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Generally you expect to find long rolling descents on mountain bike routes in the higher peaks and fells. However, tucked away amongst the low fells around Tilberthwaite and Tarn Hows are two trails that break this convention. The first one is an old bridleway that crosses the fells just north of Tarn Hows connecting the upper end of Yewdale with Knipe Fold. The second is a newly opened permissive route that drops down from Tarn Hows to Monk Coniston. Both routes offer outstanding descents particularly for those riders seeking to up their experience level. They are shared with walkers and horse riders so it is important to maintain control at all time and ride with consideration for others. Mostly the ground covered is not too technical but there are the odd rock steps and bouldery bits to contend with.
Both routes stand alone as quality routes, but linked together they make an absolute classic ride. The perfect way to stitch them together is to head out from Coniston to Tilberthwaite and warm up on the cycle path and bridleways that lead along the road and up towards Little Langdale. Access can then be gained via Oxen Fell at the top end of Yewdale to the bridleway over to Knipe Fold. From here a short climb round to Tarn Hows gives access to the Monk Coniston permissive route.
2 - 3 hours
1. From the main car park in Coniston cross the junction then turn right along the B5285 Hawkshead Road. After 250m take the left turn just before the bridge. Follow this road to join the A593. Turn right onto it and follow it towards Ambleside for 250m (watch out for traffic) to the start of the cycle path at Far End. Follow the cycle path as it rises and falls through woodland to join the Tilberthwaite Road.
2. Follow the Tilberthwaite road as it climbs North West then North East around the valley to the farm at High Tilberthwaite. Two tracks split at the farm take the right hand fork and follow the bridleway as it climbs East then North East. The climb soon eases and the bridleway provides a stony descent down to a ford at the River Rothay.
3. Ignore the ford; instead take the track/road on the right to Stang End. From Stang End leave the road and take the track South to Hodge Close. Just before the buildings at Hodge Close turn left and follow the track that climbs East. A short pleasant descent then leads to the road at High Oxen Fell which in turn is followed to the A593 Coniston to Ambleside Road.
4. Cross the road and join the steep lane on the other side. This is the start of the bridleway over to Knipe Fold. There is a 1km climb until the start of the descent but it is mostly rideable and the views more than make up for the hard work. Once the top is reached an undulating section provides some pleasant prelims, then the descent kicks in and leads in one long run down to the road at Knipe Fold.
5. Turn right onto the road then immediately turn right again at the junction. This road climbs South West to another junction at which you take the right fork. A few more metres and you come to yet another junction, again take the right branch. The road climbs West then North towards Tarn Hows. Just before you reach Tarn Hows, near the first car park, there is a track on the left. This is the permissive bridleway that descends to Monk Coniston (sign for Coniston). Pass through the gate and head South West along it. The surface is superb but keep your wits about you as there are a few washouts and stony sections. Halfway down the track splits and the bridleway turns off right through a hairpin bend. A steep section follows above a beck and then the gradient eases as you arrive at a road.
6. Join the road (B5285) Coniston to Hawkshead Road for a short section and then join the cycle path on the right hand side. This is followed South West around the top of the lake to Coniston.