West Yorkshire Folk Music Cycle Ride Day 2


Crossing between Airedale and Wharfedale, peaceful wide-open spaces

Skipton to Knaresborough  for the Cross Keys Acoustic Jam night. Via Bolton Abbey, Ilkley, Timble, the Washburn Valley, and Harrogate.


A longish climb out of Skipton, and through Embsay to cross the watershed from Airedale to Wharfedale (where I spent my teenage years). A lovely ride along quiet lanes and down into Bolton Abbey.


Meet the locals

Where we had a wander around the beautiful Abbey and its grounds and coffee in the Bolton Abbey Tea Cottage, one of the most scenic cafe gardens in the country..

Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey

And on along another quiet road, and a very popular one with cyclists, along the north side of the River Wharfe through Beamsley to Ilkley, lovely pastoral countryside.

We had lunch at a posh cafe (very few unposh things in Ilkley), cruised past the expensive shops and back to the quiet side of the river again along to Askwith then climbing up to the high village of Timble.

A couple of lightweight road cyclists passed as we turned off for Timble and, seeing our luggage and strange bikes, said “good luck with that”.

The first hill was pretty steep and discouraging but the road soon settled down to a manageable steady climb and of course the view gets better as you climb higher.

Up on the hills you can see the rain coming so we managed to get ourselves covered up for the only shower of the day. Most days we had a bit of rain but the weather was generally great for cycling, not too hot or cold, with plenty of sunny spells.


Timble’s tiny library-cum-schoolroom, endowed by a local man who made a fortune in America in the 19th century, and the Timble Inn, where I used to drink in the pre-breathalyser days of the 1960s

Timble was well worth a stop. A quiet rural hamlet with some interesting buildings. We met a local lady outside the Methodist chapel and she explained that back in Victorian times, as well as agriculture, there was quite a lot of cottage industry in the area, plus water-powered textile mills in the Washburn valley. Now of course it’s mainly homes for the comfortably off commuter or retiree.

Timble Chapel

Tiny very simple Methodist chapel in Timble

Then down into the lovely Washburn Valley and over the dam to Fewston. A very steep climb (I’ve changed the route to avoid that) and we were back up on the tops again on the straight road to Harrogate.

All the way across the high country between Ilkley and Harrogate we were in sight of the strange white radar domes of Menwith Hill, focus for a lot of peace protests and a symbol of US military presence in Britain.


Big Brother is definitely watching at Menwith Hill. But the graceful clean wind turbines show another face of technology. Definitely preferable to traditional power stations although some people resent the energy they demand being created near their homes.

Another unreasonably steep hill on the way into Harrogate (definitely need to tidy up the route here) and we were plunged back into the affluent society we had left in Ilkley. Tea in Betty’s just so we could say we had been there, and seen how the well-padded live.

And then off to Knaresborough along traffic-free cycle routes that ran from the centre of Harrogate


Commemorating Britain’s greatest woman cyclist. Not a bad trail, some good surfaces and some atrocious ones but better than fighting the traffic on the main road. And quite pretty too.

Then push the bikes up a steep cobbled street into Knaresborough where the Acoustic Jam at the Cross Keys was a brilliant example of an informal music session. Friendly and welcoming (of course) and an interesting policy, everyone will join in the music unless you say you prefer to play this one alone.

Varied music, even gender balance and a better age mix than most folk events too. The music was appreciated by the non musicians in the pub, one couple from the Northeast, on holiday in the area, had just seen a poster and come along, said they had a fantastic evening.

Cross Keys

Cross Keys Acoustic Jam. If I had not been there it would have been an exactly 50-50 mix of women and men, instead of the more usual collection of old geezers (like me) who fill many singers’ nights.

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