NORTH PEN­NINES

Plenty of twists and turns

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Justin Hayzelden

The North Pen­nines are criss-crossed by some truly in­cred­i­ble roads and this spe­cial ride takes in one of the most in­fa­mous – the leg­endary A686. From junc­tion 43 on the M6 head east to­wards New­cas­tle along the A46, where you’ll have the chance to fuel up if needs be. The clos­est fill­ing sta­tion to the start is just past the left turn for Low Row, un­less you’re ap­proach­ing from the east in which case it’s the BP at Hen­shaw.

At Hay­don Bridge the A69 sweeps across the river to by­pass the town; this is your cue to watch for the sign that marks the turn to Al­ston and 36.5 miles of two-wheeled bliss. The fab­u­lous A686 be­gins with a gen­tle me­an­der through a fun­nel of fo­liage, steadily ris­ing into open farm­land be­fore mak­ing a steep de­scent via a se­ries of hair­pins to Cupola Bridge – they’re very tight, so steady as she goes. Once across, the road re­sumes its climb, cling­ing to the con­tours of river clefts un­til it reaches the re­mote heather and gorse of Al­ston moor. The wind can get a bit blus­tery across the top, but the road sur­face is pretty good and the tar­mac gets some amaz­ing twists on for the run into town. Al­ston it­self is fa­mous for be­ing one of the high­est market towns in Eng­land, as well as the in­spi­ra­tion for the League of Gen­tle­man’s Roys­ton Vasey – thank­fully though the lo­cal shops are for ev­ery­one, as you might want to take the op­por­tu­nity to top up your tank.

Be­yond town the black­top starts to weave once more, dart­ing be­tween low stone walls as it climbs through a rib­bon of sin­u­ous curves; to the left, on a good day, you’ll see Cross Fell, the high­est point in Eng­land out­side of the Lake Dis­trict. Be­fore the fi­nal stretch it’s worth mak­ing a stop at the Hart­side Café for a cuppa and to take in the splen­did view; any good ride de­serves a spot for quiet con­tem­pla­tion and a few min­utes here on the hill­side will pro­vide just that, in prepa­ra­tion of what’s to fol­low.

This route re­ally does save the best ‘til last and the run down to­wards Pen­rith is a slice of pure mo­tor­cy­cling heaven. The sen­sa­tional switch­backs and com­pound turns are prac­ti­cally alpine in places, but it’s easy to get caught out so keep your wits about you at all times – sud­den changes in di­rec­tion should not be un­ex­pected, although they cer­tainly add to the charm. Back on the flat the A686 straight­ens out and the cruise back to Pen­rith will give you just enough time to won­der what it would be like to swing around the round­about and ride it back the other way… and why not?

‘It in­spired Roys­ton Vasey… but the lo­cal shops here are for ev­ery­one’

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