Oman hasn’t been that long ago, but the never ending need to fullfill our bicycle touring hunger is just asking for another ride. Preferably with hills and open landscapes. We plan a trip to England, the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District to be more precise.
In less than 5 minutes after leaving the ferry docks in Hull we peel off a couple of layers. It’s actually pretty warm! This first day takes us to the small town of Selby. With a headwind on mostly flat farmer tracks we follow parts of the Trans Pennine Trail. We reach the town after riding about 75 kilometers and decide to skip Leeds from here and hop on a train. In less than two hours we cross the busy suburbs of Leeds and start riding again in Keighley, from where it’s another 11 kilometers to a camp site in Cononly. We pitch the tent on a grassy spot looking at the Yorkshire Dales just in front of us. As the sun sets, temperature drops and clouds are rolling in…
After a healthy meal and a good night sleep we are heading for the Yorkshire Dales; in other words: some serious steep climbing starts now! Following the Pennine Cycle Way we puff our way up the hill with no less than 15% grades. The higher we go, the more rugged the landscape. Trees and farm fields disappear and make place for vast land with the occasional rock formations. It’s pretty chilly when we reach the pass at 381 meters before we drop down into the village of Settle with only one goal: a warm pub with nutricious bicycle food!
Re-energized we begin to ride the Pennine Bridleway, well, at least I tried to ride it! I fail misserably though and stumble off my bike when the grades hit 18% and I run into a rocky area. Apart from a dent in my ego I have a few bruises on my leg. Well, maybe I’m no good for mountainbiking… 😉
Elmar is ahead of me and he seems to be doing fine.
Once up the hill the landscape unfolds itself again and we enjoy wide views of the Yorkshire Dales. Just before the heavens open themselves and it starts to rain cats and dogs. We head back to the paved Pennine Cycleway in search for a campsite. We pass about 4 sites… no tents allowed… we keep riding and in Clapham we give up (or in) and opt for the local Inn. We are soaken wet and cold to the bone. It takes us a long hot shower, a pint of Guinness and a Game Pie to warm up again. So far, no surprise here, after all it’s England!
The next day we leave the warmth of the Inn and start climbing back up to the Yorkshire Dales, it’s still cold and mostly very windy, but dry! At almost 500 meters we reach the top of the hill, conquering 14, 17 and even 22% grades. It’s just no exception, it’s common here. The downhills are just as steep and thus way to quick to enjoy them! In Dent it starts to rain again, luckily even the tiniest village has a pub and they make for a very welcoming break. 🙂 Unfortunately it never stops raining…
The Yorkshire Dales are pretty nice, but our route leads us to the Lake District and near Ambleside we pitch the tent on a swampy piece of grass. But, the showers are hot and the nearby pub serves great hot food!
21 years ago (that’s right… I’m that young!) I did a 6-month internship at a hotel in Keswick, in the Lake District. I have great memories of this area and as we cycle through Ambleside, Windermere and Grassmere towards Keswick I recall all the hills I’ve walked up back then. Helvellyn, Skiddaw, Old Man of Coniston, Great Gable and not to forget Scafell Pike; with its 978 meters the highest mountain top in England. We pass a few of them, the views are just amazing and they make us want to come back here and do a bit of hiking in this area. I mean, the Yorkshire Dales are nice, the Lake District is just awesome.
After pitching the tent at Derwentwater Lake, we walk to Keswick center and treat ourselves to a pint of Guinness at one of the pubs, where I’ve probably been before. Let’s not wait another 21 years to come back. 😉
It’s time to ride another famous cycle route: the C2C. We pass Castlerigg stone circle and have a look here. It’s way to windy for the drone, which gives us another reason to come back here. 😉
We ride as far as Penrith, where we have lunch and start following another cycle route to Appleby. We are now in between the Yorkshire Dales and the Northern Pennines and the mountain tops still have some snow left on them. Near Appleby we try to find a campsite, but 7(!!!) sites refuse us: sorry, caravan site only. We don’t feel like riding another 20 kilometers when it starts to rain again, so we take a room at one of the Inns, just a nice treat!
As I look at the map, I see there are more hills in between us and York… and as soon as we leave Kirby Stephen the steep climbing starts again towards the North Yorkshire Dales. It’s all about sheep here! And tons of lambs, one of which has escaped, but Elmar comes to the rescue and reunites the little one with his mom. Isn’t he cute? …I’m referring to the lamb of course 😉
We keep climbing and once we’re above 400 meters, the farms disappear and they make way for stone fences and open land. At the top (525m) there’s a pub! Hurree, isn’t England great? After our break we start rolling down towards pictoresque Leeth and we continue to Layburn, which means yet another climb… hard work, but stunning scenery. At the local campsite in Layburn we find ourselves right in the middle of a ‘Little Britain’ sketch:
“Hi, do you have room for a small tent?”
“Uh, well, yes, but it only opens the first of May…”
“Ok.., but it’s April 27th… can you make an exception. I mean, the first of May is just a couple of days away.”
“Did you not make a reservation? How can you travel without making reservations? Sorry, I can’t help you.., the computer says NO..”
Elmar and I look at each other and it’s hard not to laugh… “the computer says NO…” I guess, if the computer says no, people stop thinking for themselves. We are not wasting our time here to argue, we leave and try the next campsite, which is just a little more than a kilometer away. Here the welcoming by Richard is so warm, it almost makes the sun come out! He gives us a great spot to pitch the tent and a private tour of the facilities. A great end of a great riding day.
Darn, the last cycling day is already here! An easy ride to York and further, back to Selby. After a good lunch here, we hop on the train again to Hull, where the trip ends. We finish it with a couple of pints of Guinness and a sing-a-long at the ferry’s top lounge bar with John Denver’s Country Road…
PS. reading back I noticed what made this a great 8-day getaway… lots of pubs and Guinness… 😉