Stats: 13.4 miles and 2,200 feet of ascent
The Woodlands Cafe, Santon Bridge
A superb tour of West Cumbria, far away from the crowds. I rode this route (and the neighbouring Muncaster Fell loop) on a dry Bank Holiday Sunday and saw no other riders.
Start: Nether Wasdale
1. From the complex junction at Cinderdale Bridge, take the bridleway north through Mill Place, forking left when given a choice of bridleways. Climb gently past Gill to the road.
2. Turn left and descend at speed, turning right just after the cattle grid. Climb steep grass to a terrace at 150 m. Follow this to the left, over a small stream with woods on your left. At a stone wall, climb steeply again to gain a strong drove road edging the big forest on your right.
3. After a fast descent, turn left on the road and then immediately right on a bridleway to Bolton Head. Now, pay attention, 007. The farm track veers round to the right but the bridleway goes through a gate on your left. This descends on glorious singletrack, stacked to either side with red campion, stitchwort, buttercups and cranesbills.
4. At the bottom of the hill, turn right, then over the bridge that crosses the River Bleng. Counterintuitively, this flows to the left, ie inland, despite being within smelling distance of the Irish Sea.
5. At the Gosforth-Santon Bridge road, go straight over. Zig left at a small house and follow the lane. Where this zags right (post box for Scot Hall), leave it in favour of singletrack going straight ahead. This then makes a couple of half-right turns until you reach a cross roads of tracks, all dirt except the one going straight ahead, which is grassy.
6. Turn left , past Wardwarrow and turn left at the road.
7. With Great Gable as your guide, follow the road inland, through Santon Bridge (cafe is 100m off-route on right) and climb briefly on tarmac towards Eskdale.
8. Turn right on a bridleway (signposted to Slapestones) that descends through wooded parkland. Note the bridleway is interwoven with a forest track but the former is greatly to be preferred.
9. At the bottom (watersplash), turn left on the road and left again, just before the Bowerhouse Inn, to another short tarmac climb.
10. As the gradient eases, turn right on bridleway. After 100m, fork left then, after another 100m, fork right. Beware boisterous bullocks in this field (the solution, I have found, is to bark like a border collie). Follow delightful singletrack into the woods, once more avoiding mor
e obvious (but duller) forest roads.
11. Look out for the 4-way cross in the woods (no sign) at NY141012. You know you’re in the right place when you turn left and immediately meet a forest road doubling back above where you’ve just come.
12. You know the drill now – forest roads bad, singletrack good. Climb very steeply (see if you can stay in the saddle as far as Neil Cannon’s memorial bench). Shoulder the bike for a short unrideable stretch then get your teeth into another test-piece climbing to the top on roots and pine needles.
13. If the weather is clear, you’ll have a great view of the glittering sea with the Isle of Man and the Rhinns of Galloway beyond. Drop the seat and descend on stupidly steep turf, with many a tussock trying to throw you over the bars. Kudos if you can get all the way down without an unscheduled dismount.
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