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A guidebook for cycling the Dales section of the Pennine Bridleway National Trail. Over 140km of mountain biking riding through Lancashire and the Yorkshire Dales, 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.
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The northern stages of the Pennine Bridleway, from the Mary Towneley Loop in northern Lancashire through to Ravenstonedale in Cumbria, offer exceptional off-road riding in one of the most beautiful and unspoilt areas of Britain, on dedicated, waymarked trails. Classic trails rejuvenated, newly-built river crossings and, most exciting of all, sections of specially-developed bridleway are all out there, just waiting to be discovered!
This guidebook describes over 200km of the Bridleway, from Summit, near Rochdale, up to Ravenstonedale, through the rugged landscape of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, as well as 11 exciting, graded MTB loops based on the Bridleway but taking in other, less well-known stretches of trail, making a total of 415km of unrivalled mountain biking.
There's something new here from everyone - from the novice rider to the trail-hardened pro and from cyclists trying the Yorkshire Dales for the first time to those who think they know them well.
We are always grateful to readers for information about any discrepancies between a guidebook and the facts on the ground. If you would like to send some information to us then please use our Feedback form. They will be published here following review by the author(s).
|Where to start?|
|Who is this guide for?|
|When to go|
|How far can I ride in a day?|
|What type of bike will I need?|
|Waymarks and access|
|Using this guide|
|What to take|
|Section 1: The Mary Towneley Loop|
|Summit to Hurstwood (anti-clockwise)|
|Section 2: A linear description of the Pennine Bridleway|
|The Lancashire Link|
|Part 1 Hurstwood to Barnoldswick|
|Part 2 Barnoldswick 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: Day Loops off the Pennine Bridleway|
|Route 1 The Settle Loop|
|Route 2 Feizor, Wharfe and Catrigg Force|
|Route 3 Clapham, Crummack Dale and Feizor|
|Route 4 Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Helwith Bridge and Sulber Nick|
|Route 5 Ribblehead to Ling Gill and Horton-in-Ribblesdale|
|Route 6 Ribblehead to Dentdale, via The Craven Way|
|Route 7 Cam High Road and the Ribble Way|
|Route 8 Arten Gill, Dent Head Viaduct and the Driving Road|
|Route 9 Garsdale to Dentdale, via Dandra Garth|
|Route 10 Lady Anne’s Highway and the Mallerstang Valley|
|Route 11 Ravenstonedale, Pendragon Castle & High Dolphinsty|
|Appendix A Route Summary Tables|
|Appendix B Local Facilities|
|Appendix C Useful Contacts|
|Appendix D Accommodation|
|Appendix E Bike Shops|
|Start||Hurstwood Reservoir car park SD 882 312|
|Finish||Road junction with Lister Well Road, Barnoldswick SD 877 454|
|Distance||29km (18 miles)|
|On Road||4km (2½ miles)|
|Off Road||25km (15½ miles)|
|Percent Off Road||85%|
|Total Ascent||840m (2750ft)|
|Maps||OS Explorer OL21 South Pennines|
|Pubs||Various in Burnley and Barnoldswick; The Anchor Inn, Salterforth|
|Cafés||Various in Burnley and Barnoldswick; Wycoller Tea Shop, Wycoller Country Park|
On the eastern fringes of Burnley lie the villages of Worsthorne and Hurstwood. Between these two hamlets, Hurstwood Reservoir can be found tucked snugly into its moorland setting. Hurstwood has no particular claim to fame, other than it happens to be situated at one of the most northerly points on the Mary Towneley Loop. This geographical quirk means that Hurstwood provides a convenient setting-off point for the next stage of the route across the moors towards Long Preston and the Yorkshire section of the Pennine Bridleway.
1 Hurstwood village is effectively a cul-de-sac where the tarmac road ends at a junction of gravel tracks immediately in front of a telephone box. The right-hand track quickly turns a corner to the left and opens up into a sizeable parking area, popular with walkers, dog owners and cyclists. Numerous signs and information boards indicate that the PB runs alongside the westernmost edge of the car park, where a choice of gates or stiles gives access to a tarmac track running through woodland.
The PB follows the track uphill towards the dam area of Hurstwood Reservoir. The wooded section gives way to open moorland as the dam wall is met at a junction of tracks. Follow the signposted trail, which climbs gently alongside the eastern shore of the reservoir. For a short time now the route follows the Mary Towneley Loop in a clockwise direction.
The trail climbs steadily, following the wide, gravel track (with the water to the left) past the end of the reservoir to an obvious T-junction of tracks just outside the village of Worsthorne. This is the Gorple Road; turn R and head E across the moor for about 200m to where the start of a newly created bridleway will be found L.
Note This well-surfaced trail will not appear on older OS maps because it has only been in existence since 2009 and was created specifically to carry the PB northwards, towards the Forest of Trawden.
2 Leave the Mary Towneley Loop at this point (the end of the Summit to Hurstwood section described earlier) by turning L onto the bridleway and head off N across Extwistle Moor. After a gentle rise, the deep valley of the Swinden Water leading towards Swinden Reservoir will be met.
3 Here the trail zigzags down the hillside around some particularly acute hairpin bends (berms), before crossing the stream and climbing in a similar fashion up the other side. More uphill riding, on a good trail, eventually leads to a junction with a footpath coming in left from Swinden Reservoir. Keep R here (signposted PB) and continue along to a gate on the moor top. Here the trail turns sharp L in front of the gate and begins an exciting descent towards a junction of roads above the hamlet of Thursden. The descent is steep, rocky and entertaining as more bermed hairpins are encountered.
Eventually the trail exits onto tarmac just above two cattle grids: one road drops straight ahead and the other (the official route) descends steeply to the L. Either of these roads can be taken; the direct road (SA) drops steeply to cross Thursden Brook and then climbs, just as steeply, up the other side of the hill. Alternatively the LH road can be taken; this also descends steeply, but the PB then enters woodland on the right-hand side of the road, just before the bridge over Thursden Brook (watch out for the PB sign). Once in the wood the trail climbs steeply uphill, eventually leaving the trees and meeting the road again (at the top of the direct climb taken by those following the tarmac route).
4 A short way further along the road turns sharp left but, immediately before this bend, an obvious trail will be seen going off R (the next section of bridleway). Older maps will show this section of track as footpath, but it has now been officially re-designated as bridleway so can be ridden across the corner of Red Spa Moor to pick up the excellent farm track carrying the Brontë Way (passing an intriguing arch, which is all that remains of New House Farm) then on towards the farm at Boulsworth Dyke.
Around 800m beyond Boulsworth Dyke the farm track bears off sharp left, but on the junction a signpost indicates that the bridleway continues SA, up a short rise. The ongoing grassy surface is badly eroded in places but is rideable with care, until it curves gently around to the left (N) and begins to descend more steeply along the left-hand bank of a steep-sided valley. The continuation of the descent, to a bridge across Turnhole Clough, is steep and tricky to ride in places, but the path becomes much easier after the bridge has been crossed.
5 A short climb below the farm at Brink Ends leads to much easier riding as the Brontë Way is followed to a junction of trails about 800m beyond the bridge. The approach to this junction is up a short, steep rise, and at the top a sharp L turn through a gate indicates the way ahead, dropping steeply downhill towards Wycoller Country Park. Wycoller is in a beautiful setting and provides a visitor centre, café and picnic spots galore.
The approach to the village will keep the stream on the left, passing a number of ancient bridges on the way. The first buildings met are the visitor centre (with toilets) and immediately beyond will be found the remains of the original hall, now sadly in ruins. Opposite the old hall is a clapper (slab) bridge, which can be used as an alternative crossing to the slippery ford a few metres further down the lane. If neither of these crossing points is to your liking, a further bridge with a most peculiar, misshapen arch can be used as a final crossing point before the tea shop is reached.
The tarmac lane now leaves the stream for a short distance, passing between the tea shop (a pit stop here is highly recommended for a quick energy boost because the route out of Wycoller will be decidedly upwards in nature!) and some attractively restored farmhouses.
6 From the tea shop follow the lane through the village for a short distance until it turns sharp L and crosses the stream again. Immediately over the bridge, take a R turn into an unsurfaced lane that runs between the stream on the right and houses on the left (also the route of the Pendle Way footpath).
The lane quickly crosses the stream again and, after a few more metres, a new track goes off R, through a gate, heading ominously upwards (another gate a little way along the lane leads to the ‘pump house’, with a large, painted water tank: a good indicator that the correct route has been missed). Mercifully, the uphill track now heads for a line of trees at the lower end of the hill before starting a relatively gentle traverse to the left. Pass an abandoned stone shed and continue to follow the clearly defined track as it swings around to the R and begins a final climb up to a gate, opening onto the road to Laneshaw Bridge.
Turn L along the road (downhill), but resist the urge to break the land-speed record for mountain bikes here, because the PB leaves the road only a little way down the hill.
The road is initially straight but, as it begins to swing leftwards, a farm drive on the left (leading to Far Laith) indicates that the PB will be going off R immediately afterwards (above a small plantation on the right of the road). This track (shown on current OS maps as a footpath) is also a farm drive, leading up to the buildings of Robert Laith.
Note The next few miles of the PB utilise footpaths recently upgraded to bridleway status to avoid some busy sections of road en route to the public house at Black Lane Ends.
On reaching the farm buildings of Robert Laith, turn L immediately – alongside the first garden – to pass through a gate and follow the obvious track across the field ahead. The track soon turns sharp R to cross Hullown Beck then climbs briefly out of the hollow, keeping to the left of a wooden electricity pole, to continue onto the deeply incised streamway of the River Laneshaw. Cross the river on a new bridge then climb briefly up a small rise between two ancient hawthorn bushes. Keeping to the left of the boundary wall, follow it out to meet the A6068 directly opposite the small hamlet of Monkroyd.
Crossing the road with care, follow the narrow tarmac lane as it climbs steeply up the hill towards the farm at Barnside. Just beyond Barnside, a muddy farm track heads off left towards Earl Hall but ignore this, continuing up the tarmac lane until it meets a cattle grid at a wall. Immediately before the cattle grid, however, a new track keeps to the left of the wall, leading up to a wooden farm gate. Once through the gate, the very obvious gravel track continues straight ahead up to the brow of Knarrs Hill.
7 Once on the top, a gate will be found on the R, leading through into the next field. A long, straight section of newly laid track then follows, until a short dogleg leads through yet another gate into the next field.
The track now traverses a sunken area of broken ground, below a white-painted trig point, climbing briefly up to follow a continuation of the boundary wall a little further along. The track now begins to drop downhill, joining a much older farm lane where it crosses a cattle grid, and begins to drop more steeply through a patch of woodland.
After a number of sharp bends, the roughly surfaced lane begins a long, arrow-straight climb, passing the entrance drive to Hazelgrove Lodge and continuing up to a junction with Warley Wise Lane. The worst of the climb is now over as a L turn along Warley Wise Lane leads up to another junction, this time with a much busier road, just above the Black Lane Ends public house.
Note The next section of the PB is planned to go cross-country between Warley Wise Lane and Harden Old House on Bleara Road. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, this short section of route does not have the legal permissions in place and, because of funding cut-backs, it is likely to be some considerable time before these are successfully processed. Until these legal niceties can be completed a 3.2km diversion on road is necessary, but the good news is that most of it is downhill!
From the junction just above the pub, take a R turn and continue to climb a little further to the top of the hill at Hainslack (where the official PB will eventually cross the road as it climbs over Burnt Hill towards Kitchen). Follow the main road to the L, dropping steeply downhill before climbing again to a road junction on the L that leads to Earby (Bleara Road).
Follow this quiet road, passing entrances to farms at Bleara Side and Out Laithe. Immediately before the farm buildings at Cocket a signposted bridleway drops downhill to the left towards Harden Old House.
8 Turn L down this drive, but immediately in front of the main gates to Harden Old House take the vague track to the L. This then swings back R, around the edge of the garden and through one farm gate, then R again to run along the bottom of the garden and through another gate into a large, muddy field alongside a small stream.
Note At this point a vague footpath will be found joining the bridleway from the south. This is where the official route of the PB will re-join the interim (road-based) route.
The next few fields are boggy and hard to ride with a less-clearly defined track. At each field boundary look carefully for the exit gate through the fence on the opposite side of the field.
Eventually, a final farm gate leads into a lane giving much easier riding down towards Heads House. A short distance beyond the buildings at Heads House an unsurfaced lane (with PB fingerpost) will be found going off to the R. Turn into this lane and follow it up to a junction with a farm gate. At this point a narrow section of single-track will be found heading off under a shady lane to the R. This short section quickly passes through a farm gate into open fields, where another gate will be found immediately beyond the prominent electricity pole in the corner just ahead. A L turn through this gate gives access to the adjoining field. Head directly across the centre, with no defined path, aiming immediately to the right of the largest tree on the far side.
On passing this large tree, the gate on the other side of the field will become evident. The bridleway passes through this before turning immediately sharp L. The next field gate is just ahead at this point; once through it turn half-L, heading across the field and aiming for the roofline of some prominent industrial buildings. A series of wooden posts marks the start of an obvious, raised trackway, heading towards the same buildings, where yet another gate opens onto a farm track leading down into the village of Sough.
At the bottom of the farm drive, immediately before a cattle grid, a signposted gate gives access to a narrow lane running alongside factory buildings on the right. The lane quickly meets a main road, where a staggered crossing (L then R) leads under a disused railway and through a gate into a large field.
9 There is no obvious track across this field but a diagonal route towards the high bank in the top corner leads to a small marker post. A steep climb up the hill alongside the boundary fence guided by a PB guidepost then leads to a gate into a narrow lane. This lane goes off sharp L, then bears around to the R, to a group of cottages. Ignore the main tarmac lane going off right here (the drive to a house) and take the less-obvious route SA, past the front doors of the cottages and out to a quiet lane. Crossing straight over this road, a continuation of the bridleway will be found, which runs under the shade of the trees to another quiet road with a prominent milestone (containing evidence of an early example of misspelled stonemasonry) in the opposite verge. Turn R up this tarmac lane, which soon passes a cemetery on the right. Ignoring the entrance drive to Far Hey Farm, continue a short distance further to where the tarmac surface ends, and find an obvious, double-gated entrance to a bridleway on the L.
The track now follows the boundary wall and fence on the left down an exhilaratingly steep hill to another gate leading out to a tarmac track. Cross the Leeds and Liverpool Canal (via Cockshott Bridge) alongside a small marina, where a R turn leads along a gravel track. A short distance further the track turns sharp L to run alongside the playing fields of West Craven Technology College and out to the busy B6383.
10 Turn L for a few metres then carefully cross the road, where a track heads off sharply uphill on a cobbled surface to farm gate leading into the open fields of Salterforth Country Park. A few yards into the field the farm track forks. Take the LH track (the lower one) across the field (Hurst Hill), then alongside a hedge. Continue along the clearly defined track, which soon becomes a tarmac lane as it passes Bleak House and climbs gently to meet the B6251 at a T-junction. A L turn here climbs briefly up to a junction with Lister Well Road and the continuation of the PB towards the Dales.