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The Harland Way - a cycle route from Wetherby to Spofforth

Route Summary
Distance:About three miles (4k) each way
Difficulty: Easy - flat as a pancake and nicely surfaced with compacted gravel
Start: Wetherby - see text for directions
Time: varies
Dogs: Very popular with dog walkers, goes through open countryside, but I didn't see any sheep.

Jenny Twigg This is a flat, pleasant cycle path from the market town of Wetherby, to the mediaeval village of Spofforth complete with its ruined castle. Decent cycle paths near Leeds that are suitable for little kids are rare as hens' teeth, so this is an absolute gem. And to have something at the far end that kids are going to love exploring is just perfection. There's also a new extension from Wetherby to Thorp Arch trading estate. To begin with I couldn't understand why anyone would want to cycle to a godforsaken retail park like Thorp Arch, but I understand it's now planned to extend this to Tadcaster and York so that explains everything.

It would also be great to build a path from Leeds to Wetherby using the old  railway that runs parallel to the A58 Leeds to Wetherby route, but Leeds City Council have been so bad at joining the National Cycle Network initiative over the years that I can't see it happening. And while I'm on the subject of Leeds City Council, about the only things they do worse than cycle routes are leisure centres and swimming pools. The pools in Leeds are generally small, dirty and disgusting. In fact, they didn't build any new pools or leisure centres between about 1977 and 2007. Might be slightly wrong on the dates but not by much. Anyway, the point is that Wetherby has a really nice swimming pool (sharp left just before you cross the Wharfe going into Wetherby), so that could be combined to make a nice full day out with kids.

There are two places to join the route in Wetherby.Directions assume you are entering Wetherby from the A1/A58

  • Linton Road. Turn left immediately after crossing the Wharfe. Go through the market place and then turn left onto Linton Road. Look out for the blue cycle sign which leads to a small carpark and the start of the route.
  • Deighton Road. Go straight down the High Street and across the mini-roundabout at the far end. Go past the petrol station on your left and look out for the blue cycle sign after about two hundred yards. There's no parking here so it's only suitable if you're arriving by bike.

The two starting points are linked, so you can start at one place and finish at another if you like. The few junctions are well signposted so you can't really go wrong. The path is really well surfaced and well suited to city bikes or kids bikes, the only problem being walkers who don't hear you approaching. I generally stop pedalling as I reach walkers, but even with the back block clacking away most of them still don't hear me. Which leads to the quandry of: do you whizz past them regardless causing them to jump and shriek and hug their children as if they'd just saved them from a fate worse than death; or should one poliitely ping one's bell causing them to jump and shriek and grab their children to save them from a fate worse than death. Is it too much to ask that pedestrians on a cycle path should keep their wits about them?

Anyway, after three miles of nice flat pedalling the route ends in the middle of a housing estate in Spofforth. Make your way through the estate to the main road and then turn right into the village. There's not a whole lot to see in the village, but if you turn left after the pub you reach Spofforth castle.

Spofforth Castle The castle has car parking but no bike rack (thanks English Heritage) . That is compensated for by entry being free, but as there's not a whole lot to see that's only fair. The remains are of a 13th/14th century manor house, and viewed in that light are quite interesting, but anyone looking for a huge keep and fortified walls will be dissappointed.

Spofforth was given to William de Percy after the Norman Conquest, as one of a package of 86 lordships. Quite a bonus package there. The De Percy family moved North in the 14th century, settling at Alnwick and building possibly the finest castle in England, after which Spofforth fell into decline. The castle was burned by the Yorkists after the battle of Towton in 1461. Towton is just a few miles away and is still the bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil, with over 30,000 perishing that Palm Sunday.

The house was rebuilt, but was finally destroyed in the Civil War of the 1640's. I don't know which side destroyed it, but so many other Yorkshire Castles were "slighted" by Parliament that it's a fair bet it suffered the same fate. Such a shame, as with those picture windows it must have been magnificent.

Plenty of room to picnic, but no facilities of any kind.

Comments (7)
This is on my daily bike commute from Harrogate to Thorp Arch, and I just had to laugh when I read your comments about walkers jumping out of their skin because they don't hear a cyclist trundling up behind them. I seem to have the stealth of a U-boat. No doubt they tell people afterwards how they "nearly" got hit by a bike. Well, boo hoo! Try being hit by a car. Not "nearly" hit, actually hit. Painful. Rant over.
posted by mark 30/06/2010 15:31:27
Mark - buy a bell! I am also a keen cyclist and as a matter of courtesy to other users (walkers, runners and horses) etc I always warn them of me approaching them. It's just a matter of good manners. Oh, and don't forget to say 'thank you' when they step aside.
posted by Harry 13/07/2010 17:42:57
Hey guys there is plenty of space for us all to enjoy this wonderfull route safely and courteously...only thing that concerns me is, when is it going to be extended through to Tadcaster?????
posted by Dave 07/01/2011 11:14:03
Like all three comments made already - why do walkers walk across the path in a line taking all path up, bell is useful and yes please extend to Tadcaster so i can leave the car at home.
posted by Alison 24/03/2011 12:27:11
Okay so I get where you get on at Wetherby ,but I'm from Harrogate so where do I get on in Spofforth ? and is there parking availbale there ?
posted by John B 27/04/2011 14:51:57
To join from Spofforth walk down East Park Road and you will see the path. From Harrogate, get off the bus at East Park Road stop, just before the Railway Inn.
posted by Stuart R 10/05/2011 20:20:10
This is a great route, and I agree, I think we need to buy a bell for the bike! Also worth noting is the fact that there is a fantastic play park (zip wire, climbing frames etc) & meadow area for the kids at the Spofforth end of the track, just as you come off the cycle path (complete with bike racks!).
posted by Margaret 22/08/2011 13:14:29
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