Dashing through dramatic countryside and taking in two World Heritage Sites, from Friday 28 April to Sunday 30 April, Yorkshire will be gripped once more by the gruelling beauty of Le Tour.
In honour of the third competition, we’ve picked some superb spots to catch the whir of wheels, plus the greatest en route attractions to enjoy all year round.
Pocklington and the Yorkshire Wolds
Stage 1 of this year’s Tour, aptly named ‘The Coast and Wolds’ pursues a lovely loop between the coastal resorts of Bridlington and Scarborough, whizzing through the wonderful Yorkshire Wolds in the middle. The first ‘King of the Hill’ climb hits cyclists at Côte de Garrowby Hill, immortalised by the swirling, technicolour bends in David Hockney’s painting. Take your own Hockney art trail around Thixendale, Sledmere and Woldgate, or base yourself in nearby Pocklington-the Gateway to the Yorkshire Wolds. Walk The Wolds Way; take to your own two wheels on the Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route or simply salute the peloton.
Robin Hoods Bay and the coast
Smugglers hideout turned tourist mecca, Robin Hoods Bay in the North York Moors National Park is one of this coast’s most scenic stop-offs. Famous for fossils and fish and chips, the tiny fishing village’s beach has been voted one of the best in the world. Low tides allow you to walk along the shore to neighbouring sands. Alternatively, you can cycle north to Whitby on the captivating Coastal Cycle Trail. Dominated by gothic gorgeousness, here you can discover ‘Dracula’s’ abbey, visit the excellent Captain Cook Memorial Museum or lose yourself in the vintage emporia amongst cobbled hills and alleyways.
The legendary sprint finish along Scarborough’s North Bay forms the thrilling finale to Stage 1. This quintessential coastal town is believed to have been the world’s first seaside resort; holidaymakers have flocked to Scarborough’s golden sands for nearly 400 years. The epitome of British good-old-fashioned fun, there are two charming beaches guarded by a splendid castle, a Sea life Sanctuary, an open air theatre and two Victorian funicular cliff lifts. A stroll past North Bay’s rainbow-bright beach huts cheer up the dullest day.
Heralded as the day of ‘Historic Market Towns’, Stage 2 begins in Tadcaster and both the men’s and women’s route will set riders racing past the World Heritage Site of Fountains Abbey – Britain’s most complete surviving Cistercian abbey. This magnificent 12th century monument is surrounded by a medieval deer park with miles of easy walks and the stunning Georgian masterpiece, Studley Royal Water Gardens. If nature’s not your thing, indulge your gambling side at Ripon racecourse, or visit its imposing cathedral and ancient crypt, dating back to the 7th century.
Any self-respecting Tour de France fan will remember Mark Cavendish’s heartbreaking fall in Harrogate in 2014. Stage 2 will again climax here, showcasing this sophisticated North Yorkshire spa town in an exhilarating sprint finish. After all that excitement, let off steam in the opulent saunas and plunge pools at the Turkish Bath & Health Spa and enjoy the town’s elegant shops and restaurants. The original Bettys tea shop was first opened here in 1919 and shoppers have been queuing round the corner ever since! Alternatively, stroll through the Grade II listed Valley Gardens or wander the 200 acres of the Stray; a town centre grassland, enchanting at cherry blossom time.
Bradford & Salts Mill
Stage 3 begins with a backdrop of fountains in the multi-award winning City Park in Bradford city centre. Wheeling through the handsome Lister Park and past Cartwright Hall – home to works by JS Lowry and Andy Warhol, following the peloton’s path is a great way to explore the city. You could also squeeze in a trip to the National Science and Media Museum or prestigious Alhambra Theatre. Craft beer fans won’t want to miss the Keighley and Worth Valley Ale Trail. On to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Saltaire, an impressive Victorian model village dominated by Salts Mill itself, which displays a large collection of artworks from local lad turned internationally renowned artist, David Hockney.
Skipton and the Dales
Frequently listed as one of Britain’s best places to live, Skipton boasts an award-winning market, a museum and an impressively-preserved Norman castle. The town is also surrounded with natural splendour. The Yorkshire Dales National Park expands to the north with riverside delights at Burnsall and Appletreewick, and the beautiful Bolton Abbey lies close by, to the east. This longest and toughest stage has the terrifying moniker, ‘The Yorkshire Terrier’ – presumably on account of the eight hill climbs! A good bet for spectating is the Côte de Silsden – a 1.5km hill with a 10.4% gradient, i.e. steep! It’s bound to slow even these superhuman cyclists down.
There’s a Hollywood in the hills of South Yorkshire? Yes, Holmfirth or ‘Little Hollywood’, as it’s known, has its own film festival and is immortalised as the quaint setting for TV classic, Last of the Summer Wine. Nestling in the picturesque Holme Valley, you can drink in the view whilst sipping a tipple at Holmfirth Vineyard. The peloton rushes through Holmfirth itself but perhaps the highlights of this gruelling third day are the four huge climbs at the eccentrically named Deepcar, Wigtwizzle, Ewden Height and Midhopestones, which the riders must conquer before chasing down the finish line at Fox Valley, Sheffield.
For more info on this year’s route, check out Le Tour’s official website.