By 'eck, it's back! Following last year's huge success story, Le Tour is returning to Yorkshire and its speed-defying pack of professional cyclists look set to delight spectators as they chase across the county.
To celebrate the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire (1- 3 May 2015) we've chosen the eight best en-route attractions, including the perfect places to catch more than a passing glimpse of the peloton.
You blinked and you missed it? Don't stress - a spin around God's Own Country will inject the ‘ooh la la' into your life, at any time of year...
The first ever Tour de Yorkshire kicks off in Bridlington and loops scenically around the coast, dashing through the dramatic North York Moors National Park before sprinting into Scarborough. One of the most scenic spots to catch the cruising peloton is at Côte de Rosedale Abbey – a three kilometre climb rising out of the village and culminating on top of the moor. Even these gravity-defying athletes have to slow down to survive such a slog, so your viewing pleasure should last more than a micro-second. Base yourself in the picturesque Eskdale village of Danby to explore the bleak beauty of the North York Moors and nearby coastal resorts. Hunt for fossils at Robin Hood’s Bay or ride the Victorian funicular cliff-lift at surfers’ paradise, Saltburn-by-the-Sea. Not just for elderly ladies, it’s a wonderful way to get from pier to pint, without breaking a sweat.
The commanding white chalk cliffs of Flamborough Head fascinate geologists the world over and offer stunning sea views, but they are also home to one of the most important seabird colonies in Europe. Summer attracts thousands of breeding birds to the Flamborough Cliffs Nature Reserve, including razorbills, guillemots and the comically popular puffin. Pack a picnic and watch butterflies and rare moths fluttering in wildflower meadows above. The closeby RSPB reserve at Bempton Cliffs also rewards visitors with spectacular cliff-edge viewing platforms. If man-made endeavours are more your bag, then check out Flamborough’s historic lighthouses, one of which is the oldest in Britain, dating from 1669. First one to spot a smuggler wins.
The wild seas and steeply winding streets clinging to a rugged coastline have attracted artists to the tiny fishing port of Staithes for centuries. Today there are plenty of pubs, cafés and galleries just waiting to tempt tourists, but it’s still a hub of artistic enterprise. Painters battle all weathers, armed only with an easel, hoping to capture the raw power of the North Sea and a rare quality of light found here. Village cricket is also popular in this area, as is rock-pooling just around the corner at Runswick Bay. Nearby Whitby is famous for its imposing cliff-top abbey, as well as Dracula, and for jet jewellery which was popularised by Queen Victoria. Stroll along superb sandy beaches and watch out for washed-up fragments of shiny black jet formed, amazingly, over millions of years, from monkey puzzle trees!
The finale of Stage Two culminates in a circuit showcasing the architectural allure of the medieval city of York and treating spectators to a dramatic sprint finish. Follow Le Tour’s example and spend a day or two exploring a city which prides itself on having more attractions per square mile than any other UK destination! Don’t miss the awe-inspiring gothic York Minster, the York Dungeon, Railway Museum, Jorvik Viking Centre and boat tours on the River Ouse. The Tour de France also aims to encourage more ladies to learn to love those uncomfortable saddles and to prove it, Saturday 2 May will see the first dedicated women’s race whizzing around York’s imposing streets.
Feeling inspired to take up two wheels? Pedal power is perfect for exploring some of Britain’s most charming countryside. There are 146 miles of sign-posted cycle ways, lanes and roads on the Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route, which criss-crosses gentle chalk hills and valleys. Alternatively, the Yorkshire Wolds Way – a National Trail - is another lovely way to tour this peaceful part of the county and enjoy some of the rolling, agricultural landscapes which have inspired David Hockney’s most recent artworks. Meander through ancient villages, and sample real ales in country pubs and local produce at Farmers’ Markets.
The Tour’s final stage kicks off in Wakefield and will loosely reverse the route of last year’s Grand Départ. The jewel in this city’s crown is undoubtedly the Yorkshire Sculpture Park – an open-air art gallery set in 500 acres of parkland. 2015 heralds a new exhibition, called Back to a Land, celebrating Henry Moore’s work and his radical ideas about showing sculptures, outdoors in the landscape. Whilst visiting this part of West Yorkshire, dig out your Sunday best and pop along to Pontefract Racecourse, or ponder whether you actually like liquorice whilst munching Pontefract cakes. Top off your day with a traditional afternoon tea in 18th century splendour at the National Trust’s Nostell Priory. Just remember to remove your flat cap!
The moorland village of Cragg Vale is situated at the foot of the longest continual gradient in the country, climbing almost 1000 feet in just over five miles. It formed the mind-boggling and never-ending leg-burner of a climb during last year’s race and now takes the title of the tour’s longest continual descent. Take your position to watch national treasure Bradley Wiggins (aka Wiggo) tear past towards the finish, and victory? After all that excitement step back in time crossing cobbled streets in Haworth village, the home of literary legends, the Brontë family. Or take a trip to Hebden Bridge and soak up its lively music scene, independent shops and cafés, then investigate the infamous local landmarks from the BBC’s crime drama Happy Valley. Best done before dark!
The well-heeled spa town of Ilkley lies in the Lower Wharfedale valley and is perfectly positioned for exploring the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Visit the famous Bettys tearoom for a spot of lunch or satisfy a sweet tooth with a slice of local curd tart. For a fresh air fix, don your hiking boots for a ramble up Ilkley Moor and the splendid Cow and Calf rocks. If it’s adventure you’re looking for, this area is a haven for climbers, with dramatic gritstone ascents at Otley Chevin, Almscliffe Crag and Brimham Rocks. Further north, visitors are delighted by Bolton Abbey and the limestone majesty of Malham Cove. Ee by gum, it’s gorgeous!