Ride the Pennine Bridleway with a Cicerone guidebook
Cycling the Pennine Bridleway
Lancashire and the Yorkshire Dales by Keith Bradbury
Handy guidebook for anyone cycling the Pennine Bridleway National Trail. Over 140km of mountain biking riding through Lancashire and the Yorkshire Dales are covered, along with an anti-clockwise route round half of the Mary Towneley Loop. 11 circular day MTB routes in the Yorkshire Dales using the Bridleway are also included. More...
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Imagine a 560km (350-mile) National Trail, running along the spine of England from Derbyshire to Northumberland and specifically designed to be accessible to a wide range of users. Gates that open easily; surfaces that are regularly maintained and repaired; signposts and route guides show the way.
The good news is that such a route has been under development for several years, and that the next section is now open for riding! The 188km (117-mile) southern section of the Pennine Bridleway National Trail, running from Derbyshire to the south Pennines, is now well established and has been enthusiastically received. Work on the next major section of bridleway, through the stunning scenery of the Yorkshire Dales, has been in progress since 2002 and is now complete: almost 145km (90 miles) of quality trail (plus the bonus of the 74km/46-mile Mary Towneley Loop) for those who may be seeking even more adventure.
This guide provides a description of this latest extension to the Pennine Bridleway: firstly around part of the already established Mary Towneley Loop in Calderdale and then on, through the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, to the current terminus on the outskirts of Ravenstonedale, near Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria.
The guide is divided into three sections:
- Section 1 The Mary Towneley Loop is described in an anti-clockwise direction, from Summit (near Littleborough) where the Derbyshire section of the Pennine Bridleway reaches the southernmost point of the loop. This rotation gives the shortest distance when heading northwards to locate the continuation of the Pennine Bridleway towards the Yorkshire Dales.
Section 2 A linear description of the new section of the Pennine Bridleway, beginning at the northernmost tip of the Mary Towneley Loop (Hurstwood Reservoir, near Burnley). The guide breaks the route down into four sections, each a suggested ‘day-length’ ride, but also giving details for those riders wishing to travel the whole route in a continuous journey.
- The Lancashire Link, running from the top of the Mary Towneley Loop, through the southern Pennines to Long Preston
- The Yorkshire Dales Part 1 – Long Preston to Horton-in-Ribblesdale; Part 2 – Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Garsdale Head; Part 3 – Garsdale Head to Ravenstonedale
- Section 3 This section is for those riders who do not wish to ride the whole route as a linear trail. It splits the main bridleway into 11 ‘day routes’, 16–24km (10–15 miles) in length. However, each individual day route links at some point with the next, so that by riding all 11 routes the whole of the Yorkshire section of the Pennine Bridleway will be covered.
Where to start?
The simple answer to this question is – how long have you got? The full Pennine Bridleway starts at Middleton Top, near Matlock in Derbyshire but this guide is primarily concerned with the section passing through the Yorkshire Dales (from Long Preston to Ravenstonedale). For completeness the shortest circuit around the Mary Towneley Loop and the new link between the top of the Mary Towneley Loop (at Hurstwood) and Long Preston has been included. These northern Lancashire sections have their own charm and are worthwhile rides in their own right, but for many do not match the pastoral beauty and spectacular limestone scenery of the Yorkshire Dales.
The northernmost point of the Mary Towneley Loop is often seen as a natural starting point because it marks the end of current route development and the beginning of the new extension. Starting the ride from Hurstwood Reservoir, on the outskirts of Burnley, gives an excellent introduction to the overall route: wild, rugged, gritstone scenery across Extwistle Moor and over to Barnoldswick, before more gentle terrain across the pastoral farmland of Gisburn and Paythorn, marking the run into Long Preston.
From Long Preston however, the mighty uplift of the Craven Fault dictates that steep climbs are the order of the day as the limestone scars and craggy peaks make their presence felt. With the climbs however, come the views; and the true nature of Dales scenery opens out ahead as the climb from Long Preston surmounts the rise alongside the abandoned quarries at Hunter Bark. This is Yorkshire at its best: enjoy your ride!