It took me 25 years to visit North Yorkshire. I intended to blast through on my way up to Scotland, but a simple question struck me as I rode through. Why haven’t I ridden in this beautiful part of England before?
Perhaps it was a dash of southern naivety that had kept me away. Or maybe it was the descriptions of a bleak, unrelenting landscape from Wuthering Heights. As the old saying goes, ‘it’s grim up north’… isn’t it?
Happily, I discovered that I’d got it all wrong. Far from spending my time avoiding ghostly figures calling out for Heathcliff, I discovered excellent road after excellent road. I’d been missing out on a motorcycling paradise this whole time.
So, I decided to hang around the Yorkshire Dales for a few days. Scotland could wait. I explored rolling moorland stretching to the horizon bisected by empty stretches of tarmac. The landscape wowed, but it was the remote roads that were the highlight of my time there.
Whenever I head north on my bike again, I’ll make sure I nip off the motorway to ride even just one of them. North Yorkshire has cemented itself as one of my very favourite places to ride in the UK.
Because my trip was a fleeting visit, I caught up with the team at North Yorkshire Motorcycle Tours to get our heads together to come up with this list of the five best roads to ride in the North Yorkshire (it wasn’t easy choose just five, I can tell you).
The company leads multi-day rides around North Yorkshire, promising ‘the best roads, the best views, and the best pubs’. If anyone was going to be able to tell me which passes to seek out when I’m next there, it was them.
Buttertubs Pass, Yorkshire Dales
We’ll start with one of the most well-known, Buttertubs Pass. The stretch of tarmac, which goes from Simonstone towards Thwaite and Muker, is an absolute joy to ride.
However, I was most impressed by the fact that I found it almost devoid of traffic during a warm summer’s weekend. This came as a real surprise for such a good pass, especially considering it has hosted the Tour de France, and Jeremy Clarkson named it as one of his all time favourites.
Instead of the crowds you’d expect these endorsements to bring, I met only saw a handful of bikers and a few farm vehicles during my ride on a warm summer’s day. So, be sure to make a beeline for it if you’re in the area and you want to experience an unforgettable pass.
Oh, and the name? It comes from the natural potholes that you’ll find in the moors either side of the road (be sure to watch where you put your feet if you go looking for them).
Local legend says farmers used to lower their butter into these cool cavities when they stopped for a rest during the long walk to market in Hawes. And so, the Buttertubs Pass was born.
B6255, Yorkshire Dales
Another road popular with bikers in the Yorkshire Dales is the B6255. It’s a cracking ride full of twists, turns, and amazing views.
That’s not all on offer either. Ride the pass south from Hawes and you’ll soon discover that there’s more in the area to tempt two-wheeled travellers to this stretch of tarmac.
The B6255 takes you past the Ribblehead Viaduct, a truly impressive structure that’s well worth pulling over to admire. Construction of the 400m long structure, which is over 30m tall in parts, started in 1870 and took five years to complete, and it’s still in use today.
Wait by the burger van (and take a moment for a lunch break) for a train to pass over to complete the experience.
B1257 – Stokesley to Helmsley, North York Moors
While the Yorkshire Dales are magnificent, head east in North Yorkshire and you’ll stumble across the lesser-visited North York Moors, a stunning place to ride in its own right.
One of North Yorkshire Motorcycle Tours’ favourite roads in the area is the B1257 from Stokesley to Helmsley, which hugs the western edge of the national park. After riding it recently myself during the making of issue 65 of ABR, I’m pleased to confirm that it lives up to the team’s hype.
For 20 miles the road offers up a perfect mix of sweeping bends through dense woodland and long straights to soak up the far-reaching views out over the Moors.
Be warned though. Police signs highlight the unfavourable accident statistics for those on two wheels, so take it easy and save knee-scraping for another day when you enjoy this particular pass.
Kirkby Mills to Castleton, North York Moors
A little further east into the North York Moors, running parallel with the B1257, is another fantastic road. It’s one that lifts you right up above the surrounding countryside, offering a view that goes on for miles on a clear day.
Head north from Kirkby Mills to Castleton and you’ll soon find yourself riding the roof of the Moors for 15 miles. This is no nadgery alpine pass made up of demanding hairpins either, so you can relax a little in the saddle and admire those vistas.
Link up the two parallel passes for a cracking little loop when ridden anti-clockwise. Although, be sure to keep your speed down and stay mindful of the sheep that loiter along the edges of the tarmac.
Cam Gill Road, Coverdale Valley – Yorkshire Dales
Finally, we head back to the Yorkshire Dales for a lovely little ride that’s slightly off the beaten track.
Start in the small village of Kettlewell and take the Cam Gill Road, a single track road that meanders along the valley and passes by occasional clusters of farm buildings.
The road is steep in sections, with tight switchbacks that will hold your focus. But the majority of the riding is made up of undulating bends and open straights that allow you to soak up the views as you ride through an area that few others visit.
And, when you reach the end of the road, you’ll find yourself with a choice between heading back to the Dales or turning in the direction of the North York Moors. It’s the exact type of decision we like to be faced with when on tour.
Ride these roads with North Yorkshire Motorcycle Tours
So there we have it, five incredible roads in North Yorkshire that you need to ride next time you visit the region.
If you’d like to explore these with the help of expert local guides or discover even more passes in the area, then be sure to check out North Yorkshire Motorcycle Tours.
Run by two born and bred residents of the county, the team knows the area inside out, and can point you in the direction of the best roads, the most stunning rest stops, and the best places to finish up a day in the saddle.