Welcome to the Yorkshire Dales 300, brain child of local rider and cycle mechanic Stuart Rider. The official route is ridden annually as a participation event from Stuart’s workshop in Skipton, Riders Cycle Centre - but is also available to ride year round for cycle tourers or racers fancying a challenge with a timed Individual Time Trial (ITT).
If you’re looking for a straight-forward A to B route then this is not for you. But if the idea of a wiggling trail taking in all the most hidden off road gems, toughest climbs, most exposed moorland estate roads and testing singletrack is more your cup of Yorkshire Tea, then you’re in the right place. A total of 186 miles (300km) doesn’t sound like much, but don’t be fooled: this is one challenging route. You should consider your fitness level before attempting the Yorkshire Dales 300 as there are many testing climbs, even spread over five days.
The official route passes by many of the quaint towns of the Yorkshire Dales, so don’t be afraid to go ‘off route’ a little to visit these and sample their delightful tearooms and pubs! By splitting the route into five days here, there should be ample time for exploring the local sights, especially in the summer months with more daylight hours.
The best bike for this challenge is probably a hardtail mountain bike or similar. It certainly can be attempted on a gravel bike although some parts of the trails are quite technical so be prepared to walk a little! Remember that wild camping is not legal in this part of the UK so if you’d like to camp you’ll need to seek out campsites. Thankfully there are plenty to choose from in the Yorkshire Dales. It’s important to take a survival bag and other emergency equipment with you whether you’ll be camping or not, as some of the areas you reach are very remote which means emergency help could take some time to reach you.
Perhaps the best time to visit the Dales is late summer or early autumn - September and October. Here it will be less busy as the school holidays will be finished and the purple heather should be blooming - marvellous! Be aware that severe weather can strike year-round so make sure you’re prepared with good quality waterproofs and plenty of spare layers.
Read more about the Yorkshire Dales 300 here: riderscyclecentre.com/yd300-200-itt
The official start point is from Riders Cycle Centre, a five minute cycle from Skipton Train Station. The first day of five covers 45 miles (72.5km) from here to the small village of Starbutton, and you’ll soon see why this part of the North is hailed for its incredible off road riding.
Head out of Skipton town past the historic castle heading North East, through Embsay and up the Bardon Moor road climb. Descend to cross the River Wharfe, and head along the quiet Appletreewick road. The first off road treat, or rather challenge, is Sykreholme Bank, a two and a half mile (four kilometer) steady climb on gravel doubletrack. Views from the top on a clear day certainly make it worthwhile, not to mention the brilliant descent ahead.
Follow lanes to Pateley Bridge at 20 miles (32km) and follow the river Nidd to Wath, before starting to climb again after tracing the edge of Gouthwaite Reservoir. The gravel doubletrack leads up Hambleton hill before turning sharply to the left over Ouster Bank, crossing the Lofthouse road climb and over Fairy Hill. Pass Scar House Reservoir on your left and climb sharply up Dead Mans Hill, before a long doubletrack decent down to the river Cover.
From here follow Cam Gill Road which turns into the unpaved Starbotton Road for the final off road descent into the village of Starbotton. There’s a pub here for food and rooms, or campsites a short ride away South in Kettlewell, but be sure to book ahead!
The second day is shorter, with 29 miles (47km) to tick off, with two big climbs before reaching the town of Reeth. Head out of Starbotton heading North to Buckden where you pick up Buckden Rake, following the path of an old Roman Road climbing around Buckden Pike.
Cross the road to continue climbing up the rocky Gilbert Lane up to Busk Road, the classic Yorkshire dry stone walling and stunning views before you as you descend off Busk Moss towards and around Addleborough, then down to Askrigg. Pop into the town to resupply or for some lunch before contouring around the lower slopes of Woodhall Greets.
Passing Bolton Castle, the second of the major climbs of the day starts, first up Black Hill and then crossing the road to start on Apedale road past the discused lead mine workings. Summit at 1800 feet (546m) before starting the downhill leg to Reeth.
Descend off High Carl off-road, passing the old lime kiln and heading down Harkside Trail to Grinton. From here it’s a short ride into the village of Reeth, where you’ll find many bed and breakfast, hotel and camping options for the night as well as some authentic Yorkshire pubs!
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.
Today is the same distance again, 29 miles (47km) to Bainbridge including the famous Buttertubs Pass road climb. You’ll warm up straight off the blocks climbing up Fremington Edge, this time up Jingle Pot Road, with some seriously tough gradients leading to the S2 rated singletrack, topping out near Hurst. Don’t worry though, that’s the hardest climb of the day done and dusted!
After that challenging climb, you’ll be rewarded with a fantastic singletrack descent off the Edge to Storthwaite Hall and Langthwaite, where you cross the Arkle Beck. Here you start the second climb, firstly up the side of Calver Hill and Cringley Hill, past the Hard Level Force waterfall near the top and then summiting at the crossroads on Hall Edge.
Descend sharply down to Gunnerside Beck past the mining ruins, following the water down into Gunnerside. You’ll be on paved roads for a while now as you head West, along the Swale in preparation for one of the Dales’ best known road climbs; Buttertubs Pass.
Ride between Lovely Seat and Round Hill as you push on the pedals all the way up to 1722 feet (525m) and enjoy the fast road descent to pretty Bainbridge. Like many of the Dales villages, you’ll find many different options here for an overnight stay, great food and local ales - just make sure you’ve pre-booked accommodation to avoid disappointment in the busier summer months!
The penultimate day of the tour could well be one of the most spectacular. First thing, you’ll find yourself climbing out of sleepy Bainbridge and up the roman Cam High Road. As many jokingly say, ‘built by the Romans, not maintained since.’
It’s a tough climb due to the incredibly rocky trail surface, but you’ll be highly rewarded as you pass over the top, onto more smooth gravel doubletrack and experience the most incredible vista down to the famous Ribblehead Viaduct. Now you’re in classic Three Peaks Cyclo-cross territory.
This fourth stage covers 41 miles (67km), and next descends into the valley on the Great North Trail, then along the river Dee to Deepdale. The steepest climb of the day begins here, heading almost directly up Whernside, although not reaching the summit before descending over the other side down to ride under the beautiful Ribblehead Viaduct.
Head up Cam High Road again, this time from the South, and turn off to the right towards Gill Rigg. Follow the gravel doubletrack round the South-East of Ingleborough, and down little White Stone Lane to Austwick. You’re not far now from Elaine’s Tea Rooms - a real treat and very cyclist friendly! After a good refresh and refuel, enjoy the final gentle road descent into Stainforth, your final night’s stay in the Dales.
The fifth and final day spans 45 miles (72km) in a very indirect fashion from Stainforth to Skipton, looping up and down the hills in the South of the Yorkshire Dales. Start with a climb up the Great North Trail on Goat Scar Lane, passing by Langcliffe Scar and Jubilee Cave. You stay relatively high here as you contour around the tops of the moorland and continue to climb a little, peaking past Kirby Fell.
Drop down to High Hill Lane past the Roman Camp, contouring East on Black Gill Lane to move around the Southern slopes of Rye Loaf Hill. Descend to Kirkby Malham and start your second ascent, along to Malham on the road and then head East on old Roman Roads along Mastiles Lane. It’s a fast off road descent into Conistone on the river Wharfe, before taking Grass Wood Lane South past South Wood to Grassington. It’s a glorious village well worth taking a look around if you’re doing well on time.
Cross the river into Threshfield, when you climb up onto the moor which takes its name. If you’re visiting in late summer you’ll be confronted by vast swathes of purple blooms from the heather moor - beautiful! Head over Dolmire Hill and down to Winterburn reservoir before descending into Rhylstone.
Here you pass onto the last off road challenge of the whole trip - Barden Moor. The five mile (7.6km) isolated doubletrack passes over the moorland past Brayshaw Top before descending into Halton East. From here it’s pretty much downhill all the way back to Skipton to complete the loop, via Low Lane and the centre of the town so there’ll be plenty of places to get a celebratory meal before heading home!