Bike Route: Some old haunts off beaten track

The River Aire winds it's way out of Skipton towards Gargrave.
The River Aire winds it's way out of Skipton towards Gargrave.
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I broke with tradition this week and instead of my usual looped rides, I took a more linear route which took me in a north easterly direction from Keighley to Settle.

Slotted between the Forest of Bowland and Yorkshire Dales National Park, this corridor sometimes gets overlooked on the tourist trails but it’s brilliant for biking and I enjoyed a fun few hours rediscovering old roads I hadn’t ridden on for many years.

1. After hopping off the train in Keighley I headed out of town in the direction of Steeton before continuing on to Sutton in Craven. This opening five miles was relatively flat and allowed me to get up to speed before I tackled my toughest climb of the day. West Lane was my own Alpe d’Huez growing up and after watching the Tour de France on TV I used to ride up and down it on my trusty mountain bike, imagining myself as the next Marco Pantani. I’d never attempted it as an adult though, and never on a road bike. It was still very hard, with a nightmarish s-bend about two-thirds of the way up it, and I was blowing heavily before I eventually turned right at the crossroads on the summit. That took me past Lund’s Tower and I enjoyed an exhilarating descent into Cowling before pressing on into Cross Hills.

2. The climb out of Cross Hills was only a brief one and I was back up to top speed again as I flew down a short, sharp descent. A few minutes later I’d reached Cononley, and instead of taking the main road towards Skipton, I continued to Carleton on the back road. This section was constantly undulating and offered me great views across the Aire Valley, and I actually skirted the River Aire itself before I reached the junction for the A59. The next mile was the busiest I encountered in terms of traffic, but I soon returned to the quiet country lanes by turning right as I reached Broughton.

3. The route to Gargrave was another lumpy one, but just as I reached that village I was heading back out of it on route 68 of the National Cycle Network. This has always been one of my favourite roads and Bank Newton is definitely one of the prettiest hamlets in this part of the world. I climbed gradually for the next four miles and the fast descent into Nappa almost caught me out as it ended abruptly with a T junction on to the A682. I hopped over the border into Lancashire at this point, but only for 15 minutes or so as I headed to Paythorne and crossed the River Ribble.

4.My next ascent was another very steady one and took me back onto the moorside where expansive scenery opened up. I soaked the views in before dropping into Wigglesworth and the last six miles of my ride seemed to pass quickly as it was almost exclusively downhill. From Wigglesworth I ventured through Rathmell and the old Reading Room there stuck in my mind as I’d never encountered a building like that before that wasn’t called a library. I had to pick my moment to cross the A65 due to the fast flowing traffic and then warmed down on my approach into Settle where I stopped in at the intriguingly-titled Ye Olde Naked Man Café for a quick bite to eat before catching a train back home.

Difficulty Rating: HHHHH

Time: 2 hours 30 minutes (at 15mph average speed)

Distance: 36 miles (58km)

Parking: Available at Keighley Railway Station

Grid Ref: SE 06529 41294

Public toilets: Located in Keighley Railway Station

Download the GPX file: https://we.tl/cKZE8IRH0W