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  • Writer's pictureTobes

No Through Road. No Problem.

Updated: Dec 20, 2019

If you're anything like me you'll know the anguish of not being able to vary a ride beyond an out-and-back. I'll go to ludicrous lengths to add some sort of spurious loop into a ride so that it's not just a straight line there and back.

Wherever "there" is and no matter how lovely it is, I always feel like a journey on my bike shouldn't just be that same place from different angles. You get the point(-to-point).

But, and it's a very significant concession of a "but", since moving to the Cold Dark North I've learned the beautiful value of dead end roads. It's a strangely compelling, enforced, exception to the rule against out-and-back. I've been meaning for sometime to write about some of my favourite dead end roads in the area. So here they are.

I know there will be others that I haven't yet discovered yet. Please do tell me about them as I'd love to investigate (probably as part of a loop though!).

We've written about this glorious climb in depth before as part of our Secret Climbs series last year. You can read all about the remote old mining road that ends at a farm in the high Dales in the Road Gauge here.

(Incidentally, it's just round the corner from the only genuine out-and-back that I regularly tolerate - the 50km from my front door to the top of Barbondale and back.)

2. Martindale ("Martin's Fingers")

Whenever we post pictures of the climb that leads to this obscure and isolated network of no-through-road valleys on the South-East side of Ullswater, we're met with a volley of "where is that"/"OMG" responses - even from the local pros!

It's true that the bends of the Martindale Hause are iconic and offer a British alternative to the Lacets de Montvenier, but you won't really see that until you come back to descend them having explored the sister dead end valleys of Bannerdale and Rampsgill (divided by the Nab).

If you're looking for a beautiful, remote and unusual ride in the Lake District, this one should be on your list. Accessible from Sedbergh, Tebay, Penrith, Keswick and Ambleside/Windermere it's a 30km extension to any route through Pooley Bridge that you won't regret.

3. Mosedale towards Knott (and back, obviously) (

Recommended by a friend, this remote little valley road in the shadows of Blencathra and Great Calva is a real beauty. It's not long, it's not steep but it is very very beautiful and uterly deserted most (if not all) of the time.

The road (which eventually gives up and becomes a gravel track) follows the sedate River Caldew from Mosedale and back in just 7km. One to throw into any routes you're planning in the beautiful North Lakes.

4. Wasdale Head from Eskdale Green

The Lake District's wildest valley, allegedly. This iconic Lakeland road runs from Eskdale Green (at the foot of the infamous Hardknott Pass) North and then East alongside Wast Water (England's deepest lake) to the base of Scafell Pike and Great Gable. Here you'll find the dinky little St Olaf's church and the Wasdale Head Inn.

It's a 30km round trip from Eskdale to Wasdale so you might want a pint in the serene surroundings before you head for home on the same gorgeous road you rode in on.

Great Dun Fell. The Great Dun Fell. If you've ridden it or researched it then you'll know. If you haven't, make it one of your top priorities for riding a bike in the UK. Simon Warren famously described it as England's Mont Ventoux. It's an 11/10 climb in his book and it gets a similarly effusive review from us.

The 7.5 kilometre journey up its sinuous tarmac to the ‘top of the world’ is without doubt one of the greatest experiences you can have on two wheels in England. The final 2 miles up to the "Giant Golf Ball" (weather station) at the top are not only a dead end but also a closed road. So perfect, uninterupted, tarmac disguises the pain of the multiple sections over 20%. And those several segments over 25%. Even with its little sting in the tail in the last 500m, this is a sublime section of road.

Be warned, the descent is very fast and twisty and on a breezy day (which it often is on England's highest paved road) care should be applied even by the most competent of downhillers. By the time you've returned to Dufton it'll be time for a slice of cake from the excellent Postbox Pantry.

If you know of any great dead end roads in the Cold Dark North that you think we've missed, let us know - there's always plenty more to discover!

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