This week Sue and I had one of our occasional (maybe two or three times a year) overnight cycle trips. Bobby and Flo went off happily to visit their friends, Rosie, Hamish and Nancy, for the night (thanks Abi and John!), and we rode pretty much due east for about 40 miles, to the tiny village of Litton, just north of Malham in the Yorkshire Dales.
Once you get to Wray, 10 miles north-east of Lancaster, the back lane all the way to Austwick is pure bliss – narrow, quiet and with few hills to distract you from the magnificent views it affords to the north. At Austwick we took a little lane over to Ribblesdale, then went south to Stainforth, and then on to the climb in the shadow of the darkly majestic (on Tuesday, anyway) Pen-y-ghent over to Halton Gill.
Halton Gill sits at the apex of two roads, one coming from Stainforth and Ribblesdale to the south-west, the other from Kettlewell and Wharfedale to the south-east. I’d never ridden either, although I’d often looked longingly at them on the map, thinking what wonderful cycling roads they must be. And indeed they are. The climb out of Stainforth is never severe, but takes you to 400 metres and along the base of Pen-y-ghent. The drop down to Halton Gill gave us gorgeous views of Littondale. We turned left at the bottom, to go to the road end at Foxup, just so we’d been there (Sue just about manages to indulge this personal trait of mine, and actually we discovered a nice-looking bunk house along here, which’d make a good base for some future trip). Then a couple of miles along the flat valley bottom to Litton, and The Queen’s Arms, which is also home to the Littondale micro-brewery. Good beer, and a good place to spend the night.
I’d thought we might return around the south of the Forest of Bowland, via Hellifield, Bolton-by-Bowland and the Trough. but the weather forecast was atrocious – stair-rod rain and floods. So we opted to return the quicker way, as we’d come. As so often seems to happen (these days?), the threatened downpour didn’t really materialise, and we had a lovely return ride, stopping off at Wray for lunch (the day before it had been The New Inn for the ‘credit-crunch busting deal’ of 2 lunches for £6; today it was Bridge House Cafe for a 2 course lunch (which we shared, along with a soup) for £6.50).
Lovely, at this time of year, to get a bit further into the Dales than an easy day ride really allows. And we still haven’t run out of new places and roads to explore.