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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Max elevation: 342 m
Min elevation: 48 m
Total climbing: 785 m
Total descent: -868 m