Tan Hill & Swaledale Mountain Bike Route

Distance

Ascent

Offroad

Difficulty

Elevation Profile

Summary

This is a tough route deep in the Yorkshire Dales wilderness so don't expect it to be easy, good navigational skills are required. That said, if you go prepared and know what you're doing you'll find this route is an amazing way to explore the northern part of the Yorkshire Dales. The fact that it ends at the Tan Hill Inn just makes it all that more perfect.

As mentioned, the route starts at the famous Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in England. From here it takes you across the moors on clearly defined doubletrack. This doesn't last long though, the trail becomes less clear as you head out into the wilderness. After crossing the moor, the route drops you into Gunnerside Gill and on into Swaledale, before climbing back onto the moor for a final crossing on the return leg to Tan Hill.

Map

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Full Description

Starting at the Tan Hill Inn and with the pub behind you, take a left onto the road. Go over the cattle grid and continue until the track on your right. Turn right here and go through the gate. The track bends slightly round to the right, and then more so. At this point look for a faint track on your left, heading roughly east (it is very faint). Take this track, it will become more defined soon.

Keeping to this trail will take you across Arkengarthdale Moor and then West Moor, crossing the head of William Gill on the way. Take care not to take the footpath that heads NE down the Gill, the actual bridleway goes turns right here and heads south west for a short while before taking a turn and heading due east again.

The trail meanders following the contours along the the top of Annaside Edge to Great Punchard Head. From here the obvious track bears left and begins to head east down Great Punchard Gill but don't go too far. Ignore the first track on the right (leading to a disused coal level) and follow for about 200m and then look for a bridleway on the right that takes you across the gill. This is quite difficult to locate but once you've got it you should find yourself climbing again, up onto Punchard Moor.

Cross the moor, heading south now, to Little Punchard Head. Go straight on here, ignoring the turn to the left that heads east, and cross Friarfold Moor. You will cross the strange alien landscape of Friarfold Rake and then Doctor Gill and eventually reach a crossroads with a fairly major Land Rover track.

Turn right onto this track and head west across Melbecks Moor. The track will very gradually bear right around to the north and head towards Blakethwaite at the head of Gunnerside Gill. Follow this track to Blakethwaite Dams at the very head of the gill. The bridleway from here can be difficult to find. Look behind you and down the gill. You should be able to spot a bridleway below, and a small track leads from behind the lodge down to it. Take this track and follow it as it follows the gill, the stream should be on kept on your right.

When you reach the bridge, don't cross it, instead stay on this side of the stream and continue. The trail begins to climb and then levels off again. Continue, ignoring any junctions with footpaths you pass, to the road just past Potting. Turn right onto the road and descend to Gunnerside, where there's a pub if you're looking for refreshments.

At the bottom of this descent, take a right into Gunnerside. Where the road turns left, you want to head straight on. This minor road climbs out of Gunnerside in a westerly direction. After about 1.5km, the road bears left over a bridge. Take the turing on the right shortly after this, climbing up to the right of the farm buildings, signposted no through road. After another couple of miles the road becomes a track and descends towards the River Swale. Heading north now, follow the Swale, cross Swinner Gill. Pass through the wooded section and pass Kisdon Force.

Shortly after the waterfall the trail forks, take the right fork and get onto the Pennine Way. Follow the Pennine Way for the 3km (2mi) or so with Startindale Gill down to your left and Black Moor on your right. Then its a 2km (1.5mi) stint across Stonesdale Moor, still on the Pennine Way, back to the Tan Hill Inn.

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Route Features

Moors

Sheep on the North Yorkshire Moors

Ah, moorland! Vast swathes of the UK are open moorland and the majority of it is open for business for mountain bikes.

Singletrack

Sweet Singletrack

Singletrack is what most of us mountain bikers wish for on a ride, which is a good thing, because most routes out there feature singletrack.