HARRY HOTSPUR was the nickname of Sir Henry Percy. He was the eldest son of Henry, the 1st Earl of Northumberland.

He took part in the siege of Berwick when only 14 and his bravery and fierce fighting style gave him the name of Hotspur. He was a great warrior and fought many battles against the Scots but was captured at the Battle of Otterburn. He was not killed, but held to ransom which was duly paid and he regained his freedom.

He fought beside his uncle, Thomas Percy, who was famous for being a collaborator in the Gunpowder Plot, but at the Battle of Shrewsbury Harry Hotspur was killed in a most unfortunate way.

During the battle Hotspur was weary with the fight and stopped to open his visor to allow some cool air into his body. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t just air he took into his mouth but an arrow which pierced his throat and killed him instantly.

He was later buried, but then curiously he was exhumed. His body was taken to Shrewsbury and impaled on a spear. Later, it was cut into quarters, his head severed and impaled and mounted on one of the gates of York.

What has the unfortunate Harry Hotspur to do with a cycle ride around our Yorkshire countryside? The answer is quite simple. A castle was built at Wressle for him in the 14th century, said to be a hunting lodge or a country retreat for the Northumberland Percys.

It was a moated, quadrangular castle with five towers and was thought to be one of the most magnificent houses in Yorkshire. It was garrisoned during the civil war which became a death sentence for the building as it was ordered to be made uninhabitable and parts of it were dismantled.

Since then, a wing of the building was used as a farm until a fire destroyed what was left of the interior to leave the shell we see today.

Wressle Castle is not open to the public, but dismount and take a good look at the ruin when you cycle past. You just might see Harry Hotspur on the ramparts.

You might like to do the cycle ride on the same day that the gardens are open at Skipwith Hall which is in the village not far from the church.

They are usually open twice a year and the proceeds go to the NGS Gardens charity. Details are posted on the NGS website.

Your route

Leave the Common car park onto the road turning left towards Skipwith. As you enter the village take the first left along Common Road. This soon deteriorates into a narrow, sometimes rough, road as it travels through the Common. Keep straight ahead and you soon leave the trees to pass an industrial site and towards the main road.

Go straight across here onto a narrow, muddy potholed road. Take care on this rough surface. You soon reach a rough crossroad. Go straight ahead again here onto a surfaced road.

Continue along until you reach the village of Osgodby. At the T-junction go left. Keep straight ahead now to a crossroad. Keep straight on here to arrive eventually at South Duffield. Cycle through the village, then turn right signed to Menthorpe and Hemingbrough. Shortly, just before the power lines, turn left, signed to Woodhall. Follow the road as it twists and turns and keep following signs for Woodhall as you keep an eye on the sometimes loose road surface. Not far and you pass a few houses which is Woodhal,l then pass over a level crossing.

Pass a few more houses and negotiate more double bends to eventually reach a T-junction. Turn left here with care onto the A63. Before long you cross a large bridge across the River Derwent. Take the next turning to the left signed to Wressle, Breighton and Bubwith.

Pass a large coaching house on your left and cycle along into Wressle. Pass over a level crossing, then soon look out for Wressle Castle on your left. Continue along now on this narrow road following signs for Breighton and Bubwith and eventually you reach Breighton by the side of the River Derwent.

Follow signs for Bubwith now, then pass Breighton Airfield and museum on your right and continue along to Bubwith village. At the T-junction, go left signed to North Duffield. Cycle along taking care at the traffic light-controlled bridge and soon you reach North Duffield village. Not far into the village, turn right signed to Skipwith and York to cycle along to crossroads at Skipwith, go left here to return to the car park.

The facts

Distance: 20 miles/32km

Terrain: flat but with narrow, bumpy roads

Best map: OS Landranger 105

Start/grid ref: Skipwith Common car park, grid ref 669377

Parking: Skipwith Common

Refreshments: Drover’s Arms, Skipwith, and a few pubs along the route

Public toilets: none

View a map of the Skipwith cycle ride>>