Dales Loop South West
Start Point: Devil's Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale
Distance 81 miles 4,100 feet of ascent
An extremely demanding but rewarding loop to do in one day, this could easily be split into two stages to make a memorable weekend.
The route is described anti-clockwise from Kirkby Lonsdale. It's probably preferable to do it anti-clockwise owing to the asymmetry of the main climb but you could just as easily start in Settle, Gargrave or Wharfedale. Of course, only a fool would start in Wensleydale as this would leave Outershaw Side, the highest road in the Dales, for tired legs. You have been warned.
Author's note: Readers may note that the route described includes long stretches of A-road at the start and finish.
I did it this way because it was a raw March day and I wasn't minded to spend a lot of time stopping to check maps. If you're keen to avoid traffic, feel free to embroider the early stage to steer clear of the A65. The latter stages, through Garsdale and Lunesdale, are likely to be quieter than many B-roads.
Facilities and refreshments
There are lots of opportunities to take on liquids and carbs in Kirkby, Settle, Gargrave, Kettlewell, Hawes and Sedbergh, to name but a few. You'll need them.
1. Start at Devil's Bridge near Kirkby Lonsdale. Head south-east on the A65 for many a mile until you get to Gargrave (home of the Dalesman caff).
2. Turn left, signposted to Grassington.
3. Keep heading north-east on small lanes. Join the B6265 at Cracoe.
4. At Threshfield, turn nor-nor-west on the B6160.
5. As you leave Buckden, fork left on Dubbs Lane, signposted to Hubberholme.
6. Keep on this lane, past the George Inn until the big climb comes into view. Engage granny ring, disengage brain and dig in - it's not that bad, really.
7. At the top, the road (Beggarman's Road) drops off alarmingly steeply and arrow-straight into Wensleydale. Beware - the local sheep have not studied their green Cross Code...
8. Go through the hamlet of Gayle into Hawes if you need any services. Turn left on the A684 and keep on it for many a mile until Sedbergh.
9. Turn left onto the A683 signposted to Kirkby Lonsdale. Fortunately, there are no more hills to speak of, so treat this last stage as a wind-down. Sprint-finishes are for the Mark Cavendishes of this world, right?