Elterwater Independent Hostel

We want to help you to get back to what riding is all about -adventure. In the first of a new series of blogs, we’re visiting Elterwater Hostel in the English Lake District, to show you some amazing mountain bike routes from the door.

MTB C2C Stage 4

Hawes to Grinton

This is a route about quality of tracks, not just getting from one side of the country to other. If that’s your aim, then get on a bus and enjoy the views. Yep, this may seem like another short day, but look at the ascent. It will be a long day, and albeit avoidable, how on earth can you come into the Dales and not ride through Bishopdale and then Swaledale.

This is a great ride from Hawes up a rocky trail, along the Cam Road and across to Bishopdale, before descending eventually down Stake Allotments back down into Wensleydale, then climbing up and down into Swaledale – three Dales today!

Distance: 28 miles

Ascent: 3974 ft

OS Map: Character

Some guys may do this stage on the same day as the previous one, but do think carefully about this. If you’re not used to the area or the hills, it may become ‘not nice’ and a chore to make it to Grinton, falling into the Dales Bike Centre knackered and unable to fully enjoy the evening.

We keep saying this, but cycle to your normal levels and enjoy the holiday. Take time look after the bike and yourself, and you’ll enjoy this and the previous stage so much more.

The Dales MTB Centre is our preferred stop over tonight, with it’s grade A bunkhouse that is better kitted out more than most B & Bs, and with staff on hand to fettle the bike – if you get there in time!


1. From Hawes take the minor road off the Main Street that climbs steeply from the western edge of the town and up through the hamlet of Gayle. At Gayle a red post box in the house wall indicates a junction to turn Right into, soon passing a small play park on the right. This narrow lane winds and climbs to a T junction by open fields and a drystone wall opposite.

2. Turn Right. Known locally as ‘Gaits’, follow this lane to another T junction—Moss Lane. Turn Left. This climbs steadily, passing BW (Bridleway) signs and a track junction to the right for the Pennine Way, continuing straight ahead as it climbs and twists down left, through a metal gate and eventually crosses the beck before re-joining the road — Fleet Moss. Now the climbing begins.

3. Weaving steeply ahead is Fleet Moss, one of the most dramatic and imposing roads in the Dales. Climb this – if possible on the bike! There is no other way. Just try to enjoy the views

4. Fleet Moss eventually levels out at its summit and a BW is seen to the Left. This is the ancient Cam Road. A grassed and hard packed surface leads quickly to a rocky track that gently climbs before the fun begins and the gradient falls in favour of the rider. Ride this at speed (safely) over the hard packed surface as it races down, providing some technical line choices on route.

5. The next section is easily missed as you’ll very likely be whizzing along, so take care: After 1 ½ miles a sharp twist to the left then right is soon followed by a BW gated to the Right and signed ‘Crag Side Rd.’ Do not miss this or you’ll end up in Thoralby off route. Do look out for a large metal field gate that leads to a rocky double track which twists and dips before petering out, becoming a tussocky grassed track that continues down and left, before a gently rise and traverse of the contour line. The downhill then continues, racing you down to a gate which leads onto the narrow tarmac lane.

6. Turn Right through the gate and ride down the narrow tarmac road, crossing the bridge over Semer Water, and heading Right, climbing gradually to Stalling Busk where the BW (High Lane) is joined.

7. This excellent rocky double track ascends the tight dale with superb views over Cragdale Moor to the right. At 2 miles the track steepens before levelling out and joining Busk Lane near the moor top. Turn Left towards Stake Allotments, which is shown on OS mapping but not on BW signpost.

8. After ½ mile a further BW to the Right is signed off the Stake Allotments drove road to Thoralby, leading you across meadowland to Bishopdale.

Speeding across the descending meadow, passing bridleways and footpaths to the right (ignore these) the grass turns to rock and scree and the drystone walls close in on a twisting descent towards Thoralby.

9. Turn off this BW before reaching the village, at a point where it turns down sharply right. A gate to the Left in the drystone wall here signs a further rocky BW that climbs alongside a meadow. This meets a grassy and indistinct path which is crossed at 45° to the far right corner of the meadow. Now descend the tricky section before entering the walled lane and crossing the beck (Folly Lane) , climbing to the track junction.

10. Turn Right and follow this track down to the road (A684) turning Right and cycling into Aysgarth, before turning off Left towards Carpeby for a well earnt rest and brew at the National Park Visitor Centre (by the old railway). After resting and refreshing yourself,, cycle on to Carpeby, turning Right into the village.

11. Turn left directly after village hall onto Hargill Lane. Climb steeply with drystone walls either side. A rocky track is reached as the gradient eases and two barns can be seen on the right of the pathe path. Some 200 yards after the 2nd barn on the right a indistict track leads off to the left, leaving the rising rocky track. A metal gate leads to the BW beneath the escarpment .

12. Riding with the drystone wall to your left and steep hill to your right, the BW rises to a further metal gate before easing off. 200 yards further on the rocky track rises to the right, with craggy limestone and old quarry workings immediately to the right of the BW. Passing through an open gateway (no gate present) in the wall, the track splits. Keep to the lower track / BW which initially falls with the wall to its left, before twisting right. A communication mast can be seen 1/4 mile away atop the craggy hill. The BW then goes off left, though a metal gate in the wall, leading to a smooth grassy track beyond.

13. Keeping the steep rocky escarpment to your right, this track descends at speed, passing reassuring BW signs by old mine workings . Grass gives way to gravel and a gate is soon reached by a waterfall (above Hazel Bank). Cross over the large wooden bridge and follow the track as it twists left. A further wooden gate is soon reached, leading to a rising track and BW junction. Ignoring the gated BW left, follow the route ahead signed ‘Askrigg Moor rd 2 3/4 ML’.

14. Go through a small metal gate and climb the steep meadow keeping the walled copse to your left. At the top of this meadow a BW sign indicates the way ahead. A grassy track now climbs steeply to a wooden gate and a rocky panorama. Turn right at this point along a very rough double track beneath the screes. This soon improves to an excellent rocky track which twits as it rises, soon bringing the earlier communication mast into view once more. Climb on, rounding the hill (Beldhaw Hill on OS map) and keep the wall to your right hand side.

The BW crosses upland meadows, passing through 2 wooden gates on route to the escarpment beyond. Through the second gate the track bends right and climbs above the rocks. Keep the drystone wall to the right as you climb upwards, eventually viewing a small shooting hut in a wall ahead and to the left. Stay close to the wall on your right and follow this indistinct track across tussocky ground to a wooden gate and rocky moorland.

15. The heather clad track passes shooting butts to its left, whist you continue along keeping the wire fence close on the right as the sweet Swaledale singletrack sweeps you along. The BW eventually dips to cross through the fence at a gate, climbing up and left as it continues towards a derelict barn above the road. Sweep around the barn and right and drop down behind it to the road; a final sting in the tail awaits as the singletrack rises steeply just before the tarmac.

16. Turn Right and follow the road for 2 ½ miles, keeping Whitaside Moor to your right. A rocky double track BW then leads off right, back onto moorland, twisting and climbing.

17. After approximately 1 mile a indistinct BW leads off through old mining rocky debris on the Left. The track is technical at times, twisting and dropping onto sweet singletrack across heather moorland which descends to the shooting track across the moor.

18. Stay on this BW, ignoring all others in this myriad of tracks and paths, as it rises and falls, before one final fast descent to the Grinton road. For those riders who have booked accommodation at Grinton Youth Hostel, then well done, as you’ve reached your halt. If not, cycle safely down Grinton Bank and head straight on to the Dales Bike Centre and a hearty meal!

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MTB C2C Stage 3

Kendal to Hawes

From Kendal, there are options to stitch together bits of bridleway but, if the Dales and Howgills are beckoning on the horizon, you’ll be wanting to rush into their welcoming arms. That means a bit of tarmac but it’s a good way of covering some distance and keeping your legs fresh for the big climb out of Dentdale.

Distance: 33 miles

Ascent: 4024 ft

OS Map: Character

After some initial feedback on the original route, together with some work that we’ve been doing with a leading mapping company, we’ve amended this section of the route. It no longer goes down into Wharfedale, but instead heads to Sedbergh before climbing across the Dales and dropping down another great techncal descent into Hawes.

This route is therefore more reasonable in length, but still has some epic climbing, especially around Dent and beyond.

The Cam Road is one of the great bridleways of the Dales, leading you into Hawes via one of the best technical and rocky descents anywhere. Once safely arrived at Hawes, you’ll find that it has all you need for an overnight stay: Youth Hostel; Pubs and B &Bs; Hotels; and camping; with loads of places to eat as well.


1. Start off by following the B6254 towards Oxenholme and Old Hutton. Just after Hutton Yeat on the Right, turn Left (signed to Bendrigg Lodge 1½).

2. Cross over the M6 by a tall mast and keep wending East on minor roads, including a sharp turn Left by a larch wood (signed to Killington and Sedbergh). The first navigational difficulty is taking the unsigned turn Right fork off the Old Scotch Road at Three Mile House. If you reach the next right fork (signed “Narrow lane, steep hills, unsuitable for HGVs”) then curb your enthusiasm because you’ve gone too far.

3. Follow the lane down to Aikrigg and head ESE to Beckside. From Beckside either cross fields NE or go down the farm access lane to turn Left (north) at a T-junction well-endowed with red gates. Turn Right onto BW where you see a white painted bungalow on your left. You’ll need to use your skill and judgement here because, if the Lune is too high, you may have to go round by the B6256 bridge to your north.

4. Assuming you made it over the river without being washed down to Sunderland Point, turn Left and follow the BW north until it converges with the A683. Follow this north to the bridge over the stream, then bear Right onto BW taking a skirting line around Holme Fell, broadly parallel to the disused railway line.

5. Dip down over the Dee, the river of Dentdale, and climb up the other side, through Millthrop. At the T-junction at the end, turn Right into Frostrow lane. Climb onto the moor on a south-easterly bearing, then drop onto a public way descending to Rawridding in Dentdale proper. Follow pleasant tarmac lanes, dinking Right into Dent village itself to avail yourself of local services. Keep going up the valley to Cowgill and Lea Yeat, leaving the road where it zigzags L/R over the river.

6. Haul yourself up the long climb which passes under Artengill Viaduct. At the top of the heave, turn Right onto the recently designated Pennine Bridleway, starting on gravel but leading to grassy cruising. Turn Left at the minor road then cross the Newby Top Road to gain the public BW signposted to Cold Keld Gate.

7. Turn Left on the Cam Road and then fork Left on the Pennine Way. Cruise along the rim of the more-impressive-than-it-sounds hollow of Snaizeholme. At the fork, bear Left down a magnificent cobble-fest alongside the Tunguska’d plantation on the left (May 2013). If you’re still in the saddle when you reach the road, then congratulate yourself. Nought but a tarmac swoop lies between you and the Dales fleshpots of Hawes.

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MTB C2C Stage 2

Coniston to Kendal

Yesterday was an ease into Lakeland mountain biking. You’ll not be going quite as high today, but there’s still plenty of climbing to look forward to, as well as a classic Lakes descent from the Garburn Pass, before heading into Staveley and Wilf’s Cafe, a renowned spot for all outdoor folk.

Distance: 32 miles

Ascent: 4542 ft

OS Map:


A steady climb into Grizedale and a great descent towards Far Sawrey leads to a climb up onto Mitchell Knotts before dropping to Windermere and the ferry.

Some of you may want to ride the North Face Trail whilst in the woods – so we’ve given you the opportunity (see trail pdf ). If you take on The North Face Trail, then enjoy, if you don’t want the excursion then ride on as stated to Far Sawrey and Windermere. However, we’ve also added the option of the Garburn Pass to this day, so if you do take a ride around Grizedale then bear this in mind.

We’d thoroughly recommend riding the pass, followed by tea and cakes at Wilf’s Cafe in Staveley. If you do take the shorter route into Kendal, a series of tracks and green lanes then lead you up and over to Kendal and a rest.

This halt has everything you need, including The Brewery Arts Centre for those inclined. A great selection of pubs for the rest of you. The Youth Hostel is still open at this time, and is a good halt with secure bike storage.

Tomorrow is a long day, so enjoy the evening and get prepared – eat pasta!


1. Set off out of Coniston on the Hawkshead road. This is the B5265 and it starts by passing to the right of the Yewdale Hotel with the churchyard on your right. When you get to the National Speed Limit Applies sign, there’s a cycle lane behind the hedge on the left. Turn right at the very head of the lake (signposted to Brantwood and East Side of Lake). The cycleway continues on the left while, on the right, there’s a small car park with a toilet block.

After a brief warm-up climb on the road through charming parkland, turn right at the junction (How Head Cottage on right). After 300 metres, turn left onto bridleway. There’s a tiny electricity sub-sub-station on the left here and a couple of houses, one double-gabled, on the right.

2. Climb with interest to a level section by three dead trees then, holding the contour, enter the sepulchral shadows of Grizedale Forest. There are lots of fire-road junctions, but hold a south-easterly bearing. The main intersections are at SD326954 (just south of spotheight 253 on map) where you go briefly R-L and SD331942 where you bear left to descend to the Grizedale Forest Centre with its manifold delights of eating, bike-fettling and the North Face Trail. By now, the smell of hot chocolate and scones should guide you through the woods.

3. Take the trail climbing north-east from the centre, slanting up to the left from a distinctive pinkwashed house. After nearly a mile of climbing, with the valley on your right, you reach the spot-height at 203 m (SD345952). Look out for the Red Fox sculpture here. Follow the wide double track around south-east for approximately 130 metres, where a bridleway strikes off to the left into trees. Follow this south for half a mile to grid reference SD350943, picking up the wide forest trail again for 100 mtres, before the singletrack bridleway heads off again into tress left (grid SD351941).

Enjoy this superb section of trail all the down to the road, then tutning right for aa short distance, before picking up the bridleway opposite at grid SD354939. Head onto this track and spin yourself through the trees on this excellent natural trail, exiting onto the road where you turn right, before taking the next sharp left to Near Sawrey. Follow the road all the way through to Far Sawrey.

4. As you leave Far Sawrey, there’s a tiny church with a bell tower on the right and a phone box (with a notice-board) on the left with two trails rising up left from a common junction. Take the one that almost doubles back on you. Climb north and veer northeast for an entertaining descent to the Lake shore. Turn sharp right here (SD388970) to trundle south to join the ice-cream licking hordes by the ferry.

5. After a relaxing glide across the water, keep going east on the B5285 then spin north through Bowness and Windermere on the A592 and forking right onto the A5074 at a mini-roundabout. Stay on this for a mile and a half then turn right at the Preparatory School onto a short, awkward stretch of A591 (use the cycle lane). You’re soon (after half a mile) turning left onto a country lane to Common Farm, encouragingly labelled “Unsuitable for HGVs and coaches” with a 6’6″ width restriction. Unless you’ve eaten all the pies in Windermere, you should pass.

6. Follow the lane, past the 198m spot height (park bench on right) through to the Moorhowe road, where a short left-right dink gets your tyres into some proper off-road riding at a No-Through-Road sign. Pass Dubs Reservoir on your left and climb with increasing interest and heart rate, to the summit of Garburn Pass at 447m. Apart from a couple of tricky steps and the odd wash away hairpin, it’s a whizz down to Kentmere, grinning like a loon.

7. Pass the church and head down the valley, looking out for a Bridleway on the left at Calflay Wood. Look out for the sign “Long Houses” on the south-facing wall at the turn. Climb then flank Staveley Head Fell, descending on road from Park House. Just after a left-right dink, go through a gate on the right (Bridleway signpost) to cross open fields down to Elfhowe.

8. Take the bridleway to Scroggs Farm, then take a quick detour into Staveley to fill up in Wilf’s and/or stock up on inner tubes at Wheelbase.

9. Leave Staveley on quiet lanes before crossing the A591 and heading to Crook. Turn left towards Bonning Gate, then taking the bridleway on the right towards Parkspring wood.

10. Eventually, rejoin the road and cycle down into Kendal.

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MTB C2C Stage 1

Ravenglass to Coniston

Ravenglass is a far nicer spot to start a C2C at. If nothing else, it has a great little railway that my kids have always loved!There’s a chance to explore this hidden area of Cumbria, and to see the fantastic old miners railway that snakes through Eskdale. It’s a tough challenge ahead, so make the most of this initial stage – short but challenging.

Distance: 19.7 miles

Ascent: 3,758 ft

OS Map:


This is a tough but rewarding stage, taking in the classic Walna Scar Road down to Coniston. The stage is designed to break you in slowly, and maybe travel to Ravenglass in the morning, before setting off.

In the Gospel According to Wainwright, any coast-to-coast journey must begin with the ceremonial dipping of a toe in the Irish Sea. In our case, make that a non-ferrous front wheel. This is a hard day with rocky tracks and areas that require good navigation. If you have a GPS device, use it and trust it. If you don’t have a gps device to use, take care and in poor visibility detour along the road to Walna Scar. Good navigation skills are essential on these high fells where tracks are not always visible.

Be aware that this is a mountain bike route and riders often finish the day wet and muddy. Eskdale will give you a chance to warm up before the climbing begins. Walna Scar track is in just about every classic mtb route guide. It is however very rocky and technical. The pain is worth the gain, as you’ll experience what this route is all about – a challenging real mtb trip.


1. Leave Ravenglass on Main Street. Carry straight on at Holly House Hotel with the Mite estuary on your left. Pass the railway station and duck under the national railway line. Soon after, pass under the much smaller La’al Ratty line.

2. Pass the campsite on your right and go under the big pylons. Turn right onto the A595 on a swooping bend. Look out for traffic here but there’s barely half a mile of A-road to do. Where the 595 swerves ninety degrees right, go onto a bridleway called Fell Lane going straight on.

3. Climb steadily to a junction just below Muncaster Tarn, and drop to High Eskholme.
From here, skirt the foot of Muncaster Fell on good bridleway past the farm of Muncaster Head to the road at Forge House.

4. Go left on the road for a few yards to the bridge and take the bridleway on the south side of the river. This leads through pleasant woodland for three and a half miles along the bottom of the valley to Whahouse Bridge.

5. Rejoin the road, albeit briefly, going up to the vertiginous foot of Hardknott Pass. At Jubilee Bridge, cut back on yourself on the right over the river. Climb steeply on a raking path that perversely brings you back west.

6. Gain the col between Harter Fell and Ulpha Fell on rough ground. You will need confident skills at both riding and route-finding here.

7. Look especially carefully for the bridleway fork at SD214988. You want to go right here, down to the farm at Grassguards. At the time of writing (autumn 2014) the terrain has been substantially reshaped by clear felling. It’s not all bad news as the long-term plan is to replace much of the coniferous monotony with proper, broad-leafed woodland. In the meantime, we have to be patient with the rather messy Work In Progress.

8. Drop down the northern side of the stream to the rickety wire supporting the stepping stones across the Duddon at SD228976. Ride up to the road then turn right to drop down joyous swoop of tarmac across Tarn Beck to the gauntlet-dropping sign “Coniston: Unfit for Cars.”

9. Climb. Climb like you’ve never climbed before. The way is steep. The way is rough. But the way is good. After considerable collar-work, gain the satisfyingly decisive brow of Walna Scar.

10. All that remains is braking, poise and concentration to avoid walkers, wandering sheep and gravelly hairpins on this rocky trail. At least there’s no more pedalling for a while. Follow the obvious line to Coniston and a pint.

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Route Information

Stats: 7.3 miles

OS Map:


Unless the kids are threatening to go hypoglycaemic, you probably won’t need replenishment on such a short spin. All the same, it would be a shame not to patronise the Hikers’ Rest at Beck Head – a rare, honesty-box café.


This miniature is a useful ride to know if the higher fells are rained off. Likewise if you have small children in tow or are short of time and need a spin that’s scarcely five minutes from Junction 36. It features some charming woodland, raven-croaking limestone cliffs, only the gentlest of climbs and a good, fast, rooty descent. Try it in autumn when the leaves rust and you can stuff your pockets with South Cumbria’s harvest of damsons.


1. Park on the old, cracked road near the entrance to Raven’s Lodge. Head up the farm access road and turn left through a gate. Climb gently through broad-leafed woods. Look out for an intriguing tufa waterfall on your right, caused by the slow precipitation of calcium carbonate from the stream. Go straight on, past highly desirable houses, to a short, fast descent to a road.

2. Double hard back to your right and follow this to the hamlet of Beck Head. Look out for the eponymous spring, emerging from under a small limestone crag. Pick up the Bridleway past the Hikers’ Rest, then follow it across fields until you join the road. Turn right and climb gently on tarmac past a school and a riding stables. Turn left and pick up another bridleway, turning left again when it forks. Follow this, possibly encountering some rare-breeds cattle on your way.

3. A gate heralds the return to woodland and a good kilometre’s-worth of twisty singletrack with damp roots grabbing at your tyres and low branches at your helmet.
4. Join the road at an acute angle and head south to the bend. Pick up the bridleway again and follow this down to the old road. Turn left and keep following the old road back to the car.

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Windermere Lakeside

Windermere Lakeside

Route Information

Start Point: The National Trust lakeside car park at High Wray is the best place for this ride. Yes, if you want to, wait for hours to cross on the ferry at Windermere itself, before parking further down. However, taking the road around from Ambleside, you’ll soon locate this car park and have a better day all around.

Distance: Take your pick. For younger members of the family cycle along the lakeside for 2.5 miles to the ferry point, have an ice cream and turn around – nice and reasonably flat ride. For older members, it’s an 8 mile ride of interest.

Lakeside turn around = 5 miles full circuit = 8.3 miles ascent = 958 feet

OS Map:


Hawkshead is nearby and has some super tea rooms and pubs to eat at. Whilst cycling along, the ferry point has a shop for ice creams etc, and Sawrey has the opportunity for a stop for a drink too.


For the real junior riders, a cycle along the lake to the ferry port and back is delightful. Gently rising and falling in the main, with the odd bit where they’ll need a hand, it will be a great day out, with ice creams provided at the ferry point. If you like, take the ferry over as cyclists, saving the long wait, and have a saunter around Windermere and Bowness before crossing back and cycling back along the lake.

For the older kids, it gets more fun, leaving the narrow lanes and taking the well signed bridleways across Claife Heights as the ground rises through trees, before dropping down steeply with some fun speed back to the car. You can even camp for the weekend at the great National Trust site at Low Wray.


1. It’s a fairly easy route this one. From the lakeside car park, head out and follow the track down alongside Lake Windermere, skirting the fringes of the woodland, and with the odd rise in elevation on rocky ground, all the way down to the ferry point.

2. If you’re continuing around the longer ride, after a quick ice cream take the road to Near & Far Sawrey. This is a narrow road, so ensure that kids have helmets and that parent or adults are at the front and back of the group. The road rises as it twists along through high hedges, through Far Sawrey, and onto Beatrix Potter country. Stop here for a cream tea if you have time. There are also toilets here.

3. In Near Sawrey, just after the Tower Bank Arms PH (on the left), you will see Stones Lane to the right, opposite a red post box set in a wall. This is signed for ‘no vehicles – except for access.’ Follow this to Moss Eccles Tarn.

4, This excellent bridleway continues on with a gentle climb, passing on the left of ‘The Scale Tarn’, a very small water spot, before clearing the open meadow and heading back into the trees and turning onto the double track bridleway at Long Heights which heads towards High Wray.

5. Cross over a bridleway crossroads, and at the next junction of tracks, take a left turn following signs to High Wray’ along a well-used track that climbs on the final approach to the the village.

6. Simple route finding now. Once in the village take the road back down to the lakeside car park. Pack away the bikes and head into Hawkshead for a meal. The kids will have had a great time on an adventurous trail, and if you have chance, you can nip to Beatrix Potter’s house.

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Walna Scar

Walna Scar

Route Information

Stats: 13.5 miles and 2430 feet of ascent

OS Map Link:


None – this is a full-on mountain route.


This route is only included for completeness. Don’t actually bother with it – it’s dull, dull, dull from start to finish. Go and do a different route instead.

There, that’s got rid of those readers with no grasp of human psychology, leaving this route clear for just you and me, right? Because this route is almost embarrassingly good – just when you think it’s spoiled you enough, it serves up another juicy bit of singletrack or trialsy woodland.


1. Head south from Torver along the A593 and fork right up the amusingly-named but unsignposted Hummer Lane. Climb steeply past a quarry entrance labelled Burlington. Where the lane levels out, a bridleway come in from the left. Then there’s a forest on the right. Turn into the forest road and trundle along this for a while, at speed.

2. At a small post, turn left down a joyous section of woodland singletrack. Turn left at the bottom on fire-road and look out for another small post marking a right fork back onto singletrack. Drop down to the road and swing north over the tiny packhorse of Water Yeat Bridge to Stephenson Ground.

3. This is some sort of MTB Valhalla, with two bridleways leaving from the same gate on the right. You’ll be back here soon but, for now, head north-west up a drove road onto a grassy moor. At the brow, admire the view (see above) down into the Duddon Valley and curve round to the left to pick up the good track (Park Head Road) rattling down to the south.

4. At the bottom of the steep descent, turn left to pick up a beautiful trail curving round the flank of Fox Haw. At Jackson Ground, swing north to cross the marshy ground alongside Long Mire Beck to rejoin the bridleway just north of the drove road section.

5. Head back to Stephenson Ground then take the other bridleway along the wall heading east-north-east into the Lickle valley. There looks to be a good forest track on the far bank but the bridleway sticks to the true right bank and it’s a superb climb, with innumerable tricky sections to maintain interest.

6. At the top, the Scafells peek over the brow. Counter-intuitively, we veer left to the Duddon side of the watershed. Pass old quarry workings, overlooked by the rocky fortress of White Maiden. (Under no circumstances veer right or the peaty mire of Caw Moss will gratefully accept you up to your axles).

7. Turn right at the Walna Scar road and climb to the watershed, swooping down the other side on rocky zigzags. Where the main track crosses the outflow from Goat’s Water, turn right (initially vague and marshy but developing into a grassy track through bracken then passing through old quarry workings) and follow the stream down into Torver, grinning insanely.

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Upper Borrowdale

Upper Borrowdale

Route Information

Stats: 10 miles and 1850 feet of ascent

OS Map:


Honister Yew Tree, Grange cafe or Grange Cottage Tea Rooms


You’ve got to love a valley with jaws. Is there a place name anywhere in England’s pastoral sweep more apt to stir the blood than the Jaws of Borrowdale? As redolent of adventure and exploration as the Gap of Darién, it speaks of heroic struggles through goblin-ambushed gorges to hidden kingdoms beyond.

And, for once, reality doesn’t disappoint. The wide scoop of the lower valley, with Derwentwater lying placidly in its basin, gives every appearance of terminating in the richly-wooded ramparts of Grange Fell and Castle Crag. But the intrepid explorer, machete clutched tight, finds a narrow slot cut by the rushing waters of the Derwent and a second Borrowdale reveals itself.

Best of all, you can get all of that without battling marauding orcs or contracting swamp fever. This is Wainwright’s “loveliest square-mile in Lakeland” and the adventure is open to any machete-less explorer who can find the B5289 on a map.

This ride, though short, takes in the finer legal highs around the upper valley. You can easily thread it onto a longer ride around the lower valley too. That would include the incomparably beautiful terrace of Catbells, also a longish road section along Derwentwater’s eastern shore and a tarmac haul up to Watendlath. Lots of people do that so let’s try something a little bit different, eh?

Start point: There’s a handy pull-in on the left (heading south) just after the drive to Troutdale Cottages.


1. Take the bridleway to Troutdale. This is one of the most beautiful side-valleys in all Lakeland – a demi-paradise of craggy, tree-clad slopes. Keep the stream on your left and bear generally right. This is climbers’ country so make sure you don’t stray onto any of the paths going up to the left. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up carrying the bike across the slab-traverse on Troutdale Pinnacle and then you’ll be sorry.

2. The picture on the left shows the point at which the route-finding becomes tricksiest. With the stream just a few feet to your left and a footpath skirting it, the bridleway veers right, over a small rocky step, after which it becomes better defined. Cross a meadow (picture, right) with a sizeable boulder, admiring the twin cathedrals of Black Crag and Greatend Crag rising up to your left. Now drop down to the road.

3. Turn left on the road, poised to fork left onto bridleway 500m later, at Bowderstone Car Park. This takes you past the sensationally-balanced sugar cube and drops back down to the road.

4. Again, look out for a left, to Frith Wood, where the road leaves the trees. Climb, with enthusiasm, to an open fell with a beautiful ribbon of singletrack traversing round to the Hazel Bank descent.

5. Descend, with even more enthusiasm, to Rosthwaite. Avoid the road by taking the charming bridleway to Stonethwaite along the intake wall. Double back over Stonethwaite Bridge and rejoin the B-road at the notice-board an post-box.

6. Turn left and trundle up the road through Seatoller. Either turn right immediately after the village onto the permissive bridleway or keep going up the pass. Either way, you’ll gain a great trail skirting the flank of High Scawdel. This will lead to the peregrine-stooped rocks of Castle Crag and the great descent of Broadslack Gill to the beautiful banks of the loveliest square mile. Then you can coast down to Grange (choice of two great cafes) and the double-bridge back to the start.

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Ulpha Fell

Ulpha Fell

Route Information

Stats: 14 miles and 2,430 feet of ascent

OS Map:


The miles of windswept moorland are refreshment enough, right? There’s not a lot of commerce over these parts.


There are plenty of people who will tell you that the Lake District is just too full and too commercialised – an endless parade of concession stands selling achingly tasteful Peter Rabbit coasters and ‘Daffodils’ tea towels. The fault, of course, lies with their lack of imagination rather than Lakeland itself, which can hardly be blamed for an excess of charms. The fact is, 863 of the 866 square miles in the National Park aren’t Grasmere, Ambleside or Keswick and 46 weeks of the year aren’t the school summer holidays. This ride epitomises what the seeker of unspoiled solitude can find, if willing to pay the price. That price involves driving another 15-or-so minutes to the starting point and being ready to navigate vast tracts of damp moors with only sketchy evidence of people’s passing.

Start point: If you’re arriving in the district by car, there’s a tiny quarry with room for one vehicle at 186924


1. There’s a granny-ring pull up the road to start; no warm-up for us, my friend. Pass the ruin next to Old Hall Farm and turn right to Hole House.

2. After Hole House, you reach a faster with a letter-box. The main track loops back on itself up to the right but take a left on the speed of the curve to pick up a distinct but unsigned bridleway.

3. Climb to a level terrace and follow this north but not too far. Long before the level terrace reaches a gate, flank up to the right, aiming for the saddle between The Pike and Hesk Fell.

4. A soft descent ensues, holding a nor’easterly bearing down to the road.

5. Head north west on the road and fork left after a mile towards Woodend (no signage)

6. At Woodend, follow the helpful diversion to the south that avoids intruding on the farmer’s home. Then stare down the enormous bull (Christmas 2013) and set of across the open fell. When the path gets sketchy, head towards Devoke Water and pick up a reasonable bridleway along its southern shore. If the clouds are lowering and the spume flying, it’ll feel more like a lonely lochan than a Lakeland tarn.

7. As you leave the water behind, pass just to the left of a cairn then keep to the left of a subtle, cairned ridge, heading towards a distinctive pylon on the coast. Many of these cairns are evidence of ancient human habitation; kudos to anyone who could make a living up here now.

8. Just before Stainton Tower, pick up a drove road running North-south, then zag down through scrubby woodland running with pheasants to the farm of Dyke.

9. Now, if you’re Routes Editor for a leading cycle website, go down to the coast to reconnoitre the estuarine fords at Hall Waberthwaite and Eskmeals. If, however, you don’t want salt water in your bottom bracket, head left on the A595 and fork left up the Corney Fell road.

10. Now take the bridleway on the left, signposted to Bigert Mire, possibly the unloveliest-sounding farmstead in England. There are also the utterly meaningless words ‘3 Miles’ underneath. Do not give these any credence whatsoever lest you fall for the illusion that your labours are nearly done.

11. After 100m or so, the track reveals itself to be nothing more than the approach to Grange and the “Private” sign sends us once more onto the open fell, a tussocky expanse of gorse-scattered moor. Pay close attention to the navigation. An easy mistake is to think Stainton Pike (very visible on the ground) is Whitfell (very visible on the map). In fact, Whitfell only comes into view once you’ve sweated up past Rowantree Force.

12. Where the terrain levels, there is a welcome reunion for saddle and backside. Dink slightly right then pick up a track skirting Whitfell. This drops you to a gate then a big open field. If in doubt, head towards the shapely cone of Stickle Pike. Soon you’ll see the good, stony rattle to Bigert Mire beckoning you down.

13. Turn right at the farm, then left at the road to return to the start.

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