Great Britain Off Road Part 3: North England — GB Divide

Mountain Biking Collection by The Racing Collective
5-10 days
3-6 h / day
253 mi
16,875 ft
16,600 ft

Welcome to the North of England on GB Divide; from the industrial west to the ancient bridleways of Lancashire and Yorkshire, leading up to the Scottish Borders.

This is Land’s End to John O’Groats with a difference; forget going direct, and forget sticking to just tarmac; the GB Divide traces a route through England, Wales and Scotland to deliver the very best off road riding that Great Britain has to offer, from techy singletrack, wide gravel roads, mucky byways, quiet rural lanes and everything in between.

While the total route covers around 1,242 miles (2,000 km), here we’ve split the task into four Collections, with this North of England stage being the third. In this Collection, there are four stages of around 62 miles (100km), which take you from the border of Wales to the Scottish Borders, via the canals of Manchester, Lancashire, the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Cumbria, and Kielder Forest Park.

The route is raced annually as ‘GBDURO’, an enduro style endurance race comprised of four stages spanning the entire length. For more about GBDURO, visit Both the route and the race were founded and are now run by The Racing Collective.

The ideal bike choice for riding the GB Divide is a tough one. While there are many paved lane sections that would favour a faster drop bar gravel bike, there are also some tricky, more technical parts that would favour a rigid or even hardtail mountain bike. In some parts you will have no other option but to walk, especially when you take bikepacking luggage into consideration.

The start of these four stages are easily accessible by train, with a station in Cefn-Y-Bedd. There are a few train stations along the route if you’d like to split this into smaller rides. When you reach the end of this segment in Burnfoot, unfortunately there’s not the same facility. Either you plan to carry on to a town or city with a train station, or ride to one from this point. The closest railway station is Lockerbie, a 25 mile (41km) road ride away.

So if you think you’re ready to take on the length of Great Britain along this spectacular meandering route, the GB Divide is for you. Good luck!

Head to parts 1, 2 and 4 here:

Read more about the GB Divide route here:

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

    68.2 mi
    9.8 mph
    2,050 ft
    2,050 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Here you start the third leg of the GB Divide, from a small town on the Welsh/English border, to span the spectacular north of England, finishing at the Scottish Borderlands. Leave Cefn-y-Bedd heading north east, into the sprawling industry and urban landscape that will be quite some contrast to the previous Welsh stages, today covering 68 miles (110km).Follow the Llay Road to Eccleston, then north through central Chester before taking lanes out heading east. Enjoy the brief off road section through Delamere Forest on forestry roads before continuing into the city of Manchester, via the Cheshire Cycleway. By taking the Bridgewater Canal into the city, you’ll miss the traffic and bustle.Head north out of Manchester by the River Irwell, through Drinkwater Park and past St Philips Park MTB trails. If you have time, make sure you give them a blast! Continue north on National Cycle Route Six, past the canal and Elton Reservoir into Bury, finishing your first stage of the north of England.

    60.8 mi
    7.2 mph
    5,800 ft
    5,350 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    After yesterday’s flat introduction, things start to get a bit more hilly today, a lot more! You’ll cover a total of 61 miles (98km) from Bury through Lancashire and into the southern Yorkshire Dales.Start with a warming climb heading north past Ashworth Moor Reservoir and summit on Hail Storm Hill. It’s a short and steep off road descent into Waterfoot, before joining the Lancashire Cycleway heading north past Clough Bottom Reservoir. Head on east past Hurstwood Trail Centre on doubletrack roads, following the wonderful Pennine Bridleway route crossing the moorland known as the Forest of Trawden. It’s one of my favourite sections of the trail - and no doubt it will be one of yours too!Next take the compacted gravel road to the north of Lad Law to take the road almost into Laneshaw Bridge. Here you follow a mix of small country lanes and tracks, to the east of Barnoldswick and the west of Skipton, with a brilliant fast road descent through Elslack.The last big climb of the day starts up Mickleber Hill on road, before peeling off left into the Yorkshire Dales National Park and joining a network of gravel roads leading up to Kealcup Hill.You soon join the Yorkshire Dales Cycleway heading west now, on road again past Malham Tarn. Enjoy the Moor Head lane technical mountain bike descent at the end of the stage, just before following the river on the road into Horton in Ribblesdale. You’ll find plenty of places to stay here from campsites to Inn rooms and hotels.

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  • Difficult
    61.2 mi
    7.8 mph
    4,750 ft
    4,575 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    There may be a good proportion of road on today’s 62 mile (99km) stage, but don’t be fooled, there’s some serious climbing, including the famous Great Dun Fell road just one of the climbs on the menu for the day.Start by following the River Ribble upstream heading north gently climbing along lanes and doubletrack. Rejoin Blea Moor Road and continue onto another gravel road at Top O’Dent to climb to the summit of Wold Fell, where you spend some time on the tops contouring around Great Knoutberry Hill. Start your descent on the Coal Road - fast and simply spectacular tarmac.The next section is largely flat or tending downhill, so make the most of your speed to save plenty of time for the Great Dun Fell climb later. Why not stop at the Post Box Pantry in Dufton or in Kirkby Stephen before the climb, to make sure you have plenty of supplies?Great Dun Fell starts where you leave National Cycle Route 68, turning east. You can see this great bank of the Pennines that you’re about to cross. It’s a long climb with gradients up to 16 per cent, so make sure you pace yourself!From the top, take the track following Trout Beck and be warned you might need to walk a lot of this. Rejoin a more favourable doubletrack by the River Tees and continue descending north to Garrigill. From here, it’s not far at all along National Cycle Route 7 into Alston, a great little town with plenty of facilities and places to rest your weary legs for a night!

    63.2 mi
    7.5 mph
    4,275 ft
    4,625 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The fourth and final stage of the north of England leg takes you to and past the border of Scotland via the stunning and remote Kielder Forest Park, home to the Dirty Reiver gravel race. There’s 63 miles (102km) to ride today through some prime northumberland forestry land.You start by following National Cycle Route 68 to Slaggyford and past Lambley Viaduct, where there’s some steps to navigate before crossing the south Tyne. The Pennine Cycleway then takes you into Haltwhistle, the centre of Britain!
    Continue to follow lanes on the Pennine Cycleway north, past Hadrian’s Wall and to the edge of Kielder Forest Park. Continue along the 68 on the wide and undulating gravel roads of the forest, leading north to the shores of Kielder Water where you join the National Byway. Take a short diversion to the Boat Inn and shop here if you need to resupply or fancy some refreshments.
    Follow the Reivers Cycle Route along Bloody Bush Road heading west now away from the Water, to the edge of the Forest Park where you’ll cross into Scottish territory, climbing over Larriston Fells.There’s a sharp descent to the road before crossing Wauchope Forest, passing the ruins of Hermitage Castle to reach the end of the stage in Burnfoot. In Scotland, you can wild camp legally thanks to the Right To Roam act (see more at, which comes in very handy for the latter stages of the GB Divide. From here, you can either carry on with part four to John O’Groats, or head to Lockerbie train station, a 25 mile (41 km) road ride away.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    253 mi
  • Duration
    31:40 h
  • Elevation
    16,875 ft16,600 ft

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