THE Tour de France is heading to Yorkshire in 2014, with the Grand Depart to be staged in the county on July 5 and 6. Here is what the riders can look forward to...
• 0 MILES: LEEDS TOWN HALL
Also sharing top billing with the Tour de France at Leeds Town Hall this year are Clannad, the Polish National Symphony Orchestra and Psychic Sally On The Road, whose “astounding accuracy keeps audiences on the edge of their seats”. So she at least ought to offer a few good pointers.
• 8 MILES: HAREWOOD HOUSE
Harewood House’s bird garden includes over 90 global bird species, including the Greater Necklaced Laughing Thrush, the Northern Helmeted Curassow and the Golden Pheasant, which will presumably be renamed the Yellow-Jerseyed pheasant especially for the occasion.
• 17 MILES: OTLEY
As well as being the birthplace of Olympic silver medal-winning cyclist Lizzie Armitstead, Otley is home to more than five morris dancing troupes, including the strictly ladies-only Buttercross Belles, who perform routines with bobbins, slings, hoops and spindles.
• 33 MILES: SKIPTON
The name of Skipton is anglo-Saxon for ‘Sheep Town’. There is a Sheep Street and a pub called The Wooly Sheep Inn. Sheep Day is held each year on the last Sunday on July. Its website promises a ‘Baa-rilliant Family Day Out’, which includes the ‘world-renowned’ Sheep Show, and a Sheep Disco.
• 76 MILES: TAN HILL INN
At 1,732 feet, the Tan Hill Inn is the highest in Britain. It has been known to get so cold the sheep have been brought into the bar. On New Year’s Eve 2010, party-goers were stranded at the Inn for three days and nights due to snowdrifts. “It was like the ultimate lock-in,” slurred one reveller.
• 106 MILES: MASHAM
As well as being famous for its two rival breweries, Masham is eager not to be outdone by Skipton’s claims to sheep superiority. At its annual Masham Sheep Fair, its programme includes sheep racing, speed-shearing, and handbell ringing - presumably not by the sheep themselves. Now that would be a thing.
• 116 MILES: RIPON
Ripon is home to the longest unbroken ceremony in the world - every night at nine o’clock for the past 1125 years, the Ripon hornblower has set the night watch on the market square, watched by a knot of curious tourists and a gaggle of under-age drinkers who just wish he’d leave them in peace.
• 128 MILES: HARROGATE
To conclude Stage One, riders can refresh themselves with Afternoon Tea at the world famous Betty’s Tea Rooms, established in 1919. It currently costs £25.95, and includes more than 20 different teas, including Cederberg Rooibos, described as “a light, refreshing infusion of pure rooibos”. Which doesn’t really help much.
• 0 MILES: YORK
Look out, Davy Millar: In York, it is still legal to shoot a Scotsman within the city walls, providing it is with a bow and arrow, and not on Sundays. York is renowned as one of the most haunted cities in England, with 504 verified hauntings - most, presumably, by angry Scotsmen.
• 19 MILES: KNARESBOROUGH
Knaresborough is famous for its annual Bed Race, which attracts teams from all over the world. Last year’s Best Dressed Bed was hauled over from Belgium by a team called the Lido Loonies. The Most Entertaining Team was awarded to a team from Japan - surely a token gesture if ever there was one.
• 33 MILES: BLUBBERHOUSES MOOR
There ought to be a great story behind Blubberhouses. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with whales, nor even any outpourings of grief, but simply seems to be a consequence of generations of slight anglo-Saxon mis-spelling. Its precipitous climb could draw even more choice language.
• 51 MILES: KEIGHLEY
Keighley is home to the world-famous Timothy Taylor’s brewery, which was briefly championed by Madonna when she was going through her brief country gent phase (between Material Girl and Kabbalah). Beers include Northerner, bluntly tag-lined: ‘For Men Of The North’.
• 63 MILES: HEBDEN BRIDGE
Hebden Bridge has plenty of claims to fame. Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher’s former press secretary, was born there. Sylvia Plath is buried there. Jah Wobble and the Bhundu Boys are among the bands who have played there. And most impressively of all, Walkley’s Clog Mill, one of Britain’s leading clog manufacturers, is based there.
• 83 MILES: HOLMFIRTH
No reference to Holmfirth is ever complete without reference to Last Of The Summer Wine. This reference is no different, but it is also topical: fans of the programme will always remember the seminal episode entitled ‘In Which Howard Remembers Where He Left His Bicycle Pump’ in which.. you get the picture.
• 103 MILES: SHEFFIELD
It is entirely fitting that Yorkshire’s flirtation with the Tour should end up in Sheffield, whose famous Crucible theatre boasts its own array of sporting stars to more than match the lung-busting bikers: the chain-smoking Ray Reardon, for example, and Bill Werbeniuk, who once split his trousers leaning over for a shot.