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Inspiration in the Yorkshire Dales: 2 days bikepacking

Updated: May 22, 2022

I hadn't got plans for the Bank holiday weekend. The run up to, during and after York Open Studios was non stop. Most of my friends were busy or going away. I'd not had time to think about it, let alone organise anything. All I'd got in my head was enjoying the glorious sunshine in my garden.

I’d just had a couple of graphics jobs go back out on proof to the client and my printmaking work could be juggled to any day. So I spent the Saturday and Sunday in my print studio (with a big dollop of gardening) to free up my Monday and Tuesday.

I felt like I really needed to connect with nature and wide-open spaces. Taking part in York Open Studios had been a wonderful experience but I needed a bit of down time and some time offline.

The Yorkshire Dales it had to be! Definitely one of my favourite places for inspiration for my prints, as well as me time of course.

On Saturday night I dug my maps out, had a play with routes on Strava, checked availably at Youth Hostels and a plan started to come together.

Yorkshire Dales Cycleway map
Yorkshire Dales Cycleway map

The Yorkshire Dales Cycleway leaflet had been on my ‘I’d love to do that’ but I don’t think I’ve got it in me list. That’s not just about self-doubt, which I do have to work on, but about my fitness. I cycle a lot for pleasure but I wouldn’t call myself a fitness fanatic or sporty. It’s about the journey and adventure or social rides with friends.

I battled with anxiety, the demons and what if’s…
  • What if I get a technical I can’t fix?

  • What if my legs don’t make it up all those hills?

  • What if I just don’t have it in me to get to the Youth Hostel?

  • What if I just don’t have the energy for day two?

  • What if I get lost? Yes, that's been known even with a paper map and GPS!

I’d kick myself if I didn’t make the most out of this weather. How often is the Dales dry and fairly wind free?

My friend Karl, had said I could try his Alpkit bikepacking seat bag. This meant I could take my lighter road bike, rather than my heavy touring bike but I would have to pack light! I have very hollow legs, so having enough food for being in the middle of nowhere is important.

I mapped a route and booked a night at the Malham Youth Hostel. Packing the car the night before, I’d leave York early at 6.30am, missing the Bank holiday traffic.

So here’s what I did and the photos I took along the way. Be warned there are many!

It’s been so totally inspiring and spectacular. I don’t think I’ve been able to capture it in the photos. There’s lots in my head too, so when I come to creating some new linocut designs, I hope it comes out in the prints I make.

Day 1: Hawes to Malham

I parked up and left the car at Hawes, to cycle back to the following evening.

From there I cycled east, along Wensleydale towards Leyburn, across to Askrigg and Wensley. It’s a quiet undulating road, dotted with villages, running almost parallel to the Hawes Leyburn main A road. Bolton Castle can be seen up on the hillside.

Wenslydale, Yorkshire Dales
Wenslydale, Yorkshire Dales

Then I headed south along Coverdale. Dotted with villages such as Gammersgill, the landscape opens out through the Dale. Tour de Yorkshire flags lined the route from day before race. I was doing the route they'd done backwards.

Coverdale, Yorkshire Dales
Coverdale, Yorkshire Dales

There’s a lovely stone bridge, which is typical of the Dales, at Tor Dike before you head up a sharp climb.

Coverdale, Yorkshire Dales
Coverdale, Yorkshire Dales