Leeds Town Hall
In case you’ve had your head under the duvet, the 20th Tour de France starts off from Leeds Town Hall on the 5th July and after 191km of pedaling they reach Harrogate (don’t they know it’s only 25km?) .
The next day starts in York where they depart, of all places, from the Designer Outlet and continue for another 190 km to finish in Sheffield, and that’s it. They’re off to Cambridge then London for the UK finish along the Mall.
Forgive us for being a bit jaded. I’m sure we’ll be swept up in it come July, just like the Olympics, but with all the hype, the special reports, the supplements, Squidbeak have to admit they are not yet counting down.
Still there’s no denying it’s a spectacular route, so we have devised our own Tour, a route that roughly follows day one of Le Tour, but is about the best places to see and eat.
So, unless you want to stand roadside watching 198 riders flash past in the blink of an eye, we suggest you consider taking Le Squidbeak Tour between now and July at our more leisurely pace.
The showpiece route centres round the Yorkshire Dales National Park where you can walk the hills and valleys, stroll through chocolate box villages, sample the local craft ales, watch Wensleydale cheese in production and feast on Yorkshire game and Swaledale lamb but most of all, drink in the views. They inspired the French to choose Yorkshire and it’s not hard to see why.
Ilkley is the gateway town of the Dales where you can put a picnic together from the famous Betty’s bakery and tearoom. If you’re feeling flush eat a Michelin star meal at either the Box Tree in Ilkley or the Devonshire Arms, in Wharfedale where the 12th century Bolton Abbey, sits splendidly on a bend on the river Wharfe and where the Dales proper begins.
Box Tree Restaurant, Ilkley
The cyclists will head straight for Grassington, but we can detour through a string of pretty villages: Appletreewick has the delightful Craven Arms and Burnsall the Devonshire Fell. At Grassington, the Grassington House Hotel is good for lunch or an overnight. Kilnsey has the mighty roadside crag with its 40ft overhang with invariably a rock climber clinging on to its face. There are detours here to Linton and the Fountaine Inn, Litton for the Queen’s Arms, Malham for the peregrines and Arncliffe for the delightfully unspoilt Falcon Inn where ale is still poured from a china jug.
The peloton will be enroute to Kettlewell and over the high pass into Wensleydale, passing close to Aysgarth Falls where a sparkling river Ure pours over broad tables of limestone. Unlike them, you can dawdle in Freeholders Wood carpeted with bluebells and wood anemones in spring. Nearby Hawes is home to the Wensleydale Creamery, with its creamery tour and Wensleydale cheese to take home.
Fifty five miles from Leeds and Le Tour will be heading into Swaledale, my favourite Dale through the villages of Muker – with cream teas in the village tearoom – and Gunnerside where in high summer the wildflower meadows, farmed sustainably for generations, bloom with the likes of buttercups, eyebright and melancholy thistle. We like the Punch Bowl at Low Row and the CB Inn way up in Arkengarthdale.
Blue Lion, East Witton
At Reeth the peloton will head south to Leyburn where you will eat well at the Sandpiper. For cake, a coffee and a simple bed for the night, you can’t do better than the Dales Bike Centre at Fremington. Middleham is famous for it’s racehorse stables and Richard III’s ruined castle then on through pretty East Witton. The cyclists might grab a musette – a bag of food – you and I can stop for a perfect gastropub lunch at the lovely Blue Lion. From there it’s a leisurely drive south to Ripon to feast at Lockwoods and the must-see World Heritage Fountains Abbey before a sprint finish into genteel Harrogate, with its elegant shops, sedate Valley Gardens, glorious Turkish Baths and, of course, Fodder, an irresistible emporium of the finest Yorkshire food produce
After a slap up dinner at Van Zeller’s you can congratulate yourself on completing 120 miles and stage one of the Tour de France 2014, wearing not the yellow jersey but a well earned bib gourmand.
To download a map of the route click here