Tuesday, 31 Mar 2020

Swaledale and Stainmore. Traveling by Bicycle

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Swaledale and Stainmore
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This ride straddles the Pennine spine of Britain and visits two unique areas: wild and empty Stainmore, and the two most northerly of the Yorkshire Dales, Swaledale and Arkengarthdale. It has some tough climbs, and it visits Britain’s highest pub.

Richmond is a great town with every amenity for lovers of the outdoors. It’s a stage town in the Coast to Coast walk, and it’s on several famous cycling routes. It’s also close to the Yorkshire Dales, an area that has always attracted adventurous cyclists. The route starts with a quiet amble into the Tees Valley.

Swaledale and Stainmore. Traveling by Bicycle - photo 1

Swaledale and Stainmore

The landscape changes through Staindrop as you head into the hills. Shot Moss is a long uphill drag that starts as soon as you cross the River Lune in Mickleton. The vast upland area on your right is the Lune Forest, although there’s hardly a tree to be seen. It’s one of several old forest sites in the area, reflecting a massively changed landscape.

You soon drop down the other side into Brough, which is the western entrance to the Stainmore Gap. As well as being narrower here, the Pennines are lower, thus creating a gap. The A66, still a very important road route, runs through it, and the gap creates some separation between the Northern Fells and the Yorkshire Dales.

Swaledale and Stainmore. Traveling by Bicycle - photo 2

Swaledale and Stainmore

That’s where you’re heading next, after riding through Kirkby Stephen, where the Midland Room at the railway station is a brilliant cyclists’ cafe. Stock up, because the ride out of town is up the hardest hill on the route. It goes up Lamps Moss to Birkdale Common and the source of Birkdale Beck, which joins with Great Sled Dale and Whitsundale Beck just above Keld to form the River Swale.

Swaledale is the most northerly of the better-known dales, but you climb out of it and over to what is actually the most northerly, Arkengarthdale, passing the legendary Tan Hill Inn on the way. This lonely building is the highest pub in Britain, at 528 metres; it has a bleak-looking exterior but a very lively interior.

Swaledale and Stainmore. Traveling by Bicycle - photo 3

Swaledale and Stainmore

You descend into Arkengarthdale, where you can still see some evidence of the extensive lead mining that took place there. Then there’s a short pass between Reeth Low Moor and Reeth High Moor back into Swaledale.It’s a narrow valley with steep sides but a flat bottom, and if you ride here in the spring the meadows are a blaze of wildflowers; and you will see lambs belonging to the distinctive round-horned Swaledale sheep.

I sent the route up and down Oxnop Scar because if you carry on just past the summit there is a beautiful view into Wensleydale. The top of Oxnop is a great place to stop and imagine what the dale looked like when lead mining thrived here. If you look hard you can link up the scars of old mines, just as they would once have been linked by tracks and roadways. It was totally different from today, a noisy world of fires used for smelting, which is where many of the forests went: into ugly spoil heaps and dammed-up rivers and becks. It’s something to think about on the ride back to Richmond.

Swaledale and Stainmore. Traveling by Bicycle - photo 4

Swaledale and Stainmore

Head north on the B6274 and follow it until Staindrop, taking great care when crossing the A66 and A67. Turn left onto the A688 and first right onto the B6279 and follow that to Eggleston. There turn left onto the B6281, then right onto the B6277 and left onto the B6276 to Brough. Join the A685 south to Kirkby Stephen. The Midland Room cafe is on this road a bit further south out of town. Turn left on the B6259 and left again at Nateby on the B6270. Turn left just before Keld and ride to the Tan Hill Inn. Turn right at the T-junction there to descend to Arkengarthdale. Turn right just before Langthwaite and ride to Feetham.

Turn right onto the B6270 and ride up Swaledale to Crow Trees. Turn left at Crow Trees and ride up Oxnop Scar, then do a U-turn and retrace into Swaledale and turn right onto the B6270. Follow this road until the A6108 junction and turn left, then left again. Turn right in Marske, from where you have to climb a last, cheeky little hill before descending into Richmond.

Swaledale and Stainmore. Traveling by Bicycle - photo 5

Swaledale and Stainmore

Start + Finish: Richmond

Getting There: Richmond is seven miles from the Catterick exit of the A1 and four from the Scotch Corner exit. Nearest rail link is to Northallerton 13 miles away.

Bike Shop: Arthur Caygill Cycles on the Gallowfields Trading Estate, Richmond

Cafe: Dales Bike Centre, Fremington, near Reeth and about seven miles west of Richmond

Local Delicacy: Swaledale cheese.

Swaledale and Stainmore. Traveling by Bicycle - photo 6

Swaledale and Stainmore

“Best 100-Mile Bike Routes”

Chris Sidwells



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