In the middle of the nineteenth century mining was big business in the Yorkshire Dales. Lead was mined in several areas and none were more prolific than the mines around Swaledale and Arkengarthdale.

Evidence suggests that there were mines in the Dales in Roman times, some of the lead being transported to Rome. But lead wasn’t the only commodity that was mined by the Romans as they took a liking to coal! By the late second century the Romans shipped it around England’s coast and to the continent where it was in demand at smelting works.

Coal is found in the Yorkshire dales on the tops of the fells, especially in the North West where there were collieries at Tan Hill in the twelfth century. But it is viable that there could have been some mining at an earlier date. The coal, being mainly of poor quality was used to fire lime kilns in Arkengarthdale. With all this activity and manual labour there was an obvious need for an Inn to reward the workers for their labours.

There is mention of an Inn at Tan Hill in the sixteenth century; the Inn which stands today was built during the seventeenth century. It was in the nineteenth century that travellers visited Tan Hill, the Inn there was described as being grubby and with only oaten bread and cheese on offer washed down with what was described as ‘passable beer’.

Talk was lively though as pitmen called for a drink at the end of their shift before returning home to their families at one of the many miner’s houses which were built near the Inn. Others would stay on, and as the evening enclosed the miners would sing and be merry, or perhaps a little drunk, before leaving for home.

Today the Inn is a gem – it looks deserted, isolated and cold on top of the five hundred and thirty metre high hill. But take a look inside the Inn and soak up the time warp interior in the cosy bar. Have a taste of Tan Hill sausage in a giant Yorkshire Pudding in the dining room or have a filling sandwich in the bar sitting around the log fire. If you are lucky you might get snowed in and have to stay in one of the en-suite refurbished rooms at the Inn, which, sitting on the top of Tan Hill always has its head well and truly up in the clouds.


Your Route

Leave Reeth from the Buck Hotel following the sign for Gunnerside to cycle uphill into open countryside. Enjoy views on the left below you along Swaledale and soon pass through the village of Healaugh and a couple of hamlets, one of which has the Punch Bowl Inn, and in about five miles you arrive at Gunnerside and the King’s Head.

Not much else there apart from quaint old houses so continue along across the River Swale following signs for Muker. Not far along this twisty road and you bear right over the bridge to again cross the River Swale to enter the village of Muker, there is a café and a pub here, if you are hungry I suggest you stop for refreshment before tackling the long climb to Tan Hill, although there is a Tea Shop in Thwaite a little further along if it is open.

Leave the village on a twisty road and over several bridges; keep on the main road following signs for Keld and Kirkby Stephen and soon you reach the village of Thwaite. Cycle through the double bends in the village and past the Tea Shop then leave the village behind to commence your ascent to Tan Hill.

In about a mile you pass through the hamlet of Angram and in a further mile you reach Keld. Continue along through stimulating countryside on this narrow road Cycle past Keld and follow the sign for Tan Hill and Kirkby Stephen. Pass Keld Lodge Hotel then soon start to descend with good views down to the River Swale on the left. At the bottom of the hill turn right across the bridge signed to Tan Hill and West Stonedale.

Start a serious ascent now as you cycle towards West Stonedale then descend for a while before continuing your climb towards Tan Hill. You soon reach open moorland and cycle towards your goal passing over a stone bridge to eventually see the pub at Tan Hill in front of you. If it is foggy up there you will probably hear the powerful generator which is the lifeblood of the Inn. You arrive at the top of Tan Hill at a t-junction, go right here and drained, tired and hungry stop for refreshment at the Tan Hill Inn.

Suitably refreshed you can look forward to an easier ride along Arkengarthdale to Reeth as it is mainly downhill but there are one or two hard ascents along the way. So let us set off and head for the Red Lion Inn at Langthwaite village, a delightful old Inn with many tales to tell of its history of TV filming inside this time warp pub. A word of warning now! When a road sign in the Yorkshire Dales says Slow! Danger! Steep Descent! Or any other warning beware, to ignore it could be extremely dangerous!!

Continue your ride along following signs for Reeth and look out for sharp bends and slippery corners on your descent, there is one set of corners which is a serious hazard for cyclists. After safely negotiating these and after almost eight miles from Tan Hill you reach the village of Langthwaite. You must slow down as you enter the village as you need to turn left where you will find the Red Lion and a hearty sandwich.

Leave the Inn and return to the main road to continue your journey towards Reeth. Go left onto the main road from the village and after a cattle grid stat an ascent onto the moor. Ascents and descents are on the way too Reeth as you cycle along one of the prettiest dales in Yorkshire, Arkengarthdale. After about three miles you arrive at Reeth where refreshment abounds.

The Facts

Distance - 27½miles/44km

Terrain - Hard work in places with steep ascents and descents. Worth the effort!

Best Map - OS Outdoor Leisure 30

Start/grid Ref. - Reeth in the Yorkshire Dales. GR038993

Parking - Around the village green. Currently costs £1 for all day

Refreshments - Cafes and pubs in Reeth, pubs along the way including The Tan Hill Inn and the Red Lion at Langthwaite. Other cafes and pubs along the way when open

Public Toilets - Reeth, opposite the Buck Hotel