A river runs through it

Jonathan Manning explores a beautiful corner of the North York Moors on this stunning woodland ride

The newly reopened and redeveloped Scarborough West Ayton Club Campsite requires cyclists to make a choice. Are you the type of rider who likes to pedal from the door of the caravan or motorhome; or are you happy to put the bike on the car and drive to a local cycling hotspot?

For the latter, the world class mountain biking trails just 14 miles away at Dalby Forest are an irresistible attraction, with family-friendly tracks, skills areas and, for the most talented and committed mountain bikers, the steep climbs and challenging technical obstacles of the World Cup MTB trail.

Personally, once I’ve pitched, I don’t want to drive again, so this route starts at the gates to the Club site and pieces together some amazing local roads for an extraordinary ride that dips in and out of the south east corner of the North York Moors National Park. 

The ride starts by following the River Derwent upstream and gently uphill into the Forge Valley Woods National Nature Reserve. The valley dates back 10,000 years to a time when a large lake formed during the last Ice Age in the Hackness Valley, just to the north. When the waters overflowed, they cut out this steep-sided valley. Several picnic areas offer opportunities to pull off the road and sit by the river in the shade of alder and willow, gazing up to the ash and wych elm on the higher slopes. The kaleidoscope of colours in autumn is stunning, and all year round the nature reserve teems with wildlife – keep your eyes peeled for kingfisher, heron and, if you’re exceptionally lucky, otter. 

From the dappled light of the river valley, the route opens up into a wide agricultural plain, with densely wooded hillsides on the horizon, 

before it reaches Hackness and starts to climb up and over the ridge. This is a tough ascent, the gradient averaging 7% (and steeper in places) for 2.5km, so make sure there’s charge left in your e-bike batteries. Next, the road plateaus and then starts a gleeful descent for almost 6km, with a fabulous panorama opening to the south.

The final stretch follows the relatively busy A170 back to West Ayton but for riders who prefer to avoid the traffic there is the option of a brief diversion into Ruston and Hutton Buscel, before finishing with a short climb back to the Club site. 

You can also download the route for this ride from our dedicated Strava page here


1. From the gates of the Club site turn left, heading 2downhill to reach the A170.

2. 0.66km – Turn left, signposted to Scarborough, cross the river, then take the first left along Castlegate, signposted to Forge Valley, Hackness and Monastery. Continue for almost 6.5km, following the River Derwent 3on your left, to enter Hackness and reach a T-junction. 

3. 7.2km – Turn left at the T-junction, signposted to Bickley, Monastery and Troutsdale. Pass Hackness Grange on the left and continue for about 1km, looking 4out for a turn on the left. 

4. 8.2km – Turn left, signposted to Troutsdale and Snainton. Brace yourself for a long climb followed by a lengthy descent. Continue on this road all the way into Snainton and a T-junction with the A170, with The 5Peacock pub on the left. 

5. 19.9km – Turn left along the A170 and continue for about 7km to reach West Ayton. You can take a short diversion on the left through Ruston, then through Hutton 6Buscel if you want to avoid riding in traffic. 

6. 27.2km – Take the first left in West Ayton and cycle uphill on Cockrah Road to reach the Club site on the right. 

About the route

  • Start/finish: Scarborough West Ayton Club site, Cockrah Road, Scarborough YO13 9JD
  • Distance: 27.2km/17 miles.
  • Time: 2 hours.
  • Level: Suitable for fitter road cyclists and e-bikers. The final stretch along the A170 can be busy with traffic.
  • Terrain: Asphalt all the way.
  • Landscape: River valley, woodland and far-reaching views.
  • Refreshments: The Coachman Inn in Snainton. 

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