Coniston to Kendal

Yesterday was an ease into Lakeland mountain biking. You’ll not be going quite as high today, but there’s still plenty of climbing to look forward to, as well as a classic Lakes descent from the Garburn Pass, before heading into Staveley and Wilf’s Cafe, a renowned spot for all outdoor folk.

Distance: 32 miles

Ascent: 4542 ft

OS Map:


A steady climb into Grizedale and a great descent towards Far Sawrey leads to a climb up onto Mitchell Knotts before dropping to Windermere and the ferry.

Some of you may want to ride the North Face Trail whilst in the woods – so we’ve given you the opportunity (see trail pdf ). If you take on The North Face Trail, then enjoy, if you don’t want the excursion then ride on as stated to Far Sawrey and Windermere. However, we’ve also added the option of the Garburn Pass to this day, so if you do take a ride around Grizedale then bear this in mind.

We’d thoroughly recommend riding the pass, followed by tea and cakes at Wilf’s Cafe in Staveley. If you do take the shorter route into Kendal, a series of tracks and green lanes then lead you up and over to Kendal and a rest.

This halt has everything you need, including The Brewery Arts Centre for those inclined. A great selection of pubs for the rest of you. The Youth Hostel is still open at this time, and is a good halt with secure bike storage.

Tomorrow is a long day, so enjoy the evening and get prepared – eat pasta!


1. Set off out of Coniston on the Hawkshead road. This is the B5265 and it starts by passing to the right of the Yewdale Hotel with the churchyard on your right. When you get to the National Speed Limit Applies sign, there’s a cycle lane behind the hedge on the left. Turn right at the very head of the lake (signposted to Brantwood and East Side of Lake). The cycleway continues on the left while, on the right, there’s a small car park with a toilet block.

After a brief warm-up climb on the road through charming parkland, turn right at the junction (How Head Cottage on right). After 300 metres, turn left onto bridleway. There’s a tiny electricity sub-sub-station on the left here and a couple of houses, one double-gabled, on the right.

2. Climb with interest to a level section by three dead trees then, holding the contour, enter the sepulchral shadows of Grizedale Forest. There are lots of fire-road junctions, but hold a south-easterly bearing. The main intersections are at SD326954 (just south of spotheight 253 on map) where you go briefly R-L and SD331942 where you bear left to descend to the Grizedale Forest Centre with its manifold delights of eating, bike-fettling and the North Face Trail. By now, the smell of hot chocolate and scones should guide you through the woods.

3. Take the trail climbing north-east from the centre, slanting up to the left from a distinctive pinkwashed house. After nearly a mile of climbing, with the valley on your right, you reach the spot-height at 203 m (SD345952). Look out for the Red Fox sculpture here. Follow the wide double track around south-east for approximately 130 metres, where a bridleway strikes off to the left into trees. Follow this south for half a mile to grid reference SD350943, picking up the wide forest trail again for 100 mtres, before the singletrack bridleway heads off again into tress left (grid SD351941).

Enjoy this superb section of trail all the down to the road, then tutning right for aa short distance, before picking up the bridleway opposite at grid SD354939. Head onto this track and spin yourself through the trees on this excellent natural trail, exiting onto the road where you turn right, before taking the next sharp left to Near Sawrey. Follow the road all the way through to Far Sawrey.

4. As you leave Far Sawrey, there’s a tiny church with a bell tower on the right and a phone box (with a notice-board) on the left with two trails rising up left from a common junction. Take the one that almost doubles back on you. Climb north and veer northeast for an entertaining descent to the Lake shore. Turn sharp right here (SD388970) to trundle south to join the ice-cream licking hordes by the ferry.

5. After a relaxing glide across the water, keep going east on the B5285 then spin north through Bowness and Windermere on the A592 and forking right onto the A5074 at a mini-roundabout. Stay on this for a mile and a half then turn right at the Preparatory School onto a short, awkward stretch of A591 (use the cycle lane). You’re soon (after half a mile) turning left onto a country lane to Common Farm, encouragingly labelled “Unsuitable for HGVs and coaches” with a 6’6″ width restriction. Unless you’ve eaten all the pies in Windermere, you should pass.

6. Follow the lane, past the 198m spot height (park bench on right) through to the Moorhowe road, where a short left-right dink gets your tyres into some proper off-road riding at a No-Through-Road sign. Pass Dubs Reservoir on your left and climb with increasing interest and heart rate, to the summit of Garburn Pass at 447m. Apart from a couple of tricky steps and the odd wash away hairpin, it’s a whizz down to Kentmere, grinning like a loon.

7. Pass the church and head down the valley, looking out for a Bridleway on the left at Calflay Wood. Look out for the sign “Long Houses” on the south-facing wall at the turn. Climb then flank Staveley Head Fell, descending on road from Park House. Just after a left-right dink, go through a gate on the right (Bridleway signpost) to cross open fields down to Elfhowe.

8. Take the bridleway to Scroggs Farm, then take a quick detour into Staveley to fill up in Wilf’s and/or stock up on inner tubes at Wheelbase.

9. Leave Staveley on quiet lanes before crossing the A591 and heading to Crook. Turn left towards Bonning Gate, then taking the bridleway on the right towards Parkspring wood.

10. Eventually, rejoin the road and cycle down into Kendal.

click below for gpx file