Coverdale Abbey & Climbs

Route Information

Stats:  30.5 miles and steep …

OS Map:


Nearby Leyburn has an excellent choice of accommodation and places to eat. There’s also Middleham not to far away, which is a spectacular stop-off point, with Richard III’s castle and an amazing tea shop. At Cray, you can stop off at the White Lion Inn, a 17th Century drovers inn, and have a pint. Kettlewell also has some excellent cafes and hostelries for a break along the way.


This road route is simply stunning. It takes in a long stretch of the hidden gem which is Coverdale. Once a famous route for merchants and their cart horses between Wensleydale and Wharfedale, this route seems almost purpose made for biking. You’ll ride along quiet lanes, through the valley bottom and the hamlets of Horsehouse and Carlton.

The start is really down to you but I’m going to start this at West Witton on the A684, west of Leyburn. You could just as easily start in Kettlewell (although if you do this make sure you warm up) as either route out is up and it will be a tense start.


1. Take the A684 west out of West Witton. This is a great road but can be a little busy on occasions, especially in the summer with tourists travelling around.

2. Take the left turn towards West Burton on the B6160. This road starts out reasonably flat but has a sting in it. At West Burton cross the bridge and follow the road through the village, keeping right and on towards Grassington.

The road will steadily climb, rising from around 200m to 425m. Take a break at the top and take in some of the waterfalls you can see from the roadside.

3. The road descends through alpine style scenery and bends in the road, into the hamlet of Cray. Pub on the right if you need a drink.

4. The road continues to descend all the way into the village of Buckden, then onto Starbotton before landing at Kettlewell.

5. Plenty of refreshments holes and a shop in Kettlewell. This village I spent some time working on the film Calender Girls so I know it pretty well. Keep left through the village leaving on Middle Lane and out of the village on Cam Gill Road.

6. Having refreshed yourself you should be in the mood for some serious riding, and believe me when I say the next stretch is serious. A long steep section on Cam Gill Road elevating to around 500m. If you’re like me you may want to have the camera at hand ready for a photo of the stunning views back down the valley.

7. Once you reach the cattle grid you’ve cracked it. Well done. Have a drink. Now the payoff is the fast route down the other side into Coverdale. The views are simply spectacular.

8. Pass through hidden hamlets of Woodale, Braidley and Horsehouse (the Thwaite Arms on the right).

At Braidley if you look up to your right you may see ‘Dead Man’s Hill’. A ghostly bump which comes with a Dales ghostly story.

In the 1700’s, three merchants were found at the hill beheaded. People thought a local landlady and her daughter were responsible, but this was never proven. Their descendants may still live nearby…

9. Continue on to Carlton and when through the village take the left fork towards Melmerby. At the outskirts of Melmerby, the route turns left and continues through the village. This is the last steep section of the road but nothing like what you have already suffered.

10. This road continues up the hill with Middleham High Moor (race horse training ride) on your right and Penhill Park on your left.

11. Drop over the other side and fast decent into West Witton to put a final smile on your face.

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