Stats: 15 miles
Rather than waiting for an age to cross on the ferry by car, we suggest parking at Windermere and cycling down and across. It’s a lot cheaper this way, and will save you up to an hour each way in summer. Windermere has loads of facilities. Hawkshead has some lovely tea shops and cafes, and a few pubs if that takes your fancy. Grizedale visitor centre is also a good place to get a bite to eat and a drink.
Once you decide to ride hard in the Lakes there are no real warm-up sections. It’s uphill, so accept it and enjoy. This route typifies that, as you climb on tarmac towards the tracks that take you across Claife Heights, before sweeping descents on hard packed and well drained tracks lead you down again. Take a break in Hawkshead, before climbing up into Grizedale, enjoy the North Face Trail, before again going off-piste and dropping down to the Lake at the Windermere ferry. Albeit short, the climbs and descents will make this one of the best rides that you’ll do all year.
1. Having crossed the ferry, head along the road towards Sawrey, twisting and climbing until a bridleway is reached on the right, just before the Sawrey Hotel. Take this and climb on a slate track, passing the Sawrey institute, and ascend Claife Heights.
2. Passing meadows, you eventually reach woodland and descend at speed on a rocky track to the lake shore. Follow the track along the shore until a bridleway on the left takes you up again onto the heights at Belle Grange. A large laurel bush adjescent to this BW may help identify it.
3. This BW climbs on a good but somewhat cobbled surface, before becoming more technical, with rock steps on steep ground to negotiate. Crossing strainght over two other BWs in sequence, the descent begins, requiring good balance and line choice, speeding you down all the way towards Hawkshead.
4. Suitably refreshed, cycle up through the village, passing the Kings Arms and Minstrels Gallery Tea Rooms to your left, cycling under the arch and up towards the excellent BW that leads you to Grizedale Forest. This steep track is well surfaced, and if taken in the right gear is easily ridden without a bikehike. It will get you up into the forest quickly, avoiding tarmac, joining the North Face Trail.
5. As the BW enters the forest proper, continue uphill on the track for approx 1/4 mile, before taking the North Face Trail to the left. This should be followed all the way to the Moor Top car park.
6. From Moor Top, take the tarmac road through the forest for a short distance, before signs lead you into the forest again to the left. Keep on the forest track, going right at the first fork of tracks, and following this for some distance as it weaves through the trees and around. Left at the next junction, and as the track curves around, a BW sign towards the end of the curve and to the left signs you onto some great off-piste, which weavs through the trees and speeds you downhill again. This track is excellent, steep and somewhat technical in places. However, be careful not to take the other nearby more direct track down. it is not as enjoyable.
7. Exiting onto tarmac from Low Scar Wood, turn right and cycle along the singletrack road for a short distance, picking up the BW off to the left (almost opposite) and heading down through trees. Joining a good tarmac road, turn right and cycle along, passing the junction to the left, before taking a BW at the edge of trees on the left, which leads down towards Cunsey. As the final piece of off-road for the day, this is a superb short trail, with sections to enjoy at speed as you pick your line over rocks, before exiting onto the road by a bridge and heading back to the ferry.