.
Dent has its own little brewery and a couple of pubs and teashops. There are delightful cobbled streets and a fountain of pink granite in the village centre, commemorating Dent’s links with Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873), one of the greatest field geologists of his time. Dent is also famous for its ‘manic’ knitters. In the 18th century, both men and women knitted, often while walking to the fields to work. Their output of hand-knitted gloves and socks was enormous, providing an important supplementary income. The large 12th century St. Andrews Church is also worth a visit.
Accommodation: Snug rooms above the village store. All rooms are finished to a high standard with new fixtures and fittings.
The day starts with a steep climb through Dentdale following the river Dee. Enjoy great views from your saddle over rolling fells and the Arten Gill Viaduct. You reach the high point of the day at 435m / 1,427 feet from where the route becomes much easier as you roll into Hawes. England’s highest market town (259m /850 feet), in 1699 Hawes was granted a charter to hold markets by King William III. In 1887 an auction market was established for cattle sales and sheep fairs and soon after this cheese fairs also became a regular event.
Cycle to Gayle, next to Hawes, and visit The Wensleydale Creamery. They have been making this kind of cheese since around 1150, involving traditional recipes following those first created by French monks. Nowadays there are many different varieties of the eponymous Wensleydale which you can try. There is also a traditional rope factory where you can become more entwined in the history of the area. After this break, you cross over the river Ure and follow a quiet road which runs parallel to it. A final relaxing stretch takes you cycling through Bainbridge, a village with extensive greens and cascading river, to finally arrive in Askrigg. This is a Viking settlement, which name means ‘The ridge where ash trees grow.’ Once a knitting, milling and clock-making village, today it is a place of tea shops and pubs, with cobbled streets. Fans of James Herriot and the TV show ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ will recognise Skeldale House, as the vet’s surgery.
Accommodation: Family-run early Victorian guesthouse offering comfortable light rooms with panoramic views over Wensleydale.
Today there are two big hills to take on with your bike. The first one is from Askrigg to Cross Top (495m / 1,624 feet) with up to a 15% gradient at times. Once over this, there is a gorgeous descent down into the valley of the river Swale. The old lead mining village of Gunnerside is a potential stop for a coffee and cake although it is slightly off the route. You continue cycling along the river until Grinton with a popular pub and historic church that is known as the ‘Cathedral of the Dales.’ A worthwhile short detour is the interesting village of Reeth, with it’s nice large green, shops and also the nearby Dales Bike Centre – with tasty food and drinks as well as equipment if you need stocking up. Then comes your next steep climb back up to 450m /1,476 feet to cross Grinton Moor. Now it's down into Redmire - another village used in the James Herriot series.
Nearby Redmire is Castle Bolton; built from 1378 and left largely intact from the Civil War in the 1640s. You can visit old kitchens, dungeon, nursery, armoury, great chamber and Mary Queen of Scots’ bedroom - she was imprisoned here for a while on the way to Fotheringay Castle. About one third of the rooms are fully intact and the rest of the castle is almost completely accessible giving you great insight into the castle's turbulent past.
Ascent 810m /2,657 ft, Descent 800m / 2,625 ft.
Accommodation: A friendly family-run pub in Redmire, there are 5 beautifully appointed bedrooms offering all you need for a perfect night's sleep. All rooms have TV, tea/coffee making facilities and some feature views over picturesque Wensleydale.
Today is another hilly bike ride ride through postcard perfect landscapes and villages. The first place you cycle to is the historic village called Wensley, the place name for the Dale. Wensley comes from the Norse god Woden. This was a plague village in the 1560s, and took a long time to recover. It is still home to a Grade I listed 13th century Holy Trinity Church, Wensley Mill, and there are hidden waterfalls. After a look round, cross over the River Ure and climb along Gale Bank, which has beautiful woodlands and dry-stone lined roads. You cycle through glorious Coverdale now following the river Cover as it carves through the landscape threading its way through some tiny villages. Finally you ascend the Park Rash climb which averages 11% and climbs 230 metres. Be careful on the descent into Kettlewell, a gorgeous village by the River Wharfe with quaint tea shops and limestone terraces.
Kettlewell, meaning bubbling spring, is a charming little place. Destroyed by a flood in the 1680s, much of the village reflects the success of lead mining and smelting here from the 1800s. Tea shops and a couple of pubs will welcome you through their doors.
Accommodation: A traditional pub with newly renovated and individually styled rooms. They make the most of the enviable Yorkshire Dales views, whether it be the pretty village church or the dramatic surrounding hills. Rooms are en-suite and have flat screen TV and tea & coffee making facilities with a complimentary selection of homemade Yorkshire biscuits.
Your last stage of this Yorkshire cycling holiday, despite a bit of climbing, is a much easier day. You continue with the river along Wharfedale, with its share of waterfalls and limestone caves. Cycle via Conistone to Grassington, taking in Conistone's 11th century church and limestone hillock called the Pie and passing by Grass Wood Nature Reserve brimming with limestone scars and thick woodland. Grassington found wealth from lead mining and local quarry workings. The Old Hall here is reputedly the oldest house in Yorkshire. The village is an excellent place to stop for lunch with a range of tea rooms and cafes.
Next, cross over the river at Linton Falls and wind your way cycling through the countryside, passing more villages and perhaps a final fantastic break-spot at Bolton Abbey. Founded in 1154 by the Augustinian order on the banks of the River Wharfe, the nave of the abbey church was in use as a parish church from about 1170 onwards. It survived the Dissolution of the Monasteries, which closed this one in January 1540. There is a final hill to Halton East, before you reach Embsay and then cycle back to the starting point in Skipton.
Accommodation: As per your arrival day.
There is a variety of accommodation along the Yorkshire Dales Cycleway route ranging from bed & breakfasts, lodges, pubs and small hotels. They are run by cycling-friendly hosts offering en-suite or private facility rooms with a tasty breakfast to get you ready for the day ahead. Further facilities such as washing and drying facilities and packed lunches are available in some accommodations, you will be advised on your listing of what is available.
This cycling program in the Yorkshire Dales can be booked any day between March and October, subject to availability
The nearest Airport is Leeds/Bradford, approximately 20 miles away. It is possible to get to Skipton by bus or taxi from here.
Manchester Airport is approx. 2.5hrs away by train to/from Skipton.
Getting to/from Skipton
From London King's Cross there are up to two trains an hour to Skipton with a change at Leeds. It takes 3-3.45 hours.
From Manchester Airport there are also up to two trains an hour to Skipton, changing at Leeds. It takes around 2.30 hours.
Trains also run from Scotland, Glasgow and Edinburgh via Carlisle and sometimes Leeds taking 3.15-5.45hrs.
See nationalrail.co.uk for timetables and planning. We advise to book tickets and reserve a seat (and a bike) in advance. Tickets are usually cheaper if bought in advance.
Hull is only 60miles (100km) away and it takes approximately 90 minutes for a taxi to drive to/from Skipton. Daily services run between Hull - Rotterdam (NL) and Hull - Zeebrugge (BE).
Liverpool has ferry connections with Belfast (NI) and Dublin (IE) and it takes approximately 2 hours for a taxi to drive to/from Skipton.
Contact us about the option to hire an e-bike on this trip
GPS tracks are available on request