Ayton Epic Road Route
Stats: 41 miles and 6160 feet of ascent
Great Ayton, Kildale, Castleton, Danby, Rosedale Abbey, Hutton-Le-Hole, Lion Inn, Kildale
This is a Steve Tilly route, so it’s going to be a blast. Hard riding along fantastic roads, with some great views on route; if you can make all the climbs, you’ll love the downs…
A tough, challenging ride with a lot of Cat 4 & Cat 3 climbs. There are opt-outs throughout the ride and plenty of refreshment options along the way too. Despite taking in a lot of typical North York Moors countryside, it does tend to follow the major population & tourist centres in the area and is often never that far away from the railway either.
Start and finish: at the small car park beside the Tourist Information Centre in Great Ayton (NZ563106). This is easy to find a spot in at most times other than sunny weekend afternoons. Arrive early enough and there’ll rarely be any trouble.
1. Begin the ride by heading out of Great Ayton towards the railway station, aptly called Station Road. After crossing the bridge over the railway by the station the road becomes Dikes Lane, the first Cat 4 climb of the day. This is pretty steady at first but at a sharp left by some cottages it becomes a mite steeper, negotiates a tight right and then eases off again. The climb ends at the cattle grid by a small car park (you could even start and end the ride here if Great Ayton is full).
The road beyond here is a little un-made. Pot holes and gravel abound, so it’s best to take it steady to avoid punctures. You’ll eventually cross another cattle grid and arrive at a gate. Go through and turn right for the climb over Pale End Plantation, a nasty, tough little climb that’s too short to gain a category but is nonetheless testing. Again, the descent down the other side is a little un-made, though not as bad as what has gone before. Follow the road and it eventually emerges at a T junction beside the excellent Glebe Cottage Tea Rooms in Kildale. Turn left here, unless you’ve already had enough in which case you can turn right to get to Kildale Station and take the train the 4 miles back to Great Ayton!
2. After turning left at Glebe Cottage you’ll hit the main road. Turn left onto it and head towards Commondale. This is a 4 1/2 mile stretch with a few tough little uncategorized climbs in it. The first is a gentle drag up to the Percy Cross crossroads, with Westerdale off to our right (we’ll be coming back from that direction later). After this you’re “rewarded” by a speedy little downhill section, but payback comes in the form of the climb back out the other side. A nasty little hairpin prevents you carrying as much speed as you’d like into the start of the hill and you have to drag yourself up the other side, the 90 degree right-hander at the top marking the end of it and the start of another reward. This one is longer and ends with a full-on plummet into Commondale village, but once again there’s payback (isn’t there always?) and just as before a tight left forces you to lose some speed just as you hit the climb back out.
3. Once you’ve dragged yourself up this hill there’s just a gentle incline left all the way to the cross roads at Three Howes Rigg. There’s a handily placed bus stop here if you want to take shelter and grab a drink or a bite to eat. Turn right at the crossroads and head to Castleton, a nice fast descent with just a little kick back up to the village centre at the end of it.
4. Turn left by The Castle Tea rooms (popular with cyclists and lovers of 1940’s music) and head towards Danby. At the crossroads in Danby go straight ahead (actually a slight right-left dog leg) to climb slightly and then descend again towards The Moors Centre and past its expansive and expensive car park (over £4 to park!). Continue on this road, under the railway through a tight little tunnel bridge, then turn sharp right just a little way on. The road here crosses a ford, but there’s a handily placed packhorse bridge if you don’t fancy risking it.
5. Turn left after the ford/bridge and head up past Danby Castle (visits by appointment only). You’re now in Little Fryup Dale and ahead of you lies New Way, a Cat 3 climb. It feels tough enough right from the start, there being a bit of a kick just by Danby Castle, but this levels off for a while and eventually you reach a road junction, you’ll want to take the right hand option. Now the climb starts in earnest. The steepest bit (the first mile) is Cat 4, after which it levels off a bit, but continues climbing for another 2 miles to get Cat 3 status overall. If you have the strength to do so, take in the views to your left of Great Fryup Dale, they’re stunning.
6. The climb eventually ends at a crossroads. How are you feeling? Sick of climbing? Fatigued? Up for a challenge? If you turn right here you’ll miss out 15 miles, the toughest climb of the day and a long, long, 7 1/2 mile uphill drag. Think about that if the wind is gale force from the North… Turn left and you get the usual – reward followed by punishment. The reward is a fabulous 4 mile descent into Rosedale Abbey where you’ll be cursing Sunday Drivers for keeping you below 30mph (two actually pulled over and let us by on our last excursion this way). Actually the rewards keep coming, as Rosedale Abbey is a charming little place with a number of decent refuelling stops. Our favourite is Graze On The Green, with its little outside garden area.
7. After having tea & scones, or maybe just having topped up your drinks bottles, continue on through the village a short way and then turn right. Immediately signs will let you know what is ahead (Chimney Bank, 1 in 3, Cat 3), with a list of things the road is unsuitable for (buses, lorries, caravans, but thankfully not bikes – though strangely the sign at the TOP of the hill says “Cyclists Dismount Now”). You begin by thinking “it’s not THAT bad, this”, but you’re not REALLY there yet. A second warning sign looms next to a tight bend. NOW you’re really there. The road rears up to its 1 in 3 and it’s a strong rider who can continue on up without leaving the saddle. In fact it’s a strong rider who can make it up at all. The 1 in 3 only lasts a hundred yards or so (get off and run, you’ll be back on the bike before anyone ahead turns round and sees you) and after that it’s only ooh, 1 in 4, 1 in 5 maybe. Child’s play.
8. At the top there’s another lovely downhill run, 30mph+ all the way with a favourable wind until eventually you end up in Hutton Le Hole. Turn right and begin the long, long 7 1/2 mile drag mentioned earlier. This is a Cat 3 for the full length, with two Cat 4’s tucked up inside it. Along the way you’ll pass The Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge, probably the most famous pub in this part of Yorkshire. When you reach that, you’re almost there, there’s only another mile and a half of climbing.
9. So, just under a mile and a half after The Lion Inn, watch for a turning on the right (signed Rosedale Abbey). That’s where you’d have come out if you’d decided not to go to Rosedale Abbey. Still happy with that decision? Good, press on, turn left, zip up your jersey and prepare to plummet down into Westerdale.
The descent into Westerdale is one of the craziest, full-on descents around here. It lasts for about 3 miles, initially you have to pedal to carry your speed but eventually it drops dramatically and only wind resistance stops you breaking the sound barrier. Get as aero as you can, or as you dare, and the whole 3 miles can be over in under 5 minutes. Just watch out for crazy sheep, and if you’re really unlucky, cars (seen dozens of the former, only one of the latter).
Be careful towards the bottom, there’s a cattle grid and you might not want to hit that at 45mph. Beyond that there’s the usual dangers of a small village (cars, tractors, cats) before the hill ends with a sharp, muddy, left hand turn into a ford. Be very careful, slow down well in advance, as soon as you reach the buildings really.
10. Beyond the ford (its usually dry) is another tough little Cat 4 climb – well, tough after you’ve already done this much climbing – followed by anoher mad dash down to Hob Hole. This is a local tourist attraction (picturesque river crossing with picnic area). The ford here is usually wet, sometimes in torrents and always lumpy under tyre. We always take the (inconveniently narrow and slippery) bridge.
After that, yet another climb – oh, this route just keeps on giving. This is actually the penultimate Cat 4 climb of the day, so the end is truly in sight.
11. Another descent followed by a thankfully short and easy climb brings us back out onto the Kildale-Commondale road that we were on 34 miles ago. Turn left and head back towards Kildale and when you get there, think about whether you can face one last Cat 4 or not. If you can, turn right to pass Glebe Cottage tea room once more and right again on to the road-cum-cyclo-cross track that we came down earlier and retrace your route. (To refresh your memory, this will go under the railway, do a couple of right handers with woods to your left, cross a cattle grid by a farm and then climb up into the woods. Go straight over at the top, down the other side and turn left to go through the gate. Follow the un-made tarmac road back to the top (don’t fret, it’s a very gentle climb) of the first Cat 4 we tackled all those long miles ago.)
12. If you weren’t up to that one last climb, keep straight on at Kildale, turn right at the next junction (towards Easby), pass through Easby and then turn right (towards Great Ayton). Then the most direct route to the start point is to turn right again (towards Little Ayton) and that road will take you straight back.
If you went the hilly way back, you can come down that Cat 4 that we started with, just watch out for a couple of tight bends and for cars & people, especially at the two pinch points between the cottages.
I hope you enjoyed the ride, Feel free to avail yourself of one of Great Ayton’s very many refreshment stops. Suggit’s Ice Cream parlour is a local legend.