The historic announcement that the 2014 Tour de France will make its’ ‘Grand Depart’ from Leeds on July 5th before navigating God’s Own County, has sent a ripple of excitement around us stubborn and traditionally hard-to-please Yorkshire folk. Race Director Christian Prudhomme explained that “Yorkshire is a region of outstanding beauty, with breathtaking landscapes whose terrains offer both sprinters and attackers the opportunity to express themselves. So, if you plan on heading out to watch the peloton snake through our fair pastures, where should you stop off, and how can you make the most of your day?
The Grand Depart Yorkshire route: Stage One
The first landmark hit after leaving Leeds city centre is the village of Harewood. The cyclists will speed through the scenic grounds of the famous house, still home to the Lascelles family, and with its’ fascinating bird garden. The café, tea room or gift shop within the grounds will occupy you, or the nearby Harewood Arms can keep you fed as you await the early leaders.
The birthplace of Olympic silver-medallist Lizzie Armistead is the next point of interest. The busy market town which has been the location for Emmerdale and ITV’s Heartbeat, is a pub and restaurant haven, with the Rose & Crown and Horse & Farrier particularly noted for food. Elsewhere, Whitakers, the Red Lion, the Bayhorse, the Old Cock, the Junction Inn, Cross Pipes, the White Swan and the Manor House are all local to the route.
Next up is the spa town famous for its’ Victorian architecture and a great base for walks into the Dales, to meander round the speciality shops or to pop into Betty’s Tea Rooms. The Box Tree is a Michelin-starred restaurant where Marco-Pierre White trained, whilst The Crescent Inn is a renowned pub, bistro and hotel. Elsewhere, Ilkley Moor Vaults, The Yard, Bar T’at and The Fox will welcome you as you await the riders.
Another bustling market town and the ‘Gateway to the Dales’ is next up. Skipton is the home of the Copper Dragon brewery which has a bar, bistro and visitors centre and conducts brewery tours. There is a good range of pubs and restaurants to suit most palates around the main village square, including the Woolly Sheep and the Castle Inn.
Moving north to Kettlewell in Upper Wharfedale, the riders pass through the set of the 2003 film ‘Calendar Girls’, for which there is a short landmark tour available. Nearest to the route is the Black Horse pub, but close by are the Angel Inn and Red Lion. The Racehorses Hotel offers accommodation for those wanting a longer stay in the area.
Based in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and home to the beautiful Aysgarth Falls, this Wensleydale village also houses the famous George & Dragon Inn, a 17th century Grade II listed pub. A great base for walkers, the village was also used to film part of Kevin Costner’s ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ film. It’s short on pubs, but the Palmer Flatt Hotel and Aysgarth Falls Hotel do offer great food and accommodation.
The home of Wensleydale cheese is the next point at which to see the riders flashing passed. Also containing the Dales Countryside Museum, housed in the village’s railway station, Hawes has some accommodating pubs nearby to the Tour route, including the Green Dragon Inn, the Old Board Inn, the Crown Hotel and the Fountain Hotel.
The most northerly point of the route is Reeth, the capital of Swaledale and a village named in the Domesday book having evolved from Saxon times. Another good starting point for walks into the Dales, three pubs surround the village green; the Black Bull, the King’s Arms and the Buck Hotel. Also overlooking the green is the Burgoyne Hotel.
As the riders head back south they pass through the market town of Leyburn; home to the Wensleydale railway that takes passengers on tours of the Dales. A lively centre contains the Three Horseshoes, the King’s Head and the Golden Lion. Notable for food are Waterford House and the White Swan, whilst the village also has good B&B’s in the Old Town Hall, Clyde House and the Old Vicarage.
The home straight sees the trail hit the cathedral town of Ripon, also famous for its’ racecourse and a huge market. Fountains Abbey and Lightwater Valley are also close by, but if you are sticking near the route there are plenty of pubs to keep you fed and watered, such as the Royal Oak, the Water Rat, the One-Eyed Rat, the White Horse, the Golden Lion and the Hornblower Tavern.
The long, flat finish into Harrogate will see the first Yellow jersey awarded, and the Spa town will be a popular spot for race enthusiasts. Luckily, Harrogate is already a tourist hot spot, as people flock to the town’s Harlow Carr Gardens, Betty’s original Tea Rooms, and the fine architecture and shops. An array of pubs and restaurants will also pass the time ably, as the first stage reaches its’ compelling conclusion.