North Yorkshire is the UK’s largest county by area and is home to a mix of gorgeous old cities, seaside resorts, and quiet countryside.
Given its size and landscape diversity, it’s hardly surprising there are some stunning cycle routes in North Yorkshire. Whether it’s country lanes or the sheer beauty of historic cities like York you appreciate the most, there’s no doubt North Yorkshire is a must-visit for any keen cyclist.
They say Yorkshire is ‘God’s own country’, so let’s see why, shall we? In no particular order, here are 7 of the best cycle routes in North Yorkshire.
Nidderdale Greenway, Harrogate
Distance: 4 miles (approx.)
The pretty spa town of Harrogate is not only perfect for a relaxing mini-break, but it also has plenty of brilliant cycle routes to mix things up a bit during your stay. The Nidderdale Greenway is a 4-mile-long path connecting Harrogate to the nearby village of Ripley to the north.
This relatively short and gentle route is suitable for cyclists of all abilities and follows the former railway line that once ran between Harrogate and Pateley Bridge. Its beautiful mix of woodland, rolling Yorkshire hills and wheat fields means it’s full of color no matter the time of year—from the golden glisten and vibrant flowers of summer to the bronze and amber glow of autumn.
Cyclists are treated to some of North Yorkshire’s finest views on this route, too. The Grade II listed Nidd Gorge Viaduct, for example, provides a good spot to pause along the way and take in the impressive natural surroundings and the River Nidd.
The Nidderdale Greenway also connects to various other cycle paths—most notably, the iconic Way of the Roses—a 171-mile coast-to-coast route connecting Yorkshire in the east to Lancashire in the west.
Distance: 5.5 miles
Buttertubs Pass is a famous high road in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, linking Swaledale and Wensleydale, winding its way north from Simonstone towards the small villages of Thwaite and Muker.
The intriguing name ‘Buttertubs’ comes thanks to the cluster of 20-metre-deep limestone potholes near the summit. Historic theories suggest these were once used to keep butter cool before transporting it to market—and they really are a sight to behold.
Buttertubs Pass is widely considered one of England’s finest country roads. In fact, Jeremy Clarkson once referred to it as “England’s only truly spectacular road”, and it’s often relied on for test drives on BBC’s Top Gear. Of course, Top Gear’s all about cars, but the Buttertubs Pass is also a perfect route for cyclists, with testing climbs and stunning scenery.
If you needed proof, Buttertubs Pass was the second King of the Mountains climb of the 2014 Grand Depart of the Tour de France. It remains a very popular route for cyclists today, and rightly so. The views of its surrounding valleys and fells are simply sublime.
Great Ayton to Danby
Distance: 13 miles
The village and civil parish of Great Ayton in North Yorkshire’s Hambleton district is blessed with many great cycle routes—it’d be impossible for us to list them all.
However, one we must mention is the 13-mile trail to Danby. This route takes you from the edge of the Cleveland Plains right into the North Yorkshire Moors, with picturesque views over Eskdale and beyond.
This particular route forms part of the Moor to Sea Cycle Networkwhich connects Scarborough, Whitby, Dalby Forest, Pickering and Great Ayton, covering a total of 150 miles in a series of moorland, forest and coastal loops.
Great Ayton to Danby can be a testing one for cyclists as there are several moderate climbs along the way, but the positives definitely outweigh the difficulties. For a start, Great Ayton itself has plenty of quiet riverside picnic spots.
Once on the road, you’ll also be able to stop and admire roseberry topping. Though that may sound like fruity cake icing, Roseberry Topping is a famous hill that’s often labeled as Yorkshire’s answer to the Matterhorn.
Whitby to Ravenscar
Distance: 11 miles
We remain on the Moor to Sea Cycle Network for this next route, which boasts arguably the best coastal scenery of the entire network, and perhaps of all the cycle routes in North Yorkshire.
For its views, this route is fairly easy on mostly flat terrain, starting high up on the Larpool Viaduct above the River Esk. Like many of the cycle routes in North Yorkshire, the route follows a former railway line—this time the old Whitby to Scarborough line, which is still well signposted.
Highlights along the Whitby to Ravenscar trail (or the ‘Cinder Track’, as you may also sometimes hear it referred to as) include the charming alleys, winding streets of Robin Hood’s Bay and a taste of the region’s industrial past at the Peak Alum Works.
And of course, as a renowned seaside resort, Whitby itself is famous for its fish and chips. It’d be rude not to sample some while you’re there.
Rosedale Chimney Bank
Distance: 0.8 miles / 2.2 miles
The Rosedale Chimney Bank is a short but very steep climb starting in the small village of Rosedale Abbey, which can be tackled in two directions.
From north to south, the route clocks in at just 0.8 miles long, but don’t be fooled. At its steepest, the north to south climb has a 30% gradient, so it’s a short but most certainly sharp test. The gradient for the remainder of the climb levels at an average of around 14%.
However, if you wish to tackle the Chimney Bank from the opposite direction, the climb from south to north is longer and a lot less steep. Cyclists can clock 2.2 miles in this direction with an average uphill gradient of 5%. However, you can still expect a tricky climb on the so-called ‘easier’ route, as gradients still reach 20% at the steepest point.
Whichever route you choose, Rosedale Chimney Bank is a real challenge but a great climb.
York to Selby
Distance: 14 miles
York is one of the UK’s most beautiful and historic cities, and if you’ve ever been, you’ll know it fully deserves that title. A tourist hotspot, York is also a great location for cyclists, and this particular route out to the nearby market town of Selby is well suited to all abilities.
This 14-mile route was one of the first traffic-free cycle paths developed by Sustrans and uses the former track bed of the old East Coast Mainline railway, forming part of the Trans Pennine Trail.
Starting on the riverside path adjacent to Rowntree Park, cyclists pass Knavesmire Wood and through the famous York Racecourse before joining the old railway route down to Riccall. From there, it’s mostly back roads and a cycle path running along the A19 until Selby.
On this route, you’ll also see the ‘Cycle the Solar System’ artwork. This to-scale model of the solar system was constructed by scientists from the University of York and is spread across 6.4 miles between Bishopthorpe and Riccall at a sizing ratio of more than 575million to one.
Each planet model is positioned proportionally from the Sun and each other. It’s a unique structure that’s worth visiting, for sure.
Ripon and Markington Loop
Distance: 12 miles
Ripon is a small but beautiful cathedral city in the borough of Harrogate, and the loop from here down to the village of Markington and back is one of the best cycle routes in North Yorkshire.
A simple ride it may be, cyclists can take in the delights of Ripon, Markington, and both of their surrounds on this route, including the world-famous FMountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden.
Starting from the Morrisons car park on Harrogate Road, Ripon, a tough early climb is rewarded later on with a nice descent into the country lanes on the approach into Markington.
From Markington, the path heads east towards Wormald Green before shooting north towards Bishop Monkton Moor, and eventually ending up back at the starting point in Ripon.
And so concludes our tour of North Yorkshire. As always, you should make sure you fully plan and research your route before hitting the road and exploring this beautiful region.
Feeling inspired? Whatever bike you have and wherever you choose to ride (North Yorkshire or elsewhere), you might also want to consider getting cycling insurance.
With Cycleplan, specialist cycling insurance is designed to cover a wide range of bikes, so whether you already own a bike or are currently looking to buy one—you’ve come to the right place.
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