The route follows the Esk valley railway in the north of the National Park. The route follows the Esk Valley walk in place as well quiet and mostly flat roads. The offroad riding varies between easy gravel tracks, woodland single track and some interesting stone slabs in the woods. The climbs tend to be short and steep, but there are none of the huge climbs you find on the moorland routes. Despite the length, the lack of technical difficulty makes parts of the route suitable for beginners, especially as there are frequent pubs, shops and cafes in the many villages on the route.
Instead of a loop the train is used to return to the start. The train service can be infrequent, especially on winter Sundays, so some planning is required to coordinate with the train timetable. If you are running late, don’t worry too much as you can always board at one of the many intermediate stations. It’s worth printing out the time table and taking it with you so as to be able to judge your progress against train times.
As there are many flat road sections it is easier to ride to the route with the wind at your tail. As Kildale is higher than Sleights, and the prevailing wind is from the south east, the route is described from west to east. If there is a strong easterly wind it is recommended you ride the route in reverse.
Mostly well drained and generally a good all weather route. Fast rolling tyres are an advantage for the many road miles, but you will need something with a decent grip to cope with the stone slabs especially when they are wet. The author has found that in summer, semi slick tyres work well for this route.
The great beauty of the route is that you can extend or contract the route very easily. The route is graded as a ‘medium hard’, but would be a good beginner route if you were to start at Commondale or Danby and finish at intermediate station. If you want a slightly longer route, start at Great Ayton and follow the Roseberry Castleton route over Coate Moor to Kildale. If you don’t mind a few extra road miles and have the time, extending the route to Whitby via Ruswarp and the road along the south of the Esk to Whitby makes a great finish. Although the route is ridden west to east, the route is just as good in reverse although there is an extra few hundred feet of climb.
Some sections can be busy, especially in summer, with ramblers. When you board the train, make sure you tell the train guard you have a bike and wish to stop at Kildale. The short platform there can cause a problem with longer trains as the train has to stop in the right place for the bike compartment to face the platform.
Park on the street in Kildale village. There is plenty of on-street parking in the village and some free parking at the station.
From the village, head west on the road ignoring any side roads. After crossing over the railway you will climb towards a ridge. Carry on up the hill and go straight across at the cross roads. After a fast descent and a punishing steep climb you will coast down into Commondale. At the junction in Commondale turn right towards the station. A quarter of a mile after the junction, at Foul Green, the road turns downhill to the right, and a track carries straight on, by a signpost for the ‘Esk Valley Walk’ with a distinctive fish logo on the sign. Keep an eye out for these signs as you will be following this route off and on for a lot of the ride. Once on the track, follow the clearly signposted BW along the side of the valley. The surface is gravel and despite frequent gates you should make fast progress. After a short climb you will arrive at a road.
Turn right at the road and procede slowly downhill for 200 yards, taking care not to miss the wooden sign pointing left to the BW. Follow the rough track passing though some woods on pleasant, woodland single track. After the woods, the track widens as it crosses over fields, before reaching the road by Winsley Hill farm. At the road turn left, and head east towards Danby over some small but steep hills. At the crossroads in Danby turn to the right, go downhill and cross the rail and river bridges, and then climb up the hill through the village until you come to the first road to the left called Easton Lane.
Turn left onto Easton lane and follow the road along the valley until after ¾ of a mile you will see a left turn across a ford with an impossibly narrow stone bridge next to it. After crossing the river, carry straight on over a cross roads and again at the next cross roads ignoring the two roads to the left. Three quarters of a mile after the stone bridge, turn left at the cross roads towards Houlsyke village. Carry on through the village and follow the road which crosses the railway 3 times, before descending into Lealholm village to a crossroads.
At the cross road, carry straight over the road onto a BW signposted as the ‘Esk Valley Walk’. Follow the BW until you reach Underpark Farm. Turn left in the farm yard, go through a further gate and then go uphill and under a railway bridge. Turn right after the railway and head uphill through another gate and into a field. Head uphill over the field on the rough track until you come to a gate gaining access to a minor road.
Turn right on the minor road which starts to descend towards Park House Farm. Look for a gate with a ‘Ford’ sign and follow the very rough track, first down over the railway and then along side a stream until you come to a ford and a footbridge. Cross the river via the ford or footbridge (remember the river bed is very slippery and the water can be deeper than you think) and climb the steep and loose track on the other side before reaching the end of a minor road. Climb the steep hill on the minor road until you arrive at the crossroads in the village of Glaisdale.
Turn left at the cross roads and head downhill through the village for a few hundred yards until you see a side road to the left. Take the left turn and head down a very steep and narrow road, and then along the valley bottom. After a short climb you’ll arrive by the Arncliffe Arms pub. Just to the left of the pub is a steep track heading downhill. Take this track down to a footbridge and cross the stream, on the other side of the stream carry on until after a few feet you join a rough track. Turn left on this track, and a few feet further on, look for a steeply uphill path to the right. Follow this track which runs though the woods along side the river Esk. Before long the path starts to climb further up into the woods. The BW is surfaced in stone slabs which are challenging to ride especially when wet. After nearly a mile of excellent technical riding, you will arrive at the end of the BW and a road.