Bike ride: Whinlatter Pass and Borrowdale, Cumbria

From high mountain passes to serene lake shores, this beautiful cycling route traces the physical and emotional journey of a couple dealing with the challenges of early-onset dementia in the romantic drama Supernova

Mountain and lake
Published: December 29th, 2021 at 6:23 am
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William Wordsworth is the quintessential Lakeland poet. One of his key inspirations was that of the sublime in nature, instilling a sense of awe and wonder even to the point of terror. Supernova is a road movie set within this sweep of land so adored by Wordsworth. 

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The romantic drama details the impact of dementia on a relationship, sensitively portraying a sublime aspect of love when compared to the excitement often seen in stories of fledgling romance. 

This challenging bike ride traces many of the filming locations, each with its own share of both tranquil beauty and awe-inspiring nature. 

Bikes parked in mountains
Bikes parked on Whinlatter pass during an early spring morning ride/Credit: Stephen Fleming, Alamy

Whinlatter Pass and Borrowdale bike ride

28.5 miles/46km | 3–4 hours | moderate–challenging

1. Passing through

Leave Keswick on the B5289, following a short stretch on the A66 before taking the B5292 to the left. A steep climb after Braithwaite leads to England’s only true mountain forest, Whinlatter, with its fantastic mountain bike trails. Keep your eyes peeled for red squirrels in the flanking spruce and fir forest. Drop from the pass via rough upland farmland to the verdant green patchwork fields of Lorton Vale.

2. Lakeside stopover

Upon entering the village of Lorton, take a left, following signs for Buttermere. You can visit the yew tree immortalised by Wordsworth and call in at the village shop to fuel up on excellent coffee. 

Turn left on the B5289 and when the road turns off to Buttermere, continue straight on. About half a mile later, pull into the car park just before the road crosses the River Cocker.

Perhaps the most iconic location from Supernova is the lakeside beach where Sam and Tusker park their campervan for a night. It is well worth leaving your bike and walking through Lanthwaite Wood to reach the shore of Crummock Water with its mountain views. It is particularly stunning in the autumn as the beech, birch and larch trees sport a canopy of warm colours.

Village in the mountains
Cycle past the cottages in the village of Seatoller, Borrowdale/Credit: John Morrison, Alamy

3. Cycle to the col

Return to the B5289 and follow it to Buttermere. The peaceful lakes you pass were scooped out of the land thousands of years ago when slow-moving glaciers carrying hard rocks scoured the earth.

After passing Buttermere, the ascent of Honister Pass approaches. In Supernova, as Tusker and Sam drive down Honister Pass, the seriousness of their situation seems to envelop them. This is also the most challenging part of the bike ride, as you climb from around 100m at lake level to 356m at the col. 

At the top of the pass stands Honister Slate Mine, where Westmorland Green Slate has been excavated possibly as far back as the Roman period. The historical scars of the mine are visible on the landscape and noticeable in scenes from the film.

4. Back to the cinema

After descending the pass to Seatoller, enjoy the flatness of the Borrowdale valley. Ride beside Derwentwater, home to Britain’s rarest fish, the vendace. Upon reaching Keswick, treat yourself; perhaps some well-deserved tapas at The Square Orange beckons, or why not watch a movie at the Alhambra Cinema to inspire a future adventure?  

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Whinlatter Pass and Borrowdale map

Keswick, Whinlatter Pass and Crummock Water bike route and map

Keswick, Whinlatter Pass and Crummock Water bike route and map

Authors

Christopher Ridout is a walker and writer with a keen interest in history and mythology.

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