This is the flapjack capital of Britain”, our guide Rupert declared as we reached The Shop on the Green in the riverside village of Burnsall.
“The recipes here are so secret they’re never written down.”
As anyone who has ever pedaled a bike any distance will tell you, flapjacks are the cyclist’s friend. When you’ve just spent the morning climbing up and over several Yorkshire dales, they suddenly become the very best friend you’ve ever had. We therefore needed no persuading to tuck into a range of delicious concoctions. “Make mine the apple, raisin, nut and muesli, please,” I said. Life was good: the sun was shining, the curlews were singing and we were testing out Britain’s newest long-distance cycle path – The Way of the Roses.
Up until now, our island nation has boasted just a single coast-to-coast route for cyclists, the C2C from Whitehaven/Workington to Sunderland/Newcastle. With The Way of the Roses, set up by the sustainable transport charity Sustrans, there’s another enticing option: a 169-mile ride from the pebbly beach at Morecambe in Lancashire to the sandy strand of Bridlington in East Yorkshire. And in case that sounds like the sort of challenge only the mustard keen and super fit could rise to, there’s good news: accommodation along the way is plentiful, so you can take as long as you like to cover the distance. And despite the fact that the route passes over the Pennines and the Yorkshire Wolds, there’s plenty of less heart-pumping riding, too. Oh, and there’s a prevailing westerly wind to help everyone along.
Fortified by flapjacks, our group – a disparate bunch ranging from enthusiastic lycra wearers to strictly fair weather pedalers – rolled into Ripon. Is this England’s most underrated city? I confess to being pleasantly surprised by its compact streets and chunky cathedral. We entered the spacious market place, dominated by a hugely impressive obelisk, and bore witness to what must be Britain’s oldest daily ceremony. Every evening without fail, since the year 886AD, a hornblower has signaled the closing of the city’s gates. We looked on as an elderly uniformed gentleman gravely blew a horn at all four corners of
the obelisk. “Ripon householders used to pay a penny or two to the hornblower each evening,” he explained to us afterwards.
“Then, if they were burgled in the night, he would compensate them.” Home contents insurance, it seems, is not quite the modern innovation we might think.
Taking it slow
Chancing upon such events is just one of the many joys of travelling slowly. We often found ourselves sidetracked by little villages or stopped in our tracks by eye-popping views. There was Huggate, for instance, possessor of mysterious stained-glass pelicans and England’s second deepest well; or tiny Winterburn, whose picturesque beck boasts rare English white-clawed crayfish.
And those views.Morecambe’s astonishing vista of the Cumbrian coastline melting into a sea mist; the austere beauty of the Pennines where only hardy livestock, dry stone walls and the occasional long suffering tree prevail; and the gentler scenes in the Yorkshire Wolds where we gazed down upon woodland shimmering in the haze beneath giant skies.
This is a route that takes in so many tempting distractions that, although hardened cyclists might want to complete it over a weekend, you’d really need a week to do it justice, especially if you want to sample the thousand-and-one teashops along the way. Even with four days at our disposal, our time at the sumptuous Georgian mansion of Beningbrough Hall, the awe-inspiring ruins of Fountains Abbey, and the extraordinary new walk-in art work on the heights of Coldstones Quarry (destined to give the Angel of the North a run for its money) was all too fleeting.
Soon we were freewheeling into the unashamedly full-on seaside resort of Bridlington. The sun bore down on a fine blue sea while the vinegar rose up like sweet perfume from our chips. Definitely worth crossing the country for.
HOW TO GET THERE
Both Morecambe and Bridlington are served by a regular train service. Singles to and from London start from £11.
FIND OUT MORE
If you only want to cycle a section of the route, there are handy train stations at Morecambe, Lancaster, High Bentham, Clapham, Giggleswick, Settle, York, Driffield and Bridlington. The section from Morecambe to Lancaster, which follows a car-free level path along the River Lune, is ideal for cyclists with young children.
83 North Street
Ripon HG4 1DP
Classy but unpretentious tucker.
Seasalt and Passion
22 West Street
Bridlington YO15 3DX
Serves delicious veggie dishes.
Coltsgate Hill, Ripon
Grade II listed accommodation set in an acre of gardens.
Morecambe LA4 4BU
Iconic art deco hotel.