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Keighley to Saltaire cycle route

5 Locks Rise, Bingley

Five Rise Locks, Bingley

This cycle route, chosen as Stage 4 of the Sustrans Slow Tour of Yorkshire, is from Keighley, along the towpath of the Leeds & Liverpool canal, to Saltaire. It's 6 miles one way, so 12 miles there and back. This is the Sustrans leaflet for the ride.

I really enjoyed this ride. The canal is very picturesque, and there are points of interest along the way, particularly the Five Rise Locks at Bingley (where there is a good café). The destination, Saltaire, is pleasant and interesting.

Because of the state of the towpath, it's really a mountain bike ride; at the least, you need a gravel bike or a hybrid with off-road tyres. The surface for most of the way is stones packed together, with some mud; where there's tarmac, it's hopelessly potholed; and just before Bingley, there's a stretch with a lot of standing water in puddles.

I've got nothing against mountain biking, but I think a canal towpath should be a consistent and reasonably smooth surface, suitable for family bike rides. I have the strong impression that cycling is grudgingly tolerated by the Canal & River Trust, and they are terrified that if they put a half-decent surface down, they'll be overrun by hordes of Simon Yates wannabees; in reality, that's extremely unlikely.

Deteriorated surface on canal towpath near Damart factory

Deteriorated towpath surface near Damart factory

Keighley to Saltaire cycle route: map

The map shows the route from Leeds to Saltaire in yellow.

Keighley to Saltaire cycle route: route notes

Keighley

Keighley station

If you start from Keighley station, the route to the canal is ok, but not well-signposted.

Turn right out of the station, and right again down Dalton Lane. Pass Dalton Mills, and turn left down Worth Bridge Road.

Dalton Mills, Keighley

Dalton Mills, Keighley

Part-way down Worth Bridge Road, the Airedale Greenway begins, as a right fork.

Airedale Greenway, Keighley

Start of Airedale Greenway, Keighley

The Airedale Greenway runs alongside the river Worth, then takes you under the busy Aire Valley Road to Aireworth Grove. At the end of Aireworth Grove, you turn left on Aireworth Road, and arrive at the B6265 Bradford Road. Turn right onto it. It's a busy road. There's a painted cycle lane: it's not too bad, because there's plenty of width to the road, and even to the cycle lane, but it would be better if there was physical protection (kerb or metal bollards).

Turn left on Bar Lane. Perhaps surprisingly, this is quite a steep hill you have to go up to reach the canal.

Canal at Keighley

Leeds & Liverpool canal, Keighley

Keighley to Bingley

Turn right onto the canal towpath. The first bit is rough, because you pass behind houses: every house has a downpipe, and for every downpipe there are cobbles for the rainwater to run over the towpath and into the canal. They act like a series of extreme speed bumps.

A right turn on the first road that the canal crosses, Granby Lane, would take you to East Riddlesden Hall, a National Trust house and garden.

Go straight on, and the canal takes you past Crossflatts. Then, at the northern edge of Bingley, you come to the major landmark (or watermark) on this route, Five Rise Locks.

Five Rise Locks, Bingley

Five Rise Locks, Bingley

There's a café over the canal to your left, the Five Rise Locks Café. I had scrambled egg on toast, and coffee. It was friendly service and great grub - recommended.

Five Rise Locks café

Five Rise Locks café

It's steeply downhill alongside the Five Rise Locks. In the other direction, going uphill, it's not quite Alpe d'Huez - mainly because there are no hairpins - but you need to be in a low gear.

At Bingley, you go past the Damart building.

Damart building, Bingley

Damart, Bingley

The canal continues around the edge of Bingley. Where it goes under Primrose Lane/Dowley Gap Lane, the Fisherman's Inn is to your right.

Fishermans Inn

The Fisherman's Inn, Bingley

Bingley to Saltaire

The next bridge has some age and character. You go over it, to ride on the left hand side of the canal.

Bridge over the canal near Bingley

Bridge over the canal near Dowley Gap

Then comes Dowley Gap. This aqueduct takes the canal (and towpath, and you) over the river Aire. It's a seven arch structure, but you don't necessarily get a view or an impression of it from the canal towpath - you'd have to go down to river level.

It's only a short way now to Saltaire, the destination of this ride.

Roberts Park, Saltaire

Roberts Park, Saltaire

Return route

It's quite a short ride, so it is definitely one that can easily be done there and back. Return by the way you came.

All photos © Hedgehog Cycling

Leeds to Saltaire cycle route: comments and suggestions

This is an enjoyable ride, with Five Rise Locks providing a real point of interest. Because of the surface, it's really a mountain bike route, and it would be made more family-friendly by putting in a smoother, consistent surface.

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Saltaire

Salts Mill, Saltaire

Salts Mill, Saltaire

Saltaire is a Victorian model village to the west of the centre of Shipley. It was built in 1851 by Sir Titus Salt.

The village included stone houses for Salt's mill workers, washing and bathing houses, a hospital, library, concert hall, billiard room, science lab, and gym. There were also almshouses, allotments, a park, and a school.

Saltaire is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Salts Mill

Sir Titus Salt

Salts Mill was the project of Sir Titus Salt, who had five woollen mills in Bradford. He wanted to move his business and workers away from the pollution there. He chose Saltaire as the location of this mill, because it was by the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and the river Aire, which would provide transport links, and because it was close to the moors to the north.

Salts Mill was completed in 1853. Sir Titus died in 1876, but the mill kept going until 1986.

Now, Salts Mill houses an art gallery, and a variety of cafés and restaurants, plus shops including All Terrain Cycles.

Roberts Park

Kingfisher, Roberts Park

Kingfisher, Roberts Park

Roberts Park is part of Saltaire model village. It was named by Sir James Roberts, who was part of a partnership that took Saltaire over after the death of Titus Salt Junior. Sir James named it in memorial to his second son, Bertram Foster Roberts.

The park has a bandstand, the Half Moon Pavillion, and a play area and skate park.

The Aire runs past the park, and it seems that there are plenty of fish in it, because I saw a heron by the weir, and a pair of kingfishers flying fast and low over the water. The birds here may be used to people, and more tolerant of them than in other less populated areas, so it's easier to get a good look and a photo.

Heron, Roberts Park

Heron, Roberts Park

Dalton Mills Bridge over canal nr BingleyRoberts Park, Saltaire