20 April 2021
Ever since the Tour de France’s Grand Depart came to the Yorkshire Dales in 2014, the region has been a must-visit destination for any serious cyclist worth their salt. Subsequent Tour de Yorkshire races have taken place throughout God’s Own County and have showcased just some of the scenic cycle trails available in every part of Yorkshire, from the coast to the countryside.
Luckily, there are Yorkshire cycling options available for all ages and abilities, from gentle traffic-free routes on disused railway lines to challenging climbs on off-road mountain bike trails. So if you fancy getting out and exploring the Dales, Moors and Coast on two wheels, here is our guide to cycling in Yorkshire.
🚴 Cycling events in Yorkshire
🚴 Yorkshire cycling trails
🚴 Road cycling in Yorkshire
🚴 Mountain bike routes in Yorkshire
🚴 Traffic-free trails
Cycling events in Yorkshire
Whether you are looking to get involved in the action or just fancy watching from the sidelines, here are a couple of the leading cycling events that Yorkshire plays host to:
Tour de Yorkshire
The Tour de Yorkshire is one of the UK’s leading road cycling events and typically takes place over four days during the May Bank Holiday weekend. Amateur cyclists get the opportunity to experience the roar of the crowd themselves by taking part in the Tour de Yorkshire sportive, which covers a section of the main race route.
Each year there are eight host towns that mark the start and finish points of the day’s cycling, and there are typically big screens, a main stage and a variety of events where you can soak in the action and atmosphere. The routes travel through different sections of the Yorkshire Dales, Coast, Wolds and North York Moors each year, passing through pretty towns and villages such as Grassington, Pateley Bridge, Robin Hood’s Bay and Middleham.
The annual Ard Rock mountain bike festival takes place in and around the Nidderdale village of Reeth. Riders can tackle rocky alpine-style terrain as part of the Enduro section of the event and cycle along a gruelling 40-mile circuit of the surrounding Yorkshire Dales countryside as part of the Ard Rock Epic. There’s also a large on-site festival to accompany the cycling with food and beer tents, special demonstrations and live music performances.
Yorkshire cycling trails
With a variety of cycling trails covering Yorkshire, it’s easy to get out and explore this glorious county.
Moor to Sea network
The Moors to Sea network covers much of the North York Moors and Yorkshire Coast with around 150 miles of paths, forest tracks, and peaceful roads that are connected together through a series of cycling loops. In total there are 11 different loops to tackle between Dalby Forest and Scarborough, which range in length from 8 to 20 miles. The route is waymarked so is fairly easy to follow, and if you fancy getting a taste of the full network, the Coast and Forest Circular is a 32-mile loop that takes in some of the best bits of the full Moors to Sea cycle ride.
The Swale Trail is a fairly easy-going valley-bottom cycling route through Swaledale that has some climbs along the way and makes a perfect first cycle ride in the spectacular scenery of the Yorkshire Dales. The 12-mile route between Reeth and Keld is mainly traffic-free and uses a mixture of quiet country and mountain bike tracks with a beautiful section along the banks of the River Swale. It’s a good choice for families looking to tackle a cycle ride together during a short break or holiday to Yorkshire.
Sustrans Slow Tour of Yorkshire
The Sustrans Slow Tour of Yorkshire was launched to coincide with the Tour de France Grand Depart in 2014 and features 21 different cycling routes that cover some of the county’s finest countryside. Some of our favourite parts of the route include:
York to Beningbrough Hall - this 9.5-mile route will take you from the centre of York along the path of the River Ouse to the National Trust’s Beningbrough Hall, a Georgian mansion that’s surrounded by 8 acres of formal gardens and pretty parkland.
Settle to Clapham is a 10-mile cycle route that will take you over undulating back roads through scenic Yorkshire Dales countryside between the market town of Settle and the village of Clapham, which is nestled under Ingleborough, one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks.
Skipton to Bolton Abbey - this 7-mile route follows a back road out of Skipton to the large Bolton Abbey estate where you can visit the priory ruins and enjoy some well-earned cake and coffee before heading back either the way you came or cycling further up into the Wharfedale countryside.
Road cycling in Yorkshire
There is no shortage of scenic road cycling routes in Yorkshire which will take you high up into the hills and through some of the prettiest villages around, many with characterful country pubs where you can stop for refreshments.
One of the highest roads in the Yorkshire Dales, the Buttertubs Pass (or the Cote de Buttertubs as it was called in the Tour de France) is an exhilarating ride for experienced cyclists. You’ll be rewarded by spectacular scenery as you climb up from Hawes towards Thwaite and Muker and their beautiful wildflower meadows.
Castle Howard and Nunnington Hall
This 23-mile tour of the Howardian Hills starts and finishes at the majestic Castle Howard and features a series of pubs and tearooms that you can call in to break up your journey. Villages you’ll visit on the route include Slingsby, Hovingham and Coneysthorpe, and the journey will also take you to Yorkshire Lavender and the National Trust’s Nunnington Hall.
Starting in the pretty village of Gargrave, this easy-going 14-mile route circles around the southern part of the Yorkshire Dales and features a pit-stop in Hetton where you can call in at the well-known dining pub The Angel at Hetton to break up your journey. There is little traffic on the peaceful roads here and wonderful views across to Flasby and Barden Moors.
This 8-mile cycle around Wensleydale is an ideal choice for more inexperienced riders as it uses quiet country lanes around Leyburn, with lots of points of interest to visit along the way. As you explore the pretty countryside you can seek out a hidden waterfall in Harmby and call in at a chocolate factory and tea pottery to see how these locally made items are produced.
Mountain bike routes in Yorkshire
If you prefer to head off the beaten track and explore the moorland, forest and dales on a mountain bike, there are lots of options available to you in Yorkshire.
Dalby Forest is located on the southern slopes of the North York Moors National Park and is home to England’s largest mountain bike trail centre with a range of specially designed courses available, from easier family-friendly routes to a tricky trail that was used in the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. In total there are 50 miles of woodland trails along with bike hire and a cycle skills area where you can determine the level of course that is suitable for you.
- Adderstone cycling trail is an easy 8-mile route that’s perfect for younger families as ride-alongs can be used.
- The Jubilee Blue trail is an intermediate level 6-mile route with wonderful views across to Low Dalby.
- The 8-mile Riggs and Dales trail features technical climbs and descents through the woodland and is a great challenge for experienced riders.
Nidderdale is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty close to the spa town of Harrogate, and there are various cross-country mountain bike routes to tackle around this glorious landscape. The Brimham Loop is a 9-mile moderately rated trail that will take you through woodland and around the weird and wonderful rock formations that make up Brimham Rocks. For a longer and more challenging ride try the Nidderdale Circular, which will take you on stony tracks high above the valley and through farmland to Middlesmoor before descending back down to Scar House Reservoir.
The dramatic landscape of Swaledale makes it a popular choice for mountain biking and there is an extensive network of tracks and bridleways providing an almost endless number of route variations to try. The Dales Bike Centre near Reeth is a great place to start as they offer mountain bike hire, can give route suggestions, and even offer guided rides if you don’t fancy setting off alone. A popular Swaledale route for experienced riders to try is The Edge, which starts and ends in Reeth and features rocky climbs, technical descents and mesmerising scenery over the 25-mile journey.
If you’re coming to Yorkshire for a family half-term holiday, there are some terrific traffic-free trails that you can safely tackle with the kids in tow.
The Cinder Track
The Cinder Track is a former railway line that connects Whitby to Scarborough. Calling points on the 21-mile traffic-free trail include Robin Hood’s Bay, Ravenscar and the secluded Hayburn Wyke beach and waterfall. Cycling the Cinder Track is a great way to discover the Yorkshire Coast and it’s entirely up to you how much of the route you tackle.
Leeds to Shipley
If you fancy a relaxing cycle ride along the water, the canal towpath between Leeds and Shipley is an easy-going 8-mile route worth trying. It’s part of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and if you don’t fancy the cycle ride home you can always catch a train back to Leeds instead. Highlights of the route include views to Kirkstall Abbey, and the Armley Mills Museum where you can learn about the industrial heritage of the area.
Beryl Burton cycleway and Nidderdale Greenway
Named after renowned Yorkshire cyclist Beryl Burton, who won seven world championships during her career, The Beryl Burton Cycleway is a 4-mile traffic-free trail that runs through fields and woodland between the spa towns of Knaresborough and Harrogate. If you fancy extending your ride further, the cycleway also links directly into the Nidderdale Greenway, a 4-mile stretch of disused railway taking you from Harrogate to the pretty village of Ripley, where you can spend time exploring Ripley Castle and Grounds.
Bike hubs and cycle hire
If you don’t fancy bringing along your own bike to go cycling in Yorkshire, there are a selection of places across the county where you can hire all the equipment you need to set off exploring.
- Stage 1 Cycles is located in the Wensleydale market town of Hawes and provides bike hire and organised activity sessions, with the on-site Firebox Cafe to call in for coffee and cake.
- Located at the northern tip of the North York Moors National Park, Yorkshire Bike Hire is home to the Rusty Bike cafe and can deliver a range of bicycles directly to your holiday home.
- Vern Overton Cycling, a Nidderdale-based cycle shop near Harrogate, not only has a wide range of bikes for hire but can also provide personalised guide rides through the North Yorkshire countryside.
- Dales Bike Centre is a large cycling hub near Reeth with an on-site cafe and cakery with outdoor seating that makes the most of stunning views of the Yorkshire Dales. They provided guide rides, bike hire and have a range of route suggestions for visitors to try.
- The Yorkshire Cycle Hub has a range of facilities at their base near Whitby including showers and changing rooms, bike hire and an on-site repair workshop.
Plan your cycling getaway to Yorkshire
If you have been inspired to get out on two wheels and explore the Yorkshire coast and countryside, you’ll find a range of holiday cottages where you can rest your head. Many properties come with secure cycle storage so you can safely bring your own bike along with you and are in prime locations throughout the Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors and Yorkshire Coast. Browse our full range of Yorkshire Cottages to find your perfect base, and for more inspiration read our guide to Yorkshire cottages for cycling holidays.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.