‘ Take the high road for this moorland mission’
The North Pennines is a stunning region of moorland with some of the best roads in England and two of the highest in the land.
This ride makes an anti-clockwise loop from Barnard Castle to Bowes; fuel is available at the junction of the A688 and A67 to the east of town, and it’s worth topping up before leaving as it will be some distance before the next opportunity.
Head out on the B6278 in the direction of Middleton-in-teesdale. When the road swoops down to Eggleston be prepared to turn right as the B6278 branches off towards Stanhope – take care as the junction is on the entry to a left-hander.
The moors soon open up beyond and as the narrow ribbon of tarmac twists on ahead it’s hard not to feel humbled by the vastness of the surroundings; purple heather peppers the landscape with not so much as a tree for as far as the eye can see.
The descent into Stanhope is via a couple of tricky steep, tight turns; after crossing the River Wear turn right on to the A689 then take the first left to continue on the B6278. In what feels like the middle of nowhere you’ll find the left turn for Blanchland and a wonderfully remote single track that undulates across the moors. At the village bear left to join the B6306 to Hexham, where a left turn along the high street and down the hill leads to the sweeping curves of the A69.
At Haltwhistle take the left turn marked A689 and Alston; in contrast to the bleak beauty of the moors this section is mainly stone walls, hedgerows and farmland but it’s a great ride nonetheless. At the T-junction turn left towards Alston town centre (filling station on the left) and when you reach the green, turn right to climb the cobbled hill. There are plenty of places to eat thereabouts (the Top Café on Front Street swerves up some fantastic soups) and though space to park shouldn’t be a problem be aware that the gradient is somewhat steep in places.
Keep straight on up the hill and prepare to experience the B6277, without doubt one of the best biking routes in the region. This sinuous strip of asphalt winds its way around ever wilder contours and although the twists are sensational the terrain is such that blind corners are rare. As an interesting detour, look out for the left turn to St John’s Chapel – this is Harthope Moss, which at 627m is the joint highest paved road in England.
‘Harthope Moss at 627m is the joint highest paved road in England’