Tour de Yorkshire – 2017 Highlights

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

Robin Hoods Bay

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.

Seaside Scarborough

Scarborough

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.

Historic Ripon

Fountains Abbey

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.

Harrogate

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

Bolton Abbey

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.

Holmfirth

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.

Tour de France – Gear up and see France from the saddle

Become King of the Mountains in France

Believe it or not, it’s Tour de France season again! That means now’s the perfect time to think about bikes, France, and combining the two in the perfect holiday.

A quick look at how seriously the French take the Tour de France proves that cycling really is a national passion here. And why wouldn’t it be, what with varied scenery, a great climate, and charming towns and villages all conveniently linked by thousands of miles of quiet roads?

Better by bike

The brilliant thing about France is that there’s cycling here for everyone, whether you’re an avid racer tackling infamous Alpine climbs or a total novice hoping to coast along from café to café.  Better still, cycling isn’t just a good way to keep fit, it’s also a lovely way to meet the locals and see a country close up, and you’ll find yourself in out-of-the-way places many tourists never really see.  One thing is for sure: whatever your interests and level of fitness, France is a country made for experiencing on two wheels – the only problem is deciding which bit to explore!

Later on we’ll help you get to grips with some of the practicalities of cycling in France, but let’s start with a quick rundown of some of the country’s best regions for a two-wheeled adventure of your own.  Remember, with more than half a million miles of roads to choose from (and that’s excluding motorways!) there’s a huge network of cycle-friendly routes covering every corner of the country.  Look out for so-called ‘voies verte’ routes too, as these ‘greenway’ routes are a particularly good option for families because they’re generally flat and completely free from motor vehicles.  Some even follow scenic disused railways or canal towpaths.

Normandy, beach and rock formation in Etretat

Normandy, beach and rock formation in Etretat

The way to go…

There’s enjoyable cycling to be had all over France, and with thousands of holiday properties located throughout the country, it’s easy to find the perfect base from which to explore by bike.

The famous Loire Valley is ideal for beginners, with easy terrain, a user-friendly cycle trail and plenty of great sightseeing, including iconic châteaux.  Normandy and Brittany make good bases too, although Brittany’s intricate coastline makes cycling inland an easier option here.   If it’s big mountain scenery and a serious cycling challenge you’re after, head for the French Alps and enjoy (or endure!) some of the world’s legendary road and off-road routes.

France’s Atlantic coast offers the best coastal cycling in the country, and it includes islands you can reach from the mainland situated between the Gulf of Morbihan and the Gironde.  So long as you avoid some of the main roads – especially in peak season – the areas around rivers like the Dordogne, Lot and Aveyron also make ideal cycling country.  Watch out for some steep but rewarding climbs as you leave the valley bottoms.

Aquitaine, Languedoc and the Midi-Pyrénées offer good opportunities for cyclists too, and it’s worth checking out the huge area of pine forest at Landes as well as St Emilion and its surrounding area.  Burgundy has plenty of interest to offer cyclists, including scenic canals through undulating terrain.   In pretty Alsace, the foothills of the Vosges are home to beautiful traditional villages well worth a visit, or pedal to Comar for a day in this wonderfully preserved historic town, often considered the capital of Alsatian wine.

Getting to, from and around France

Whether you’re driving to France or flying and picking up a hire car, it’s possible to take your own bikes with you.  Choosing this option won’t just save you the time and expense of hiring bikes when you arrive at your destination, it means you’ll get to ride a bike you’re already familiar with.  If you decide to fly, check with your airline about the additional costs of taking your bike, and make sure you know how to pack it and whether or not it needs to be booked on the flight in advance.  Airline websites usually have all this information available under their ‘Baggage’ section.

Of course, if you’re a really keen cyclist you may even decide to ride to France!  A journey like this turns your holiday into an adventure, but be sure to plan and pack carefully.  Ferry companies will allow you to take your bike on board and, if you time it right, you might even be able to benefit from special offers aimed at cyclists.

Eurostar and the French rail network both allow bikes on trains, although you should check and book in advance by contacting either http://www.eurostar.co.uk or http://www.voyages-sncf.com.  It might be necessary to pay for transporting your bike, and not all high-speed TGV trains will carry bicycles.

If you prefer to hire bikes when you arrive at your destination, check carefully to make sure the bikes fit properly and are in good working order.  If you’re hiring for a few days, it’s even worth thinking about taking basic tools along too, like a puncture repair kit and a pump.

Points to remember

Just like at home, to stay safe and avoid breaking the law you need to know the rules of the road if you’re cycling on French highways, even the quiet ones.  Make sure you check for the latest laws and regulations covering traffic, safety equipment and bicycle set-up.  As a general rule, you must obey all traffic signs just as you would in a car.

  • The law doesn’t require you to wear a helmet in France, but it’s definitely strongly advised. If you’re riding in the dark away from urban areas, you’ll need to wear a high-visibility jacket too.
  • In towns and cities you must cycle in the marked cycle lanes wherever they are provided.
  • Don’t forget to check the latest law on alcohol limits and driving, because the same limits apply to cyclists as well. Ignoring these laws could lead to a major fine and the confiscation of your bike, and you could even have your car licence withdrawn.
  • In France, to be ‘roadworthy’ bikes need to have a bell as well as brakes that work properly. If you ride after dark, you’ll need to make sure your bike is also fitted with reflectors together with lights front and rear.
  • While it’s fine during the daylight hours, don’t ride side by side at night, no matter how tempting it is.
  • Always make sure that your holiday insurance covers you for the type of riding you’ll be doing. If you’re mountain biking in the Alps or road racing in a competition, you might need specialist insurance to cover any medical costs arising from an accident.  Never be tempted to skimp on this – medical and repatriation bills can quickly run into tens of thousands of pounds, or even more!

Last but not least, it’s worth doing a bit of research before your trip.  We’ve tried to give you a few of the basics here, but there’s a wealth of more detailed information available online.  Look at the tourism websites for the particular area of France you’d like to visit, and start your adventure with a visit to the official site for cycle tourism in France at www.francevelotourisme.com

Take a look at holiday cottages in France to find your perfect for cycling holiday accommodation.