That made me wonder about my own list. I decided this would involve longer routes that would make complete staycation holidays in their own right, and I would spread them wide around the UK. So here goes:
The Pennine Cycleway is a waymarked Sustrans cycle route all the way from Derby up the spine of England to Berwick-upon-Tweed.
It arrives in the Yorkshire Dales National Park near Gargrave and takes a fantastic route up the west side of the National Park to Appleby-in-Westmorland over in Cumbria – about 70 miles.
There are potential stops in Settle, Ingleton and Sedbergh on the way.
This is a beautiful and often very quiet territory to explore, and there are direct trains between Gargrave and Appleby for a return route on the famed Settle-Carlisle Railway.
The Pennine Bridleway
The Pennine Bridleway starts in Derbyshire and finishes in Northumberland, with some of the best riding in the Yorkshire Dales. This is off-road riding, some of it reasonably challenging unless you are used to it.
The Yorkshire Dales section starts in Long Preston and goes via Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Garsdale Head to Ravenstonedale and is around 51 miles.
It is best followed using Cicerone’s guide book, which has excellent maps and riding instructions, plus height graphs and what to see and do.
The Settle Loop is 10 miles long, of which 7.5 is off-road. It is quite a challenge with a great deal of climbing, but excellent views and very good downhills to finish. Graded: Medium.
Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Helwith Bridge, Sulber Nick – 12.5 miles, 0f which 6.75 miles off-road. Graded: Easy.
The locations of the loops are shown below:
Another excellent guide book, Yorkshire Dales Mountain Biking from Vertebrate, has 26 mountain bike routes all around the Dales, including around Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-ghent, Swaledale, the Howgills and the Swale Trail.
Routes include an “easy” 16Km from Austwick, an “epic” from Settle to Malham Cove, and “enduro” from the Ribblehead Viaduct and the Tour d’Ingleborough as a 40Km “killer”!
There is also the specific Wharfedale Biking Guide with six routes in the areas of Grassington, Appletreewick and Bolton Abbey.
Cycle-friendly Holiday Accommodation in the Yorkshire Dales
As a cycle guide publisher we’ve done quite a
few shows in the past, displaying our range of cycle books and maps to the
general public and it’s always interesting to get people’s reactions. The good
ones make you feel like you are doing something right but the critical are
often just as helpful.
It’s been very noticeable at the shows that many people pick up our Ultimate UK Cycle Route Planner and once they have done so are extremely reluctant to put it down, studying it intensely and making ums and ahs of interest and enlightenment.
But why is it a different tale with some online reviews who occasionally criticise the map? Typical comments include ‘Not enough detail to follow correctly’ and ‘at best it is an indication of where cycle routes may be.’
So to clear up exactly what the planner is and isn’t and how it will hopefully keep on proving useful to buyers, here’s a bit more background about the contents and how it we envisage it being used.
1. The Scale
With a scale of 1:588,000 this is an overview map for planning your routes so you can see how all the UK’s main leisure cycle routes are interconnected. So it’s not meant for navigation as you ride along.
It’s simply not possible to fit all the UK’s major cycle routes onto one map at a great level of detail – if you tried you would end up with an unmanageably large sheet of paper.
1080mm x 880mm is the unfolded sheet size and is as large as we wanted to go – any larger and it becomes too much of a handful to inspect when unfolded, especially if outdoors in the wind.
It folds down to the size of an OS Landranger map and so will handily fit in the map pocket of an outdoor type coat.
2. What Routes are Shown and Who is it Aimed at?
The UK Cycle Route Planner is aimed at leisure riders. The National Cycle Network (NCN) is shown in its entirety and stands out in bold red along. NCN route numbers are included. As the traffic-free sections (many are former railway lines converted to paths or upgraded canal towpaths) are amongst the most popular these are made to stand out in even broader red and white dashes.
There is more traffic-free info in the form of
green numbers next to traffic-free sections. A separate box out names each
numbered traffic-free section, allowing you to search out more detailed info
online or in other guidebooks. There are 305 traffic-free sections listed and
those that we know to be in rougher condition are indicated with red MB
lettering to show that a mountain bike may be a wise choice on them, even
though the gradients are likely to be unchallenging.
In addition to NCN routes the traffic-free numbering system also identifies easy going traffic-free trails that are not on the NCN but still legally cycleable, such as some sections of the Leeds-Liverpool canal or a route through the Forest of Dean.
More Challenging Routes
For those want more of a challenge the map also shows a selection of routes in dotted green lines. These are National Trails and other long distance off-road routes that allow bikes.
A selection of long distance classics are also indicated on the map including the C2C, the Way of the Roses and the Devon Coast to Coast. The map also shows 46 regional signed routes – these are also often multi day rides and fully signed on the ground but less well-known than the iconic long distance routes listed above.
Attractions En Route and Transport Links
To aid the ‘joining up’ of all the above routes the map also shows suggested minor road links and the lengthier sections of traffic-free route sometimes found alongside major roads.
The UK’s rail network and all stations are shown in full for those wanting to access their rides by train.
This allows you to make up your own bike tours; an almost infinite number of possibilities await…
Last but not least you can see where there are attractions on or near the cycle routes such as stately homes, castles, museums and many other historical sites.
3. So Just How Would You Use It?
We have had feedback from an End to End rider
who said they took the map with them en route and found it invaluable. But it
can also be used to discover day rides in your local area or a holiday area you
don’t know that well or to make up your own multi-day rides.
As we always try and make clear to potential buyers, when out cycling you are likely to need a more detailed, larger scale map of the area you are riding in to aid you if you get lost en route.
Where the Planner comes into its own is allowing you to see easily and clearly at a glance all the many different types of route in any area of the UK you choose to look at.
That’s something we think no other publication will let you do.
I spent last summer riding many of the finest tracks in the South Pennines and the northern Peak District in order to produce this tough, waterproof map.
For many years, before the days of tarmac, these tracks were the motorways of their day, with incredibly hardy packhorse ponies bringing the necessities of life like salt from as far afield as Cheshire and also acting as the HGVs of the very early cotton and woollen industries in the area, still dotted with early weavers’ hamlets and villages.
Today they are the bedrock (literally in some cases) of some great off-road riding. Add in the canals of the area and you have one of the most varied, visually striking and beautiful areas in the whole of the UK for off-road riding.
Best Track Highlights from the South Pennines and Peak District Off-Road Cycle Map
Here’s my top five scenic tracks and lanes of the area (in no particular order), all detailed on the map as part of longer bike routes:
Colden Clough Road – Just west of tourist magnet Heptonstall, next to Hebden Bridge, this gradually climbing broad track takes you through a wonderful ancient wooded valley then onto moorland scenery to end at a pub.
Reddyshore Scout Gate – A broad, easy to ride track climbs high above the steep sided Upper Roch valley with great views down onto colourful canal boats and small rows of terraces decorating the Rochdale Canal.
Pennine Bridleway – Hayfield to Rushup Edge. A great section of this well-signed National Trail. Rocky in places but plenty of broad tracks too with stunning views over to the highest point in the Peak District National Park, Kinder Scout.
Hope Brink – Actually thought to be much older than packhorse trails, being marked as a Roman road on maps. Fantastic views down Edale from the old direction post at Hope Cross.
Wessenden Valley – Improved by the National Trust who own large tracts of Wessenden Moor, this is now one of the best quality off-road tracks in the South Pennines and makes a wonderful descent from the moors into the attractive old mill town of Marsden.
Family ride highlights
Family ride highlights on the map include the Longdendale Trail and the Calder & Hebble Canal but there are many more.
The latter has been undergoing a scheme of surface improvements to make it even better for cycling thanks to the excellentCityConnect project.
Daunting No More
I surveyed the whole of the area using electric bikes which I also write reviews of. They mean terrain once unconquerable to someone in his mid-50s with a dodgy back and knees is now a joy to ride through. And I still get a good workout in the process.
Here’s selection of my favourite e-bikes I reviewed whilst riding the routes.
Riese & Muller Delite Mountain Rohloff – A no-holds barred, no expense spared full suspension e-mtb that also comes with rack and lights and a double battery, making it the best off-road e-bike I’ve tried for long distance, ride-all-day off-road e-biking.
Brose Drive S Mag E-bikes – Any e-mtb with a new Brose Drive S Mag motor should give great power yet still be relatively lightweight. Here’s a comprehensive e-mtb test where it is declared winner.
Riese & Muller Nevo GX – Great for older riders or anyone who struggles to get their leg over a higher top tube design. One of the very few off-road step thru e-bikes with incredibly sporty and bullet-proof performance as you would expect from this company.
There are three main elements to the waterproof map:
A 110 mile ‘Pike to Peak’ circular ‘challenge’ route, linking the famous landmarks of Stoodley Pike near Hebden Bridge to Rushup Edge and Mam Tor in the Peak District National Park. The Pike to Peak is around 75% off-road and uses old packhorse trails and turnpike roads to take in some of the area’s most stunning scenery and attractive towns and villages. The Pike to Peak can be tackled in the form of two smaller loops to make it more manageable as it is bisected by the TPT, meaning you also have the option of two smaller loops of 78 miles and 43 miles.
14 shorter circular day rides along classic trails such as Hope Brink, Wessenden Valley, Holme Valley, Reddyshore Scout, Ladybower Reservoir and the Hope Valley. These range from 8 miles to 26 miles.
20 family trails including the Calder Valley Greenway, Longdendale Trail, Upper Don Trail, Tame Valley Trail, Huddersfield Narrow Canal, Sett Valley Trail and many more.
In compiling the map I tried to pick out the best examples of off-road riding in the area by picking out broad, rideable tracks for adventurous leisure riders (though of course being in the heart of the Pennines there are still plenty of gradients unless you choose one of the family trails on the map). The route choice is ideal for electric mountain bikers getting their first taste of the activity.
The map also features:
Cycle-friendly accommodation listings with a link to internet pages featuring lots more detail.
GPX route files – internet links that guide users to web pages where they can download GPX route files for all the rides and get more background information about the routes.
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