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
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
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
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.
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
Turn right off East Park Road onto a gravel path.
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.
As it's a on the trackbed of the former railway line, the Harland Way
is flat and straight. It goes through farmland.
There are wooded sections too, where the path tends to be muddy.
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
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?
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
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.
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.
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
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.
The path is once again on the railway trackbed. There are views of
Wetherby racecourse to the left.
It crosses the Wetherby to Walton road, then the Walton/Thorp Arch
road, and reaches the Thorp Arch Trading Estate, about 5km beyond
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
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
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.
There's everything you need for the rides - route description, photos,
maps and satellite navigation files - but there's more to the book than
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.
Spofforth is now signposted from the Yorkshire
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.
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.
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
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.
Continue to Follifoot on Pannal Road, passing the Radcliffe Arms, then
the south gatehouse of the Rudding Park estate, both on your left.
Turn right on Spofforth Lane, passing the Harewood Arms on your left.
Spofforth Lane is a nice country road, and as a cycle route it is
considerably better than Haggs Road, a road running roughly parallel
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.
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
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.
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.
There are parking spaces near Spofforth Castle. Alternatively, you
could park right by the start of the Harland Way, on East Park Road.
There's a local shop in Spofforth (but it's not just for local people).
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