Our destination for today is Ambleside, which means we have some big hills to cross as we head into the heart of The Lakes. The route can vary depending on the group and the weather (that's why we have professional and experienced guides) but our favourite is to take in classics like Boredale Hause, site of a great many magazine photoshoots including What Mountain Bike covers and the set for our WMB/Adidas/CycleActive skills video ‘descent techniques section’ – for a very good reason! From here we tackle the mighty Kirkstone pass and Jenkins Crag to make for a really exhilarating first day on the bikes. When we roll into Ambleside we will head straight to the guest house, where you've got time for a shower and any bike fettling needed, before we walk into town to sample some great food.
Today’s ride explores the superb trails located to the east of Ambleside, with us riding a figure of eight loop finishing back in Ambleside, where we spend another night. The region we’re heading into is the Kentmere Valley, a place of open, sweeping trails made technically demanding by huge boulder fields, rocky slabs, and loose fist sized rocks that skate beneath your wheels as you tear through the turns. But that’s not all – the rests come of rolling grassy singletracks and a few ‘man-made’ type trails that are paths repaired by local charity Fix-the-Fells.
The real classic of the day, though, is Garburn Pass, voted by Mountain Bike Rider magazine as one of the top 10 descents in the whole of Britain. The climb to the summit is managed through a series of linking trails that seem not-too-technical, but at the summit you have to enjoy the views because a few seconds later your eyes will be glued to the trail. This route has many other superb, flowing, fast sections on it and there are options we can explore depending on time, weather and how people are feeling – also there are quick on-road shortcuts back to Ambleside if anyone is feeling tired. The plan, though, is to enjoy another great day of riding with the group and be back in Ambleside for a late afternoon cuppa before cleaning off the bikes, freshening up, and getting out to sample more great local food and drink.
Today we blaze through the best trails in the central lakes, never going too high or crossing any major passes but instead focussing on fast, flowing, mid-altitude tracks. It’s still a challenging day with loads of singletrack and rocky bridleways to keep you entertained. Once we have negotiated the single track which hugs the side of Loughrigg, we head into the slate quarries, riding past Hodge Close and Catherdal Cavern, two remarkable and beautiful water-filled caves. Your guide will then pick a route through Grisdale Forest, riding the best bits of the man made bike routes and technical bridleways that cut through the trees and give us some great views towards the sea. Once on the ridgeline we can look down on Coniston Water, famed for Donald Campbell’s attempt at the World Water Speed Record in The Bluebird in 1967, and behind the lake and the sleepy Lakeland village that shares its name, rises the impressive peak of Coniston Old Man. Our ride ends as we drop to the south on the final breath-taking descent of the day. Home for the night will be in one of Coniston's superb country pubs, sampling the local ales and seasonal menus.
This next leg of our journey takes us across the Lake District south-north divide, heading north to the market town of Keswick, in the shadow of Skiddaw Mountain. The route we follows takes us under the craggy peaks of the Old Man of Coniston range, where sheer walls of rocks with waterfalls flowing freely dominate the landscape. Our first destination is the mouth of the Langdale valley with its postcard-perfect landscape. Trying not to be too distracted by the likes of Gimmer Crag and Bowfell towering overhead, we ride up the Cumbria Way to the valley head. The ascent of Stake Pass is certainly a challenge and with bikes thrown on shoulders for a section of hike-a-bike height is quickly gained: don’t forget to look back occasionally to admire the epic view. The descent will test your new found Lake District skill set with a 260m drop in under 1km. With the high mountain passes behind us for the day, we find ourselves on the last half of the Borrowdale ‘Bash’ heading towards Keswick. This classic ride is a local favorite, due to its intoxicating combination of flowing singletrack and rocky descents.
For the final day on the bikes we have several great options available, all bringing us back into Penrith where we started on Sunday night. The mighty summit of Skiddaw can be tackled if people still have the legs for it, and mother-nature allows us a weather window. Alternatively we can cut in between the peaks of Skiddaw and Blencathra, traversing hill sides and descending the open valleys heading to the east.
With the mountains to our backs you will know the end of five incredible biking days is almost coming to a close. Once we reach Penrith you will have time to relax and enjoy a drink to celebrate the achievement of completing a Lakes Epic. If your body is needing a bit of TLC we can point you in the direction of a local remedial masseuse who knows all about mountain bikers, or you can just head home to relax and admire your photos!