Alston to Dent
Prior to the ride, this was the day that I was most apprehensive about. As my name is Dent, staying at Dent one night was a must for the tour but the remoteness meant that it was hard to plan a balanced set of similar length days. The result was that Day 4 would be the longest mileage, the most climbing and include the highest point on the whole route.
Whilst I was confident I would finish the route, I wasn’t confident that I would manage to do it before the few food places in Dent (2 pubs) stopped serving particularly as I would be there on Sunday night. If there had been a strong head wind, I’d worked out how I could short the ride by getting a train on the Settle-Carlisle line (reducing the day to about 40 miles). It turned out this wasn’t necessary.
I was up for breakfast at the earliest possible service time (8am) and was then on the road shortly afterwards. The first part of the route is one of the longest climbs in England up to Hartside Summit (1903ft) which turned out to not be as bad as I thought it might be. The first 6 miles of the route is uphill but none of it is too steep and the surface is generally excellent new tarmac. The weather was gorgeous, there wasn’t much traffic (and what there was, was courteous) and I was surrounded by lapwings and the occasional curlew.
After an hour I was at the top and able to demonstrate my complete inability to take selfies. There was a cafe at the top which was renowned for its home baking but they seem to have taken this motto too seriously as the cafe had been burnt down in 2018. Magnificent views of the Lakeland fells in the distance and a well painted Sustrans milepost.
After a break for a rest and photos, the downhill started. There is the option of following the main road down to Melmerby (which I think is all downhill) but I followed the NCN 68 signs which turn off to the right of the main road (don’t miss the turn as you’re likely to be going fast). There are also off road options which I ignored. The back road route was nice but involved some climbs and some care is needed with the descending as there are some blind corners. After 14 miles I stopped at the Village Bakery in Melmerby for coffee and cake – lovely garden, bike parking and a fine selection of food.
Halfway down the descent (12 miles) I passed the village of Unthank and made a brief diversion from the route. Turns out it has nothing at all to do with the folk group, The Unthanks!
The route now follows quiet roads to the west side of the Pennine hills with great views to the east and a gently undulating route with occasional great downhill sections. Of particular beauty was the 3 mile or so downhill from Murton approaching Appleby. This includes some great scenery alongside the river. You can see from the photos what beautiful weather I was lucky to get!
Short break in Appleby (33 miles) where there are a selection of shops and areas near the river suitable for picnics. Overall the town seemed to be a disappointment although it is hard to put my finger on why this was so. Appleby Castle turned out to be a wedding venue and all the shops and pubs seemed a little run down.
More climbing up to another 1000ft summit near Little Asby Scar (42 miles) and then another great downhill to Orton (47 miles) . This part of the route is remote and follows a quiet moorland road.
By this time I was ready for a break and found a great cafe in Orton – part of the chocolate factory shop – very welcome cream scone and milkshake. Highly recommended.
The route now approaches the scenic part of the M6 motorway and passes under the motorway at about 49 miles. One of the few decent service stations (Tebay) on the motorway network can be visited by a slight diversion at 50 miles although I missed out this option. The route follows the hills alongside the motorway for a while before turning away to take the road to Sedburgh (60 miles).
After Sedburgh, I passed a signpost to Dent pointing along a quiet country road and saying Dent was only 4 miles away. The NCN68 blue signs pointed at right angles and up a steep, gated road which promised more mileage and climbs. It didn’t disappoint! Probably worth it for the continued nice views although I was ready to end the day’s riding my this time.
Arrived in Dent by about 6pm so well within the pub food serving hours. A magnificent day’s ride. I stayed at the Sun Inn which offered a good sized bedroom (not en suite but with washbasin) for £35 including breakfast. Recommended. I was able to store my bike in their storage garage alongside their spare drinks, beers, etc. so pretty secure.
After a meal at the Sun Inn (basic choice but good helpings and good quality, I had a tour around Dent to see the sights and then sampled some of the Dent beers at the Dent brewery tap (George & Dragon). Useful fact – Dent Brewery is the most remote brewery in Britain.