Start Point: Settle Market Place
Stats: 18.5 miles
Ample in Settle, with a large public car park, lots of accommodation options, including Youth Hostel’s not too far away – and ‘The Naked Man Cafe’ for good grub – nuff said.
This is what Yorkshire Dales mountain biking is all about. Steep climbs, rocky trails, and fast descents to die for. This route forms part of a loop within the Pennine Bridleway, but is a superb outing on its own. It can be started at Settle – of course; but it can also be started from Malham, Malham Tarn, or as a excellent extension to Mastiles Lane from Kilnsey. Each of these options is a worthy choice, and you won’t be disappointed. I’ve done this loop on sunny days, in torrential rain, and with the signs of snow in the air, an each journey was fantastic. For me the best start for access to facilities is Settle. This small dales market town is full of great accommodation and facilities. I used to work at a nearby Youth Hostel, so have some cracking memories of the place. The descent back to Settle takes some beating for naturally technical trails, followed by epic speed. There’s even a bike shop in town to get yourself some new brake pads!
1. Park in the centre of Settle and head out past the market place, along Church Street, turning steeply left into Constitutional Hill. Follow this as it links round into ‘Highway’ and as the road bends to the left, a track on the right by a small woodland, signed ‘Langcliffe’ should be taken. Follow the stony track, with drystone walls either side as it leads onto the fellside.
2. The track splits below Blua Crags – yep, I said ‘Blua’ – so take the upper track towards trees (Clay Pits Plantation). It joins the road at a sharp corner and junction with the main loop. Catch your breath and trust me that this is the best way round the loop…honest!
3. As the road continues to climb and bends sharply to the left, continue straight on along the sign-posted track. The rocky track is excellent in all weathers, and climbs steadily before evening out and rolling across some superb limestone countryside. As is drops down on stony ground to join the tarmac at Langscar Gate, head straight over and join the bridleway opposite, which crosses Dean Moor and takes you down to Malham Tarn.
4. This rises gently before falling at speed, then crossing the damp meadow near the road. Go through the gate and turn left along the road, past Low Trenhouse on your right, turning right at the next junction signed Arncliffe. Next junction go right again, then immediately right onto the track which leads past a small nature reserve to Tarn House.
Take the track which loops around the tarn, and rejoin the lane at Street Gate, descending down the tarmac, as the lane twists and turns all the way to Malham village. The high drystone walls and tight bends can bring hidden dangers, so take care on the descent, and only ride as fast as you can see ahead.
5. Rest in Malham, where tea shops, Inns and the National Parks Centre provide ample refreshments and toilets. Then head out past the National Parks Centre, taking the next right, bridleway onto Long Lane. Four fields along on your left the track then bends sharply left, take this, climbing steeply (really steeply!) before joining the Cove Road above Malham Cove. Take the tarmac as is climbs further, then joining the bridleway to the left approx 100 metres up, which takes you back onto the Settle loop.
6. Now enjoy rolling countryside, before you encounter some steep descents on loose gravelly tracks, which twist and the fall over technical rocky limestone steps, all the way to Stockdale Lane (track). For me, this rocky descent is the best part of the route, and a tester in the wet. Keep your hand off the front brake and your backside over the rear wheel and simply enjoy it! This is what you’ve some here for after all.
7. As Stockdale Lane joins tarmac at High Hill Lane, turn right and ride down at speed back into Settle, along cobbled roads that define this wonderful market town.
Now get back to the Naked Man Cafe for some grub!
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