Wednesday, 5 February 2014

How does this look?

Does this publish OK. What about the pic

This is my favourite ride in the Yorkshire Dales because you catch the train from Settle up to the start and then freewheel most of the way back down. The views from the railway - considered to be one of the most scenic in the UK - are superb but, of course, you can’t see some of the most notable features, three fine viaducts among them. A bike is the perfect means of inspection. Having traversed inhospitable moorland on what feel like the roof of the Dales you pass the crouching lion profile of Pen-y-ghent which heralds the most impressive viaduct, Ribblehead, a 24-arch marvel of Victorian civil engineering. Even on the finest day the scale of the achievement of building such a structure in such a harsh environment is very evident.A cosier corner of Ribblesdale can be found at Stainforth Force, a small three-cascade waterfall. Bring your swimming costume if the weather’s fine.

Hoy comes from the Old Norse ‘haey’ meaning high island and it’s the relief that makes this one of the Orkney Islands the odd man out and by far the most scenic and dramatic.The good news is that the high points largely surround the route rather than cross it so you’re mostly looking up at them rather than cycling over them. Take the ferry from Stromness to Hoy then the very quiet road through a beautiful glacial valley to Rackwick, a hamlet beside a glorious sandy beach  that was described by Orkney poet George Mackay Brown as "Orkney's last enchantment". No facilities nor visitor centre (not even for the Old Man of Hoy stack, a three-mile walk away) but that's the appeal. Return almost to the start then follow the road that runs along the eastern coast of Hoy with great views particularly of Scapa Flow, the base of the British naval fleet in the world wars. Pedal up to the Wee Fea viewpoint to pad around what looks like a haunted castle but is an old naval communications centre. All around the Lyness area you pass abadononed war buildings, some re-adopoted, some not, and including an Art Deco garrison theatre. Catch the ferry from Lyness back to Orkney mainland then blast the last eight miles back to Stromness.