Coast to Coast for mountain bikers: St Bees to Ennerdale alternative route - better than tarmac!

by Local Rider

Most mountain bikers are unintentionally misled into supposing that the ride from St Bees to Ennerdale must be ridden almost entirely on tarmac. This is not so. From the market town of Egremont, the Uldale Valley can be ridden off-road all the way to within 2 miles of Ennerdale Bridge.

Take the road from St Bees to Egremont. After a pleasant saunter through St Bees Village turn left (at map ref: 971116)and head up the steep climb called Outrigg. This will either get you in the mood for the legwork which lies ahead, or make you want to get off the tarmac and onto the trail asap.

At the top of Outrigg, on a nice day, you'll get a view of the Lake District which lies ahead.

Follow the road for a further two miles to the Market Square/War Memorial at Egremont (you can't miss it) and turn right at the junction. Proceed along the 'A' road which leads out of Egremont for a quarter of a mile, then take the gravel road to the left (heading east at ref 013102) immediately opposite Graham's Filling Station. If you start to climb a tarmac hill you've gone just-and-so too far.

On the gravel track, you will go under a road bridge then along a short stretch of tarmac past Florence iron ore mine and then a row of terraced houses, both on your right. Then you're off into the countryside.

From here on it's all trail.

Points to bear in mind:

There are gravel-road junctions not shown on all maps at 026108 just before Moss Dalts farm and 027110 just after the farm. Turn left at the first junction, (026108) which is a T junction, ride past the farm and then turn right at the second (027110)which is an offset crossroads (crosstrails really). If in any doubt, once past the farm, take the track furthest to the right and you won't go wrong!

Staying in the valley bottom, ignoring the climbs off to your left (although if you take them they all lead to the same place - so no problems), follow the trail past Uldale Farm (046122)to a forest/fire-road junction at 048124.

At this junction, GO THROUGH THE GATE, and continue along the valley bottom to Nannycatch Gate (056129) and turn RIGHT after the gate, along the singletrack. By this point you have joined the Coast to Coast walkers' path. Keep on climbing until you reach the tarmac fell road and turn left, down into Ennerdale Village... still on the walkers' route.

(If you turn left at Nannycatch Gate, along the marked bridleway, you'll still get to Ennerdale, though it involves a couple of extra miles on tarmac).

A couple of additional notes:

All of the riding is along bridleway or non-designated trails, not footpaths, so it's all legal.

A final note for the truly hardy who fancy even more off-road climbing and are heading for Black Sail Youth Hostel, or thereabouts. Turn right along the trail which runs parallel to the road at 060139 and follow for a couple of hundred yards. CROSS OVER THE ROAD and take the trail (all bridleway) which heads up the fellside. Keep on grinding. You'll cross a forest/fire-road around 078135. Take the steeper climb left, not the forest/fire-road which forks right. This takes you past Grike and Crag Fell. Then it gets a bit boggy before descending steeply (steep fellside rather than downhill trail) to the lake.

A final, final note for all. Having passed Ennerdale Water, at easting ref 130, cross over the River Lisa and take the forest/fire-road which takes you up the south side of the Lisa towards Black Sail. It's a bit more varied than the north side.

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