2014 Tour De France Route- Grand Depart through the Yorkshire Dales
The Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour De France took place on 5 July 2014, with the first stage of the famous race taking in some of the highlights of the Dales. The race actually began in the Centre of Leeds, but for ease of making this a circular drive, our route will start at end at Harewood, about 8 miles North of the City Centre. The stage 1 route covers a distance of around 118 miles but this circular route starting is around 124 miles in total and encounters a variety of terrains and road conditions encompassing the full diversity of the region. Many of the roads are quite narrow, but all are in good condition. I would anticipate this drive taking around 3 hours of driving without any stops.
For some unique photographic perspectives of the Dales and villages covered by this drive , have a look at our sister website- Yorkshire-Photography.com.
The village of Harewood, situated on the A61 road to Harrogate to the North of Leeds is the site of Harewood House, one of Britain’s best known Stately Homes .The house was built from 1759 to 1771 for Edwin Lascelles, whose family had bought the estate after making its fortune in the West Indies by lending money to cotton plantations and slave trading. (The British actor David Harewood who starred in the US Hit drama ‘Homeland’ is rumoured to descend from a Lascelles slave family). The house is still owned by the Lascelles family – The current, 8th Earl of Harewood, David Henry George Lascelles, is a British hereditary peer and film and television producer. He is the first cousin, once removed of Queen Elizabeth. His grandmother was Mary, Princess Royal, daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. She also lived at the house and died there in 1965. The estate has been transferred into a trust ownership structure, and as a result is managed by Harewood House Trust and is open to the public most of the year. Attractions include 100 acres of land with fine gardens designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, an art collection and bird garden housing a collection of over 90 species of birds, of which more than 30 are listed as vulnerable or endangered. Harewood has one pub with accommodation, The Harewood Arms. The popular soap opera ‘Emmerdale’ in filmed in a specially constructed village next to the estate, and can be glimpsed in winter (with no tree cover) from a footpath beyond the lake at the west side of the estate.
From the gates of Harewood House turn left and follow the road down the hill. Take a right at the A659 signposted Otley and Pool. Travel along this good, straight road through farmland to arrive at Arthington.
Arthington is a commuter village of around 550 people within the City boundary of Leeds. It is best known for its dramatic 21 arch viaduct built in 1850 for the Leeds and Thirsk railway. Unfortunately it’s not easy to see the viaduct from the road, as it’s away to the right and obscured by trees and hedgerows. Better views can be obtained from high ground near the rocky outcrop of Almscliff Crag, near North Rigton off the A658 to Harrogate.
A few miles from Arthington the road passes through Pool in Wharfedale
Pool in Wharfedale is a village on the outskirts of Leeds and just within Lower Wharfedale- the River Wharfe passes through the village. It has a population of around 1800 and is situated at the junction of the A659 to Otley and Harewood and the A658 between Harrogate and Bradford and at the foot of the steep hill known as Pool Bank. It has two pubs, The White Hart and The Half Moon, a post office, school, petrol station and cricket club. Its church, St Wilfred’s was built in 1839 .The village had a station for 100 years before it closed in 1965. Opened by the North Eastern Railway and Midland Railway, the line was intended to link the Leeds to Harrogate line with a new line, the Otley and Ilkley Joint Railway. A separate connecting quarry rail line was opened in 1880 by Benjamin Whitaker & Son, owners of Pool Bank Quarries. The station was at the end of the Bramhope Tunnel, the 2 mile long engineering feat constructed between 1845-49 by armies of thousands of navvies. 24 Men died during the construction of the tunnel, and they are commemorated by a magnificent monument, fashioned in the style of the tunnel’s entrance in Otley Parish Church yard. Pool was well known for its quarries from the 1700’s to when Pool Bank Quarry closed in 1939, and stone from the area was used in a variety of prestigious projects such as the re-building of the Houses of Parliament after a fire in 1834, Leeds Town Hall and Parish Church, Otley Civic Centre, Pool Bridge, Swinsty and Fewston reservoirs, and the Bramhope Tunnel and Arthington Viaduct.
Carry on through the village and turn left at the petrol station (the main road is the A658). Continue along the road with the River Wharfe on the right, to arrive after a few miles at Otley.
Otley is a market town in Lower Wharfedale, straddling both sides of the river. It’s close to Leeds and Bradford which make it a popular commuter town with many of its 14,000 population working in the large Cities to the South. Otley’s name is derived from Othe, a Saxon personal name and Leah, a woodland clearing in Old English. It was known as Othelia in the Domesday Book of 1086. In the town’s early years, The Archbishops of York were lords of the manor and had a palace on the site occupied today by the Manor House. In the 13th century the archbishops laid out ‘burgage’ or rental plots on Boroughgate, Walkergate and Kirkgate to attract merchants and the town began to grow. In 1222 when King Henry III granted the town a Royal Charter to hold a market, and Otley still has a street market three times a week plus a monthly Farmers’ Market. The town was always a centre of the woollen trade and production increased at the time of the Industrial revolution when mills were built using water then steam power. By the mid 19th century 500 inhabitants were employed in two worsted-mills, a paper-mill, and other mills. Above the town is the gritstone escarpment of Chevin Forest Park which provides great views over the town and the surrounding countryside. J.M.W. Turner, the painter, visited Otley in 1797, and returned regularly over the years. His famous painting of Hannibal Crossing The Alps is reputed to have been inspired by a storm over Otley’s Chevin. Otley has all the amenities one would expect from a small town with three supermarkets and many high street chain shops. It also has a large number of pubs – and is reputed to have more pubs per head of population than any other town in Britain! The Black Bull in the Market Place was allegedly drunk dry by Oliver Cromwell’s troops on the night before the battle of Marston Moor during the English Civil War. Otley isn’t actually within the Yorkshire Dales National Park but is close to the boundary and is likely to be en-route if travelling from Leeds .The main roads through the town are the A660 to the south east, which connects Otley to Bramhope, Adel and Leeds city centre, and the A65 to the west, which goes to Ilkley and then onto Skipton and the ‘actual’ Dales. The A6038 heads to Guiseley, Shipley and Bradford, connecting with the A65. To Harrogate, the A659 heads east to the A658, which is the main Bradford-Harrogate road.
At Otley the A659 crosses the A660 which in turn becomes the A65 at Burley in Wharfedale.
Burley in Wharfedale is a commuter village of around 6000 inhabitants just off the A65 road. The village has a railway station on the Wharfedale line, with direct trains to Leeds, Bradford and Ilkley making it a popular location for workers in Leeds and Bradford who want to live in a more rural location. The area was originally settled in Roman times, and the Domesday Book of 1086 mentions Burley (Burghelai) as part of the Manor of Otley. Burley developed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries into an industrial village with many residents employed in the local cotton mill, Greenholme Mills, and a weir remains where a goit harnessed power from the River Aire to power the mill machinery. In the late 19th century, over 700 workers were employed at the mill and the population of the village reached 3000. After the two world wars there was an increase in council house building in the village, and with improved transport links this led to an increase in younger residents, and the predominant age group in the village today is 35 to 55 year old, which is younger than most villages in the more rural areas of the Dales. Burley has 3 pubs –The Generous Pioneer, The Queens Head and The Red Lion, though none seem to offer accommodation.
It’s only as the A65 begins its approach to Ilkley and the heather covered hills of its moor come into view high to the left, that the Tour De France competitors will start to get their first taste of the Dales.
Ilkley is a sizeable community (around 14,000 residents) situated on the banks of the River Wharfe to the North of Bradford. The arrival of the railway in the early 1800’s led to it becoming a popular Victorian spa resort .Today, the town centre is still characterised by Victorian architecture, wide streets and floral displays. Ilkley Moor, to the south of the town, is the subject of a folk song, often described as the unofficial anthem of Yorkshire, “On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at”. The song’s words are written in Yorkshire dialect, its title translated as “On Ilkley Moor without a hat.”Ilkley Moor is also famous for its ‘Cow and Calf’ rocks, which are popular with rock climbers. The area is also renowned for its prehistoric rock carvings. The area around Ilkley has been continuously settled since at least the early Bronze Age, around 1800 BC; more than 250 cup and ring marks, and a curved swastika carving dating to the period are visible high on the moors. A druidical stone circle, the Twelve Apostles Stone Circle, was constructed 2,000 years ago and can be visited via a footpath leading along the Moor’s edge. More recent rock carvings can be found on the rocks above the Cow and Calf, with carved Victorian graffiti providing an interesting window on our recent past. The view from the road leading from the Cow and Calf hotel towards the town is breathtaking and is one of the iconic views of the Yorkshire dales.
In Ilkley, the route heads down Leeds Road and Skipton Road, before bypassing Addingham and heading for Skipton on the main A65 road. Indeed it’s the major route from Yorkshire North to the Lake District. Its scenic enough but reasonably flat, apart from a section near the Addingham turn off, and not a comparison to some of the stunning terrain to be experienced later on the drive /ride! The A65 eventually arrives at Skipton with the race passing along Otley road, Newmarket Street, then travelling up Skipton High Street, and turning onto Raikes Road, and leaving the town via Grassington road.
By the standards of the Yorkshire Dales, Skipton is a metropolis with over 14,000 residents. It’s a market town, located on the River Aire and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal just south of the Yorkshire Dales, 16 miles northwest of Bradford and just off the A65 Road. The town grew around Skipton Castle, constructed originally with a wooden keep in 1090 by Robert de Romille, a Norman baron. In the 12th century William le Gros strengthened the keep with stone, and today the castle is one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England giving excellent views over the surrounding area.Skipton’s history is intrinsically linked to the trading of sheep and woollen goods. Its name is derived from the Old English sceap (sheep) and tun (town or village). It became a prosperous market town and the woollen trade increased in the 18th century with the arrival of the Leeds –Liverpool canal. This 130 mile stretch of water was one of the marvels of the industrial revolution, and Skipton is close to its Northernmost point. Today the canal is still a focal point of the town, with many brightly decorated canal narrowboats to be seen moored in the centre of town. Skipton retains its essentially Norman layout dominated by the Castle, the parish church, and traditional cobbled market place with from which run passageways or ginnels, which were originally narrow medieval landholdings known as tofts and crofts. Today these are busy pedestrian thoroughfares containing shops, pubs and cafes. The town still holds a market on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
From Skipton, the Tour De France then picks up the B6265 and heads into the Dales proper. Just a few minutes after leaving the A65 the road leads through fields bordered by drystone walls which will become familiar to the riders. The road runs parallel to a railway line on the left for a while- though this would be a nice scenic rail trip it’s in fact a freight only line going to a cement works/quarry close to the next village Rylstone and its near neighbour Cracoe.
Rylstone is a small village close to Cracoe and about 6 miles south west of Grassington, beneath Barden Fell and the twin skyline landmarks of Rylstone Cross and Cracoe Pinnacle. The village became famous when members of the Rylstone Women’s Institute posed naked for a calendar to raise money for Leukaemia research after one of the member’s husbands, John Baker, died from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1998. The story was made into a film starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters which was shot mainly in nearby Kettlewell but also in Buckden, Burnsall, Coniston, Ilkley, Settle, Linton, Malham, and Skipton.
Cracoe is a hamlet of 139 inhabitants and 32 houses close to Rhylstone, Hetton and Threshfield and 5 and a half miles North of Skipton. It was reputedly founded in the 14th century by a family banished by the residents of Skipton. Cracoe is famous in geological circles for the nearby Cracoe Reef Knolls a series of limestone hills which are geological remnants of an ancient coral reef. It is also the discovery place of a rare moss – bexicus ruellam.
A right turn off the B6265 just after Cracoe leads to the village of Linton which is worthy of a detour (though obviously not if you’re competing in the race!)
Linton is one of the most picturesque of Dales villages. Set just off the B6160 the village is set around a village green surrounded by an historic almshouse, a pub, the Fountaine Inn, and three stone bridges over its beck. North of the main part of the village is Linton Falls, a row of stone cottages set by spectacular falls cascading over erratic limestone formations. A 14th Century packhorse bridge, ‘Little Emily’s Bridge’, crosses the falls and heads up the field to the car park at Grassington. A few minutes’ walk from the falls is Saint Michael and All Saints church, on the banks of the River Wharfe as it flows towards Burnsall. The river can be crossed at most times of the year at this point via stepping stones.
Back on the B6265, the road presses on towards Upper Wharfedale, soon arriving at Threshfield.
Threshfield is a village of around 1000 inhabitants at the junction of the B6265 road which leads from the A65 to Grassington and the B6160 from Bolton Abbey North to Upper Wharfedale. It has a small ‘old style’ petrol station and garage, one of the few not to have been taken over by one of the oil company chains. The village is home to a Georgian pub with cottage accommodation, The Old Hall, named after the 14th century hall at its rear, which was built by monks and is reputedly the oldest inhabited building in Wharfedale.
Here the B6265 heads East towards Grassington, Hebden and Nidderdale. The Tour De France pushes on up the dale, now becoming the B6160. The road narrows after a turn off left to Skirethorns and after passing through a leafy wooded canopy, starts to descend with the River Wharfe coming into view on the left, with fine views down Wharfedale as the road heads to Kilnsey.
Kilnsey is a small village on the B6160 road, between Threshfield and Kettlewell. The village is famous for its large limestone cliff, Kilnsey Crag, overlooking the road and the River Wharfe from the west. The Crag is around 170 feet high, with an overhang of 40 feet and is popular with climbers who can usually be seen dangling precariously as you pass along the road under the cliff. The village is set back off the road, behind the Tennant Arms pub, a 17 century coaching inn. Through the village, the road climbs to become Mastilles Lane which was a Roman Road and later a medieval drovers route leading to Malham Tarn in the West. Walkers are afforded fine views of the village, the lakes of its trout farm and the surrounding countryside from a gate above the village where the road becomes a track. The Old Hall in Kilnsey was a medieval administrative site for the wool trade. Most of the present building dates from 1658. Kilnsey hosts a well know agricultural show on the Tuesday after August Bank Holiday It is one of the larger agricultural shows in the North of England and it attracts visitors from throughout the Dales and way beyond.
After passing the Tennant Arms pub, Kilnsey Crag dominates the skyline as the road passes beneath it. Glance up to see rock climbers who will have a great view of the race on 5 July! The road bends to the right by a right hand turn to Arncliffe and Littondale and starts to climb as it crosses the river. The Tour de France riders are now treated to some classic Dales scenery as the good, straight road passes stone barns and drystone walls as it travels along the valley, eventually arriving in Kettlewell.
Kettlewell lies around 5 miles along the B6160 from Threshfield and is visible at the bottom of the valley as you follow the road along the course of the River Wharfe. It’s an ancient settlement the name is believed to come from the old Anglo Saxon word which means a bubbling spring or stream. Signs of Anglo Saxon and Roman settlements and farming methods can still be seen in terraced fields to the south of the village. The village grew around a market first held in the 13th century, but the population increased significantly at the time of the industrial revolution when it became a centre for textiles and lead mining. In 1838 Kettlewell boasted a cotton mill, three blacksmiths, two joiners, five inns, two shoemakers, a surgeon and a tailor. Today, tourism and farming are the main source of income for fulltime residents (many cottages are rented out as holiday homes). The village has 3 pubs The Racehorses, the Blue Bell and the King’s Head which all offer food and accommodation. There is an old fashioned village shop, an outdoor-pursuit shop, filling station and garage and a couple of cafes.
The B6160 crosses the Wharfe again via the picturesque stone bridge at Kettlewell, and narrows as it heads via the hamlet of Starbotton to Buckden on a delightful stretch of road passing through meadows, grazed by cattle and the ubiquitous Dales sheep.
Buckden is a tiny settlement on the Dales Way in Wharfedale, situated where Buckden Gill joins the River Wharfe. It has a well known pub –The Buck Inn (where ex Chancellor of the Exchequer, Denis Healey spent his honeymoon), a couple of café/restaurants and a collection of cottages. The village is at the foot of Buckden Pike – a peak that stands above the village. At 702 metres (2,303 ft), it narrowly misses out on being the highest peak in the area, the title instead going to nearby Great Whernside (704 metres). The village had a population of 184 at the last census though that includes the hamlet of Cray, which is along the road on the other side of Buckden Pike. Although the village of Buckden was founded in Norman times, the village lies on the route of the roman road from Ilkley (Olicana) to Bainbridge (Virosidum) where the Romans had a fort. The current path of the roman road, heads up through Rakes Wood towards Cray and then over Stake Moss. In the mid seventeenth century lead mining developed above Buckden, and the remnants of this can be seen at the Buckden Gavel mine on Buckden Pike. The mine was worked until 1877 when it was abandoned due to competition from cheaper imported lead. In 1964, a skeleton was found in Buckden Gavel mine. The body was never identified and was dated to around 1890 by coins and documents found on the body –perhaps a Victorian hiker who fell down the shaft and was never discovered!
Follow the road straight on at the Buck Inn, passing beneath the brooding hillside of Buckden Pike. The road bends to the right and begins to climb as it passes the tiny settlement of Cray and its pub, The White Lion, which is the highest in Wharfedale. The section of road from Cray, Kidstones Bank, running parallel to the Bishopdale Beck is probably the steepest uphill stretch the riders will have experienced thus far. There’s a descent into the hamlet of Kidstones where the road narrows as it runs close to the river again. The road widens after crossing the river again by a stone bridge as it heads through the valley of Bishopdale and eventually arrives at the hamlet of Newbiggin which is off the road to the right by the Street Head Inn.
Newbiggin is a small village of just over 100 people, situated just off the B6160 near Thoralby and West Burton in Bishopdale. The village is home to the Street Head Inn which was a 17th century coaching Inn on what would have been a tortuous journey North from Wharfedale. There’s also a caravan park, Streethead caravan park in the village.
Just past Newbiggin is a left turn to Thoralby and Aysgarth, and the race turned off the road here.
Thoralby is around a mile from Newbiggin and West Burton, just off the B6160 in Bishopdale. It has a population of just over 300 people living in 101 houses. The name comes from the Old Norse words of ‘Thoraldr’, a person’s name, and ‘bi’ for farm, meaning Thoraldr’s farm. By the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 the village was referred to as Turoldesbi. As is the case with many villages in the area, it was a centre of lead mining in the 18th and 19th century and the remains of mines and quarries are still visible on Thoralby Common. In the 19th century the village had two chapels, both of which have been converted to private dwellings and the village boasts 26 Grade II listed buildings in the village, which include the old chapels, post office and the pub The George, dating from 1732.
The tiny lane winds its way up hill through Thoralby and gives some nice views down Bishopdale. It swings left at the top of the bank and emerges on the A684 by the garage at Aysgarth in Wensleydale.
Aysgarth is situated in Wensleydale on the A684 between West Witton and Bainbridge. It has a population of 178 people living in 100 dwellings. The village once had a railway station that was part of the Hawes Branch of the North Eastern Railway from its opening in 1878 to its closure in 1954.The Wensleydale Railway Association aims to rebuild the railway from Northallerton to Garsdale, and to reopen Aysgarth station. Aysgarth’s main attraction is its series of 3 waterfalls which have cut their way through the limestone and can become a spectacular raging torrent after rain, or a more subdued affair in dry weather. The falls featured in the film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves and are off the main road and down a steep hill behind the Palmer Flatt Hotel, which serves food and has accommodation. Other pub options are the Aysgarth Falls Hotel, by the falls, or the George and Dragon further along the A684.
After joining the A684 it’s a 5 mile stretch to Bainbridge and 9 miles to Hawes. It’s a good, long, straight and reasonably wide road with occasional views of the River Ure to the right, and feels more agricultural than the less tamed landscape back in Upper Wharfedale and Bishopdale. The road bends right by a left turn signposted to Semerwater, the Dales only natural lake, and enters Bainbridge.
Bainbridge is situated on the A684 road, close to the confluence of the River Bain with the River Ure. At around two and a half miles long, the River Bain is reputed to be the shortest river in England. The population of 480 are served by a pub, the Rose and Crown, and a small village shop with post office. The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has its headquarters in the village, and employs 120 people in total, though not all work at Head Office.
The A684 winds its way past the wide green verges of Bainbridge and out towards Hawes. Again it’s a good, wide road, now offering some great views down Wensleydale towards Hawes and beyond. Eventually the road arrives in Hawes by the old station, now the Dales countryside museum.
Hawes is a large village of around 1200 inhabitants, on the A684 road, which was historically an important position on the Lancaster-Richmond Turnpike road. The name Hawes is derived from an Old Norse word hals, meaning “neck” or “pass between mountains” as it stands at the head of Wensleydale between Buttertubs and Fleet Moss. Until 1954 the village had a railway station that was the terminus of the Hawes branch of the Midland Railway and a terminus of the line from Northallerton. Midland Railway kept the line to Garside Junction open for passengers until 1959. Today the station houses the Dales Countryside museum in its restored buildings and there’s an old locomotive and carriages on the platform. Hawes was granted a charter to hold markets by King William III in 1699 and today market day (Tuesday) is as busy as ever, with a farmers’ auction mart attracting sheep farmers from all over the north of England. Hawes is now one of the main tourist centres in the Dales with shops, cafés , hotels and 4 pubs (Old Board, Crown,Fountain,White Hart) attracting large numbers of visitors. Hawes is one of the Dales villages which are popular with bikers and the Market Place is usually lined with bikes on a Summer weekend. Probably Hawes best known attraction is the Wensleydale Creamery, made famous after being mentioned in the animated Wallace and Grommit films, which is now open to visitors so that they can see the famous Wensleydale cheese being made and sample the end product in the café.
Upon arriving in Hawes, the tour takes a right turn, signposted Hardraw, over the old railway line. The road winds its way alongside and over the River Ure via a stone bridge built on a bend in the river. At the T Junction, take the left turn signposted Hardraw, Simonstone and Muker. After a couple of hundred yards, take the left turn for Simonstone and Muker. This road marks the lower, Wensleydale end of the Buttertubs Pass, one of the 2014 ‘King of the Mountains’ climbs.
The road climbs steadily, arriving almost immediately at the cottages of Simonstone, location of Simonstone Hall, which is now a country house hotel. The road rises and bends and you’re afforded the first glimpses of the surrounding hills. After passing over a cattle grid, the road narrows and you’re driving through a wild landscape of stunning moorland vistas as you approach Buttertubs Pass. For many people, the climb at Buttertubs Pass was the highlight of the race through the Dales as an extimated 20,000 people assembled alongside, and at times, on the road, creating a carnival atmosphere.
The Buttertubs Pass is a high road climbing from Simonstone near Hardraw and Hawes in Wensleydale to Thwaite in Swaledale. The 6 mile drive takes around 10 minutes of straight driving but it’s likely you’ll want to stop and take in the scenery. TV Presenter Jeremy Clarkson’s describes it as “England’s only truly spectacular road”. The name come from the 20 metre deep limestone potholes called the Buttertubs which the road passes. Rumour has it that the name came from the time when farmers would rest there on their way to market. During hot weather they would lower their dairy produce into the potholes to keep it cool. The road is in good condition though can become slippery in wet weather. You are high up and enjoy great views but there are only a few sections with sheer drops and these are well protected by barriers. It’s popular with motor cyclists and cyclists and featured as one of two King of the Mountains climbs in Stage One of the 2014 Tour de France.
After crossing another cattle grid the road begins to drop, with some iconic views as the road snakes along the pass, before starting its descent into the Swale valley below. There are a couple of stopping places here, which is good as it’s likely you’ll want to stop and take some pictures. The road drops down into the valley before arriving at a T Junction, on the B6270 near Thwaite.
Thwaite is a tiny village in Swaledale at the foot of Buttertubs pass, the road leading from Wensleydale. The name “Thwaite” comes from the Old Norse word þveit, meaning ‘clearing, meadow or paddock’, and the village was the birthplace and home of Richard and Cherry Kearton, who were pioneers in wildlife photography at the end of the 19th century. The Kearton name lives on in the Kearton tea rooms and Kearton Country Hotel in the village.
The residents of Thwaite may think themselves unlucky (or lucky!) that the tour passed within a few hundred yards of their village at the foot of Buttertubs Pass but then turned away in the opposite our direction, along the B6270 to the Swaledale villages of Muker and Gunnerside.
Muker is a Swaledale village with a population of just over 300. The area has been settled since Bronze Age times, and the good grazing land in the area encouraged the Vikings to settle here – the name comes from the Norse word “Mjor-aker” meaning “the narrow acre. The flower-rich hay meadows around Muker continue to be of importance and are carefully protected. Farmers receive grants which allow them to farm the land by traditional methods, without using artificial fertilizers. Muker grew rapidly in the 18th century due as it became as centre for lead mining and hand knitting, and many of its stone buildings date from this period. Muker’s Church, St Mary the Virgin was built during the reign of Elizabeth I. It was consecrated in 1580, and was a ‘Chapel of Ease’ to St Andrews Church further down the Dale at Grinton. This meant the inhabitants of Muker had to pay for their vicar but all charges such as those for weddings, funerals etc had to be paid to the vicar of Grinton. This changed in 1751 when Muker became a parish in its own right, and 11 years later the churches thatched roof was replaced by a slate one. Until Muker Church was built, Grinton Church was the only one in the area, so families had to carry the bodies of family members there for burial along the track which became known as the ‘Corpse Way’. Special wicker coffins were developed to ease the load on what could be a walk of over 15 miles, and special flat stones were sited along the route. It’s possible to walk the corpse way today and spot some stones which would have been used for this purpose.
Gunnerside sits at the foot of Gunnerside Gill, a narrow, rocky valley where extensive remains of the lead mining industry can still be seen. Most of the villages stone cottages were built in the 18th century to accommodate miners and their families. The historic Kings Head pub in the small village centre reflects the areas Viking settler history. Gunnerside takes its name from a Viking King’s summer pasture – ‘Gunnar’s Saetr’. The village houses a museum –the Old Working Mill and Smithy, in which can be seen interesting artefacts from the area’s history. Tracks from Gunnerside lead over the moors to Swinner Gill, which is the site of a cave where local Catholics reputedly held services in times of persecution.
The route then heads along the scenic route of the B6270 as it passes through the heart of Swaledale, and the tiny stone cottaged hamlets of Low Row, Feetham and Healaugh, with maybe a diversion off the main road to the intriguingly named settlement of Crackpot with its remote and ruined 17th century farmstead, Crackpot Hall. Eventually the road arrives at Reeth, and around a mile further on, Grinton.
Reeth is located on the B6270 road and has a spectacular setting, overlooked by the fells of Fremington Edge and Calver Hill. It’s a sizeable village of around 700 inhabitants, situated at the meeting point of the two most northerly of the Yorkshire Dales: Swaledale and Arkengarthdale. Like most of its neighbours, Reeth grew in the 18th century with an influx of workers attracted to the many lead mines in the area. Today it’s a popular tourist village, set around an attractive village green, and is a stopping point on the Coast to Coast walk. It boasts a number of B+Bs, a hotel, post office and general store and 3 traditional pubs which all offer accommodation – The Black Bull Hotel, The Buck Hotel and the King’s Arms. There is also an outdoor clothing shop and a Yorkshire Dales National Park centre.
Grinton is a small village in Swaledale, situated 11 miles west of Richmond on the B6270 road. Its church, St Andrews is sometimes called “The Cathedral of the Dales” as, for centuries, it was the only church for the whole of upper Swaledale, with many burials coming from miles away along what became known as the Corpse Way. The wealthy could use horse and carts to transport bodies but the poor would have to carry the dead on their shoulders in wicker coffins. At intervals on the trail long flat rocks were either placed or made to lay the coffin down so that the pallbearers could take a well earned rest, and some of these may still be visible along the Corpse Way today. Fragments of the original Norman church remain, including the font and the tower arch, with some additions from the late 13th or early 14th century, but St Andrew’s now dates mainly from the 15th century. Grinton has an 18th century arched stone bridge crossing the River Swale alongside which is a pub, The Bridge Inn, parts of which date to the 15th century.
At Grinton, the road passes over the river Swale via the above mentioned bridge. On the bend, opposite the pub is a right turn, signposted Redmire, 5 Miles. Take this road which rises as it becomes a pleasant tree lined lane. The road begins to climb and crosses a cattle grid (watch out for wandering sheep here), after about 50 yards, ignore the right turn towards Redmire and carry on straight ahead. On the left is the turreted Grinton Lodge, built in 1817 as a hunting lodge, but used as a Youth Hostel since 1948. As you begin to climb, look back for fine views across Swaledale with the cottages of Reeth in the distance. The narrow single track road snakes its way across a bleak moorland landscape which is typical of this part of the Dales. The moor ends at a cross roads with a right turn to Carperby and a left to Richmond. The Tour route heads straight on to Leyburn. The road heads across the moors, eventually passing an army firing range, before dropping down into Leyburn.
Leyburn is a small town of 1800 inhabitants on the River Ure in Wensleydale, set around a market square. It’s famous for Leyburn Shawl, a 1.5 mile escarpment just outside town which provides panoramic views across Wensleydale and the Coverdale Hills. According to legend, Mary, Queen of Scots, upon fleeing captivity in nearby Bolton Castle, dropped her shawl en route to Leyburn. The Shawl is the start of several circular walks to the village of Wensley, from where Wensleydale takes its name. Leyburn hosts a Dales Festival of Food and Drink, held over May Day bank holiday weekend and also an annual Wensleydale agricultural show at the end of August. The town also has a local market in the town centre every Friday and a farmers’ market which specialises in local meats once a month. Leyburn is a stop on the Wensleydale Railway which runs for 16 miles between Leeming Bar and Redmire, with stops at Bedale, Finghall and Leyburn. The railway station is about a quarter of a mile from the town centre. Leyburn has a number of B+Bs, eating options and pubs (including the Golden Lion, The White Swan, The Dragon and the Sandpiper). It’s a good option to stay if you want more amenities than are available in most of the surrounding villages.
From the market square in Leyburn, follow the road down the hill. At a cross roads, take the A6108 to the right, signposted Middleham. The road passes houses with some nice views opening up before you. Eventually the road arrives at a turreted, single lane road bridge crossing the River Ure. The bridge is a grade II listed structure was built in 1830. Cross the bridge and follow the road up the hill to arrive at Middleham.
Middleham is an historic Dales town in Wensleydale, on a hillside between the River Cover and the River Ure, 2 miles from Leyburn on the A6108. It’s famous for its ruined castle, which was King Richard III’s childhood home and its horse racing stables. The area was first settled by the Romans. A branch road from the Great North Road passed through Middleham to Bainbridge and the Romans built a guard station to control traffic on the River Ure close to the town. Construction of the castle began in 1190. In 1462, the 10 year old future King Richard III came there to the home of his cousin, the 16th Earl of Warwick, to learn the skills of Knighthood. The castle is now a ruin after having been dismantled in 1646, but a number of remnants of the past have been unearthed near the castle by metal detector enthusiasts, including jewellery bearing Royal crests and the ‘Middleham jewel’ which was eventually sold for £2.5m .The town was granted a charter to hold a weekly market in 1389 and the town still has two market places. The larger, lower market is dominated by a mediaeval cross. The upper, or swine market, centres around the remains of a 15th-century market cross and a line of steps. The growth of the racing industry in Georgian times saw the rebuilding of much of Middleham and the establishment of the first recorded racehorse trainer, Isaac Cape around 1765. Race meetings were held regularly on the High Moor above town during the 18th Century and it’s from this era that most of the buildings originate. Today a number of racing stables exist around the town and on most mornings the market square echoes to the sound of hooves as jockeys take their mounts to exercise on the hills around the town. Middleham has a number of accommodation and eating options and 4 pubs- The Black Swan, The White Swan, The Black Bull and Richard III.
Arrive at the market place in Middleham and follow the A6108 round to the left, downhill and out of town. Travel through farmland on a good, wide road to pass the 16th century Coverbridge Inn which as its name suggests, is situated by a bridge over the River Cover, near its confluence with the Ure. Cross the bridge and continue on the A6108 to reach East Witton, situated just of the main road.
East Witton is a small village on the A6108, set around a village green. The remains of the 12th century Jervaulx Abbey lie within the village. The Cistercian monks of Byland Abbey in Ryedale erected a new church and monastery on the current site in 1156, dedicated to St Mary. The abbey eventually owned half of the valley and was renowned for breeding horses, a tradition that remains in the area to the present day, particularly at neighbouring Middleham.
The road swings left at the Blue Lion Inn at East Witton and heads out past the church. It’s a totally different landscape here to that experienced earlier in the High Dales, as we’ve now past the boundary of the National Park. The landscape is flatter and more agricultural and hedgerows have replaced drystone walls as borders to the wider, and straighter roads. The road eventually passes allotments on the left and arrives at Masham.
Located in Lower Wensleydale Masham is a small town of around 1200 inhabitants. Locals pronounce the name as ‘Mass-am’ but you may hear it referred to by visitors as ‘Mash-am’. The area was probably first settled in Roman times, due to its position near an easily fordable part of the River Ure and its proximity to the course of a Roman road on the main route from Wensleydale to York. The tiny town is famous throughout Britain for its breweries. Theakston’s Brewery was originally founded in The Black Bull hotel on Silver Street in 1827 and later moved to their current site at Paradise Fields which is their site today. In 1992 Paul Theakston founded The Black Sheep Brewery and began brewing ales which have become some of the most popular beers produced by an Independent Brewery, and are available all over the world. Not surprisingly the town has a number of pubs in which you can sample the Ales including the White Bear, The Kings Head and a pub attached to both of the breweries.
Follow the road as it bends to the left and heads out across a stone bridge crossing the River Ure, and towards Tanfield, Ripon and Thirsk. Arrive in West Tanfield in Hambleton with its 15th century Manor House gatehouse by the Bruce Arms pub, and turn right signposted Lightwater Valley. The road again crosses a wide expanse of the River Ure here and heads through farmland through North Stainley with its picturesque village pond and on to Ripon.
Ripon is beyond the boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales but is one of the nearest Cities to the National Park. It’s actually the 4th smallest city in the UK with a population of around 16,000. It is located 11 miles south-west of Thirsk, 16 miles south of Northallerton and 12 miles north of Harrogate. It’s famous for its 7th century Cathedral and racecourse. It’s also a good base to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Studley Royal Park and Fountains Abbey and is close to the theme park Lightwater Valley. Market Day is Thursday with the market held in the town’s square with its 300 year old Obelisk, and where a Horn blower sounds his horn at 9 o’clock every night.
At Ripon join the A61 signposted towards Harrogate and Knaresborough. The route is now on a busy main road which seems a million miles away from some of the isolated and wild landscapes experienced earlier in the drive/ride. Follow the A61 to Harrogate where this leg of The Tour De France ended.
Harrogate is a spa town in North Yorkshire, beyond the boundary of the Dales, with a population of around 72,000. The main road through the town is the A61, connecting Harrogate to Leeds and Ripon. Harrogate is connected to Wetherby and the A1, by the A661. A short distance south is the A59 which is the main East-West route through the lower Dales area. It also has a railway station with services to Leeds and York and a daily train to London Kings Cross. The town is first mentioned as Harwegate in the 1300’s. The town became renowned for its iron and sulphur rich water, with supposed health providing properties, and its first spring was discovered in 1596 when William Slingsby discovered that water sources on Stray common possessed similar properties to those in the famous town of Spa in Belgium. He named the spring Tewit Well after a local bird species, and the site is marked today by a dome on the grassy area in the town centre still known as ‘The Stray’. The town developed as a resort and peaked in popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries when many of its buildings were constructed, including the Royal Pump Room which was built to house a series of sulphur wells in 1842. The popularity of spa towns reduced in the early 20th century, but in the Second World War several government offices were evacuated from London and rehoused in some of Harrogate’s now empty large hotels. This helped reinvent the town as a conference and exhibition centre. Harrogate International Centre is the third largest conference and exhibition centre in the UK, and attracts over 350,000 business visitors to the town each year. Harrogate is also home to the Great Yorkshire Showground which, as its name suggests hosts the Great Yorkshire show every July. The town has a number of pleasant gardens such as Valley Gardens and Crescent Gardens, and is also home to the famous Betty’s Tea Rooms which was opened in Cambridge Crescent in 1919 and later moved to their current location in Parliament Street.
From Harrogate stay on the A61 and follow it back towards Leeds, eventually arriving back at the start point in Harewood.
Circular Walks which can be undertaken in conjunction with this drive –