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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1 The Settle Loop
|Start/Finish||Tourist Information Centre, Settle Market Square SD 820 637|
|Distance||16km (10 miles)|
|Off road||12km (7½ miles)|
|On road||4km (2½ miles)|
OS Explorer OL41 Forest of Bowland &
|Pubs||Various in Settle and Giggleswick; none on main route|
|Cafés||Various in Settle town centre (Ye Old Naked Man Café particularly bike friendly); none on main route|
|Railway access||Settle Station on the Settle–Carlisle line. From the station yard, follow signposts for Town Centre. From here the Market Square is easy to locate.|
The Settle Loop was the first section of the Pennine Bridleway to be opened in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The route climbs steeply out of Settle, initially on very quiet, virtually traffic-free lanes and later by using a rocky but well-surfaced bridleway, to climb to the high point of the route on Kirkby Fell. From here, the loop turns for home across some superb, upland limestone scenery, with stunning views over Malham Tarn and onto Pen-y-ghent and Ingleborough. The return to Settle is largely downhill and uses a recently resurfaced bridleway that gives excellent riding, with glorious views all around.
Now make no mistake, the first 6.5km of the loop are steadily uphill, climbing about 370m in total, and they are going to hurt a little! Luckily, a substantial portion of this section is on tarmac, which makes the riding a little easier and the views all around amply make up for the effort expended in getting up there. The secret is to take it easy, stop regularly for drinks and enjoy the thought that the downhill return is going to be superb.
The Tourist Information Centre in Settle town centre (Cheapside) is a good starting point. Located in the Market Square, right in the centre of town, it is very easy to find. For those made of sterner stuff, there is an alternative start to the loop that uses off-road lanes to gain the first 150m of ascent. Have fun!
1 With the door of the TIC behind you, turn L and go up a short distance to a junction with High Street (not to be confused with the main road through town, called Duke Street). Turn R here to quickly meet a T-junction with Victoria Street. A prominent estate agency should be directly ahead, while to the left will be found a charming example of a 17th-century merchant’s house called ‘The Folly’. Continue SA along the cobbled lane of Victoria Street where, at the next junction, the route climbs to the L (signposted Kirkby Malham and Airton).
You will now be panting up Albert Hill where, on approaching the top, a Y-junction will be met, complete with PB guidepost (Long Preston 3½ miles). The main road goes left, climbing steeply uphill again, but do not take it. Instead, continue on the gentler gradient of the lane to the R, which levels out to run along the very quiet Mitchell Lane (signposted No Through Road).
Just as the last few buildings are left behind and you dare to hope that you are going to escape the climbing completely, Mitchell Lane begins its own painful ascent. The tarmac surface gives good riding, however, as height is steadily gained and the views down over Settle and Ribblesdale begin to open up behind.
Eventually, after about 1.5km, the gradient eases and the tarmac lane runs out at a junction of tracks alongside Black’s Plantation. To the right is signposted Long Preston 2¾ miles, where the alternative off-road start rejoins the main route. However, do not take this lane; the onward route is conveniently signposted Settle Loop and it continues more-or-less SA.
Note If you are riding the PB as a linear route and have just climbed up from Long Preston past Hunter Bark and Black’s Plantation, this is the point where a decision will have to be made as to whether to tackle the Settle Loop or, alternatively, to shoot off down the tarmac lane to the L to visit the town.
Alternative off-road start
A With the door of the TIC behind you, turn L and go up a short distance to a junction with High Street (not to be confused with the main road through town, Duke Street). Turn R here to quickly meet a T-junction with Victoria Street. A prominent estate agency should be directly ahead, while to the left will be found a charming example of a 17th-century merchant’s house called ‘The Folly’. Continue SA along the cobbled lane of Victoria Street until, after a short distance, Commercial Street branches off to the R. Leave behind the PB route to speed off, downhill now, on a new adventure. At some point on this short descent, Commercial Street becomes Ingfield Lane, but just continue gently downhill while watching out carefully on the L for an obvious, unsurfaced, farm lane (Brockhole Lane).
A glance at the map here will show that Brockhole Lane is a footpath and therefore out of bounds to wheels or hooves. However, in spring 2010 the lane was officially upgraded to bridleway status so cyclists can now take advantage of its considerable charms. Easy riding, including an intriguing section where the track runs side-by-side with a stream for a short distance, leads past Fish Copy barn then on to the farm buildings at Hoyman Laithe.
B This is the junction with Lodge Road, where a L turn leads to a steep climb beside a small stream up to the impressive buildings of Lodge Farm. Just beyond the farm buildings, the bridleway becomes unsurfaced, then turns sharp L to cross the beck and begin to climb past a plantation of trees on the R (Hudsa Plantation).
The gradient begins to ease as Black’s Plantation is approached, and another lane soon joins from the right as you reach the trees (this is the PB coming up from Long Preston towards Settle). Continue SA at this junction to quickly meet another T-junction at the far end of the plantation. This is the meeting point with the main route description (which joins from the hill on the left).
2 The riding now becomes off-road, along the pleasant riding surface of Lambert Lane. At this point, the gradient has moderated considerably, although the overall trend remains steadily upwards! On, past Preston’s barn, Lambert Lane eventually meets tarmac again at a junction with High Hill Lane. Follow this road to the R for only a short distance (100m), where a very quiet road signposted Stockdale Lane goes off L.
Climb steadily on tarmac here, enjoying wonderful views over the limestone landscape of Attermire Scar to the left, complete with the impressive gashes of Attermire and Horseshoe caves. Stockdale Lane undulates pleasantly for 2km, with fine views all around until two gates are met side-by-side. The right-hand gate drops down to Stockdale Farm, but ignore this and take the LH gate (signposted Pennine Bridleway, Malham 3½ miles).
3 Route-finding is not a problem here as the rocky track is followed around the flanks of Great Scar, with Rye Loaf Hill across the valley to the right. The riding surface changes occasionally, from rocky track to pleasant grassy slope and back to rocky track again, through numerous gates, as it climbs steadily to the obvious pass ahead. Although mainly uphill, the track is generally rideable until the summit is approached, where a couple of short, rocky sections will test the resolve, stamina and skill of all but the most seasoned of riders.
The top of the pass is finally reached at a small gate, where a stretch of newly repaired gravel track leads off ahead with superb views over towards Malham and Wharfedale. The gravel track gives way to more grassy riding until another gate is reached after a short distance.
The ongoing track passing through the gate is signposted Cove Road in 1¼ miles and a detour can be made down it to extend the ride to visit Malham Cove. The Settle Loop, however, does not pass through the gate; instead, it follows the wall to the L towards Malham Tarn. The track is not too difficult to locate on the grassy surface, as it keeps close to the wall until, after about 200m, the remains of the ancient Nappa Cross will be seen sitting on top of a large boulder in the wall to the right. At this point, the track begins to bear gently away from the wall, heading for the lovely setting of Malham Tarn a little way ahead.
4 Follow the (now obvious) downhill track across lovely grassy terrain, through two gates then on to a further gate and T-junction of tracks. A prominent signpost here indicates that Langscar Gate is 800m to the right, but the route home is along the track to the L, signposted Langcliffe 4¼ miles (and what splendid miles they are going to be!).
Initially, the track climbs steadily again on a rutted but rideable grassy surface, until gravel is reached at another gate. Rest here and let your heart rejoice at the view that unfolds before you! Pen-y-ghent and Ingleborough rise majestically ahead, while the track home is downhill as far as the eye can see, on a pristine gravel surface (Gorbeck Road).
After approximately 3km the gravel track changes into a pleasant grassy surface, but soon returns to gravel again. Still further along, the open fell gives way to a walled lane, which descends to a gate and a more traditional farm track. Follow this track, still downhill, to a double gate and cattle grid, after which the track descends a few further metres to a junction with a road, high above the village of Langcliffe and alongside Clay Pits Plantation.
5 Resist the temptation to tear off down the tarmac here, because the route home takes the signposted bridleway immediately off through the gate on the L (signposted Settle 2 miles), which is actually the PB climbing out of Settle en route for Stainforth.
Pass through the gate and follow the narrow trail as it traverses pleasantly around the hillside, with more fantastic views down into the valley. A short descent and climb across a dry gully leads to a gate alongside a copse of trees and a further short run to another gate. Once through this gate, a pleasant traverse heads diagonally down the field to an awkward, rocky step (which may well require a dismount). Bear sharp L after this obstacle and aim for a wall on the R to reach yet another gate, which is on an easy-to-follow trail.
A very satisfying, grassy track now leads through a number of further gates and soon enters a walled lane. The way then drops pleasantly downwards, encountering a couple of entertainingly rocky steps before meeting a farm gate alongside an old ruined barn.
The continuation of the lane is on an excellent riding surface, with potentially enlivening drainage humps until tarmac is finally reached again at a small group of houses on the outskirts of Settle. Follow the bridleway sign downhill into the town, bearing R at the next junction, and following the lane down into the Market Square and the end of the ride.