Ambleside & South Lakes
Stats: 32 miles and 3700 feet of ascent
Ambleside has ample places to choose from. There’s a great little fish and chip shop just down Millans Park, which is off Crompston Road. Esquires Coffee House is also an excellent place to have a brew and something to eat.
Whilst camping in the area recently (August 2014) I wanted to work out a route that took in a couple of the larger lakes and a few of the smaller tarns/ waters. Great views were a must and this route has it all. The climb to Tarn Hows is rewarded with an epic vista and a descent with alpine -like bends to catch out the inexperienced – be warned.
Like all Lakeland rides there are two key elements: going uphill and coming downhill. The biggest climb is in the first third of the route, following which the route flows up and down along twisting lanes. The entry into Grizedale provides a short testing climb, but a final sting in the tale comes after 19 miles, with a steep climb as you begin to leave Grizedale for home. Then it’s a case of an amble along the lanes back to town.
1. From Ambleside follow the A593 out of town signed towards Coniston. This takes in the narrow bridge on the edge of town towards Clappersgate – beware of cars approaching from the other side as you turn left and head for the hills.
2. At Clappergate turn left down the road (B5286) signed for Hawkshead, which takes you over the bridge and through tight bends, passing the Brathay Trust on the left. Continue on this for 3 miles, ignoring Hawkshead and turning off right and uphill instead to Hawkshead Hill and the B5285 ascending to Hawkshead Hill village.
3. At Hawkshead Hill turn right directly after passing the Baptist Chapel (on the right), taking the minor road signed for Tarn Hows. The climbing continues to a junction with an imposing white painted house opposite a junction.
4. Go straight over the staggered junction following the road signs to ‘Tarn Hows’, entering a narrow tree lined lane that continues the ascent, twisting up to the top and Tarn Hows. Once you’ve rested and taken in the view it’s time to begin the descent (see image right), with spectacular views across to the Langdales and beyond. We’ll save them for another day.
5. Take care on the descent, as gravel sits waiting on the edges of this narrow twisting lane. Good brakes and good judgement are required. As you enter the darkness of trees the road surface can remain damp for some time after rain.
6. As the road eases its gradient a junction is reached with the Coniston road (B5285). Turn right here and descend to a junction on the left by the Lake shore. A sign leads you to ‘Brantwood 1 1/2 miles’ left – take this.
7. Stay on this minor lane as it skirts Lake Coniston, rolling pleasantly along and passing through small hamlets. Signs will lead you towards Lowick Bridge and it is just before this hamlet that we need to turn off left and climb into Grizedale Forest.
8. A road sign on the left at a junction signs ‘Oxen Park’ – take this. The narrow lane climbs steadily at first, hemmed in by a drystone wall on either side which soon gives way to trees as the gradient increases. Farmland either side indicates the top of the climb, then a twisting descent takes you back into trees and onto the hamlet of Brandrake where we turn off left.
9. A very minor junction on the left by a sharp right hand bends has a sign indicating left towards’ Rusland/ Satterthwaite/ Hawkshead’ – take this (Bessy Bank Lane). The next critical navigation point is at the farming hamlet of Oxen Park, where the road sweeps around to the left before a staggered junction and road signs lead the way. Turn left here signed ‘Hawkshead’.
10. The descent continues before the road evens out near to Whitestock Hall (OS Map) seen on the left in splendid grounds. At the small hamlet of Rusland a forked junction is reached; take the right hand fork and begin the climbing again. A short distance ahead a further junction is reached with road signs indicating all manner of small hamlets. Take the left hand turning signed for: ‘ Thwaite Moss / Dale Park / Hawkshead’ – the latter being some 5 miles off.
11. An old church is seen on the right in trees before you reach the white washed hamlet of Thwaite Head and a small crossroads. This junction is deceiving, signing only a T junction. The road we require is opposite. Turn left and immediately right, creating a staggered junction, heading over the small packhorse bridge towards Graythwaite Hall (relatives of my wife live here and do a great B&B!)
12. A yellow grit bin sits on the right hand edge of this small bridge, with a white washed house to the left. Continue the climbing along this narrow tree lined unsigned lane. A little gem of a lane that cuts out some long drives through Grizedale. The summit of the climb is reached with views of the fells beyond and a white washed cottage to the left of the lane. You’ll be tempted to use their garden furniture to rest a while; however, time to press on I’m afraid and sweep down to Graythwaite Hall and the road junction.
13. Turn left signed ‘Hawkshead 5’ and cycle along for 1/4 mile until you see a minor road off to the right signed for ‘Sawrey’ and ‘Ferry’ – take this right hand lane. Continue along this lane until the junction with the B5285 at Sawrey. Turn left and head towards Hawkshead, passing Esthwaite Water on route. Opportunities exist at Sawrey however for a pint or a brew.
14. On the approach to Hawkshead the road bends around left with a minor junction off to the right at this bend. Signed ‘Wray / Wray Castle’ turn right here and climb steadily before descending a couple of miles further on to the junction again with the B 5286. Turn right here and head to Clappersgate and the junction with the A593. Turn right and pedal into Ambleside for tea and cake.