Take Thee to the Moors

Bike northern England’s growing network of cycleways
The ruins of Whitby Abbey in north Yorkshire
WHERE THE VAMPIRE WOKE: The ruins of Whitby Abbey in north Yorkshire, where Bram Stoker penned Dracula. (PhotoDisc)
UK Travel Tip #2
English Heritage manages many of Britain's most historic monuments, from Stonehenge to Hadrian's Wall to Dover Castle. And if you truly want to immerse yourself in the island's millennia of history, consider renting a cottage on the property of one of these historic sites. Who wouldn't want to wake up on the grounds of a 450-year-old coastal citadel or ruined 12th-century abbey? The organization also offers a money-saving Overseas Visitors Pass (£18) for free entry to over 120 historic attractions for between seven and 14 days. For more, visit: www.english-heritage.org.uk.

A world away from the Beatrix Potter-laden, cake-tin-cute Lake District, the wild Yorkshire Moors and their North Sea coastline offer an atmospheric window to one of England's loveliest regions (as well as some of its friendliest locals). The county that gave us charming rural vet James Herriot and the loveable oafs of Last of the Summer Wine is also rich in scenery and wildlife, historic castles and abbeys, and home to some of the best ales in the world.

Earn your pints by exploring Yorkshire by bike, taking advantage of a network of national cycleways that is gradually bringing Britain up to speed with the rest of Europe in terms of bike accessibility.

The ancient city of York, ringed by a well-preserved Roman wall and site of one of Britain's most majestic cathedrals, York Minster, is a great place to start your journey. Occupying Romans and Vikings both left their mark on this architecturally rich town, intersected by the smooth-flowing River Ouse, down which the Vikings opened up important trade routes. This small and easily walkable town is accessible by train from Leeds, into which you can fly for cheap from London and other European hubs including Amsterdam and Paris (visit the Leeds Bradford International Airport website for details: www.lbia.co.uk).

From York, light out north on the White Rose Cycle Route (National Route 65), which connects Hull, York, and the majestic wilds of the Yorkshire Moors. You'll pedal mostly two-lane country roads on this 123-mile bike-friendly thoroughfare, passing through charming market towns like Selby and Thirsk, easy places in which to find accommodation (and Britain's best pubs!).

Keep rolling up through North York Moors National Park, a windswept, heather-lined expanse of rounded hills, cliffs, and crags that inspired such Gothic classics as Bram Stoker's Dracula and Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. The park is threaded with miles of excellent cycling and hiking trails off the White Rose Route. If you've got time, cut east across the moorland until you hit Whitby and its beautiful North Sea coastline. This bustling fishing port is overlooked by the dramatic ruins of a seventh-century Benedictine abbey, plus is the brooding setting for much of the plot of Stoker's masterpiece.

Information on cycle routes, what to do, and where to stay are all readily available; start by visiting the park website at: www.moors.uk.net. Britain's well-run and reliable Youth Hostelling Association (YHA) operates several "camping barns" within the vicinity of the national park, though they all lie a little westward of the White Rose Cycle Route. Along with its three youth hostels in the Moors area, YHA's network offers a cost effective and fun way to round out your Yorkshire cycling odyssey. And although YHA is geared to young travelers, there's no upper age limit for membership. Visit www.yha.org.uk to find out more, plus find accommodation in the Yorkshire region. More information on Britain's National Cycle Network can be found at: www.sustrans.org.uk, including details on the White Rose Cycle Route and maps and guides for sale.

Published: 29 Aug 2006 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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