Kentmere Valley

Ride level Experienced cyclist
Distance 13 mi / 21 km
Type of bicycle Road bike
Traffic free
Circular route
Karen Gee and her children

Three years ago, Karen Gee who writes Cycle Sprog, decided to up sticks, leave the suburban life behind and move her family to Cumbria in search of a more outdoor and active lifestyle. Here is one of her favourite road rides in the Lakes with kids. 

Distance:  Up to 12.5 miles round trip from Staveley (25 miles if starting at Kendal).

Type of bike: Road bike or hybrid.  Suitable for trailers, bike seats and tag-a-longs.

Terrain: Quiet, undulating road which steepens significantly towards the head of the valley.

Many, many moons ago I used to belong to a hiking club at university, and my favourite hikes were always those in Kentmere. It’s such a stunning valley, with typical Lakeland scenery but without the hordes of tourists. It’s wonderful that now, so many years later, it’s where I’m teaching my children to enjoy the joys of road cycling. 

Kentmere Valley has provided them with the perfect introduction to hill climbing, as the dead-end road is quiet - so much so that we often encounter more cyclists than vehicles. This allows the boys to concentrate on getting up the hills rather than worrying about constant traffic.

This is a 'there and back' route, with the gradient increasing along the valley, meaning we’ve been able to ride as far as each boy has been able to manage, before turning around for an easier ride back and the promise of hot chocolate and cake at Staveley. The boys original target was to get up the steep climb at the head of the valley to St Cuthbert’s Church, where there are stunning views back along the valley.

Both boys had achieved this by the age of 8, so the next challenge was to continue along the final half a mile to the end of the road, at which point the tarmac peters out so that only off-road bikes can continue – it’s another hard push to this point, and my youngest (now 9) can achieve this.

The next challenge I set his older brother was to take the right hand turn before Kentmere village. Here the road rises very steeply before levelling out for a breath-taking ride along the side of the valley along the aptly named 'High Lane' to Hallow Bank. Ill Bell, High Street and Harter Fell loom high in the distance and we really get the feeling of being in the remote Lake District fells at this point. The return ride is a wonderful opportunity to experience the exhilaration of a fast descent. He’s managed this on 26” wheels, and I fear that when he moves up soon onto 700c’s I’m going to be left far behind!!!

Kentmere Road. Photo by Karen Gee.

A couple of words of advice:

The Lake District is mountainous, and all these routes have some ascent and descent. Don’t underestimate the affect this will have on a child’s ability to cover distance. Just because they can ride 10 miles on the flat doesn’t mean they can do the same in the Lake District.

Remember what goes up must come down. Descending at speed, either on or off road requires skill. Start easy and build up distance and difficulty once everyone in your family is confident. There are plenty of cycle coaches in the area offering family skills sessions and guided rides.

The weather in the Lake District changes quickly, so always be prepared for rain, cold weather and low cloud. It rains at least 200 days a year and is the wettest place in England. I’ve learnt never to set out without a waterproof – if you’re lucky you won’t need it!