Friday, 21 March 2014

Day 3: 19 March 2014 - Thornton-le-dale to Whitby (24 miles)

We got up even earlier for this our third day of cycling, with our main destination 24 miles ahead of us following a gruelling ride over the moors with no rain but some wind to keep things challenging. With a planned route via Dalby Forest and Goathland, we knew there would be no short of energy required today, so we left the guesthouse in good time following a hearty breakfast, knowing we would need every ounce of fuel we could muster.

Going Ape in Dalby Forest - looks like fun!
Things started off in high (or low) gear right from the off, with a brisk climb towards Dalby Forest testing our legs right from the off. Fortunately, our turn-off came sooner than we anticipated and we passed through Dalby Forest enjoying the long straight smooth road. We in fact enjoyed it so much that we missed our (admittedly easy to miss) turnoff and headed round to the right before we realised we wouldn't be reaching our destination any time soon that way. Having passed Go Ape (an airborne assault course that looks like GREAT fun) we turned back towards High Dalby house where our turn-off just so happened to be a mud track heading over the river that fortunately was reasonably cycleable to begin with.

The turn-off we SHOULD have taken...
Having made it back to the main road, we headed slightly downhill to turn off to the pleasant and isolated villages of Lockton and Levisham. Into Lockton was a nice easy downhill whilst into Levisham was an even steeper downhill (20% gradient) with a wonderful downhill following a magnificent view over the valley. Heading down into the valley we were soon met with another punishing 20% gradient back up into the second village which we knew we weren't going to manage on our bikes, so off we hopped again before clambering back on following a brief rest at the top of the hill. Levisham is basically two rows of houses on either side of the village green, and is genuinely very remote but still has it's share of B&B's and a village pub.

Checking we're going the right way.
We headed out of the village onto open moorland, having passed a woman walking her dog who told us we could expect some wind out on the moor. Fortunately, this didn't prove to be the case, and we had a pleasant 3 mile saunter over relatively even terrain that none-the-less would not be optimal riding over a long period, but did allow us to experience some genuine seclusion. This brought us back out onto the main A169 towards Whitby which gave us our first proper downhill of the day.

Resting after a 20% climb into Levisham.
Following this good run, we turned off for the village of Goathland, famous for being the village where ITV's Heartbeat was filmed, and very popular during the 1990's. The village itself is full of souvenir shops and cafe's selling all sorts of Heartbeat memorabilia, and you'd be forgiven for thinking you were no longer in 2014. Our ride into the village was over open moorland was indeed very windy, and we were almost blown into some sheep a few times. Fortunately, we made it into the village and after a brief-rest stop, went on our merry way again.

The picturesque yet remote village of Levisham.
Leaving the village brings a fierce 1 in 4 (25%) gradient that even the best of road bikes would be hard pressed to manage. We passed the scenic North York moors railway (stopping for a photo) and then out of the village for the more gradual (yet still windy) incline that would lead us back out on to the main road for the highlight of our trip - the incredible downhill run that is Blue Bank.

Crossing the moor on two wheels.
Blue Bank is surely famed in this area of the country for it's sheer drop, as there is an escape lane 800 yeards in for cars that cannot handle it and need to stop in an emergency. Fortunately, being much slower than cars, yet able to get up to speed easily on the downhill run, Blue Bank is a cyclists dream, whilst being curvy enough to test your bike's steering and braking skills. Fortunately for us, we didn't need to stop once, and must have hit around 40mph before we got to the bottom and entered the village of Sleights. A nasty shock hit us when we realised there is a nasty uphill before us right at the bottom. Fortunately, we were able to turn off just before hitting any more ascents, with huge grins on our faces following the adrenaline rush gained on the downhill run.

The downhill run to the next village.
The right turn brought us to the pleasant village of Ruswarp, where we stopped briefly to decide whether to join the main road to Whitby or to turn right and find the Scarbrough to Whitby cycle trail that would bring us out in the centre of Whitby. We decided on the latter, following a brief but nasty climb that led us over an old railway line that gave us a good view of Whitby in the distance before planting us right in the centre of town. Having reached our destitution, we decided to buy some good old fish and chips before seating ourselves on top of the hill overlooking the town near Captain Cook's statue and simply savouring our achievement at making it 100 miles from home to here. In reality, with a few diversions and other distractions, I think we had actually hit 106 miles by this point, but as we had hit three figures, we revelled in our glory and, having eaten our fill, headed to our place of lodging for the night.

Last stop before Whitby - choosing which way to go.
Captain's Lodge where we stayed was a curious mix of old and new, but had a saving grace in the fact that there was a very comfortable sofa in our bedroom just begging for the weary traveller to relax in.  Having washed ourselves and relaxed for a while, we headed out to explore the town, before later on heading to a traditional 1940's pie restaurant where you can get a range of pies and mash for the humble price of £5.99, with a wonderful dessert of Jam Roly Poly to fill you up afterwards if you're hungry enough (I certainly was). After this we were flagging with tiredness, so headed back in to rest up for the night before the 20 mile trip down the coast to Scarborough where we would catch our train home.

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