Like cake? Like cycling, but not really sure how to get into it? Then you’re going to love what they’re doing up in Yorkshire. It might be a British love affair, but men are still four times more likely than women to cycle*, so the City of York and its rural neighbour Ryedale have cooked up a plan to get more ladies on wheels, using the region’s plethora of top-class tea-rooms as perfect pit-stops.
It can be intimidating joining a club packed with experienced male cyclists, when you just want to have a leisurely cycle, enjoy the scenery and maybe stop for a cuppa somewhere nice.
“Women demand much more from their cycling,” says Michelle Brown, Tourism Marketing Manager of Visit York. “It’s not about pounding the pedals or roughing it on holiday for bragging rights. According to research*, there are three magic ingredients to an enjoyable cycling experience for ladies — it needs to be fun, friendly and it needs to feel safe. In York and Ryedale, girls can get everything they might desire on two wheels — whether complete beginners or challenge-seekers.”
York and Ryedale is surrounded by some of the best cycling country in the UK, so to get girls out exploring in a fun and friendly way, the region has created a series of tea-room trails. Designed for gentle escapism, not leg-busting, they feature award-winning tea rooms famed for cakes, bakes and connoisseur-grade coffee and tea. Just perfect for a spot of well-deserved luxury after a few hours exploring the countryside.
Sounds good, I thought! So my buddy Kate and I made our way up to the gorgeous little market town of Pickering for a weekend to check it out for ourselves. And of course we had to have the best of the best, so we could let you know just how good you could have it!
Arriving fairly late on Friday evening, we were welcomed by the lovely Emma Douglas-Smith who runs the beautifully luxurious Eden House B&B in the heart of Pickering. After a rather long drive from South Wales, we couldn’t have wished for a nicer welcome or a lovelier room to be waiting for us.
A Grade II listed cottage, Eden House B&B is a guest house with a real feel of traditional, cosy, country cottage comfort, with that hint of luxury and elegance. All en-suite bathrooms have been recently refurbished, making you feel truly pampered after a long drive or a long day in the fresh Yorkshire air. And boy is there a treat awaiting you when your head finally hits that pillow. Plush duvets, Egyptian cotton and pillows so inviting, you won’t even remember falling asleep.
And just when you thought it couldn’t get better, there’s breakfast! Emma takes your order the night before and you can choose anything from smoked salmon and scrambled egg with thick chunky wholewheat toast to the fullest traditional Yorkshire breakfast you’ve ever had. On top of that there’s a whole variety of cereals, creamy yoghurt, fresh fruit salad, homemade fruit compotes and jams to choose from too. Oh and then lovely freshly ground coffee, freshly brewed tea and refreshing juices. Is there any wonder Emma’s breakfast is award-winning?
Wherever possible, Emma sources her breakfast food locally or produces it herself, so you know you’re supporting the local economy, which is awesome. In season, she grows her own tomatoes, fruit and berries, which she uses to make her gorgeous jams and compotes.
So, after feasting like queens, we were ready for a day cycling through the Yorkshire countryside with British Cycling Breeze Champion, Andrea Wood. She’d planned a gentle escapism cycling trip for us, taking us out on her favourite Abbeys and Tea Rooms Tour, which skirts the north of Castle Howard’s parkland and has some great rest points should we get a little tired or need to return.
As well as being a British Cycling Breeze Champion, leading women’s groups of cyclists out into the Ryedale and North York Moors area, Andrea also works part-time at Big Bear Bikes in Pickering (one of the area’s leading bike shops, including hire) and part-time as a nutritional therapist. So we got loads of handy health tips as we cycled through the undulating countryside. And if that wasn’t enough, later this summer she’ll be starting up her own cycling holiday business, Cycling Tours of Yorkshire, where she plans to introduce ladies-only packages.
Andrea was able to arrange bike hire for us from Big Bear Bikes, and as I’m currently in a slightly pregnant state, I had the joy of trying out an electric bike for the first time. So while Kate and Andrea panted their way up the hills, I ascended them with ease — not even breaking a sweat!
Being quite an active individual normally I’d thought doing a cycling tour through Yorkshire would be a great thing to do while pregnant, but it turned out I hadn’t quite realised just how much energy growing a little baby saps from you, so I had to finish a little earlier. But thank goodness Yorkshire is so full of gorgeous tea rooms, so I stopped for a lovely cuppa while Andrea and Kate continued to pick up the van. Once all reunited, Andrea took us to one of her favourite tea rooms for a spot of late lunch.
The next day Kate was taken out by local mountain bike guru, Mike Hawtin for a short off-road adventure through Dalby Forest. Mike is a great bike ambassador for the area, with 10 years’ experience of guiding and coaching. He runs Gone Mountain Biking, one of the first cycling-come-holiday businesses set up in the area, as well as a 4* B&B with his wife (Eleven Westgate — recently mentioned in The Times‘ top 10 of cycling-based accommodation).
He tailors cycling experiences for all abilities both on and off-road. Above all, he knows the trails inside out. If the weather’s a bit ropey, he tends to take cyclists out in Dalby Forest’s bike park (which includes the World Cup Cycle Trail) and when the weather’s playing nice, he’ll take you up onto the moors.
We thoroughly enjoyed our cycling adventure in Yorkshire and can vouch there’s a heck of a lot on offer, whatever you’re looking for!
And in case you were wondering, Eden House B&B isn’t just a luxurious place to stay, but Emma loves hosting hikers and cyclists and provides loads of information on hiking, cycling and adventures in the local area. There’s also secure storage for your bikes and hiking equipment, as well as outdoor facilities for cleaning boots, walking and cycling equipment.
Wondering what else you can expect from Eden House B&B?
- bathroom toiletries
- large cotton bath sheet size towels
- hospitality tray with a selection of teas, coffee and biscuits (fresh milk provided on request)
- complimentary bottled water
- colour Freeview TV with DVD player
- hairdryer, shoe cleaning and sewing kits
- digital radio alarm clock with iPod dock
- free WiFi access on request
- iron and ironing board on request
- luggage rack
- guest information pack
For loads more ideas on cycling, holidays, where to stay and where to hire in the York and Ryedale region, check out Visit Ryedale, Howardian Hills or Visit York or consult an expert at York’s Visitor Information Centre on Museum Street (near York Minster). For ideas while you’re already out and about in North Yorkshire, there’s free WiFi, maps and guides at Visitor Information Points in Helmsley and Malton.
*insight from British Cycling Federation, and reports produced by Women in Sport on cycling
Keep an eye out for further blogs on cycling and mountain biking in Yorkshire in the coming weeks.
Note: All accommodation, cycling trips and bike hire were provided free of charge in return for a review. All views are my own.