Bowderdale Classic (Howgill Fells) Mountain Bike Route
A difficult mountain bike route that takes in both the Yorkshire Dales and Cumbria. Start with a killer climb out of Sedbergh, one which takes you right to the top of The Calf at 676m (2,218ft). It’s tough but once you’re here you can rest assured that the rest of the route is predominantly downhill, and it starts right now with an awesome 6km (4mi) long descent of Bowderdale.
The return legs climbs again but this time nowhere near as much as earlier, you pass between Harter Fell and Knott before descending again on some cracking singletrack right the way back to Sedbergh, roughly following the River Rawthey. Look out for the wild horses that roam around this area!
As an extra bonus, try and find time to visit Cautley Spout, England’s highest waterfall, as it’s not far off the route but only accessible on foot.
Begin this route in Sedbergh. Once you’re parked up and on the bike, you will need to locate Howgill Lane, it is in between the Dalesman Country Inn and the Happy Valley chinese takeaway. Follow this road out of Sedbergh for about 1km until you reach Lockbank Farm. The road here turns sharply left but you should go right, through the farm. Once through the farm yard, the path opens out onto Winder, meaning the start of the first major climb.
The path goes left before beginning to climb and then curves around to the right. From here it goes around Winder, with Settlebeck Gill down and to your right, and meets up with a clear track on the ridge. Turn right onto this track for even more climbing, up onto Arant Haw. The path, heading NNE now, traverses Rowantree Grains before climbing Little Dummacks. A detour here would get you to the summit of Great Dummacks, if you choose to do this, just take the path to the north-east. If not, then carry on the same trail, heading NNW now to the summit of Bram Rigg Top followed by The Calf.
This is the highest point in the ride, and indeed in the Howgill Fells. It might have been tough getting up here but now you know the rest of the route is predominently downhill. From the summit of The Calf, follow the track north-east, it will soon begin to bear left and shortly after that begin to descend into Bowderdale. This descent is some 6km (4mi) long so enjoy it! Just keep to the obvious track as it descends into the dale, keeping the beck to your right.
After a nipping through a few fields, you will find yourself on the road at Bowderdale village. Turn right and follow to the T-junction at Brow Foot farm, turn left here then right again just before going under the bridge. Where the road bends left with a junction on the right, turn right onto Gars Lane. Follow the road when it bends left into the farm yard, and follow right through the yard to pick up the bridleway once again at the other side. In the first field, keep the wall to your left and go through the gate in the corner. In the second field, keep the wall to your right. In the third field, you need to go kind of diagonally over to the left, where there’s gate. Judging by the number of trails on this field, it looks like a few people have got it wrong. The one you want is the left of these faint trails.
After the gate, head through the next few fields by keeping along their edges until you reach the village of Weasdale. Get back onto the road here by turning left at the T-junction. Keep to this road for 1km or so to the left-hand bend, ignore the bend and go straight on by taking the junction. Look out for a wooded bridleway sign pointing right after about 500m and go through the gate. Keep following the track through several fields until you meet the road again, turn left onto the road then right at the T-junction and follow the road to Ravenstonedale.
Make your way through the Ravenstonedale, heading for Town Head. Just after the last house, the road bends left with a junction on the right. Turn right here then take a left at the T-junction and follow this road through the fields and then out onto the moor. The road soon begins to climb back into the fells, keep following it to the end of the road at Adamthwaite Farm. On reaching the farm, ignore the bridleway on the right and take the left-hand track through the farm yard. Look for the the track between walls. Follow this path through several fields as it follows the contours of Wandale Hill.
Eventually you will have arrived at Narthwaite farm. Take a right in the farm yard to get you on a path that curves right through a field before heading into the trees and curving left as it crosses Backside Beck. Follow this clear track until the point where it curves sharply right and heads away from the river. That direction leads up to Cautley Spout, England’s highest waterfall, but alas it’s footpath only. We need to head straight on here and ford the stream, you’re aiming for the gap in the wall at the other side. This track crosses more fields for another 3km (2mi) or so to Thursgill where it becomes road again. This quick descent gets you back to the A683. When you get there, take a right and pedal the last little road section back to Sedbergh.
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