Above Haweswater looking north from Nan Bield Pass.
Mar 23
marketing@sharrowbay.co.uk's picture

Eastern Ullswater: Cycling the fells above Sharrow Bay

Ullswater is one of the best places in the UK for Mountain Biking, the Eastern Fells above us are iconic and we have three of the top 20 best mountain biking routes as billed by Mountain Bike Rider - including their number 1, Nan Bield Pass. http://www.mbr.co.uk/news/20-best-mountain-bike-trails-uk-322684 This is a great site for thoroughly thought through advice, from technical to etiquette, and they have a comprehensive selection of route guides. We like that they recommend Kendal Mint Cake as an energy boost - verified by a mountain biking family member. You can access the fells directly from Sharrow Bay - leave the hotel by the South entrance, follow the road a bit further South to the left hand turn for Swarthbeck which will take you directly to the main track along the bottom of the crags, (Raven, Whinny, Auterstone, and Long Crags to be precise). Here you turn left again and follow the bottom of the fells Northwards on a long gradual ascent on a good wide track until you reach the staggered crossroads with High Street and The Cockpit Pre-Historic stone circle. The mountain biking on this Northern stretch of fell is easier than at the South end of the lake, with an array of tracks and routes on the Askham and Barton Fells; it enjoys gentler approaches to the fell tops that reward you with beautiful extensive views for relatively little effort. If you have not brought your own bikes, cycle hire and even guiding can be arranged for you through local businesses, to suit your ambition and capabilities. However, on the southern reaches of these Eastern Mountains, following High Street towards Nan Bield Pass into Kentmere, you can find the increasingly iconic extreme mountain biking routes that are becoming known nationally. The best known and most popular of these is the loop around Place Fell, taking in the lakeside bridleway, and either the Martindale or Boredale Valleys leading from the foot of Hallin Fell. On leaving the hotel as before, turn right on joining the track at Swarthbeck and follow it through Howtown, joining the road at Martindale’s newer church for either the Martindale or Boredale routes up onto Boredale Hause. Or the route can be done anti clockwise so you descend in these valleys, by joining the bridleway at Sandwick. The most extreme, and therefore most hazardous routes are those that pass from North into South lakes over Nan Bield Pass at the head of Haweswater, (there is a free United Utilities car park at the end of the lake). The photo is looking north from above Small Water - the track is just visible winding its way up to the left of the tarn. This is proper ‘Mountain’ biking, on mountains, where you sometimes have to carry your bike on paths that are close to a scramble – and only wide enough for your foot! With steep arduous ascents, and equally steep descents, these are advisable only for the very experienced and very fit. However, if that is you – there is nowhere in the UK that beats this for thrills and accessibility. Ramp up the competitiveness by logging your times on Strava, and gratifyingly, see how many calories you’ve burnt doing so. You’ve earned that Sticky Toffee Pudding. YouTube handily has lots of videos enabling you to experience the routes ‘virtually’ before you give them a go yourself; and there are many cycling forums online providing first-hand experience and advice about the choice of routes. As with all Lake District outdoor activities, please dress and prepare appropriately. There are shops in Penrith and Rheged that provide outdoor wear and maps, if you need more than you have brought with you. One last worthwhile tip - because mobile phone reception is patchy around Ullswater, (and many other parts of the lakes), we would recommend you register your phone for the emergency 999 service which enables them to receive texts in very low signal areas; simply text the word ‘register’ to 999 and you will be led through the short set-up process. Cycle routes are marked on the OS maps - not all footpaths are also cycle routes, and going off-piste so to speak, is against the LDNPA guidelines for taking care of the environment. Some of these tops house unique wildlife habitats.