6th September 2023
It heads north west out of Gargrave to Bell Busk and Airton, then north over the moors to Weets Gate and Mastiles Lane. The return part of the loop takes in Winterburn Reservoir and Friars Head.
This is not a ride that will take your breath away, at least not metaphorically, but it's a nice bumble through the countryside and is a good bit of exercise.
Distance: 20 miles/
The ride starts from Gargrave.
There's free parking at the North Street car park in Gargrave, and the GPS file starts from there. Gargrave also has a station.
Cross the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Higherland Lock and join Mark House Lane, said to be the old Roman Road between Gargrave and Otterburn.
It's tarmacked as it takes you past Gargrave House, then turns into a track as it goes via a barn at Crag Laithe (photo at the top of the Route Notes section) to the river Aire at Bell Busk.
I saw a flock of goldfinches by the side of Mark House Lane.
Cross the Aire at Bell Busk, then turn right a little further on and cross Otterburn Beck. You're now on Kirk Syke Lane, which is just a grassy path at first.
Near Kirk Syke I came across a lot of house martins, some of them in acrobatic flight low over the pasture, and others lined up on the telephone wires waiting to go off on their holidays to Africa.
Kirk Syke Lane brings you to Airton. It has a farm shop that was the setting for BBC's Top of the Shop with Tom Kerridge.
There's also a Quaker Meeting House which doubles up as a bunkhouse and café.
Cross the Aire and climb to the hamlet of Calton. Here, there's a bridleway which is a little bit steep at first before the gradient eases. It takes you across Calton Moor.
At the top of the hill is Weets Gate, near Weets Top. There's a stone waymarker by the gate (main photo at the top of the page).
A descent brings you to the road, Smearbottoms Lane. After the farm at Lee Gate the road turns into a track that leads to the old Roman Road, Mastiles Lane.
Turn right on Mastiles Lane, then fork right off it towards Malham Moor Lane.
Turn right off Malham Moor Lane on a track that is well-maintained, and has little wooden bridges over the streams and bogs. It doesn't last of course, and it turns into a grassy path then a walled track.
Cross Boss Moor Lane at Sheepfold and continue on a track called Moor Lane. There are views of Winterburn Reservoir.
Fork right on Cross Lane then continue on paths of variable quality to Friars Head.
From Friars Head there's another bit of track past Brockabank to Eshton Grange. From Eshton Grange, take the road back to Gargrave.
Parts of this route could be boggy in wet weather, especially the return from Mastiles Lane.
If so, instead of forking right on Cross Lane you could stay on Moor Lane as far as Hetton, and take the road from there back to Gargrave.
While grinding up Calton Moor to Weets Gate, it occurred to me that the slope would make a good descent. I therefore plotted Bell Busk Bumble anticlockwise, and it is a better ride done that way.
The Bell Busk Bumble mountain bike ride is covered by the 1:50,000 OS Landranger map number 98 Wensleydale and Upper Wharfedale.
New in 2023, Bike Rides in the Yorkshire Dales is available in colour paperback.
Bike Rides In and Around York features a historical city tour, plus family rides, road rides, and mountain bike rides.
Bike Rides in Harrogate and Nidderdale is a book of family, mountain and road bike rides.