At just over 100 kilometres on typical lumpy Yorkshire terrain this loop includes four decent climbs and over 1,600 metres of elevation: Kidstones Pass (or Côte de Cray to give it its French Tour de France name!), Buttertubs Pass (from Hawes), Grinton Moor and Greets Moss.
Compared with the mountains of mainland Europe the climbs are not that long in length (between 3 and 5 kilometres) but they are steep in parts with sections of 15% - 20% not uncommon.
Complete this ride and you’ll have ridden a good chunk of Yorkshire’s 2014 Tour de France stage as well as the 2019 UCI World Road Race Championships route (which encompassed Kidstones Pass, Buttertubs Pass and Grinton Moor). So this makes the perfect opportunity to test yourself on the terrain that has been selected for the sport’s elite cyclists.
Written by John Vicars
Route map and profile
Distance: 104 km
Elevation Gain: 1,640 m
Max Grade: 16%
All metrics in this guide are approximate
Our favourite parts of the loop are the climbs of the Buttertubs Pass (from Hawes) and Greets Moss.
Buttertubs is clearly the more famous of the two, but Greets Moss is a beautiful, remote climb which reminds me in some aspects of a col that you might find somewhere deep in the Pyrenees. Both are challenging but rewarding and other than the odd sheep wandering across the road, then, depending on what time of the day you are cycling, you can sometimes have the road all to yourself.
1. Kettlewell to Hawes (0 to 39 kms) (via Kidstones Pass/Côte de Cray)
Leaving the village, you will track north on the B6160 passing the village primary school on your right as you head out into open countryside. Pasture land, sheep, hills and hundreds of miles of Roman stone walls are the backdrop for the day, interspersed by valley streams and quaint villages.
Use the first five kilometres to get the legs warm as you pass through the village of Starbotton because by the time you reach nearby Buckden you start your first climb of the day – the easier side of the Kidstones Pass which was rebranded as the Côte de Cray for the 2014 Tour de France. Don’t worry though you will be climbing the steeper side later in the day!
The Kidstones pass starts in Buckden and tops out beyond the village of Cray after 3.55 kilometres at an average gradient of 5%. The climb starts off relatively gently but ramps up in parts to double digit percentages after the White Lion Public House in Cray. Once at the top you get some stunning views looking out over the Dales landscape.
There then follows a very fast descent of around 12 kilometres through the villages of Kidstones, Newbiggin and West Burton until you meet the A684. At the junction you will see a signpost marked Hawes pointing to the left. The A684 is not a main road as such but by the same token it is not a country lane, so be mindful of extra traffic. You will travel 16 kilometres due west on this road through Aysgarth and Bainbridge before arriving in the town of Hawes - time for a café stop? See our cafe suggestions below.
2. Hawes to Fremington (39 to 66kms) (via Buttertubs Pass)
From here you’re only a kilometre or so away from the start of the climb of the Buttertubs Pass. You can read all about this famous climb, here.
At the foot of the climb turn right onto the B6270 towards the villages of Muker and Gunnerside. This valley road can best be described as rolling terrain, but it is generally downhill and you can start to make some time up following the climb up the Buttertubs. Cruising your way towards the Reeth you will notice the village of Crackpot signposted to your right!
Just beyond Reeth (a village packed with guest houses, village stores and cafes) is the tiny village of Fremington where you will find the excellent Dales Bike Centre (more information on that below).
3. Fremington to Kettlewell (66 to 104kms) (via Greets Moss and Kidstones Pass)
From Fremington you head south-east towards Grinton Moor. After a kilometre of the climb (just after the cattle grid) you need to make a decision either to press on to the very top and then descend into the market town of Leyburn or make a right turn signposted Redmire. If you choose the Leyburn route, you’ll be sticking with the 2014 Tour de France route for longer - but we’ve done both routes and prefer the route we’ve suggested here that offers a quieter and tranquil ride to Redmire via the ascent of Greets Moss (4.07kms @ 7% - Strava).
The Greets Moss is no easy option - for extended periods the climb ramps up beyond 10%, but in the time it took us to get to the top we saw only three cars. It’s very remote towards the summit and made harder if you get unlucky and find yourself climbing straight into a strong south westerly wind (as we did!).
There’s a steep descent into the village of Redmire before 15 kilometres of undulating road which takes you over the River Ure and back towards Aysgarth. At the Aysgarth Falls Hotel take a left onto the A684, then after a few hundred metres turn right (signposted Kettlewell) and you have a little over 20 kilometres to get back to your starting point. It would be plain sailing except for the climb over the steep side of the Kidstones Pass! (3.69kms @ 6% - Strava).
After a long day in the saddle, the road sign marked ‘16%’ near the foot of the climb is hardly encouraging and it’s a real slog in parts as you fight against both fatigue and gradient. Once at the top however all the hard work is done and you can freewheel down the Coôte de Cray and enjoy a flat run back into Kettlewell.
A bonus of riding in this area is the abundance of cafés, pubs, village stores and restaurants meaning that you don’t have to cycle miles without food and water. Here are a couple of very good cycle related stops that are strategically placed on this route:
The Cottage Tea Rooms and café in Kettlewell (0 and 102 kms)
Stage 1 Cycle Shop and café in Hawes (39 kms) - beside the Dales Countryside Museum you will find Stage 1 Cycles shop and adjoining café. There are public toilets available in the adjacent car park. This is an excellent place to stop and obviously a cycle friendly location.
Village store in Muker (51 kms) should you need to take in extra provisions.
The Dales Bike Centre and café in Fremington (66 kms). Here you will find a bike shop. mechanic, rental bikes, a café, toilets and even bed and breakfast accommodation. It is well worth a stop and the staff are very welcoming, helpful and friendly.
The area is littered with hotels, guest houses and hostels. From the 5-star Simonstone Hall Hotel at the foot of the Buttertubs Pass to the YHA hostel at the top of Grinton Moor, there is something to meet everyone’s taste and budget.
It‘s also worth noting that if you happen to be staying in the Hawes/Thwaite/Aysgarth area, this ride is easily amended by cutting off the out and back to Kettlewell (and you’ll save yourself Kidstones - which is either good or bad, depending on your perspective!).
Check out our ultimate guide for more details.
The ride starts and finishes in the village of Kettlewell, which sits on the banks of the River Wharfe, in the heart of the Dales. When you conjure in your mind a vision of a typical Yorkshire village then this is it. A hotel, two pubs, a few guest houses, a village store, a garage and some tea rooms. It also boasts a large car park and adjacent public toilets where you can park your car all day for £4.50. It’s a great place to start and finish your ride.
Read our tips for cycling in the Yorkshire Dales before you set out.
Don't miss our main guide to the Yorkshire Dales, which has links to all our rides and information on where to stay, when to visit and bike hire. You can find links to more of our route guides in the Articles section below. Happy riding!
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