South-East Lakes Weekend Loop
Stats: 73 miles. Yes, you read that right. Ascent: 10,000 feet. Also not a typo – this creeps into five figures.
Lots to choose from – Wilf’s in Staveley, the Apple Pie in Ambleside, Sun Cottage in Hawkshead, Wilf’s again… If breaking into two days, Ambleside is the obvious breaking-off point, though Elterwater is closest to halfway. If you want to do slightly more than 50% on day one, Hawkshead could be worth a look.
As laid out, this is a long and sinuous serpentine around the South-East Lakes.
But, because it interweaves, it is easy to shorten if time or lactic acid dictates. Mortals will find this challenge enough for a weekend but there will always be someone who wants to show off and do this in a day. If you are that show-off, write in to tell us your epic story.
1. Leave Kendal on the A685 heading for Tebay. When you reach the power-lines crossing the road, fork left, signposted to Meal Bank, Patton and Whinfell. Zigzag over the River Mint then follow it upstream as far as Patton Bridge.
2. Turn left, just before the bridge, signed to Selside and Watchgate. Climb to a crossroads with a No-Through-Road sign straight on and turn right, towards Grayrigg.
3. Just before Tarnside, turn left onto a surprisingly paved bridleway that leads you all the way from 170 m to 410 m, with a fine sweep over your shoulder from the Howgills, the Southern Dales, the Lancashire moors and the South Lakes.
4. Ignore the road to the second mast – you’ve done enough climbing for now. Instead, strike off diagonally across the grassy fellside (squidgy in damp weather) on a track that quickly establishes itself. Drop through sparse woodland into the lonely valley with the famous name. At one point, there’s an incongruous glimpse of the traffic busying up and down the M6.
5. Turn left to follow the track up the valley, ignoring the unmarked bridleway climbing up and right from Low Borrowdale. There’s a faintly Scottish feel here, with coniferous forest up to your left and a wide, gravelled bed to the river. When you have the chance, cross the bridge at 569031 to gain the true right bank.
6. At the top of the valley, fork left before the stepping stones, climbing to the A6 at 294m. Point the wheels downhill toward Kendal, but leave the road almost immediately to rattle down a superb trail alongside woodland, almost as far as Ashstead. Turn right, doubling back over Ashstead Gill and turn left at the cattle-grid to regain the A6.
7. Cross with care (this road is a favourite haunt of mad motorcyclists) to pick up the bridleway to Bannisdale High Bridge. Take the right to Mosergh farm, then bridleway to Murthwaite. Head up Longsleddale on the road, then cross the valley floor at Docker. Follow the edge of the flood-plain to the farm of Till’s Hole.
8. Go up the incredibly steep bridleway to gain the terrace below Stile End. Dog right-left over Stile End itself, dropping into Kentmere.
9. Fork left at the church for the raking climb up from Kentmere Hall Farm. Where you drop to the fork, bear right over the ford. Turn right at 440 009 to drop through High House farm to Mislet.
10. Go right on the road then fork right on to the Dubs road as if heading for Garburn. (You are but not yet).
11. Instead of the Garburn climb, drop down on your left to Troutbeck and the A592 where you turn right. Turn left just after the churchyard onto a stone-based bridleway. At the top, turn left then right at the Post Office. Climb up Robin Lane, branching left at a double gate after a mile or so. The view from this balcony are superb. Drop on singletrack to a bridge, then climb to the right to the farm. The descent through the woods to Ambleside is terrific, then leads onto a tarmac lane.
12. Get across Ambleside to Rothay Bridge, ride north for 200m, taking the bridleway climbing up to the left. Follow this line along the southern flank of Loughrigg Fell, bearing right before you come down to Tarn Foot. Keep above Loughrigg Tarn. Drop down past Oaks to the main Langdale road and pick up the bridleway following the Brathay upriver to Elterwater.
13. Climb out of Elterwater past the Eltermere Inn, bearing right onto rocky bridleway up and then down to the Wrynose road. Zag L-R to cross the wooden bridge then ride past Stang End to gain the A593. A short way up the A593, bear left onto the Iron Keld bridleway to Knipe Fold. Follow lanes to Hawkshead, for a well-earned refuel.
14. Suitably refreshed, cycle up through the village, passing the Kings Arms and Minstrels Gallery Tea Rooms to your left, cycling under the arch and up towards the excellent BW that leads you to Grizedale Forest. This steep track is well surfaced, and if taken in the right gear is easily ridden without a bikehike. It will get you up into the forest quickly, avoiding tarmac, joining the North Face Trail.
15. As the BW enters the forest proper, continue uphill on the track for approx 1/4 mile, before taking the North Face Trail to the left. This should be followed all the way to the Moor Top car park.
16. From Moor Top, take the tarmac road through the forest for a short distance, before signs lead you into the forest again to the left. Keep on the forest track, going right at the first fork of tracks, and following this for some distance as it weaves through the trees and around. Left at the next junction, and as the track curves around, a BW sign towards the end of the curve and to the left signs you onto some great off-piste, which weaves through the trees and speeds you downhill again. This track is excellent, steep and somewhat technical in places. However, be careful not to take the other nearby more direct track down. it is not as enjoyable.
17. Exiting onto tarmac from Low Scar Wood, turn right and cycle along the singletrack road for a short distance, picking up the BW off to the left (almost opposite) and heading down through trees. Joining a good tarmac road, turn right and cycle along, passing the junction to the left, before taking a BW at the edge of trees on the left, which leads down towards Cunsey. This is a superb short trail, with sections to enjoy at speed as you pick your line over rocks, before exiting onto the road by a bridge and heading to the ferry.
18. 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).
19. 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.
20. 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 washaway hairpin, it’s a whizz down to Kentmere, grinning like a loon.
21. 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.
22. 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.
23. 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.
24. Eventually re-join the road and cycle down into Kendal.
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