Ten Best Driving Roads in England’s Yorkshire Dales
Everyone has their own favourite stretch of Dales road. Perhaps it’s the endless vistas sweeping before you, the splendid isolation you feel when you’re the only car ploughing a lonely furrow along a particular route, or the knowledge that a certain strip of asphalt is usually traffic, and sheep, free and you can put your foot down, turn the stereo up, arm out of the window and cruise along through a magical landscape. Jeremy Clarkson has been seduced by the obvious charms of Buttertubs Pass, but here are DriveTheDales.com’s favourite stretches of Dales road.
10.Greenhow Hill Road, Nidderdale/Lower Wharfedale
Not an obvious one, but a fantastic 7 mile stretch of long, straight, largely traffic free tarmac linking the A59 at Blubberhouses to the B6265 at Greenhow. Not the most spectacular road, leading through a largely flat moorland landscape, passing Stone House crossroads and the wooden cross marking the relocated graves from the flooded West End village, but a great driving road. You can see the road ahead for miles, giving ample opportunity to whizz past the odd caravan or motorhome lumbering along this rural ‘rat run’.
9.Barden Road, Embsay to B6160 at Barden Tower
This road climbs out of Embsay giving increasingly fine views of the valley carrying the A59 towards Skipton to the right. As it reaches the top of the hill and bends to the left, amazing views of Lower Wharfedale appear before you, with Barden Reservoir to the left. There’s a layby which is a popular picnic spot offering one of the Dales’ best views afforded without leaving your vehicle. The road is long and largely straight with some dips and bends to enjoy as you drink in the views.
8. Goat Lane/ Henside Road/Cove Road -Stainforth to Malham
Short and sweet, with some serious ups and downs, bends and curves and squeezes between drystone walls, this short route is typical of Malhamdale’s limestone country. Eventually emerging on a steep descent with Malham’s Limestone pavement on the left, the road drops into the pleasant village of Malham and leaves you wondering ‘Who the hell built all those walls and how long did it take?!’
7.Beggarmans Road, Buckden to Hawes
For most of the route, this is a narrow lane, seldom travelled with the main B6160 via Aysgarth the most popular route to Wensleydale from Upper Wharfedale. This road however gets you off the beaten track and provides a glimpse of the tiny villages of Langstrothdale – Hubberholme, Yockenthwaite, Deepdale and Oughtershaw. You won’t be travelling fast , but the lane hugs the River Wharfe for a while before climbing and crossing the moors into Wensleydale. A pleasant meander with great scenery for those with time on their hands.
6.B6265- Greenhow to Hebden
The B6265 is one of the main routes in the Dales, and indeed Yorkshire, stretching from near Skipton, up to Threshfield and Grassington, then onto Pateley Bridge in Nidderdale, onto Ripon, past the A1 and down to join the A59 as it heads to York. In places, it can be a somewhat infuriating road – not particularly scenic and often choked up with slow moving vehicles and no opportunity to overtake on its narrow twists and turns. The section between Greenhow and Hebden is a delight though. The road winds through Greenhow village before emerging in a moorland landscape near Stump Cross Caverns, with amazing views to both sides and in the foreground. There are some long straight sections, allowing you to pass slower vehicles if needed and some variation in the form of steep inclines, not least approaching Dibbles Bridge. This section of the B6265 is a main road, which you’ll share with other vehicles, but offers some classic Dales scenery along the way.
5.Stonesdale Lane/Long Causeway – Keld to Langthwaite
From the B6270, this road follows a turn over the bridge at Keld and up through the hamlet of West Stonesdale. The road climbs with great views down Swaledale to the right and quickly enters a remote and hostile moorland environment, gradually climbing towards Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in Britain at 1732 feet above sea level. The road passes the pub with amazing views extending for miles to the left on a clear day. Though it’s a classic drive, popular with motorcyclists, there rarely seem to be many cars on the road, just the odd sheep for company. Eventually the single lane road passes the hamlet of Whaw in the highest of Dales, Arkengarthdale which marks your re-entry into civilisation. A classic Dales drive with some stunning scenery and a chance to visit a legendary pub en-route.
4. Cam Gill Road, Kettlewell to Coverdale
This is the back road out of Kettlewell, climbing steeply above the village, with some nice views if you stop on the steep initial climb and peep over the wall. The road continues to climb until you emerge to drive through a stunning limestone valley with a few hairpin bends and dips and curves, and great views back down the valley behind you. The road reaches a plateau- a wild and isolated feeling place even though it’s only a few miles from Kettlewell. The road then drops down into the ‘civilisation’ of Coverdale. Great driving roads again but the initial 3 or 4 miles from Kettlewell take some beating!
3.Buttertubs Pass , Wensleydale to Swaledale
Buttertubs Pass is a 6 mile stretch of road between Simonstone in Wensleydale and Thwaite in Swaledale, described by motoring guru Jeremy Clarkson as ‘England’s only truly spectacular road’ (though as it’s not my number 1, I’d have to disagree!). Having said that, driving Buttertubs is a ‘must do’ if you’re on a Dales roadtrip. There’s no denying it’s a special drive, though I’d describe it more as scenic than truly spectacular, as it winds its way along the pass given its name by the 20 metre deep limestone pot holes in the area. The route is popular with motor cyclists and cyclists and will feature as one of two King of the Mountains climbs in Stage One of the 2014 Tour de France, and perhaps it’s the roads popularity which prevents it being my top choice – I prefer a lonely, isolated track to a well travelled scenic route!
2. Goat Lane/Silverdale Road –Stainforth Ribblesdale to Halton Gill
Goat Lane climbs out of Stainforth and eventually meets a side road (Henside Road) coming from Malham. From here the road becomes a narrow lane heading uphill with the 2277 feet peak of Pen-y-Ghent eventually appearing on the left, with Fountains Fell to the right. The lane becomes the Pennine Way and continues to climb through an exposed moorland landscape, passing the isolated buildings of Pen-y-Ghent House farm. You’ll probably be the only vehicle on the road, and are more likely to come across hikers than other motorists. Eventually the road begins to dip down into the valley of Littondale, spreading away to your right and there before you, like a mirage, are the scattered cottages of Halton Gill nestling incongruously at the foot of the fell. For me this is the classic Dales drive, with some amazing scenery and a feeling, once you reach Halton Gill, that you’re a long, long way from civilisation, which when you look at a map –you are!
1.Mastilles Lane, Kilnsey to Malham
The holy grail of Dales routes, simply because you can’t drive it! The only way to experience this ancient Dales by-way linking Malham to Kilnsey is on foot. (See walk covering part of the route). The ancient monastic route used to link the estates of Fountains Abbey in the Lake District to their lands at Pateley Bridge, but a Roman camp along the route indicates that it was probably an important right of way before medieval times. In the 18th century the lane became an important drover’s route and when there were fairs at Malham, or other nearby parts of Yorkshire and Lancashire it was the main thoroughfare used to move huge herds of cattle from the North East and Scotland. Walking the route today, it’s incredible to look around and realise that the landscape is probably identical to that which was seen by 18th century cattle traders or 1st Century Roman Legionnaires. It would be a fantastic scenic drive, but the traffic ban put in place to protect the historic route prevents vehicles using it, and if you take the time to walk Mastilles Lane, I’m sure you’ll agree that the ‘hikers only’ rule makes complete sense.
Let me know using the comment box at the bottom if I’m missing any of your favourites!