Cycling in Nidderdale

Greenhow Hill

Ssh…don’t tell anyone about this place. It’s a real gem and a secret cycling centre of excellence – Nidderdale. With the long and winding ascent – or descent – of Greenhow Hill, coupled with Lofthouse Bank, it has climbs to match anywhere in the Dales. This long and narrow working dale is also blessed with some sprinting straights, hemmed in by close drystone walls and rising fells that twist as the lock you into the valley head, with the only exit being a lung busting ascent to Masham. At its centre lies the historic market town of Pateley Bridge, blessed with a delightful river which runs beside the park – and two award winning pie making butchers! Tempted?

Larisa Chinces riding near Masham

Larisa Chinces riding the World Championships roads in Nidderdale. With sweeping bends and  climbs called ‘Devil’s Elbow’, you know it’s tough 🙂

Breaking down Nidderdale, it has a variety of access points, each providing their own cycling style. Entry from Wharfdale over to Greenhow is via an open and somewhat barren landscape. Lead mining has sculptured the landscape here, leaving a wealth of history amidst the hills. Tight twisting lanes rise and fall between Greenhow and the A59, with hidden hamlets springing up as you turn a corner. The tough and rugged gritstone buildings defy the winds that sweep across from the open moorland towards the West Riding and Otley, bending trees into formed shapes and testing the cyclist. A scarred map of lanes run off the main highways, hemming you in as you lean and swerve to negotiate the tight and narrow bends out towards Thornthwaite on unrelenting gradients.

Entering the dale from Harrogate is an easier option, as the road sweeps elegantly along, with long running curves that encourage the glide. Green meadows filled with sheep and cattle line the way, producing scenes expected elsewhere in the more familiar dales. Lanes run off however in the narrow Nidderdale style, climbing steeply towards the gritstone boulder field of Brimham Rocks, a remnant of the last ice age, and a great place to stop for tea and cake, at the National Trust café. On the other side of the valley, long sweeping roads climbs with ease towards the golf balls of RAF Menwith Hill and the further afield to Otley once more.

The entry from Ripon is a refined affair, designed for sprinters, along the straights of the Pateley Bridge Road, or the endless moorland roads from Kirkby Malzeard and Dallowgill. This side is moorland country, with Buzzards and Owls hovering overhead on the thermals. A rugged landscape that is lit in summer by sweeps of purple heather amidst landscape managed for country sports. It provides a reflective ride in silent solitude, with scenic viewpoints to enjoy the endless views. The Queen Victoria Memorial Tower at Dallowgill gives views all the way to the Hambleton Hills in the east, drawing you in for a long ride across to these guardians of the North Yorks Moors. However, the connoisseur will return to Pateley Bridge via Church Lane Hill, holding onto the brakes for dear life as they twist down this alpine-esque hill.

Larisa Chinces riding in North Yorkshire

And last but not least is the entry to Upper Nidderdale from Masham and Lower Wensleydale. A blend of meadowland and moorland sweeps across, with rising fells that provide the watershed for reservoirs to feed the thirst of the West Riding. Steep descents and ascents lead to Lofthouse and How Stean Gorge, a superb limestone river gorge with eerie sculptured sides torn by water. The café at the gorge provides a welcome cyclist tea spot before the climb of Lofthouse bank leads you home again and tests the spirit of any climber.

The best time to go is early spring when the sun is not yet too hot and cool breezes will keep you cool. For the top rides to follow,simply click below and choose a ride ?

Masham to Scar House Reservoir and back. Leading out from the small town famous for its 2 breweries, the road rises and falls through delightful farmland the village of Healey. The farmland soon gives way to heather clad moor and the first of the reservoirs at Leighton. Here the hills really begin, sweeping and twisting down before rising cruelly. A gentle amble then calms the legs before a descent of Lofthouse Bank. Over the small and ancient packhorse bridge, the narrow road leads to How Stean and tea. Once refreshed, take the reservoir road to Scar House, climbing with a sting, before a rest and reverse journey home again.

1. Head down West Park Stray, turning left at the junction with Beech Grove (traffic lights). Follow Beech Grove around West Park Stray until the junction with Otley Road. Turn right, heading up Otley Road on the first climb of the day. At the junction with Harlow Moor Road (right), turn right and enjoy the descent all the way to the bridge and traffic lights. Get in gear however, because a steep climb up Peny Pot Lane follows.

2. Climb Peny Pot Lane and go straight ahead at the large roundabout. Take the junction on the left down Burley Bank Road and cross over the main A59 with care, heading along Rowden Lane before descending towards the village of Hampsthwaite. At the ‘T’ junction turn right along High Street, then follow the road as it bends around to the left, signed ‘Birstwith 1 1/2 miles’. The road twists and turns through fantastic scenery, along the valley bottom, allowing you a break before the climbs to come.

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This is an excellent ride from the cathedral city of Ripon, which also allows you the opportunity to visit nearby Fountains Abbey, a World Heritage Site.

It takes in the lesser known lanes on the edge of Nidderdale, but does so with spectacular scenery and sweeping lanes that rise and fall, leading to the isolated moorland village at Dallowgill. Historic Ripon has some superb places to stay,from the Old Deanery Hotel opposite the oldest cathedral in England, to the 5 star plus Grantley Hall nearby, one of the finest hotels in Europe.

Click here for the full route details