Duration icon
    Duration -  4 Riding Days
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Duration
2 - 5 Days
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    Duration - 2 - 5 Days
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Suitable Bike
Road / Hybrid Bike
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    Suitable Bike - Road / Hybrid Bike
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Fitness Grade
2 - 4
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    Fitness Grade - 2 - 4
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Skills Grade
A
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    Skills Grade - A
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Navigation
Self Guided
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    Navigation - Self Guided

Lakes and Dales Loop Full Itinerary


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The Cycling - Introduction

The Lakes and Dales Loop is destined to become a classic “must do” cycle ride. This remarkable route offers an unparalleled experience of both the Lake District and the Dales, seeing the very best of both regions from the quietest, cycle friendly roads.
 
The description below follows the official route, as it takes you anticlockwise around the entire Lake District National Park, and in to the magnificent peaks of The Dales in the final third of the ride. With a start and finish in the fabulous cycle town of Penrith, which is well connected by both road and rail, this is an easy way to get into England’s beautiful, quiet, and often dramatic countryside.
 
google maps icon  A Google Map is below.  
 

Place names have been highlighted throughout the description, to help you match up where you’ll be staying, depending on how many days and nights you wish to take for the journey. Remember that this is a hilly route throughout, and although there are no named high mountain passes to complete, the accumulated height gain for the whole tour is 5172m. We therefore recommend that you always err on the safe side and choose a trip that allows you to cycle at a steady pace and enjoy the spectacular scenery, friendly local pubs, and the chance to explore some of the towns and villages along the way.

    
Highlights
 
  • Carefully selected B&B accommodation
  • Luggage transfers each day, so you need only cycle with your daily snacks and toolkit
  • Pre-tour and on-tour advice and information
  • Ordanance Survey Map of the route
  • Emergency breakdown support
Total distance: 196 miles
Total height gain:: 5172 metres
 
Days of cycling: 2, 3, 4 or 5 days
Terrain: Quiet backroads and traffic free cyclepaths, with some A roads
Support vehicle: A vehicle will be used to move bags from place to place but will not follow you directly. We provide a telephone number for the driver if you require assistance.
Tour staff: Will meet you at the beginning of the tour to answer any question you may have. This member of staff will be move the luggage and over seeing the tour.
 
If you want to find out more about the cycling, the route or anything else about the Lakes and Dales Loop please just give us a call and speak to one of our team.
 
Contact us to find out more or reserve your space:

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The journey begins in the market town of Penrith, located on the edge of the Eden Valley. Often talked about as the “Gateway to the lake District”, this bustling, friendly place has become the UK’s cycle touring Mecca, sitting at the meeting point of the two great rides – the Coast to Coast, and Land’s End to John O’Groats. It’s the perfect launch point for any cycling adventure holiday.
  
We pedal out westwards, climbing gently through rolling farmland and small, stone-built villages. By staying on the northern fringes of The Lake District today we get a real flavour of untouristed, untouched village life. This is a land that feels like it faces north in to Scotland, and on a clear day there will be stretches where you can see the Solway Firth and the Scottish Borders beyond. But it’s more than this that tells you this is wild land – today you’ll pass by fortified halls at Catterlen and Blencow, built to withstand the Border Reivers who used to raid across these lands, centuries ago.
    
This section of the ride takes us round the northern slopes of two iconic Lake District Mountains: Blencathra (or ‘Saddleback’ because of its twin peaks joined by a wide, central saddle) and Skiddaw. Whilst the common route used by mountain climbers to reach these summits is from the south, by travelling round what is known as ‘back of Skiddaw’ we get a completely different perspective as we cross the shoulders of these giants. It gives the whole of this first major section of the ride, from Penrith all the way to Cockermouth, an instant feeling of escape. In fact, as you blast down to the River Derwent and on in to the centre of Cockermouth, it will feel like a buzzing metropolis (it’s not – population 8761 at the last census).
  
The journey from Cockermouth towards the west coast takes you through some of the most iconic scenery within the Lake District National Park. This is England at its finest, with picture postcard scenes of lush green valleys, peppered with giant oaks and twisting hedgerows, surrounded by grand, bare-topped mountains on all sides. It really will take your breath away at every turn – in fact the biggest challenge (aside from the plentiful, rolling hills, of course) is keeping up your momentum when there are so many photos to take.
   
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The route towards the sea is not an easy one, as we roll across the lower slopes of some serious Lakeland mountains and pass through the Loweswater and Ennerdale valleys. With summits, lakes and winding rivers to our left, the sea to our right, and hopefully the sun shining above, this is a magnificent section of cycling. A highlight for many is the crossing of Cold Fell – a bleak sounding place, but in fact a true “out there” experience, with panoramic views. This unfenced road seems to exist in the middle of nowhere, descending, eventually, to the sleepy little hamlet of Calder Bridge, on the river of the same name.  A short while later we end up in Gosforth.
  
The cycling now takes a more serene turn for a little while, as we bowl through green lowland fields, alongside thick hedgerows, on the way to the village of Eskdale Green. This gently undulating ride takes us through the village of Santon Bridge, with its CAMRA award winning pub (the Santon Bridge Inn) sitting right on the river Irt. This river is unusual not only because of its rather odd name, but also because this is the run-off from WastWater, the magnificent lake the catches the run off from England’s Highest Mountains. 
   

On clear days the mighty peaks of Scafell and its craggy neighbours will come in and out of view as your journey continues. It is no wonder WastWater was the clear winner in ITV’s “Britain’s Favourite View” contest.

Leaving Eskdale Green takes us past the magnificent setting of one of the World’s most renowned educational charities – The Outward Bound Trust. This is where they bring groups to if they want them to experience the majesty of The Lake District, and as we will see we you hit the first climb out of the village, there are very good reasons for their choice.

The route up on to Birker Fell is quite a challenge, but gives us the best views yet of the Scafell Range, and the rolling peaks and ridges that connect it to the sea. After a tremendous blast across the rolling plateau, Old English woodland surrounds us as we race down in to the next valley. This next section of the ride explores an area that anyone with young children may start to recognise by both the scenery and the place names – this is Postman Pat country! The Duddon Valley is a magnificent twisting strip of green hiding between the mountains, the road no more than a snaking strip of tarmac, and the houses all straight off the covers of chocolate boxes. We race down through the market square of the picturesque village of Lowick Bridge (complete with excellent pubs, of course), then tackle the next stiff climb.

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This next ascent brings us on to the Dunnerdale Fells, which are now quite different in character to anything we’ll have seen before on the journey. This is where the rolling famlands of the south lakes begin to take over, as the views become a succession of green waves of hedgerows and fields, descending towards Morecambe Bay in the distance. First, though, we speed by the southern fringes of the Windermere valley at Newby Bridge, and on towards Cartmel. This is another fabulous spot with its cobbled streets, many cosy pubs, and the world renowned L’Enclume restaurant – not only is it Michelin starred, but has often been described as one of the greatest restaurants in Britain, and quite possibly the best outside of London (a hotly contested claim, of course!). However, we need not rely on Michelin level restaurants to find great food, as the local produce in this region is renowned, especially the fell-bread Herdwick lamb, and the rare breed beef.
   
Prepare for another dramatic change of scene as we leave Cartmel – this time heading for the raised bogs of Witherslack Mosses. We enjoy almost 10 miles of blasting along on almost flat, open terrain, skirting the Kent Estuary with stunning views across the open water towards Morecambe. Flying through the outskirts of Kendal we leave The Lake District behind us, on our way to Kirby Lonsdale in the Dales. Of course, having descended to sea level, the only option now is to climb. Winding up through the very different, limestone landscapes you’ll see round topped summits in front of you, rolling off eastwards into the heart of Yorkshire. We do not go quite that far, as we remain in the western Dales, visiting the renowned and scenic village of Kirkby Lonsdale. This is another spot renowned for its great food – providing fuel for walkers, cyclists and day-trippers seems to have generated more pubs, restaurants and cafes than any other small market town that you’re likely to cycle through!
  
The climb out of Kirkby Lonsdale is the last of the big challenges on the Lakes and Dales loop. It takes us from Devil’s Bridge over the River Lune right up to the heights of Barbondale, overlooking the plunging valleys of the The Howgills. A fast, sweeping descent takes us through the town of Sedbergh, a hidden gem at the junction of valleys, and teeming with book shops and pubs in more or less equal number. A twisting route that overlooks the river Dee brings us out and up, clinging to the slopes as we make our way northwards to the Lune Valley, then up to the remote village of Orton.
   
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Orton has a stature far greater than its size would imply. It’s the home of one of Cumbria’s finest farmer’s markets, a renowned chocolate factory and shop, and the launch point for cycle rides are walks over the craggy limestone cliffs of Orton Scar. This Site of Special Scientific Interest is not on many tourist routes, as the Eden Valley tends to be overlooked as visitors stay in The Lake District. For us, as cyclists, this is excellent news as we can fly through these untouched, untouristed villages, with Lakeland summits to our left and the growing line of The Pennines to our right.
  
Beyond Orton we make a dramatic swerve right as we leave the busy market town of Appleby, heading north east now, to get right up to the fellside villages of the Eden Valley. These are the places that, in years gone by, would be cut off for months at a time in the winter, as thick snow blanketed the entire Pennine chain. The places have developed a strong sense of independence as a result, and in even the tiniest villages you’ll see pubs, shops, and an old, stone built village school that stills serve only a handful of local pupils (many can take their whole school on a day trip, using one minibus!) 
   
Hugging the crease where valley meets Pennines, at the point where the mighty Cross Fell rises up, we blast through Dufton, Milburn, Knock and on to Blencarn, Kirkland and Skirwith. Each place is no more than a dot on the map, but they provide plenty of places to stop and relax for a while before the gentle descent to the River Eden, just beyond the pub on the green in the village of Langwathby.
  
Crossing the Eden we’re almost at the end of the route, with one more stiff climb to test us as we pedal past Strawberry Farm and over The Beacon. This rolling summit, owned by the Earl of Lonsdale, still has an old stone Beacon standing on it, a place where lovers have carved their names for more than a century in to the sandstone of the tower. The ride ends with a final race down the side of the Beacon and in to the heart of Penrith
 

 

5 Day ride £395pp
  
Buy Now small roll over
 
£100 deposit with the final balance due 2 months before the tour date
 
Fitness grade 2
 
Usual overnight accommodation


Penrith
Cockermouth
Lowick Bridge
Kirkby Lonsdale
Orton


4 Day ride £335pp
  
Buy Now small roll over
 
£100 deposit with the final balance due 2 months before the tour date
 
Fitness grade 2/3
 
Usual overnight accommodation

Penrith
Cockermouth
Lowick Bridge
Sedbergh
 
3 Day ride £265pp
  
Buy Now small roll over
 
£100 deposit with the final balance due 2 months before the tour date
 
Fitness grade 3
 
Usual overnight accommodation

Penrith
Gosforth 
Kirkby Lonsdale 
 
 
2 Day ride £195pp
  
 Buy Now small roll over
  
£100 deposit with the final balance due 2 months before the tour date
 
Fitness grade 4
 
Usual overnight accommodation
 
Penrith
Newby Bridge 
 
 
 

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FURTHER INFORMATION
   
Choosing the Right Holiday
At CycleActive we carefully grade our trips according to both the level of fitness you need and, for mountain biking, the level of skill you need. We also offer personal advice to anyone who needs it, by email or on the phone, to ensure that you find a holiday suitable for your abilities and desires.
   
Fitness grade 2 - 4. This means you need to be moderately fit as the ride does involve 2, 3, 4, or 5 full days of cycling over hilly undulating terrain. You can take your time as this tour is not guided, so you don’t have to stay at the pace of others, but you do need reasonable stamina.
   
Skill grade A. The route is on 100% tarmac and follows  backroads, and quiet country roads for the majority of the journey, so you do not need experience at off-road riding.
   
Geography & Climate
This is a hilly undulating ride through varied terrain and at different times of year it can be very warm or very cold. We recommend that you travel with a good variety of cycle clothing to allow for the range of temperatures. A full kit list will be sent to you on booking.
   
Accommodation & Food
We have made this tour as comfortable as possible so you can enjoy a good place to finish each night, with a hot shower and tasty food. All guesthouses have been carefully selected by us and offer a very high level of service to all of our clients.
   
Cycling Support
This trip is unsupported and unguided so once you head out on your cycling days you are responsible for your own safety and your own journey from point to point. The route is signed and there is a detailed map provided by CycleActive, so finding your way should not be a problem. We do give you contact details for our staff and the guesthouses, which you can use in an emergency, but extra transfers to collect you or drop you off may incur additional costs.
    
Cycle Rental
If you want to use your own bike we recommend either a road bike, a hybrid bike or a sturdy touring road bike. You can complete the ride on regular mountain bikes but wide tyres can be a disadvantage. If you want to rent a bike please contact us to discuss your needs and we will reserve a bike for you. We use current model Trek road bikes and hybrid bike, in excellent condition and fitted with fast rolling road suitable tyres.
     
Clothing and Equipment
On booking, a detailed list of useful and essential items will be sent to you. You must bring your own cycle helmet that must be worn for all cycle rides. All clothing and equipment must be packed in one small to medium sized bag, either a soft holdall or soft rucksack. This is the maximum luggage allowed as all bags are carried in a minivan across the Pennines and space is limited.
    
Pre-Travel Information
When you book a more detailed pre-travel pack will be sent to you with information on what to bring, where to go, and so on.