When I decided to try the Hull to Harwich ride in 1999, Hull didn't seem to be the most inspired place to begin, so I added part of the newly-opened White Rose Cycle Route to my journey, and started at York instead. Three years later I returned to complete the northern part of the route.
Note: you can order the map of the White Rose Cycle Route through the link at the bottom of this page – click on the map cover. At the time of writing the latest version of the map is that printed in 1998. Changes which have been made to the route since the map was printed can be found here.
From Middlesbrough the route heads south towards the North Yorkshire Moors, where there is a choice of routes - the main route skirts the edge of the National Park, or there is a more demanding option over the hills through Hawnby. The two routes rejoin near Easingwold for the run into York. From York the route splits again. Route 65 takes a level route through Selby, while Route 66 takes a more hilly route via Stamford Bridge and Market Weighton across the Yorkshire Wolds to Beverley.
From Middlesbrough railway station, where the route starts, we spent a while trying to find the Tourist Information Centre (it's been moved) to book accommodation for the night in York, but the best they could do was to give us some brochures. It then took a few phone calls before we eventually found somewhere, and when we did it was on the far side of York, at Stockton on the Forest. Having travelled up from London that morning, it meant we had a long afternoon's cycling ahead of us.
The route leaves Middlesbrough through urban surroundings, but soon takes advantage of a more scenic 'green corridor' through the outlying suburbs such as Acklam, where we called in at the Nature's World Centre to get the first stamps on our Sustrans route cards.
By now we were beginning to climb steadily towards the North Yorkshire Moors as we continued on through Stainton and Maltby. At Swainby we crossed into the North York Moors National Park and had our route cards stamped again at the post office. From there we were faced with a steep climb onto the moors at Scarth Nick, and once over the top we were so much enjoying the downhill run past Cod Beck reservoir that we missed the cycle route turning and ended up in the delightful village of Osmotherley, which was busy with its fete. Some advance warning of the turn would have been useful, but the detour was well worthwhile.
Getting back on the route, we decided to take the slightly less arduous route over the foothills of the Hambleton Hills, not least because we still had a long way to go before our overnight stop beyond York. A pleasant run through several small villages strung out along the foot of the moors brought us to Easingwold for the final 20 miles into York. I have to admit that we cheated on the final few miles; time was fast running out, so once we got to the outskirts of the city we stuck to the main road for a faster journey.
York has excellent provision for cyclists and pedestrians, both in the city centre and on the outskirts, although the Footzone section, where pedestrians have priority over cyclists, is rather fraught. Pedestrians, thinking it's a traffic-free area, are prone to wander into the road without looking. In the end I decided that walking the bike was the safest approach!
Route 65 heads south from the city centre to join the old railway line from York to Selby, once the main line to London but abandoned to allow the coal reserves beneath it to be mined. (Now, ironically, the mine is soon to be closed.) From Selby the route bypasses Goole and approaches Hull from the east across virtually level countryside. Route 66, which I followed, heads west from York, through Stamford Bridge, Pocklington, and Market Weighton, from where it crosses the Wolds to Beverley, to approach Hull from the north.
Route 66 starts off from the city centre along a main road but soon turns off onto the route of the old Derwent Valley Light Railway. This used to run from York to Cliffe Common, near Selby and, for some reason, remained a privately-owned local concern even at nationalisation. Passenger services succumbed to bus competition in 1926, but freight continued along ever-shorter lengths of the line until 1981, when it finally closed, although a short section has been preserved at the Yorkshire Museum of Farming at Murton.
For some reason, the railway path has local cycle route signing but the NCN route wasn't indicated. If you'd no idea of local geography you could easily take a wrong turning. The railway path continues to Osbaldwick, beyond the urban area. From there to Stamford Bridge the route isn't signed at all - the reason for this is unclear - but it's fairly easy to follow. Beyond Dunnington, though, it uses a bridleway, the first part of which was rather rough and pot-holed, after which came a stretch of dry, dusty earth, which was not only hard to ride on, but also covered the bike in dust. Just to round off, this was followed by a grassy stretch and finally a gravel length. None of these were ideal!
Near Stamford Bridge the route joins the main A166 into the village and over the bridge. On my first visit a voluntary bridge toll was being extracted from passing motorists, which slowed down the traffic, but it can be a very busy bit of road, although the bridge itself is traffic-light controlled. The eventual intention is to build a cycle path alongside the main road and link it up with an old railway viaduct to cross the river, but there seems to have been little progress on this front in the three years between my visits.
From Stamford Bridge the heights of the Wolds can be seen getting ever closer, and from Pocklington the route hugs the foot of the hills, ending a couple of hours of very flat riding. At Market Weighton we had our route cards stamped once more before starting on the climb through a gap in the hills. The cycle route uses a very pleasant narrow lane, but there is an alternative of using the parallel Hudson Way, an old railway path. However, this is little more than a narrow unsurfaced path through the grass, more suited to walking than cycling, and likely to be muddy in wet weather. In any case, the road passes through some delightful villages which the old railway bypasses.
The approach to Beverley is supposed to use a shared footpath beside the B1248 and the A164, but it was bumpy, narrow and overgrown; I soon gave it up and used the road instead. And when I got to the town I decided to dismount and walk through the North Bar and into the pedestrianised town centre.
A mile outside Beverley the route joins another bumpy track which takes it over the A1079 and through the surreal landscape of a vast electricity substation before arriving at Cottingham. I followed the route through the village but then the NCN signs vanished, and despite a serious amount of hunting, I couldn't find any trace of it. Eventually I gave up and opted instead for the main A1079 into the city centre. With cycle lanes for much of its length, it was quite acceptable. However, the downloadable Hull Cycle Map may help you to navigate more successfully.
On my return three years later we decided to give the Hull suburbs a miss and took the link route to the Humber Bridge instead. This was a great deal easier to follow, although a short stretch of bridleway on the outskirts of Hessle proved to be very overgrown and far too rough to cycle, but this could be avoided by using a short stretch of the B1231 instead.
Given two full days or more this is an excellent ride encompassing a wide range of Yorkshire scenery from the heights of the North Yorkshire Moors to the flat Plain of York, the Wolds, and the Humber estuary. The ride is let down by the poor signposting in places, and most of the (admittedly few) off-road sections needed to be upgraded and properly maintained.
You can either follow through the pages in sequence or go back to pick another route from the list of the NCN routes I've used.
Updated: 18 May 2003 plus minor changes 1 November 2004
Minor update: 15 August 2006