Stats: 36 miles, 8,000 feet of ascent (some of it with a bike on shoulders)
Either of the Dungeon Ghyll Inns in Langdale, Wasdale Head, Boot and Coniston Village
An extremely demanding tour of the South Lakes, featuring four substantial climbs. Options for shortening are few. Put it this way – when “bailing out” means Hardknott followed by Wrynose, you know it’s a toughie, right? Unless it’s the height of high summer, packing lights is a sensible precaution.
1. Start in Coniston and head East around the head of the Lake.
2. Fork left at spot height 197 (Grid ref 332987 ) towards Knipe Fold
3. In Knipe Fold, fork left again onto a green lane. Follow this, with increasingly spectacular views, over the shoulder of Black Fell. Where the bridleway heads north through forest, keep going on the lane.
4. At the A593, turn riight and then, where you meet the trees, left. Follow this track past Stang End and drop down to a small bridge across the river. Head north to the Wrynose road.
5. Turn left on the road and then right onto a farm lane. Follow this NE. As you drop into Elterwater, turn left and follow the bridleway along the north-facing flank of Great Langdale.
6. Drop down past Oak Howe and cross the river to briefly join the B5343 before leaving it almost immediately for the track across the fields.
7. Climb up toward the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel to join the terrace track across the south-facing flank of the valley, past the Old DG and into the wilds of Mickleden.
8. You’ll probably have been riding for an hour or more so you should be warmed up. Good, because the first climb is about to begin. The bike has carried you thus far so it’s only fair that you return the favour. Reach the top of the zig-zags and reacquaint yourself with the saddle for the switchback past Angle Tarn and up towards the cruciform shelter below Esk Hause.
9. Carry straight on, to the long, technical descent toward Styhead Tarn. Look out for rain gutters but, if you take it steady, you shouldn’t need to do too much hanging off the back.
10. At Styhead, turn left down towards Wasdale. There is an unprecendented choice of three bridleways to get you there but they all make for difficult cycling. The clearest is Moses’ Trod flanking the screes of Great Gable, but this has the twin disadvantages of being thick with walkers and featuring a couple of tricky rock-steps that even Steve Peat would baulk at. The left-hand varient starts more promisingly, with grassy zig-zags, but leaves you with an awkward boulder-hop across Lingmell Beck.
11. Eventually. you’ll find yourself in Wasdale Head. Top up with carbs for the next obstacle is the Burnmoor Tarn pass. Take the road away from the pub but, where it dinks left, go straight on towards the campsite.
12. Take the bridleway raking diagonally up the hillside at a pleasant angle. Where it levels out, the difficulties perversely begin. Ignore tempting tracks heading to the right up Illgill Head or down Miterdale. Head south across moorland, keeping the tarn on your right. Eventually, after much peat-hag-hopping, a long and fast descent presents itself into Boot in Eskdale.
13. There’s a small shop (and the Woolpack Inn) in Boot. These are the last opportunities for replenishment. Treat yourself here, then treat yourself further to a little tarmac respite, heading updale almost as far as the Roman fort.
14. Double back on the bridleway up the bracken-clad slopes of Harter Fell. This leads up onto another peaty stretch of moorland then down, skirting woodland, past Grassguards.
15. Cross the Duddon at the delightful stepping stones, then follow signs for the Walna Scar road. Haul up this to a triumphant breaching of the final watershed and a rollicking descent into Coniston.