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The Hambleton Hills

An exciting ride on the top of the moors.

 

Minimum time 2h00

Distance 7.4 miles (11.9km)

Difficulty Medium

Suggested map  OS Explorer OL26 North York Moors - Western

Start/finish  Sutton Bank Visitor Centre; grid ref: SE 516831

Trails/tracks  good level lanes followed by undulating bridleways on the escarpment's edge

Landscape  pastoral plateau and moorland ridge

Public toilets  Sutton Bank Visitor Centre

Tourist information  Sutton Bank Visitor Centre, tel 01845 597426 (weekends only Jan- Feb)

Bike hire  none locally

Recommended pub  The Hambleton Inn, Sutton Bank

Notes A short section near Point 5 becomes narrower and with a few rocks in places. Inexperienced cyclists should dismount

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© Automobile Association 2008. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

Getting to the start

Sutton Bank is 6 miles (9.7km) east of Thirsk. Take the A170 Scarborough turn-off from the A19 at Thirsk. This climbs the difficult road to Sutton Bank (caravans prohibited). The centre and car park are on the left at the top.

1 Before you leave the centre, take a look at the panoramas to the south and west, for you can see for miles across the flat fields of the Vales of Mowbray and York. Alf Wight, alias the fictional vet James Herriot, believed this view to be the finest in England. Apparently, both York Minster and Lincoln Cathedral are discernible on a clear day. From the visitor centre car park, turn left up the lane signed to Cold Kirby and Old Byland. Take the left fork past Dialstone Farm and its tall communications mast, before heading north on an ever-so-straight lane through cornfields and pastures.

2 The lane comes to a T-junction by a triangular wood, the Snack Yate Plantation. This is a popular starting point for serious mountain bikers who will swoop down on rough tracks through Boltby Forest. Your route turns left down the lane. It's a gentle downhill for a short distance. Just before the road dives off the edge, turn left through a gate on to a grassy bridleway along the escarpment's edge. You're riding on the Hambleton Hills. The first stretch is slightly uphill, but the track is firm and the views wide-sweeping. You'll see a small reservoir surrounded by forestry and the village of Boltby huddled under a pastured hill.

3 The bridleway climbs to the top of the hill at High Barn, an old stone ruin shaded by a fine stand of sycamore. The going eases and the cliffs of an old quarry appear ahead. Here the bridleway goes through a gate on to a walled track for a short way. Ignore the bridleway on the left, which goes back to the Hambleton Road, and stay with the edge path to the hill above the rocks of Boltby Scar. This is the highest point of the ride. Note the wind-warped larch trees around here - they add to the views over the edge and across the expansive Vale of Mowbray.

4 The trees of the Boltby Forest now cover the west slopes, almost to the summit. Beyond the next offshoot bridleway, which you should ignore, the path becomes narrower with a few embedded rocks in places. The difficulties are short-lived, but the younger and less experienced riders might prefer to dismount. The riding gets easier again as the bridleway arcs right above South Wood. At the end of this arc you turn left to a sign that tells you that the continuing edge path is for walkers only. This is a fine spot to linger and admire the views. To the south the half-moon-shaped Gormire Lake lies in a nest of broad-leaved woodland and beneath the sandy-coloured Whitestone Cliff.

5 When you've rested, turn left on a bridleway to Dialstone Farm. This heads east across large prairie-like fields. Beyond a wood, the High Quarry Plantation, you'll see the hurdles of the equestrian centre. Past the large farm turn right along the tarred lane, then right again, back to the visitor centre car park.

The long tarmac lane that takes you north from Sutton Bank seems unremarkable in itself, but there's a history, dating back to the Iron Age tribes who settled here around 400BC. They would have used this road long before the Romans followed in their footsteps. Evidence of the tribes' existence is all around you, from the burial tumuli near the escarpment's edge to a 60 acre (24.3ha) fort on Roulston Scar. Strangely, there are no traces of any hut circles within the fort's huge ramparts. It is possible that this was a temporary bastion in times of war, but it could also have been a huge cattle corral for neighbouring settlements.

Hambleton has many connections with beasts of burden. When the Great North Road became a turnpike the Scottish cattle drovers turned to the hills to avoid the tolls. The previously mentioned road became known as the Hambleton Drove Road, a busy highway with several drovers' inns along the way. Hereabouts there were two - one, Dialstone House, is now a farm, but the other, the Hambleton Hotel, remains an inn.

Hambleton has long been associated with racehorses. In 1740 an Act of Parliament decreed that racing could only take place at Hambleton, York and Newmarket. Fifteen years later, however, the racecourse was closed, but nearby Hambleton House is to this day a well-known training stable for thoroughbreds.

Why do this bike ride?

You can enjoy some of the north of England's best views and experience a bit of adventure with a ride on the 'edge'.

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