Roses all the way - By Sandy D Franklin - September 2012
In this year of Olympic Golds for speed and endurance, my husband Tim and I may have qualified for Gold for the slowest undertaking of the Way of the Roses cycle ride at 7 days for 170 miles. But let it be said, here and now, loud and clear, the Way of the Roses is a delightful route and it is worth lingering over the doing of it.
We caught the train to Lancaster (much cheaper than continuing to Morecambe) on a blustery day, and chose to cycle to Morecambe by Cycle Route 6 along the canal to Hest Bank and then down the coast, along Marine drive, to the start of The Way of the Roses at The Bastion by the old, restored Stone Jetty, complete with bird sculptures – and cafe.
It is an excellent cycle path which leads you out of Morecambe and takes you into Lancaster via the elegant Millennium Bridge. Three miles is the distance between these two towns, but we had covered 18 miles, enough for the day because we had a friend to meet and stay with.
In this wettest of summers it was not surprising to wake up the next morning and find torrential rain, but during a leisurely breakfast the rain turned to drizzle, so we set off, continuing on the charming cycle path along the side of the River Lune to Crook o’Lune. We’d done the flat bit, now we began to climb. But what rewards: the drizzle had stopped, we had fabulous views of the Forest of Bowland, Morecambe Bay and the Lakeland Fells, and ahead of us the mighty bulk of Ingleborough. The sun shone and the world sparkled – as I find it always does from the seat of a bicycle.
A cloud-capped Ingleborough – on the way to Clapham
A descent to Hornby for coffee and a bacon buttie in the Hornby Post Office and Tea Rooms, open 7 days a week and very welcoming to cyclists, and then onwards to Austwick for our first overnight stay in Dalesbridge Bed and Breakfast, just a few hundred metres off the route. Dalesbridge is also a bunkhouse, outdoor centre and camping site, so there is a good choice of accommodation to suit different budgets. As we strolled up to the village of Austwick the world-famous limestone scenery gleamed in the evening sun, and the beauty of the landscape was almost painful. We ate at the Game Cock Inn and were lucky to get a table. If you want to guarantee a meal, it is necessary to book in advance, the Publican told us. Incidentally, the General Store in Clapham, the village before Austwick, sells freshly made sandwiches, lavishly filled, at a very reasonable price, should you wish to purchase one for lunch.
World class limestone scenery at Settle
Our next stage was Austwick to Burnsall. We set off in drizzle once more, but within half an hour the rain had cleared and the sun shone brightly. What a fabulous day’s ride – a climb out of Austwick and over the top by Wharfe to follow the River Ribble down the valley, through Little Stainforth to Settle. The quiet lanes, often hedged in by drystone walls, were delightful, and the views of Penyghent, another of those iconic Yorkshire Three Peaks (the other two being Ingleborough and Whernside), Attemire Scar, and yet more stunning limestone scenery, drew us on. Now you can’t pass through Settle without stopping at Ye Olde Naked Man cafe, so stop we did for coffee, picking up, as we departed, a densely filled sandwich for lunch later. Leaving Settle it was up (and up and up) and over to Airton, where there is a bench at the crossroads ideally situated for lunch in the sun. The ride continued undulating as we made our way to Cracoe, for a much-earned cup of tea after the hilly day so far. ‘How did you like the hill out of Settle’ asked the owner of Cracoe Cafe. ‘Oh, that was easy, hardly noticed it,’ we said as our noses grew longer. It would be difficult to say which had been my favourite lane to cycle on through the Dales, but I reckon that the lane from Cracoe to Burnsall via Thorpe is the main contender; it is stunningly beautiful and quiet, and affords the most splendid views down into Wharfedale. Once in Burnsall we booked into Wharfe View Farm B&B. This comes highly recommended; it is homely and friendly, and serves the best bacon ever. ‘Specially selected, dry-cured, and cut thickly,’ our host said when I complimented him on it. So, if nothing else, stay for the bacon! We ate at the Red Lion in Burnsall, but again it is necessary to book if you want to be sure of getting a table.
Beauty and tranquillity – leaving Burnsall early morning
The next day was to take us from Burnsall to Boroughbridge, a day full of variety and interest. The morning was stunningly beautiful with bright sunshine, and the village, with the Wharfe flowing in full spate, was a haven of tranquillity and beauty. As I paused on the Bridge, staring down to the brown, peaty waters of the river, I reflected that although we had chosen to do short distances because I was still recovering from a few lengthy injuries and illness, it was lovely not to be passing through the Dales in a day; it was good to linger and soak up the glorious scenery of limestone crags and pavement, drystone walls, green fields, high, wild fells, villages and rivers. I’d recommend planning your route so you spend two nights in the Yorkshire Dales – it is worth it. And today we were taking in the sights of Simon’s Seat as we climbed out of Appletreewick, Pateley Bridge, Brimham Rocks complete with carpets of heather in full bloom casting that wonderful purple haze over the landscape, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, Ripon and Ripon Minster, and the quiet lanes through delightful villages to Boroughbridge, a small town which is home to The Devil’s Arrows. These mysterious monoliths are located in the fields either side of the cycle route into the town. They are composed of Millstone grit, and probably date from around 2000 BC. The tallest stone stands higher than anything at Stonehenge at 22ft 6inches, and the lightest weighs over 25 tons! We checked into Lock House B&B and were served tea and cakes and scones on arrival. What more can a tired, hungry cyclist want. The breakfast the following morning was equally good – fresh fruit salad and scrambled egg and smoked salmon. And Chris, the host, was very friendly, interesting and helpful.
We were on home turf now, and as we lived in York, we decided our next day’s ride would be Beningborough to York with B&B at home. We cycled along quiet lanes we’d never been along before, through the beautiful villages of Aldborough with its famous Roman ruins, and Lower Dunsworth, through the grounds of Beningborough Hall, a National Trust property, complete with Farm Shop and cafe, and another good place to stop, and into York via a green, leafy, riverside path.
Now we only had two stages left: for us, these were York to Huggate (to stop in Fridaythorpe at our own accommodation), and Huggate to Bridlington. The Yorkshire Wolds have recently been made popular by David Hockney and his ‘big pictures’ exhibition, but they are truly a hidden, relatively unknown, treasure. From York we weaved our way along the route to Stamford Bridge (Temptations Ice cream parlour and cafe is an excellent place for coffee), and Pocklington, and then into the Wolds by Kilnwick Percy and Millington Pastures. Millington Pastures is quintessential Wolds scenery, with its dry valley (formed by meltwater channels during the last ice age), and wild flower-laden roadside verges and the call of the Curlew (at the right time of the year!). If you do not know this part of the world you are in for a treat.
Quiet roads through Millington pastures – Yorkshire Wolds
The final day was mostly a gradual descent over and off the Wolds, with typical Wolds scenery and those big skies stretching all around you. The cafe at Hutton Cranswick Garden Centre is a good place for coffee, and the grounds of Burton Agnes Hall a good place for lunch. The ride into Bridlington is as nice as it could be, as you wind your way through the old town, continue to the far side of Bridlington (and you do wonder why), but it is the only way to the finish, as you sweep round the corner and see Bridlington Bay, the sands, the waves crashing against the beach, the chalk headland, the marine promenade, and finally the end of the ride at Headland View. And opposite the finish (or the start if you are going east to west) is Cappacino’s cafe, an excellent place to sit outside (weather permitting), watching the sea and the waves, and reflecting on the journey. Sit and enjoy your achievement, and let your mind wander through the images of the journey: Morecambe Bay sands, Ingleborough, Penyghent, Attermire Crag, limestone scenery, emerald green fields, drystone walls, Simon’s Seat, Fountains Abbey, the view of Ripon Minster through the arch as you cycle down the main driveway through Studley Royal, the west front of Ripon Cathedral, Beningborough Hall, York Minster, the dry, meandering valleys of the Yorkshire Wolds, the big skies, and Bridlington Bay and Headland. Thank you Rupert, The Way of the Roses is a great route, and the website very helpful and informative.