Rock and roll

Jonathan Manning takes in a castle and some magnificent geological formations on a memorable ride from Knaresborough Club Campsite

Blacksmith’s Anvil, Smartie Tube, Druid’s Writing Desk, Dancing Bear, Gorilla, and Turtle… the rich imagination in the names of the fabulously sculpted Brimham Rocks offer a clear illustration of these intriguing giant rock formations.

Formed 325 million years ago, before dinosaurs walked the Earth, and carved by the elements after the last Ice Age, the gritstone rocks are an outstanding highlight of this ride from Knaresborough Club Campsite, and a wonderful place to stop for a picnic (so remember a bike lock). 

It can take a while and a squint to work out how each distinctive outcrop earned its name (some live up to their description better than others), but there’s always the option to take a seat and revel in the far-reaching views over the surrounding heather moorland. In summer, there’s even a refreshment kiosk serving ice cream.

Brimham Rocks are the second highlight of this ride, which first visits Ripley Castle, more of a grand country house than fortress. Guided tours of the castle are available, or you can explore the magnificent gardens and deer park, dotted with ancient oaks, by yourself.

With time on your side, Harrogate Tipple runs a gin school at Ripley Castle, where a three-hour session allows you to distil your own bottle, selecting the botanicals to your own taste. It makes for a great souvenir or something to enjoy when you’re back at the campsite.

This is a pretty ride with some very attractive stretches of countryside, but there are also spells on busier roads, so please watch out for the traffic.

You can download this route from our dedicated Strava page here.


1.  From Knaresborough Club Campsite turn left and in 100m turn right, signposted to Pateley Bridge and Ripon. Continue along the B6165 to reach a roundabout.

2.  4.7km – Go straight over the roundabout, signposted to Ripon. Continue through Ripley, with the castle and its tearoom on the left, to another roundabout.

3.  5.4km – Turn left at the roundabout, signposted to Pateley Bridge, Bishop Thornton and Burnt Yates. Stay on this road to Burnt Yates and at the far end of the village look out for a turn on the right to Brimham Rocks.

4.  9.6km – Turn right to Brimham Rocks. In 5km, at the top of a long, steady climb, look out for a turn on the right.

5. 14.5km – Turn right along Brimham Moor Road, signposted to Brimham Rocks and Ripon. Pass Brimham Rocks on the left, and continue for almost 3km to reach a turn on the right to Warsill and Bishop Thornton.

6.  17.25km – Turn right to Warshill and Bishop Thornton. Continue to a T-junction.

7.  21.7km – Turn right at the T-junction, signposted to Ripley, Harrogate and Knaresborough. Continue to a T-junction.

8.  26.8km – Turn left, signposted to Knaresborough and Harrogate. Continue for about 1km to a roundabout.

9.  27.9km – Turn left at the roundabout to Ripon, and in 700m turn right, signposted to Nidd Church. Continue to a T-junction.

10.  29.5km – Turn left at the T-junction, signposted to Brearton and Knaresborough. Continue to a T-junction.

11.  33.4km – Turn left, signposted to Knaresborough and York. Continue for 1.2km, before turning left along a road, signposted to Scotton and Farnham. The Club site is on the right in 100m.

About the route

  • Start/finish: Knaresborough Club Campsite, New Road, Scotton, Knaresborough HG5 9HH.
  • Distance: 21.75 miles/34.8km. 
  • Time: 2.5 hours. 
  • Level: Suitable for all cyclists. 
  • Terrain: Asphalt all the way with some hills.
  • Landscape: Farmland, moorland and gritstone rocks.
  • Refreshments: Ripley and Brimham Rocks. 

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