The Yorkshire Dales is fantastic cycling country, something the success of the Grand Depart and the Tour de Yorkshire really brought home. With stunning scenery, varied terrain and charming towns and villages, there’s good reason for the sport’s growing popularity in these parts.
To celebrate cycling and scenic places to visit, we’ve teamed up with Ilkley Cycling Club to share six of its favourite road routes in and around the Yorkshire Dales. We’ve picked routes that cover several different ‘dales’, and among them are rides that take just a couple of hours right up to an epic challenge following in the pedal turns of 2014’s Tour de France heroes. We’ve also mentioned a few selected highlights offered by each route, so you can look out for rides visiting historic towns, locally known beauty spots and even famous sights you might know from well-known TV dramas.
Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned club rider, you’ll find a route here that matches your ability and experience. We’ve included links too, which means you can simply click to see more detailed route information and maps online. The good news is that with more and more people taking to the saddle, more and more businesses are catering for bikes, and that means cycling-based holidays are now better than ever. And don’t forget: with hundreds of properties throughout the region, there’s bound to be a lovely Dales cottage within easy reach of any of these rides.
Last but not least, if you’re venturing out, always make sure you’re properly prepared. Even though these rides pass through villages and towns, you should take a map or GPS device, a mobile phone, a puncture repair kit and adequate food and water. Make sure you know your limits too, so you don’t find yourself with an expensive taxi ride if you run out of steam in the back of beyond. Lastly, we always recommend you wear a helmet and comfortable clothing, especially the right underwear or shorts. Oh, and don’t forget to take a waterproof – even in summer it has been known to rain in Yorkshire!
This great ride covers 54 miles and takes in some fantastic scenery and lovely beauty spots. With more than 4,000 feet of climbing it’s quite a challenge, but the landscape and villages more than make up for tired legs. Highlights on or near the route include picturesque Bolton Abbey, a great café stop at Burnsall, and scenic spots around Malham: famous for its spectacular cliff and limestone pavement. The ride’s start and end point is Ilkley: a charming Yorkshire spa town with great facilities and a variety of places to eat and drink.
Beautiful and peaceful Swaledale is known for its heather moors, waterfalls and pretty meadows of wildflowers, but it’s also a great base for cycling from. As well as plenty of opportunity to make up your own routes using quiet country lanes in and around Swaledale, the very fittest cyclists could even tackle the Stage 1 route from 2014’s Tour de France. Make no mistake, at 126 miles and with a whopping 7,375 feet of climbing this is an epic in anyone’s book. The ride passes through gorgeous Swaledale on its circuitous route from Leeds to Harrogate, passing through charming Reeth, a tiny Saxon village even mentioned in the Doomsday Book. Don’t worry, if you don’t fancy the whole 126 miles, you could always adapt the route to shorten its length.
At 82 miles this is a long ride, and its made all the more challenging thanks to 5,641 feet of climbing. Even so, you’ll be rewarded with superb views, good facilities and lots of classic Dales gems. These include the charming village of Kettlewell and the historic market town of Grassington as well as Aysgarth Falls, one of the scenic highlights of any trip to the Yorkshire Dales. The tourist honeypot of Hawes is also on this route, and you could use it as a decent starting or finishing point. Home to world-famous Wensleydale cheese, Hawes literally means ‘pass between mountains’ – an apt name, since the town occupies a position 850 feet above sea level, between the beautiful Buttertubs and Fleet Moss.
A pleasant but short route you can do from Wharfedale takes in Askwith, Otley and some nearby reservoirs at Fewston and Norwood. This ride is a modest 25 miler with less than 2,000 feet of climbing, so it’s a perfect way to enjoy some good scenery if you’re short of time or leg power. Otley itself is a bustling town with a lively market, and you might recognise certain Otley scenes from TV shows including Emmerdale Farm and Heartbeat. The 2014 Tour de France also came through Otley, and the town has a proud cycling heritage, an active local riding scene and a bike shop.
The shortest of our routes, this scenic ride follows quiet back roads and passes through the West Yorkshire towns of Addingham and Silsden. There are plenty of facilities en route, so you’ll never be too far from a café or pub where refreshments – or shelter – are available. The ride climbs 1663 feet over the course of 17 miles, which makes it a relatively easy pedal compared to the other rides listed here. It wouldn’t be hard to extend this ride and visit Skipton, a popular and bustling market town with one of the best preserved and most intact castles in the country, dating back 900 years.
Ribblesdale has some stunning landscapes, and the famous Ribblehead Viaduct – at the head of the Dale – has to be one of the region’s most iconic scenes. This particular route is 63 miles long and includes 4,481 feet of climbing, so it’s a moderately tough undertaking even for regular riders. Starting from Ilkley, the route is more or less a perfect loop and passes through some remote but breathtaking areas. Along the way you’ll enjoy the chance to stop at Settle, made famous by the Settle to Carlisle railway and something well worth experiencing if you’re in the region for long enough. Settle is a lovely market town in its own right, and here you’ll find plenty of eating options to help stock up on energy!