Great Dun Fell
Stats: 46 miles and 4000 feet of ascent
Cafes at Penrith, Melmerby and Appleby
“This is the greatest climb in England, this is our Mont Ventoux, it has no peers, there is no comparison: Great Dun Fell is simply unique.” Simon Warren, 100 Greatest Cycle Climbs vol2
1. Head south off the high street and take the left turn for Carleton, then a left at the junction to join the A686. Continue past pretty Cumbrian farm houses over the bridge into Langwathby then on to Melmerby.
2. Turn right in the village and pass through Ousby and Skirwith, and then take the next left fork in the road. Enjoy the gentle flat lands of the Eden valley with the towering high Pennines to your left. The highest of these is Cross Fell but, as you meander along the single track roads, another hill start to appear, marked by a golf ball radar station at its summit. This is Great Dun Fell.
3. After Milburn take the left turn for Knock. Turn left just before the village of Knock which is signed for the Christian Centre. This marks the start of the colossal climb, which only ends once you reach the radar station. You will pass several signs warning of no entry and private road, these refer to motor vehicles only, the road is classed as a bridleway and the top 1/3 overlaps the Pennine Way, there is no objection to cyclist access. The brutal, unrelenting climb takes in 2,100ft of ascent over 4.6 miles, rises up out of the Eden valley into rough grazing land through a gate, then on along the sheer edge of a former slate quarry, the radar dome looming overhead like a watching eye, then eventually through craggy boulders onto the moorland summit, another gate, and up to the dome. From this point you have your reward: an uninterrupted view across the width of the Eden Valley and all the hills of the Lake District beyond, you might as well be on top of the world.
As this road is access to the radar station there is no through pass so you must about face and head back from where you came, beware the descent, the road is steep and narrow and this time you have sheep and possibly other cyclists battling their way up to contend with.
4. At the bottom turn left for Knock then right and head into the historic market town of Appleby.
5. Through the town take a right for Colby and Bolton on the banks of the river Eden, then return to Penrith.