This circular cycle route starts and finishes in Skipton, and can be divided in to six day stages, of 20-25 miles. The cycle way takes you through some of the Northern England's best scenery and is a good way to see the best of the Yorkshire Dales, as it takes you through 6 dales, Wharfedale, Malhamdale, Ribbledale, Dentdale, Wensleydale & Swaledale.
The Yorkshire Dales was made a National Park in 1954 because of it's wide range of stunning scenery, in particular the natural limestone architecture, potholes, crags and limestone pavement. The Yorkshire Dales also has a lot more to offer including, sweeping moors, waterfalls and traditional picturesque villages, you will see all of these on the cycle way.
The going can be tough in places, hills of varying steepness are climbed and at least 3 gears are recommended. Weather can be unpredictable and unwelcoming even in the summer months so always travel prepared with wind and water proofs as well as protection against the sun and heat-stroke.
Stage 1: Skipton to Malham
The first day stage provides an introduction to the Yorkshire Dales, taking in the Wharfedale villages of Appletreewick and Burnsall before climbing to a pass in the hills and descending to Malhamdale, celebrated for it's limestone rock features: the gorge of Gordale Scar and the 300 feet high amphitheatre of Malham Cove.
Stage 2: Malham to Ingleton 23 miles
After climbing past Malham Cove you pass the picturesque upland lake of Malham Tarn. You then cross high ground with views of the peaks of Fountains Fell and Pen-y-Ghent. You descend steeply into Ribblesdale and should be in the small market town of Settle by lunchtime. In the afternoon you can visit the pretty village of Clapham before continuing to Ingleton. To make a break from pedalling there are delightful short walks near Clapham and Ingleton, with woods and waterfalls in plenty. Malham Tarn is 2 miles north of Malham village and is one of only two natural lakes in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Elsewhere most surface water drains down into the permeable limestone. The tarn is a National Nature Reserve of international importance. Above the tarn is a residential centre run by the Field Studies Council.
Stage 3: Ingleton to Hawes 25 miles
This is the possibly the quietest stage of the tour, exploring four of the remote and less visited dales in the west of the National Park before reaching the more frequented pastures of Wensleydale. From Thornton ( 110m) you ascend Kingsdale to White Shaw Moss(473m) before descending Deepdale to Dent village ( 147m). You then ascend Dent Dale, reversing the route of the Dales Way walkers' trail as far as Newby Head Moss (437m) before descending Widdale to the busy little Town of Hawes in Wensleydale. Highlights of this stage include the delightfully pretty whitewashed village of Dent, where the 19thC geologist Adam Sedgwick was born, the 19th century railway viaducts towering above Dentdale, and the chance to sample the locally-produced Wensleydale cheese at Hawes.
Stage 4: Hawes to Grinton 20 miles
After the opportunity of a visit to Hardraw Force, the highest single leap waterfall in England, your route follows the mild and gentle scenery of Wensleydale to Askrigg, a picturesque village which was a location for the TV version of All Creatures Great and Small. From Askrigg you cross over the moors of Askrigg Common, reaching 498m before descending abruptly to Swaledale, which by many is regarded as the most beautiful of all the Dales. After a visit to Muker with its local woollens shop (the Swaledale breed of sheep is known for its wool; watch out for wayside shearing in progress in late June or July) you follow the Dale down to Grinton.
Stage 5: Grinton to Kettlewell 23 miles
From Grinton you start back south towards Skipton, taking two leisurely days over the journey. First you cross back over the moors to Wensleydale, where you can visit mediaeval Bolton Castle, one time site of the imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots. After crossing the river Ure at Wensley Bridge you make a long gradual ascent of unfrequented Coverdale to the Tor Dike pass (04m), between the broad peaks of Buckden Pike (702m) and Great Whernside (704m). The stage ends with a sudden and very steep descent to Kettlewell in Wharfedale. Mind your brakes! (or, better, dismount on the steeper sections).
Stage 6: Kettlewell to Skipton 22.5 miles
The final stage takes you back down Wharfedale, passing magnificent limestone scenery such as the impressively overhanging mass of Kilnsey Crag. Beyond the interesting little dales town of Grassington you reach the ruins of mediaeval Bolton Abbey, set in a narrow part of the dale where the steep gritstone hills close in on the river.
Arriving by train: Skipton is reached by train from Leeds. From London Kings Cross change trains at Leeds; journey time 3.5 hours. From Manchester Airport change trains at Leeds. Journey time 2.5 hours.
NB: You will need to book you're bike on the train in advance.
For train timetable information call National Rail Enquiries: 08457 48 49 50, or visit www.nationalrail.co.uk
Bikes on Trains
Travel can be reserved for bikes only on trains where seats can be reserved. On local non-reservable trains there is a limit of 2 bikes per train imposed by the Health & Safety authorities. Acceptance on these trains is at the discretion of the guard and is on a first come basis.
There is no national central reservations phone number for cycles. Each train company is responsible for its own bookings. Information can be obtained by calling them direct:
First North Western (for Cumbria & the North West): 0845 6040 231
Northern Spirit (for the North East and Leeds to Skipton): 0870 602 3322
Neither company gives much guidance on its web site but you may find it worthwhile to consult them.
Departing by train at the end of the tour: From Skipton, change trains at Leeds to reach London Kings Cross, or Manchester airport.
Most convenient international airport: Manchester. From Manchester Airport change trains at Leeds. Journey time 2.5 hours.
Arriving by car: To reach Skipton by car take the M1 from London to Leeds and then follow the A660 to Skipton.