A new 258 mile (415km) bikepacking route has been launched on the Yorkshire Coast as part of the Route YC project, directing cyclists out to the white cliffs and beaches of Flamborough Head, the North Sea and Humber views of Spurn Point, and through the North York Moors National Park.
“The Route YC project originally started in 2019 as a driving route,” says Markus Stitz, the author, routesetter and round-the-world cyclist who created the long-distance epic. “I used that as a blueprint for the Adventure Route. It's the longest of three long routes we’ve created, along with the Adventure Weekender and Cycle Touring Route - and there are nine shorter loops as well.
To the north of Scarborough there are some sheer cliffs, and south of Scarborough, Flamborough Head is stunning; white chalky cliffs, loads of birds, really nice beaches.
“The area totally surprised me. It's already popular for tourists, but what I found interesting is that as soon as you get out of the honeypots there is so much more to explore. You just have to go 10km in-land from Whitby or Scarborough and you'll basically be by yourself. I like that combination of bikepacking in quiet areas, and then visiting all these little villages, with their famous hospitality.”
Stitz launched the new route with a short-film, after riding the 258-mile route along with fellow round-the-world cyclists Jenny Graham and Mark Beaumont.
“You have three people who have cycled around the world - Mark has done it twice - so we've been to many, many places, but all of us came back from the Yorkshire Coast with this realisation that it's a beautiful area to ride,” says Markus. “The people are outstanding and the route is terrific, from the history to the moors to the Yorkshire hospitality.”
The Adventure Route, which Stitz has broken down into five days of riding, is a loop, meaning the start and finishing point are flexible. “It was designed for a gravel bike or a mountain bike,” Markus says, “and I would suggest the best time to travel is between March and November. But it can be ridden all year round.
“The suggested start is Scarborough, because it’s really well connected by train. I also think it’s ideal as a starting point, as it allows you to ease into the route.
"There's a little bit of countryside first, then a really beautiful, long section along the coast. The route gets flatter towards the south and then, as you travel back in-land, it gets hillier again. The end of the route runs from Whitby to Scarborough on the Cinder Track. It's possibly one of the most scenic sections.”
Stitz laughs, adding: “The area does have a bit of a microclimate, though, so if you arrive and there’s a stinking headwind, it possibly makes sense to flip it around."
From Scarborough, day one of the trail heads 34-miles south along the Yorkshire coast. You’ll pass Hunmanby, home to Yorkshire’s first whisky distillery and the eastern end of the Yorkshire Wolds, the northernmost chalk hills in the UK. The white cliffs of Flamborough Head also come before day one ends in Bridlington, with the 56-mile second day on the route continuing on to the sand tidal of Spurns Point peninsula, often described as Yorkshire’s very own Lands End.
The national park feels very remote. Expect a mix of remote heather landscapes and tiny little villages and sheep cruising around in the streets.
“I think the coastal section is the most outstanding element of the route,” says Markus. “To the north of Scarborough there are some really sheer cliffs, and south of Scarborough, Flamborough Head is absolutely stunning; white chalky cliffs, loads of birds, really nice beaches.
“Spurn Point is this ever-moving landscape, and you get this contrast as you look over the Humber Estuary towards Hull and Grimsby, and see this massive built up area, while you’re standing in a place where there’s hardly anyone at all."
On day three, riders will head 60 miles to Driffield, the “Capital of the Wolds”, via the Gunpowder Plot Sculpture in Patrington and Tophill Low Nature Reserve.
The fourth day on the adventure route runs 65 miles north to Goathland, following a network of chalk gravel paths into the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Wolds and through North York Moors National Park. “The national park feels very remote,” says Markus. “Expect a mix of remote heather landscapes and tiny little villages and sheep cruising around in the streets.”
If somebody was coming out here on their first bikepacking trip, then they would be able to tailor it so it was really manageable.
There are options to extend the route around this area by detouring to some other sites included in the Route YC project. One particularly scenic spur runs to Glaisdale (pictured below), which is featured on the Grosmont Gravel Loop.
The final stretch from here runs 43 miles to Scarborough. “Down the coast from Whitby to Scarborough is really nice countryside,” says Markus. “It’s also on the Cinder Track, which is a well-established route. It’s an old railway line, but because there’s a steep incline, I don’t think it was ever commercially profitable. The trains struggled to get up at the best of times. When you travel along these old railway lines, it’s a little like travelling back in time. People on that train 100 years ago would’ve had that same view you’re looking at from your bike.”
“Some bits are tarmacked, some are gravel and in winter it can be boggy, but the scenery makes up for the odd rough section - and it is an adventure route. You then pass Robin Hoods Bay and Ravenscar and you’re set to Scarborough.”
As highlighted earlier, the 285-mile Adventure Route isn’t the only option for cyclists on Route YC, with the 91-mile (147km) Adventure Weekender and 109-mile (175km) Cycle Touring route launching at the same time.
Jenny Graham rode the route with Markus. “If somebody was coming out here on their first bikepacking trip, then they would be able to tailor it so it was really manageable,” she says. “And equally, if people are out here and they are really experienced, then they have the option of making the days a bit more challenging and a bit harder. That's something quite unique about this route.”
Mark Beaumont adds: "It's not just about the riding. It's about discovering these beautiful little Yorkshire villages and little market towns. There's a lot of history in this area which I've really appreciated coming across and seeing by bike."
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