Family rides

We wouldn’t pretend that the Yorkshire Dales is the easiest place to start cycling as it is difficult to completely avoid hills, and there are few opportunities for completely traffic free cycling. However, on many Dales roads you will meet few cars and the stunning scenery is worth the odd climb.

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Route details

Gargrave circular

Start/finish location: Gargrave

Start postcode: BD23 3RD

Start grid reference: SD 9316 5430

Distance: 8 miles (14 km)

Difficulty grading: Green

This is a relatively short route with no big climbs, which takes you from the small town of Gargrave up into the southern Yorkshire Dales. The roads have little traffic, and there are great views of Flasby and Barden Moors. Gargrave has the well known cyclists’ cafe called the Dalesman, and at Hetton is the Angel Inn which is famous for its food.

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Ilkley to Bolton Abbey

Start/finish location: Ilkley

Start postcode: LS29 8HB

Start grid reference: SE 1174 4758

Distance: 5 miles (9 km)

Difficulty grading: Green

The back road from Ilkley to Bolton Abbey is one of the most popular routes for cyclists in this area. This description just takes you through to Bolton Abbey but there are many continuations from there going further up Wharfedale or over to Embsay and Skipton.

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Into Dentdale

Start/finish location: Sedbergh

Start postcode: LA10 5AD

Start grid reference: SD 65906 92180

Alternative start location: Dent

Distance: 13 miles for the circuit to Dent village, 19 miles for the continuation to the head of the valley miles (21/32 km)

Difficulty grading: Blue

This gentle ride takes you up the lovely valley of Dentdale, along quiet country roads.

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Lower Wharfedale

Start/finish location: Grassington

Start postcode: BD23 5LB

Start grid reference: SE 00283 63750

Alternative start location: Bolton Abbey

Distance: 5.5 to 16, depending on the route taken miles (9 to 27, depending on the route taken km)

Difficulty grading: Blue

This route explores the delights of lower Wharfedale. There are no big climbs although there are plenty of small ones. Shorter variations are possible: 5.5 miles (9km) by turning back at Burnsall, or 12 miles (20km) by turning at Barden. The route back is on a slightly busier road so you may prefer to simply retrace your route.

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Exploring Swaledale

Start/finish location: Reeth

Start postcode: DL11 6SZ

Start grid reference: SE 03825 99254

Distance: 15 miles (24 km)

Difficulty grading: Blue

Swaledale is a beautiful valley to explore by bike with its quiet roads and beautiful views. This route uses the main valley road to go to Gunnerside and then includes some very quiet back roads for the return journey. The route is not completely flat, and you should expect a few climbs along the way.

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Settle circular

Start/finish location: Settle

Alternative start location: Clapham

Distance: 17 miles (28 km)

This is a lovely gentle ride through beautiful scenery, with one section along a stone track which is not suitable for racing bikes. The cycling is on quiet roads but you will need to cross the busy A65 twice.

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Skipton and Bolton Abbey

Start/finish location: Skipton

Start postcode: BD23 1AH

Start grid reference: SD 9904 5185

Alternative start location: Bolton Abbey

Distance: 6 miles (10 km)

Difficulty grading: Green

This is a great back road route taking you out of Skipton and through great countryside to reach Bolton Abbey. From there you can either return the way you came or follow other routes further up Wharfedale or along to Ilkley.

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The Howgills

Start/finish location: Sedbergh

Start postcode: LA10 5AD

Start grid reference: SD 65906 92180

Distance: 14 miles (23 km)

Difficulty grading: Red

A challenging ride through a quiet corner of the Dales, taking you along the side of the Howgills and past Holme Open Farm. You also pass Fox’s Pulpit where George Fox, a Quaker, preached in the open air to over a 1,000 people in 1652.

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Upper Wharfedale

Start/finish location: Grassington

Start postcode: BD23 5LB

Start grid reference: SE 00283 63750

Distance: 6.5 miles to 23 miles depending on route choice miles (11km to 38km depending on route choice km)

Difficulty grading: Blue

This is a lovely route exploring Upper Wharfedale and Littondale and has no big climbs on it. You can do shorter variations such as a return trip to Kilnsey (6.5 miles, 11km), or to Kettlewell (12 miles, 20km). Although an out and back ride, the change in views and scenery means that the return journey is never dull.

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Malham Tarn

Start/finish location: Malham Tarn

Start postcode: BD24 9PT

Start grid reference: SD894 657

Distance: 4 miles (7 km)

Difficulty grading: Green

This is a great introductory ride and goes around one of the great sights of the Yorkshire Dales - Malham Tarn. This is a short 7km (4 mile) ride and is pretty flat. Half is on good stone tracks and the other half on very quiet roads. If you fancy trying out your mountain bike skills there is also the option of taking in some tracks across the limestone grassland.

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Smardale Gill

Start/finish location: Kirkby Stephen

Distance: 7 miles (11 km)

Difficulty grading: Green

This is a lovely short route starting from the lively market town of Kirkby Stephen. For many people the highlight will be locking the bikes up at the entrance to Smardale Gill and taking a walk through the nature reserve on the old railway line as far as the impressive 14 arch viaduct.

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How to download and use GPX route files

The 'GPX' (or GPS Exchange format) files for each route are simply text files that can be read by GPS devices as a series of waypoints along each route.

To use the files, please do the following:

  • Right-click on the file that you wish to download - a menu of options will appear.
  • Select ‘Save link as…’ (in Firefox or Google Chrome) or ‘Save target as…’ (Internet Explorer) - you will be prompted to choose a location on your computer to save the GPX file.
  • Once you have the file on your machine, you should be able to export it to your GPS device using a USB connection. Please refer to your GPS device documentation for full instructions.

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