Kettlewell by Bus

Kettlewell BusCyclists with busy schedules and a folding bike can get from Leeds to most parts of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, as there is a weekly bus service as far as Hawes in Wensleydale.The 804 departs from Leeds Bus Station at 9.40 on a Sunday morning.The fare is £3.60 single, but a ‘Day Rover’ return ticket costs only £4. However, do check the times and fares before you go! Here’s an account of my recent trip.

The bus was a single-decker and about two-thirds full.The other passengers were mainly hikers and those who noticed the Brompton were delighted with the ease of folding and carrying. As a Brompton owner you get many opportunities to show off, as you demonstrate the 12-second fold. Even the T5 touring version with dynamo lights, a rack, saddlebag, tools and puncture repair kit only weighs around 13.6kg (30lb).

With a fully-loaded front touring pannier and a 50 litre rucksack on the rear carrier it weighs a bit more.When the bike is folded and carried (or wheeled along) using your right arm, you can carry a touring pannier in your left hand and the rucksack on your back.When riding, straps secure the rucksack to the underside of the saddle and the top of the rear carrier. I have no trouble fitting all the gear needed for a cycle-camping tour into the front pannier and the rucksack.

The advantage of a rucksack as cycle luggage on a folding bike, over conventional panniers on a traditional touring cycle, are that if desired, you can roam off over the hills and footpaths with the rucksack whilst the bike is locked up safely back at the campsite or hostel. A decent-sized rucksack fits neatly between saddle and rear carrier on the Brompton.

…a fine feast, with more pudding and custard…Bakewell tart this time…

I got off the bus in Grassington and had a pleasant breakfast at the Cobblestones Café. After buying some provisions in the shops I then cycled on to Kettlewell; it’s about six miles and very pleasant on the old back road. Stopping to talk to some walkers resting on a convenient wooden bench we had a chat about the wonders of the Dales.

Brompton with luggageAt Kettlewell I registered in the Youth Hostel, which was almost empty. After a delicious evening meal (followed by a Portly-ish sponge pudding and custard for afters!), I rode up onto the moors on the Leyburn road.There are two very steep 1:4 hills, which were fun, but hair-raising, to descend. I came across some friends on my return who were in Kettlewell for the day and had arrived by car, with two small toddlers.We chatted until night began to fall, when I locked my trusty folder in the shed next to the hostel and waved goodbye to my friends. Back inside, I found a fellow resident, so we retired to the friendly King’s Head for a drink and a game of dominoes.

Next day I walked up Great Whernside in bright sunshine and got soaked to the skin when the weather changed – I had to navigate off the hill through the mist and clouds with a compass.What a fine adventure! The following day I climbed Buckden Pike. Two sheepdogs, one a young puppy, left their owner building a wall and accompanied me up the hill. It was very windy and cold, but sunny and warm in the shelter of a drystone wall. I returned to the hostel with the aid of a head torch as night was falling and had a fine feast, with more pudding and custard… Bakewell tart this time.

On the third day I rode back to Grassington on a fine crisp spring morning, and on to Skipton, where the market was in full swing. After an interesting look round I bought some shoes, some fine cheeses and pies and a Derby Tweed jacket! My loaded Brompton was safe, locked up in a largely crime-free Skipton and so I went to look round the antiques and bric-a-brac fair in the Town Hall.

My stay eventually ran its course and I caught the hourly bus back to Leeds – a very reasonable off-peak fare of only £1.70.When I first returned to bus travel after scrapping my car I was pleasantly surprised to discover how friendly other passengers usually are. As a car driver one frequently experiences other drivers as ‘competitors’ trying to overtake, even when it is not safe, and a continual struggle for road space takes place.The road was busy with traffic and I was glad to be ‘chauffeur driven’.The bus driver deals with all the stresses of the journey. Sometimes it’s fun being a cyclist!

A number of special buses (including one with a trailer for conventional bikes) run into the Yorkshire Dales from Leeds,York and elsewhere on summer Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays.There’s also a basic winter service. Special offers include a £1 discount at Malham Youth Hostel (look after t’pennies, lad’) on production of your bus ticket. Full details of the 2005 services can be found at