Dragons Back Circular - Black Mountains
The Dragons Back walk starts in the small village of Pengenffordd within the Brecon Beacons National Park. It boasts fantastic views of the surrounding country side and the beautiful Black Mountains.
14.4 km / 9 miles
#GetOutside Champions adventure
Bolton Castle car park
With another school holiday rapidly approaching the universal question of parents everywhere is again heard... How do we keep the kids entertained this school holiday? Why not consider turning a simple family bike ride into an adventure!
Family units are such diverse packages at times it can be very difficult pleasing all ages and expectations in one activity. Could this be done on a bike ride? We thought so!
So, determined to prove our theory correct, during August we took groups 12 children of all ages from 6-16 and abilities on 3 Bike Adventure Days. The challenge was to explore the local area and amenities for a whole day outside spending as little cash as possible but keeping everyone engaged.
This adventure follows a route in Upper Wensleydale starting and finishing at the site of Bolton Castle. It is a mixed route of off and on roads. Bikes would need to be of MTB style as it's unsuitable for road bikes. We recommend that children are from 6+ and confident on their bikes. They need to be comfortable riding with some passing traffic and able to manage simple off-road techniques.
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Bolton Castle is a great place to starting adventure due to its imposing presence on the Wensleydale Landscape. It remains within the Bolton family who's “new” home we go past on the ride.
From the Castle exit the Village of Castle Bolton via a narrow quiet road. This is used by local traffic and there are some relatively steep descents and climbs so young children need to be monitored carefully.
At the end of this road cross over through a gate and access a bridleway part of the Dalesway.
Follow this bridle way through a number of gates. Caution is required at the end of the bridleway as you are required to cross a junction on a hill with a main road. At this point you briefly join a slightly busy rural road. Continue along this road until you reach the turning for Preston under Scarr. Turn left into the village accessed by a short road climb.
The prize for any disheartened children is a park! A great free resource and a perfect 10 minute stop off.
Even the teenagers lowered their guard and had a climb and a swing.
Once refreshed we set off exiting the village via a right turn down the hill passing over the old railway lines. This is a manual crossing of a local amateur railway therefore it is a good idea to check before going over the crossing. However, it is infrequently used. If you are lucky you might spot a steam train. At the end of this lane you re-access the main road and continue to the village of Wensley.
Here there is a pub (if refreshments are required) and a candle marking workshop with demonstrates and tours available throughout the year and a possible pit stop.
Here you reach a busy main road junction and you are required to undertake a right-hand turn. We recommend with children you do what we did and jump off the bikes and take the right-hand pavement to the gate at the start of the Bolton Estate.
It is a very short walk with the bikes and worth the inconvenience to keep young children safe and happy. At the gate you enter the estate of Lord Bolton who still owns and manages the Castle that we started from.
You travel for approx a mile on a tarmac track past the magnificent Bolton Hall. This road is used by the estate traffic, but this is generally slow moving and minimal, there is also plenty of space to move out of the way.
The road then changes to a woodland track which you follow through Redmire woods. At this time of year there is plenty of opportunity for bramble collecting to supplement the snack quota.
Follow the track until a junction. At this point the tack divides into footpath and bridleway. You will need to take the left track (footpath that descends quickly and at times is very nobbly). As this footpath leads to an ideal lunch spot we jumped off the bikes (bikes can be safely locked at the top or taken with you on foot).
Here you will reach a gated field with a river running parallel.
This proved to be a perfect picnic spot for the kids. It has lots of interesting limestone features to clamber over and explore and on a hot day paddle.
Please note we went at a particular low river level and the children could safely access the water (children should be closely supervised at all times near water and entering fast flowing cold water is extremely dangerous).
After we had paddled and picnicked we retraced our steps and returned to the junction. We took the right marked bridle way which leads to a gated wide track that passes past a farm. Here it joins a graveled track that leads into Redmire Village past the church
Redmire has a number amenities telephone, shop (hours variable) and a pub. Therefore, if it is too wet to picnic or you are in the need of a packet of crisps to encourage young legs to the next point it is idea.
At the end of the lane you take a right turn onto the main road you then have a short cycle to a left hand turn to the centre of the village continue along this road to the pub or past and through the houses to our second park stop. This proved another great 10-minute stop perfect for all ages!
Rejoin the road and cycle up a tarmac hill this can be a challenge for very young children, but our brave 6-year-old managed with encouragement. Here you take a left turn rejoining the first road back to the village and Bolton Castle.
Finish - 14.4km
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All the kids were energised by the site of the Castle and sprinted to their destination. At this final point you have several options depending on time or budget.
We decided to allow the children to let off steam around the small maze and enjoy an ice-cream. Access to the gardens is £3 there are also birds of prey and wild boar to watch. The cafe in the castle can be accessed without any charges and serves a range of light meals and cakes.
Did we fulfill our challenge of turning a bike ride into an adventure? I think so!
It's very easy to replace this idea in your own area by planning a routine that involves lots of stop-offs or interesting things to look at. Just make sure you are prepared with snacks and a map. We personally spent no money until we returned to the castle.
Ideal for inexpensive holidays and we spent all day outside. Glorious weather of course helped! Get out and try for yourself.
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Helen spends her days, managing a cycling business, chasing her daughter Daisy, running with dogs, falling off her bike, and hopefully encouraging others to do something similar.