Broughton Wheelers Lakes loop, Cumbria by Cycling Plus

Broughton Wheelers Lakes loop, Cumbria by Cycling Plus

Cycling Plus

Could Cumbria’s mountains and lakes host the perfect British bike ride? Cycling Plus certainly thinks so, as this short but stiff 40-mile road route — including the fearsome Wrynose Pass — won the magazine's 'Britain's Best Rides' competition a few years ago.

The ride is a succession of tough climbs — and by 'tough' we mean 'really tough climbs'! But you're handsomely rewarded with some stunning scenery and a sense of accomplish like no other. 

Roll along out of Broughton-in-Furness’s main square, past the Manor Arms and its award-winning ales, and almost immediately leave the main road before taking on the ride’s first real challenge of Woodland Fell, that rises rugged and rock-strewn above the other side of this shallow valley. On the distant slopes above Beck Side you can see dozens of huge wind turbines putting the breeze to good use. 

After a fast-rolling descent off the fell, cross a main road before traversing the River Crake, then turn left to follow it north to the lake that feeds it — Coniston Water. The eight-mile-long lake means many things to many people, including fans of 'Swallows and Amazons' author Arthur Ransome, whose house you pass on the way.

The quiet, rolling ride along the wooded eastern shore is a treat. Past the lake’s northern end, skirt the top edge of Grizedale Forest and head over Hawkshead Hill. A tasty descent is followed by a posh coffee on a shady café terrace over the river. You're only a few minutes’ ride east from the top of Windermere, but you've got bigger fish to fry today, and Wrynose beckons.

Heading west, climb for a good mile out of town, before taking a right down a series of gratifyingly tight and sweeping curves to the River Brathay. Once over the river, start climbing again towards Little Langdale, with the river on your left until you pass the village, where Wrynose rears its intimidating head in front of you. Gird your loins and try your best.

At the summit, despite the undulating road that ducks and dives in front of you, the descent of Wrynose into the Duddon Valley is easier than it looks. 300-odd metres of lost altitude later, you arrive at the bridge in Cockley Beck, where the road from Hardknott Pass joins. You can see the climb to the top from here and it doesn’t look far. Another day, perhaps…

Instead, push on down the flat valley to Birks Bridge then enjoy a fun descent to Seathwaite and the Newfield Inn. The pub is known for its fatal ‘riot’ in 1904, when a bunch of thirsty navvies working on the Tarn Reservoir dam fell out with the landlord, who then shot one of them and wounded another. Chances are, you won't encounter anything quite as exciting on your visit, though.

From here, continue heading south-south-west along Wordsworth’s beloved Duddon Valley, the river widening as it closes on the coast, bolstered by streams and brooks along the way. Then there's a short, steep climb before the white-knuckle descent to Duddon Bridge then one last stiff little climb before dropping back down into Broughton.


There are lots of steep climbs — plus Wrynose — so use a compact chainset or lose lots of weight!

There is excellent food at Seathwaite’s Newfield Inn. Broughton-in-Furness has a large number of pubs including the Manor Arms. The Drunken Duck near Ambleside has an excellent reputation, and Chesters By The River in Skelwith Bridge is a fine riverside café.

Ambleside’s Biketreks and Wheelbase in Staveley both open seven days a week — Wheelbase has free bike wash, showers and changing rooms.


Level of ride 
Type of bike 
Road bike