Working for Welcome to Yorkshire you get to visit all four corners of the county but I’d never actually made it to the Howardian Hills. I was determined to put that right so I loaded up my bike, headed to Malton, and took on a scenic 63-mile loop which featured much of this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
I ventured out to the west of town on Castle Howard Road and four miles later I caught a quick glimpse of the ‘castle’ in question. As I descended off Slingsby Bank I passed two travellers in a horse-drawn caravan and it got me thinking about how Roald Dahl’s classic Danny the Champion of the World could easily have been set here – a notion further reinforced when I passed an independent petrol station in Coxwold. The villages which pepper this part of the world transport you back to a different time and their blonde-coloured buildings are a joy to behold.
I was treated to brilliant views as I headed from Stonegrave to Ampleforth. Although the terrain is consistently undulating there are no massive climbs so you can see for miles when you reach the most upland parts of this route. Ampleforth College was next up. It certainly looked impressive from the roadside and cycling fans might also remember it hosted the National Road Race Championships in 2012. I followed a portion of that route to Oulston and it took me past the stunning ruins of Byland Abbey.
I barely saw a soul as I pressed on towards Terrington. I wasn’t complaining though as I focused on my riding and the wafts of lavender that greeted me on my approach to the village were a pleasant surprise courtesy of Yorkshire Lavender who call this place home. It was then on to the A64 which intersects this loop, and if you don’t fancy riding along that busy dual carriageway, you’ll be pleased to hear there is a cycle path/pavement which runs alongside it.
After dropping down Onhams Lane you’ll be greeted by Kirkham Abbey, another historic ruin, but before you reach that be careful as the descent concludes by crossing a gated railway line. There are no other potential hazards after that though and you should spend this part readying yourself for the testing climb which is to come…
Garrowby Hill is about as iconic as Yorkshire climbs get. I can’t say I found it fun though. It’s the constantly changing gradient that makes this ascent especially challenging – you can’t get into a rhythm and by the time you hit the steepest sections in the mid section, you’ll already be blowing hard. It’s only when you pass the ominously positioned crucifix that things begin to ease off, and I’d recommend pausing at the summit to survey the stunning views behind you.
From there you head straight back to Malton and there’s a fun descent into Birdsall before you pass the 16th century manor house on your left. You’ll overcome one last lump on Langton Road before dropping down into Norton and back into Malton on Castlegate.