6 Day Tour

Day 1 Penrith – Cockermouth

Distance: 37 miles (60 kilometres)

Overview: This is, by a smidgeon, the longest of the six Lakes & Dales Loop ‘day ride’ sections, it also reaches the highest elevation at 1,125ft (343m). Interestingly this Lakes & Dales Loop ‘high point’ is reached somewhat surreptitiously, on a gently undulating ridge road south of Greystoke Forest, rather than after a stiff climb to a notable viewpoint. The first part of the journey west from Penrith may well seem inexplicably leg-draining, partly due to a gradual climb to that route high point just beyond Berrier, but also because chances are you’ll be heading into the prevailing wind. Thankfully, the twists and turns in the road, together with an eclectic selection of fortified manor houses providing visual interest en route will, hopefully, ensure riders’ attention is distracted from their efforts.

A dramatic change of scenery greets you on the approach to Mungrisdale, where the route swings north under the imposing shadow of Blencathra and surrounding fells. The neighbouring villages of Hesket Newmarket and Caldbeck both provide a welcome and timely opportunity to rest and refuel, before the second half of this section takes riders round the ‘back o Skiddaw’, via some fairly remote lanes. The route then veers south-west to cross the River Derwent, cuts across the shoulder of Watch Hill before descending into what will seem (after a day of relative solitude) like the buzzing town of Cockermouth.

Terrain: As noted in the overview above, a distinguishing feature of this section is that it passes through the highest point on the Lakes & Dales Loop, albeit almost imperceptibly and without fanfare. Indeed, the majesty of the high fell landscape ahead should take riders’ attention from the gentle, if rather relentless, upward incline that characterises the first 16 km of this section. Thereafter, there are a few undulations in the route, which can only be expected as a small price to pay to enjoy one of the quietest corners of the Lake District.

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Day 2 Cockermouth – Eskdale Green

Distance: 33 miles (53 kilometres)

Overview: This is probably one of the most dramatic sections of the Lakes & Dales Loop in terms of the close proximity to high Lake District fells it brings riders. Once clear of the bustle of Cockermouth you are quickly into minor lanes where you’ll encounter very little traffic away from the very busiest tourist days. Lorton Vale provides the initial entry into high fell country, with the Lakes & Dales Loop following the western bank of the River Cocker as steep slopes increasingly rise up on both sides.

After a glimpse of Crummock Water ahead you’ll bear north-west to skirt Loweswater before heading in a southerly direction again over the lower flanks of the Loweswater Fells. After crossing the mouth of the secretive Ennerdale valley it’s upward again, this time on the unfenced road over Cold Fell, before dropping back to civilisation at Calder Bridge. Unfortunately, a section of main road (the A595) is unavoidable for the next couple of kilometres, until Gosforth heralds an opportunity to escape back into minor lanes, eastward into Eskdale.

Terrain: While this section of the Lakes & Dales Loop will enable riders to really dip into, and experience the majesty of, the Lake District fells, the climbing is kept relatively contained. No high passes, but two sizeable pulls over the westerly reaches of the Loweswater and Ennerdale Fells, between their valley mouths.

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Day 3 Eskdale Green – Cartmel

Distance: 36 miles (58 kilometres)

Overview: The ‘journey’ offered by this section of the Lakes & Dales Loop is one of moving from quite wild and remote upland countryside, characterised by unfenced roads across expansive moorland, through one of the Lake District’s least visited yet most picturesque valleys, to the lowland farmland and increased habitation of the Furness peninsulars.

Terrain: A section that includes three quite significant climbs, none particularly high or long, but with steep gradients in places. So don’t be afraid to get off and walk! The most significant hills come in the first part of this stretch, enabling riders to enjoy a gentler second half, certainly once you’re up the ‘Woodland’ climb.

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Day 4 Cartmel – Kirkby Lonsdale

Distance: 36 miles (58 kilometres)

Overview: This is, almost certainly, the ‘busiest’ section of the Lakes & Dales Loop in terms of the number of little settlements and refreshment opportunities you will pass en route. Traversing one of the most accessible corners of Cumbria and criss-crossing several key transport arteries, including the M6, West Coast Main (railway) Line as well as two trunk roads into the Lake District. However, the generally fine network of minor roads in South Cumbria, little used by the majority of motorists, will ensure a peaceful day’s journey in the saddle, discovering some of the hidden gems of this part of the world.

Terrain: This section of the Lakes & Dales Loop starts with a bit of a jolt, climbing over the southern flank of Hampsfell above Grange-over-Sands. However, the remainder of the western half of this section is largely flat, as it romps across the ‘Witherslack Mosses’ (raised bogs) that border the Kent Estuary. East of the half-way point at Sizergh, the terrain gets a little more undulating, particularly where it skirts to the north of the fascinating limestone landscape of Farleton Knott.

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Day 5 Kirkby Lonsdale – Orton

Distance: 29 miles (47 kilometres)

Overview: A day of quite dramatic scenery rewards riders on this section of the Lakes & Dales Loop, making use of minor roads that hug the western facing outreaches of the Yorkshire Dales. A quiet start heading north out of Kirkby Lonsdale, then swinging east to take in the beautiful climb up Barbondale.

The book town of Sedbergh offers a welcome breather for rest and refuelling, between the remoter southern and northern halves of this route. It then heads into the upper Lune Valley, where the encroaching Howgills to the east and Lake District fells to the west create a growing sense of enclosure, before the landscape opens out again north of Tebay.

Terrain: As this section of the Lakes & Dales Loop starts at a relatively low altitude, but finishes quite high, riders will correctly have the impression that the general trend of the day is uphill! However, this should be viewed in perspective. An overall height gain of less than 200m in 30 miles is very gradual. After initially skirting the lower western slopes of Barbon Fell, the route then takes in the delightful Barbondale, involving a gradual climb followed by an exhilarating descent.

It then follows the valley of the River Dee west into Sedbergh, before turning north up the Lune Valley, via an undulating little road clinging to the western flanks of the Howgills.

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Day 6 Orton – Penrith

Distance: 35 miles (56 kilometres)

Overview: A section of the Lakes & Dales Loop that will surprise and delight in equal measure, as it introduces riders to the very quiet minor road network of the Eden Valley, with a grand introduction via the open limestone landscape of Great Asby Scar and Little Asby Common. Aside from the bustling market town of Appleby, show-casing a fine collection of historic buildings and street-furniture, you’ll pass through a number of little settlements with something of interest to enjoy.

Terrain: This section of the Lakes & Dales Loop starts relatively high, at an altitude of just under 250m (800ft), so the initial gradual climb up over Little Asby Common, to a section high point of some 320m (a bit over 1,000ft) isn’t going to tax fresh legs too much. The route then generally drops towards a crossing of the River Eden at Appleby, after which there is a bit of a pull up to Dufton and the ensuing string of hamlets that cling to the lower western flanks of the Pennines.

Turning west the route swoops down to cross the Eden again at Langwathby, before a little ‘sting-in-the-tail’ ascent around Beacon Hill to drop into Penrith.

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