Singletrack Classic Ride: Borrowdale Bash

Ride level Regular cyclist
Distance 21 mi / 34 km
Type of bicycle Mountain bike
Traffic free
Circular route
Three mountain bikers ride along a bridleway on a hill side. In the background there is a lake and hillside.
The Borrowdale Bash has always been a great introduction to Lake District riding, being relatively low level and providing plenty of bailout options.

The addition of England’s newest bridleway only adds to the experience, taking cyclists away from the narrow main road through Borrowdale and gaining a bonus descent at the same time.

The route holds up to plenty of traffic and remains rideable in all weathers. There are very few (if any) boggy sections, and the remainder of the ground is quick draining. Bizarrely, the rock is somehow grippier in the wet too, so there really is no excuse not to get out and ride it even if the weather is less than ideal.

If you strike it lucky and get one of the three days a year in the Lakes when it isn’t cloudy or raining, then the views are spectacular, especially as you head towards the head of the valley – there’s a reason why Wainwright called it the loveliest square mile in Lakeland.

There are a few legitimate alternatives to the main route – the most obvious one being Frith Woods just after Birketts Leap. You could also head up Honister and down Warnscale Bottom to Buttermere, if you can stomach the road climb back up. Finally, once you’ve descended Castle Crag and dropped into Grange, you could always carry on up Hause Gate and descend the far side of Catbells for a bit of variety.

The knowledge

Distance: 34km
Total ascent: 885m
Time: 3–5 hours
Maps: Explorer OL4 – The Lake District, North Western area


Keswick is full of B&Bs and hotels to suit most budgets, and there are plenty of campsites in the area, including Castlerigg Hall which is handily situated on the route itself. There are also a couple of hostels in Keswick – a YHA and the independent Denton House Hostel.

Travel information

Keswick is easily accessible by road, being just off the A66, only a short drive from the M6 at Penrith. Penrith is the nearest train station and there are regular buses to and from Keswick.

Parking is plentiful in the town centre – just be aware that in peak season these can fill up pretty quickly. If you get there early enough, you should be able to find free parking near the swimming pool, but be considerate to residents.

Bike shops

Unsurprisingly, Keswick is well served by bike shops, with Biketreks, Whinlatter Bikes (not actually in Whinlatter), Alpkit and E-Venture Bikes all in the town centre. A little further out of town is Cyclewise (in Whinlatter Forest) or there’s Arragons Cycles in Penrith.

Eating and drinking

Again, Keswick is well served by pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants. There are also a few places to get refreshments on the way. The Scafell Hotel comes just as you hit the road in Rosthwaite, then in Grange you’ve got The Grange Café just in case you need to fuel up for the pedal back into town. Lastly, the Bank Tavern is a great traditional pub in the centre of town to finish the ride in.

This route features in Singletrack magazine issue 149 as part of its Classic Rides series which Cycling UK supports. Cycling UK members can enjoy 50% off a print and digital Singletrack subscription.