Harland Way Cycle Route

Cyclists on the Harland Way
Cyclists on the Harland Way

The Harland Way is a Sustrans cycle and foot path between Spofforth and Wetherby, and is phase 1 of a route between Harrogate and York, the rest of which may be built one day. The Harland Way is owned and maintained by a partnership of Leeds City Council, Harrogate Borough Council, the Wetherby to Thorp Arch Railway Path Forum, and the Thorp Arch Estate and Retail Park.

It is on the route of a railway trackbed and was converted to a path in 1992, at which time it reached the outskirts of Wetherby. A year later, it was extended into the former railway triangle in Wetherby by the local Lions Club. The route is named after Peter Harland, the late former Lion President.

The surface for most of the way from Spofforth to Wetherby is compacted gravel, and is not suitable for pure road bikes. Any bike with more robust tyres, including a hybrid, can be cycled along the Harland Way. Before Wetherby, the surface changes to tarmac.

There's some information about the Harland Way, and a map, on this Sustrans Wetherby Railway Path leaflet.

Ride Details | Map | Spofforth to Wetherby | Devil's Toenail Bike Park | Route through Wetherby | Wetherby to Thorp Arch | Suggestions for Improvements | Harrogate to Spofforth | Harrogate-Spofforth Suggestions | Spofforth & Spofforth Castle

Ride Details

Harrogate (Yorkshire Showground) to Spofforth: 5 miles; Spofforth to Wetherby (Deighton Road): 3miles; Wetherby to Thorp Arch: 3.5 miles. Same again on the way back!

Harland Way Cycle Route: Map

The map above shows the main Spofforth-Wetherby section in olive green. To the north west is a Harrogate-Spofforth route, and to the south east is the continuation of the route to the Thorp Arch Estate.

If you wish you can download a GPS file for Harrogate to Wetherby and for Wetherby to Thorp Arch.

Harland Way Cycle Route: Route Notes

Harland Way Cycle Route: Spofforth to Wetherby

East Park Road, Spofforth
East Park Road, Spofforth

The Harland Way starts from East Park Road, just off Spofforth High Street. It's a housing estate, with street parking. Alternatively, if you're parking in Spofforth, there are spaces on Castle Street, in sight of Spofforth Castle ruins. 

Start of Harland Way, Spofforth
Start of Harland Way, off East Park Road

Turn right off East Park Road onto a gravel path.

Start of Harland Way, Spofforth
Sustrans green sign and map

At the top of a short slope, there's a green sign with a map, and an indication that this is National Cycle Network Route 67.

Map of Harland Way on sign in Spofforth
Green sign and map (click to enlarge)

As it's a on the trackbed of the former railway line, the Harland Way is flat and straight. It goes through farmland.

Harland Way through farmland
Harland Way passes through farmland

There are wooded sections too, where the path tends to be muddy.

Harland Way through woodland
Harland Way passes through woodland

The surface is gravel or mud until the green barrier shown in the photo below. Thereafter, it's a hard surface. I believe the green barrier marks the border between Harrogate Borough and Leeds Metropolitan District, although I've never had to show my passport there. If so - come on Harrogate, pull your socks up and lay a decent surface on your bit.

Anti-motorcycle gate on Harland Way
Border between Harrogate and Leeds

If you put in a rough surface you automatically exclude certain bikes; there are enough obstacles to cycling in the UK without doing that. It's not as if we're blessed with extensive and good quality cycle routes all over the country, so where we do have one, could we just make it accessible to all types of bike please?

Harland Way junction
Harland Way junction

Just before arriving in Wetherby, there's a choice of routes (shown in the photo above). Keep left to stay on the main Harland Way route. The right turn goes to the western edge of Wetherby.

The Devil's Toenail Bike Park

Map showing Devil's Toenail Bike Park in Wetherby
Map showing location of Devil's Toenail Bike Park (click to enlarge)

When you reach the fork in the railway path, you're very close to the Devil's Toenail Bike Park.

If you want to go to it, take the left fork in the railway path (indicated by a black arrow on the map), then very soon after, at the end of the grassy triangle, take a little path to the right up the hill. (It is a brown dotted line on the map). You emerge from the trees onto an open, grassy area. This is where the small pump track is (Little Toe) for young children.

To get to the Big Toe track, continue past Little Toe and turn right at the top of the hill. Big Toe is on your right.

(If you wanted to access the Big Toe track from the other side, you would get to it from Quarry Hill Lane).

Back on the Harland Way, the path soon reaches Deighton Road.

Harland Way/ Deighton Road junction
Barrier where the Harland Way ends at Deighton Road

The barrier at the end of the cycle route in Wetherby is so narrow that you can't cycle through it and you have to get off. That doesn't matter too much arriving in Wetherby, but it is more inconvenient in the other direction, because the barrier means that you can't get a run-up to cycle up the hill, and so you'll probably have to push your bike up it.

Cycle Infrastructure Design says these types of barrier should not be used. As well as being inconvenient for everyone, they exclude certain types of bike like cargo bikes and hand cycles.

Harland Way Cycle Route: Wetherby

If you're continuing to Thorp Arch, turn right on Deighton Road.

Deighton Road, Wetherby
Deighton Road, Wetherby

The route in Wetherby is signposted, but not very well - sometimes it's tiny stickers on signposts. By a Morrisons garage turn left off Deighton Road onto York Road. Then turn right on Hallfield Lane, then left on Freemans Way.

Hallfield Lane, Wetherby
Hallfield Lane

Harland Way Cycle Route: Wetherby to Thorp Arch Estate

The cycle route (now NCN Route 66) resumes from Freemans Way, with an underpass under the A1.

Cycle route 66 underpass under A1
Underpass under the A1

The path is once again on the railway trackbed. There are views of Wetherby racecourse to the left.

Wetherby Racecourse
Wetherby Races

It crosses the Wetherby to Walton road, then the Walton/Thorp Arch road, and reaches the Thorp Arch Trading Estate, about 5km beyond Wetherby.

NCN route 66 crosses Walton/Wetherby road
Crossing the road

At the time of writing (late 2020) it extends over the Wharfe and to the A659 where it comes to a stop. I believe the next step is to extend it to Tadcaster.

Harland Way Cycle Route: Comments and Suggestions

Sign on NCN route 66

1) Extend the route! It's been more than 20 years since the Harland Way was built. According to Sustrans, it's supposed to be part of a Harrogate to York cycle route. There should be a Harrogate to York route. Lots of people would like to cycle, for leisure and to get where they need to go. The modern problems of congestion, pollution, and obesity mean there's never been a better time to provide more and better facilities. So let's not wait any longer.

Surely this should now be a priority, not just for Sustrans, but for local authorities.

2) Improve the path surface. A compact gravel surface immediately excludes a large number of bikes. The goal should be to make cycling as convenient as possible for as many people as possible, and people shouldn't have to buy a second bike in order to ride this path.

The muddy sections become very difficult to ride in Winter.

The path after Freemans Way is tarmac, but it is wrecked and in desperated need of resurfacing.

3) Some of the barriers are awkward to negotiate. I find that the handlebars of my bike won't fit in the narrow gap in many of them.

Cycle Infrastructure Design (paragraph 8.3) deals with access controls, and says there should be a presumption against them. It also specifically instructs that barriers that require cyclists to dismount or which cannot accommodate tandems, hand cycles or cargo bikes are not inclusive and should not be used.

Bike Rides in Harrogate and Nidderdale

Bike Rides in Harrogate and Nidderdale cover

Bike Rides in Harrogate and Nidderdale is a book of family bike rides, mountain bike rides, and road bike rides.

There's everything you need for the rides - route description, photos, maps and satellite navigation files - but there's more to the book than that.

Images give an impression of the beautiful sights you'll encounter. Feature boxes contain information about the landscapes, towns and villages you pass through, including their history, the people who have shaped them, and the wildlife that thrives there.

Available in paperback - find out more.

Harrogate to Spofforth

Sign to Spofforth on Showground Greenway
Route out of the Yorkshire Showground

Spofforth is now signposted from the Yorkshire Showground Greenway in Harrogate. I've shown the route in orange on the map. Turn right off Railway Road in the Showground and head towards the Travellers Rest pub.

Travellers Rest pub, Crimple Lane
Travellers Rest pub

The surface of the route leaving the Showground was improved in 2020 - thanks to Harrogate District Cycle Action and the Yorkshire Showground. The Travellers Rest is on Crimple Lane, which is very badly surfaced.

Crimple Lane, Harrogate
Crimple Lane

At the T junction at the end of Crimple Lane, it's a right turn on Rudding Lane. This is not a good cycle route, because it is a busy road at times, and narrow.

Rudding Lane takes you towards the A658 John Metcalf Way. One way to cross it is via the Follifoot Underpass. Turn right on Pannal Road just before you reach the A-road, then cycling signs direct you left to the underpass. Although the tunnel itself was improved a little in 2020, this is still a mud and stones path. (If you do go down to the Underpass, you can see the exit of the Prospect Tunnel, used by the railway).

Follifoot underpass
Follifoot Underpass

I prefer to go left on a footpath just before the A658 junction, and cross over the A-road (no official crossing). On the other side you can pick up the footpath again, then join the same residential road (Pannal Road) as you would if you'd gone under the underpass.

Pannal Road, Follifoot
Pannal Road, leading to Follifoot

Continue to Follifoot on Pannal Road, passing the Radcliffe Arms, then the south gatehouse of the Rudding Park estate, both on your left.

Follifoot
South gatehouse of Rudding Park estate

Turn right on Spofforth Lane, passing the Harewood Arms on your left.

Harewood Arms, Follifoot
Harewood Arms, Follifoot

Spofforth Lane is a nice country road, and as a cycle route it is considerably better than Haggs Road, a road running roughly parallel with it.

Spofforth Lane brings you to Spofforth. In Spofforth there's a short stretch of the busy A661 to negotiate in order to get to the start of the Harland Way - not ideal.

Harrogate to Spofforth: Comments and Suggestions

A cycle route should be safe, convenient, and complete. The Harrogate to Spofforth route falls short in a number of ways.

1) The route from the Yorkshire Showground is not direct but wiggly and roundabout. The surface of Crimple Lane is very poor. These factors mean it loses points in the 'convenient' category.

A better route out of the Showground should be found, and surfaced properly. Ideally this would be the route of the York & North Midland Railway, through the Prospect Tunnel and on to Spofforth, joining up with the Harland Way there (which already uses that railway trackbed).

2) Rudding Lane is too busy to be a good cycle route, so it loses points in the 'safe' category. Chris Boardman, who is Manchester's Walking & Cycling Commissioner, has written about the 'competent 12 year old' test: a network must be something a 12 year old would choose to use. I suggest Rudding Lane fails the 12 year old test. A survey for Cycling UK showed that 52% of British adults don't know the rules for passing cyclists. Cycle Infrastructure Design says that 62% of UK adults feel that the roads are too hostile for them to cycle on, and fear of motor traffic is the main thing putting people off riding bikes.

Safety is therefore another good reason for finding a better route out of the Yorkshire Showground, and avoiding Rudding Lane.

3) The mud and stones path through the Follifoot Underpass isn't good enough. Cycle routes should be convenient for everyone riding a bike. If people have to have a particular type of bike, or special tyres, they will just ignore your bike route, which isn't the point of creating it.

Instead of sending people through the Follifoot Underpass, there should be a signalised (Toucan) crossing of the A658, and the speed limit on the road should be reduced to 40mph either side of the crossing.

4) Signs could be put up on Spofforth Lane, asking people to give a gap of at least 1m50 when overtaking.

5) There should be cycle provision on the short stretch of the A661, ideally a physically protected bike lane. Or, if the railway route is opened up between Harrogate and Spofforth, people won't have to go on the A661 at all, just cross it.

CO2 Emissions

The local authority responsible for making these improvements is North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC). They have declared their intent to become carbon negative by 2030, but they are spending £7.7 million adding lanes at J47 of the A1M - to increase capacity and increase emissions. When it comes to active travel routes like the Harland Way, there is apathy and delay, and we're told there's no money.

Setting carbon reduction targets is the easy bit; taking the steps needed to achieve them is much harder. If NYCC continue to spend money to increase emissions from what is already the biggest source in the county, and do naff all for active travel, it is certain that their emissions target is for decorative purposes only and will not be met.

Spofforth

There are parking spaces near Spofforth Castle. Alternatively, you could park right by the start of the Harland Way, on East Park Road.

Parking spaces near Spofforth Castle
Parking spaces opposite Spofforth Castle

There's a local shop in Spofforth (but it's not just for local people).

Spofforth local shop

The Castle pub is next door to the shop.

Spofforth castle pub

The ruins of Spofforth Castle are a feature of the village. 

Spofforth Castle

It dates from Norman times. William de Percy was a Norman noble, who was favoured by William the Conqueror. Percy built a manor house here in the C11th, after the Norman Conquest of 1066. It is said that rebel barons drew up the Magna Carta here in 1215.

The manor house was fortified in the 1300s. In 1461, during the Wars of the Roses, it was burnt down, and lay in ruins until 1559, when it was restored by Henry, Lord Percy.

The castle was again reduced to ruins in the 1600s, during the English civil war. It was given to the state in 1924, and now belongs to English Heritage. It's free to visit, and makes a nice place for a picnic on a sunny day.

Harland Way comments