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The Best Cycling Climbs in the Yorkshire Dales

Author: Kathryn Bennett
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Our Top Climbs

One of the UK’s most iconic landscapes, the Yorkshire Dales is packed with character. Whilst there are higher hills to be found elsewhere in the UK in the Lake District, Scotland and Wales, there’s something about the rolling green hills, picturesque valleys and dramatic rock formations of the Dales which draws visitors back time and time again. And, of course, one of the most exciting things about these undulating scenes is the incredible road cycling it offers as a result.

The Yorkshire Dales is the undisputed epicentre for cycling in the UK, a place any avid roadie must visit. Since the early 20th century, road cycling clubs have been using and perfecting the best routes in this county. The area has produced some of the UK’s most successful competitive cyclists, including Barry Hoban, Tom Pidkock, and Olympic medalist Lizzie Deignan. In 2014, the county even hosted the first stages of the Tour de France, making it a significant event for cycling enthusiasts.

Straight To:

No matter where you’re from, challenging day routes and steep climbs (sometimes with extreme weather conditions) offer an excellent opportunity to test your abilities as a road cyclist. Rest assured; you’ll never be too far from a charming pub or cosy teashop to recharge.

Here’s our pick of the Yorkshire Dales’ best cycling climbs. All are guaranteed to offer a challenging day out alongside unforgettable scenery, so you can start to explore all this stunning region has to offer.

 

Park Rash

One of the most challenging climbs in Yorkshire can be found right in the heart of the Dales: Park Rash. If you love to attack a short and steep climb rather than a long, gradual ascent, this one is for you. Climb 225 m/ 742 ft in just 2.1 km/1.3 miles. Added into the mix are a couple of spicy hairpins, just to make things even more interesting – and more photogenic.

In Simon Warren’s book ‘100 Greatest Cycling Climbs,’ he refers to it as “a tarmac ski slope”, so brace yourself for an intimidating-looking start which develops into a greater than 25% aspect. But there’s hope in sight – if you pass the S-bend still on your pedals, there’s a break before a final sting in the tail…

Check out the Strava segment here.

Recommended Route – Park Rash & Fleet Moss

This cracking loop is a decent day out at 75 km/46 miles, but well worth the effort. You start in the charming village of Hawes, where you’ll want to make sure you’ve got time at the start or end of your day to visit the Wensleydale Creamery Visitor Centre and pick up a variety of Yorkshire’s famous crumbly cheese.

From there, you’re straight into the splendour of Wensleydale valley, surrounded by ancient dry stone walls and grazing longdale sheep. This is a gentle warm-up before taking on the Park Rash climb. A seriously steep descent follows into Kettlewell, where you’ll want to take your time to experience the views. The town is well placed here on the route, as it’s the perfect spot for a well-earned break before you start on the gradual ascent toward Fleet Moss and Kettlewell, surrounded by the sounds of the burbling River Wharfe and the quiet of the moors. One more steep descent and you’re back to where you started.

Pit-Stop

Try to schedule in time to stop in Kettlewell, the perfect example of a quintessential village in the Yorkshire Dales, which dates back to the Anglo-Saxon era. There are several cosy pubs to choose from in winter, and in summer, we recommend stopping by the And Then Tasting Deli, which features delicious tea and coffee and, most excitingly, an excellent fruitcake with which you can sample the classic Yorkshire tradition of enjoying fruitcake paired with a tangy slice of Wensleydale cheese.

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Buttertubs

You might recognise this iconic climb – featured in the first stage of the 2014 Tour de France; it was swamped with spectators ten lines deep. At 4.4 km/2.7m and with 287 m/941 ft of ascent, it will test your endurance whilst offering plenty of time to enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding moors. The climb slightly changes gradient frequently, offering some respite as you progress to the top, but bear in mind it brings you toward an exposed high point which can make it even more challenging in high winds.

Check out the Strava segment here.

Recommended Route – Buttertubs, Tan Hill, Reeth

Starting in Hawes again, this time you head north. On our recommended route, it can appear to be a tough day as you start and finish with climbing and descending Buttertubs Pass – but it’s worth it to enjoy a circular of the moors around the Tan Hill Inn – your potential first stop.

The road is undulating and single-lane, and you’ll want to watch out for sheep who tend to wander across the moors. Enjoy the views, which epitomise the wilder and more beautifully bleak aspects of Yorkshire’s iconic landscapes, leading you onto a thoroughly enjoyable descent to sweep you towards Reeth. Here there’s the chance to stop off for another spot of refreshment before heading back along Askrigg Moor to your starting point.

Pit-Stop

You’ll pass by the Tan Hill Inn twice on this route, so make sure you plan time for a pint, some coffee and cake or even some good pub grub (if you think you can get back on your bike after). If you do, you’ll be enjoying a beverage or two at the highest pub in England, which has featured across several films and television programmes. With authentic flagstone flooring, timber beams and cosy fires, it lives up to the hype, and you could even time your ride with a stay in one of their rooms or bunkhouses – especially if you’re there when they’re hosting live music in their adjacent barn.

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Norwood Edge

I had to include this ascent in this list of the best cycling climbs in the Yorkshire Dales. I grew up in Otley, a small market town just north of it. Otley is home to a well-known cycling club that has been around since 1927. I have many memories of gasping up these hills during my childhood.

Another short and steep marvel, its features like these which seriously test European racers, who are less used to the explosive power needed to quickly conquer them when competing. Norwood Edge covers 174 m/571 ft in just 2 km/1.2 miles. The difficulty is in the start where things get steep straight away before it levels out across some hairpins before cresting onto the moor. Flanked by green woods, it’s a nice change of pace to climb through trees as opposed to exposed moorland.

Check out the Strava segment here.

Recommended Route – Norwood & Thurscross

With plenty of great transport links, Harrogate is a good place to start a loop which includes Norwood Edge. Apart from Norwood Edge, the climb is largely undulating and keeps you interested the whole way around as you weave through several of Yorkshire’s most lovely reservoirs.

You’ll tackle the edge in the first half of your climb and get it out of the way after a nice warm-up out of Harrogate, meaning you’ll enjoy the second half knowing you’ll stay at an undulating high level before descending back to Harrogate. At 58.5 km/ 36.4 miles, it’s a great little ride that will test your legs while leaving you with some time in your day for sightseeing.

Pit-Stop

Detour to Mackenzies Farm Shop & Cafe, which is packed with the best Yorkshire produce – it’ll add no more than 5 minutes to your total ride time, we promise. This lovely eatery is situated just off route after Thurscross reservoir, so you can enjoy some cake or lunch with the big climb out of the way. Formerly solely a smokehouse, they specialise in oak-smoked delicacies, so save some room in the back pocket of your jersey for a packet of Scottish salmon or local sliced bacon or chicken to tuck into later.

Greenhow Hill

This iconic climb takes you into a beautiful part of the Yorkshire Dales, Nidderdale, one of the UK’s named Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

On this climb, the average gradient is 7%, but you gain 288 m/944 ft over 4 km/2.5 miles), meaning the length provides the real challenge (along with a few steeper aspects). There are four sections of markedly tough climbing, but with respites in between to get you to the top, where the road starts to level, and you can begin to enjoy the excellent views you just earned.

Check out the Strava segment here.

Recommended Route – Pateley Bridge, Greenhow, Hartwith Bank Loop

This short but powerful circuit takes you around some of Yorkshire’s finest sights, with some of its best riding along the way.

It’s a tough start as you tackle Greenhow Hill first, with a mile out of Pateley Bridge to ease you in. After that, some stunning views across Nidderdale lead you into a fine descent to Summerbridge before your second big climb of the route, Hartwith Bank, takes you back out of the valley toward Brimham Rocks. These unique gritstone formations are a great place to stop and explore – and if history is more your thing than geology, leave your break for down the road at Fountains Abbey instead, the site of the best preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England. You then loop back to Kirkby Malzeard, an excellent stop for a potential pint, before cruising down the final miles back to Pateley Bridge.

Pit-Stop

There are so many great places to stop on this route, from a morning exploration of Pateley Bridge’s rustic high street to sightseeing at Brimham Rocks or Fountains Abbey. But our top tip is to ensure you don’t miss G&T’s Ice Cream parlour at Risplith. Their ice cream is made fresh on-site using organic milk and cream, and there are also great options for lunch, with home-cured bacon baps, toasties and cold sandwiches to suit all.

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Meet the Author: Kathryn Bennett

I grew up on the edge of the Dales in Yorkshire, fed by small but beautiful walking and cycling days out and holidays in the UK, where I discovered it’s more than possible to love being outside no matter the weather. Many soggy sandwiches eaten in the rain later, and this joyous determination to experience the outdoors only grew, pushing me to learn and do more than I ever imagined I would.

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