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Cycle ride near Braithwaite
Wherever there are mountains there are passes and our glorious Lakeland has both in abundance.
Two passes, both completely different in character, start from the village of Braithwaite, near Keswick.
Whinlatter Pass travels over a generally easy road to the north of Grisedale Pike, climbing through the forested area of Thornthwaite and the Lorton Fells on its way to Lorton vale, while Newlands Pass leaves Braithwaite south then west on a narrow twisty road cutting a swathe through the Derwent Fells on its way to Buttermere.
Both passes have scars from the mining industry, Whinlatter being a prolific producer of barytes, lead and silver from the Force Crag mine at the head of the Coledale Valley on the slopes of Causey Pike. It was in production from 1578 until closure in 1990.
The Goldscope Mine in the Newlands Valley was mined for lead, copper, silver and gold. It was situated on the lower slopes of Hindscarthe and was mined from the 16th century, being closed at the end of the 19th century due to uncontrollable flooding.
These two passes are completely different. Whinlatter has predominantly bland scenery by Lakeland standards, interspersed with glimpses of beauty, but Newlands is brash and bold with the Derwent fells as a backdrop.
The climb from Buttermere is exhausting with the high fells around you, but the view from the summit at Newlands Hause is exceptional and stimulating as the road sweeps down the valley on a narrow, twisty and bumpy road.
Then, finally, before you reach Braithwaite the view changes with Derwent Water, Catbells, Skiddaw and good old Saddleback showing their magnificence.
Enjoy this fantastic ride among the fells, but please go out of season when there is less traffic on these narrow roads. If you judge it right with snow on the fells but not on the road you will be in Cumbrian ecstasy.
Leave Braithwaite on the B5292 following signs for Whinlatter. The Whinlatter Pass road is of reasonable width as Lake District passes go and most of the ascent is done in the first mile or so, quite steep at times.
At the top of the pass is the Whinlatter Forest visitor centre which has a group of cycle tracks available and a café.
The descent is a little twisty and bumpy and in two miles from the Whinlatter Forest leave this road to turn left along a very narrow road signed to Hopebeck.
A steep descent at first, then a short climb. At the fork, keep right to start a long descent along this narrow, slippery road with testing corners.
Soon you arrive at a village. At the T-junction turn left and keep following signs for Loweswater and Buttermere. Keep straight ahead past houses, then at the B5289, go left signed to Buttermere along a bumpy narrow road.
Soon you see the fells around Loweswater. Start to descend now as the grand sight of Crummock Water comes in to view.
Astounding scenery now as you ride along the side of the lake to soon descend into Buttermere village. If you would like refreshment here, go right into the car park where there is a café and two pubs.
To continue your journey take the steep road out of the village, then just past the church go left signed to Keswick.
This is the second of our Lake District passes, the Newlands Pass which is a steep and bumpy narrow road.
The scenery is devastating all the way over the Newlands Pass, one of the most scenic in the Lakes if you have time to look as you ascend then descend on this bumpy road.
It is about one mile to the summit of the pass where you can dismount and enjoy the grand views of Moss Force thundering its way down the side of High Snock Rigg with Robinson Fell and crags towering above.
The descent takes you down the Pass at high speed, but please take time to stop and admire the view in the distance of the Derwent group of fells and Causey Pike with its unusual summit.
The road twists and turns and is quite narrow and as you descend the scenery alters but is none the less spectacular. Catbells is on your right, a very popular fell overlooking Derwentwater which I call the M1 of the Lakes.
Further over on the right is the distinctive shape of Blencathra, known affectionately as Saddleback and in front of you is the magnificent Skiddaw range with Causey Pike on the left.
Continue along still being wary of motorists and soon you arrive back at Braithwaite for some refreshment.
Distance – 20miles/32km.
Terrain – No explanation needed, this is the Lakeland.
Best map – OS Landranger 89.
Start/grid ref – Braithwaite near Keswick, grid ref: 232236.
Refreshments – Café and two pubs in Braithwaite. Two pubs and two cafés in Buttermere.