Mountain Journeys

Gravel biking Lake District – Helvellyn circuit is fantastically tough


Gravel biking Lake District - Nearing Grisedale Tarn


Gravel biking Lake District - Helvellyn circuit


Recently it’s been full-steam-ahead with work of all varieties and that’s been such fun, made even better by a prolonged spell of stunning weather. This means we’ve also snuck out for a few big climbing days on the mountain crags of Lakeland. Scafell being the best of those, well because it is simply the best.

My gravel bike has been in a sorry state, for even though it’s only a few months old I’ve given it a hard start in life. It has been to places many mountains bikes would avoid. The result being a very broken drivetrain and some rather costly repairs. Looking positively at this, I took the opportunity to make a few upgrades and this has already made quite a difference. Thanks to Ghyllside Cycles of Ambleside for the ace work to bring the machine back to full working order.

So to give the stead a proper test I decided to circumnavigate Helvellyn, starting from home here in Ambleside.

The initial miles around Rydal and Grasmere are all very familiar territory for me. Once out of Grasmere I was in uncharted terrain heading for Grisedale Tarn via Little Tongue. All bridleway but much of it way too rough or steep, or both, to actually ride. There were sections the bike was over my shoulder as I negotiated boulder fields. This was supremely good fun.

After a rest at the tarn I was looking forward to a pleasant descent into Grisedale, alas this was not to be. The track starts off rocky and remains so for a long way. Thankfully once over Grisedale Beck the track consists of smaller rocks and is all rideable, what a delight.

I took a break in Glenridding and refuelled before taking to the road for a northwards push along the A592. I turned off this near Aira Force for the steep climb to Dockray then took the minor road to High Row and the eastern end of The Old Coach Road. I’ve cycled this bridleway before and know it to be wonderful, so was excited to be back on such a gorgeous day. It’s around 5 miles on a mostly compact surface as this old lane hugs the northern slopes of the mighty Helvellyn mountain range, then we’re spat out into St’John’s in the Vale and it’s back to tarmac for a while.

At Swirls it is possible to follow forestry tracks rather than stay on the road, but I was tired and a storm was incoming, so I opted for the speed of tarmac for this section. Once over Dunmail Raise I diverted into Grasmere to join my outward route along the shores of Rydal Water and the Under Loughrigg road to finish.

Route stats:

64km and 1300m of ascent (about 900m of ascent within the first 30km)

For those willing to ‘hike a bike’ this is a good and adventurous route with a bit of everything. It does venture high into the mountains so a preparedness for this is essential as is decent clothing including a waterproof jacket. I also carried a few spare tubes and a multi-tool, map, and a small 1st aid kit. Oh and not forgetting all the food and water. Loads of tasty snacks and I made a pitstop in Glenridding.

We offer road and gravel biking Lake District adventures, so if you’re planning a visit and would like some help on the trails or roads please do get in touch. We can put together personalised itineraries based on your objectives. Check out our biking page here

Thanks for reading



Mountain Journey

Gravel biking Lake District - Little Tongue


Mountain Journey

Gravel biking Lake District - Ruthwaite Lodge


Mountain Journey

Gravel biking Lake District - Old Coach Road



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