The traffic-snarled Sutton Bank, which featured in both the 2014 Grand Depart and the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire, is best avoided because there is safer, and more enjoyable climbing to be had on a route featuring Boltby Bank, Rievaulx Bank and Murton Bank, plus a delightful descent of White Horse Bank.
1. From the Market Square in Thirsk, follow the A61 on the one-way system along Bridge Street, turn right at the mini-roundabout and then go left at the roundabout, signposted Sutton Bank. Leave the traffic behind in 0.8 miles by turning left towards Felixkirk on a gloriously rolling road that passes through Boltby to arrive at the foot of the first major climb of the day, Sneck Yate Bank (aka Boltby Bank).
2. The road rises sharply and viciously in a series of steep ramps, regularly topping 20 per cent before the killer final section, a 24 per cent monster of a hill. At the summit, opposite a small car park, turn right and in a few hundred metres head left towards Old Byland. Follow the road through the village and enjoy a fast descent to reach a T-junction on the outskirts of Rievaulx. Here, turn left and after crossing the River Rye on a narrow bridge, go left again.
3. After passing the ruins of the Cistercian abbey, the road again heads skywards up Rievaulx Bank before the route goes left on the B1257 for four miles to reach Bilsdale and the hamlet of Laskill. Here, turn left and enjoy the (14 per cent) traverse across Hawnby Hill into Hawnby, where the route bears left and again crosses the Rye.
4. The river bridge marks the beginning of the ascent of Murton Bank, which reaches 25 per cent at its steepest before mercifully easing off in its closing stages. Turn left at the top onto a single-track lane that plunges to the valley bottom and fords a fast-running stream before shooting upwards (16 per cent) on its way into Old Byland. In the village, turn left and retrace the route towards Rievaulx, but this time turn right at the end of the road and grind out the (20 per cent) climb into Scawton.
5. Pass through the sleepy hamlet to arrive at the busy A170, where the route bears right towards the top of Sutton Bank and the option of a coffee stop at the National Park visitors’ centre. If refreshments can wait, turn left on High Town Bank Road past the gliding club and descend White Horse Bank (you can always turn around at the bottom and test yourself on this challenging climb if the legs are up to it).
6. At the foot of White Horse Bank turn right into Kilburn and take the first right (signposted Bagby and Thirsk) to eventually reach the A19. Go straight across the staggered crossroads and at the next junction turn right on Moor End Lane, passing through Sowerby before arriving back in Thirsk. Turn right at the end of Sowerby Road and right at the mini-roundabout to return to the Market Place.
Difficulty Rating: HHHHH
Time: 2 hours 55 minutes (at 13mph average speed)
Distance: 39 miles
Climbing: 4,090 feet
Parking: Millgate long stay, Thirsk YO7 1AA (£3.20 all day, free on Sundays)
Public toilets: Millgate, Thirsk; NY Moors visitors’ centre, Sutton Bank (29 miles)
Café: Thirsk Market Place; NY Moors visitors’ centre, YO7 2EH (29 miles)