The Best Driving Roads in The Yorkshire Dales
The ultimate route map including the location of super unleaded petrol stations, photography hotspots and where to eat. Featuring all the best roads of the Yorkshire Dales, including the Buttertubs Pass, B6255, A684 and much more...
istoric Yorkshire, better known as God’s own county, is the U.K’s largest district, blessed with not one, but two National Parks. If that’s not enough, it’s also home to three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. You’d therefore be correct in assuming Yorkshire is prime hunting ground for great driving roads.
Today we’ll be concentrating on the sinuating ribbons of tarmac carving their way through the picturesque Yorkshire Dales, using Renaultsport's superlative Clio 200 in an eye-catching shade of Alien Green. We’re beginning our tour in the South West - specifically the quaint market town of Settle.
START /END POINT
CO-OP Petrol Station, Settle, BD24 9JD
Travel time - approx. 1.5hrs + (route dependant)
Distance - approx. 100 miles (route dependant)
Ideal car - There are roads here to suit any performance car
B6479 - Settle to Ribblehead Viaduct
If you’re lucky, you might find yourself racing the Flying Scotsman steam train on one of its ceremonial journeys north on the adjacent Settle to Carlisle railway line. Or perhaps you’ll be enjoying yourself too much to notice. Take it easy at the half-way point hamlet of Selside, and once through, keep your eyes peeled over blind crests - a couple hide some super-tight corners that’ll put your heart in your mouth.
Otherwise, the B6479 is a fantastic, twisty introduction to the Yorkshire dales, and you’ll be disappointed when the road ends as the iconic Ribblehead Viaduct fills your windscreen.
Need to know - stick religiously to the 30 mph speed limit when leaving Settle along the B6479. There is a notorious camera van hot spot as the road passes through a stone bridge beneath the railway line, right before the limit transitions into 40 mph. Fear not, it’s NSL once the suburbs recede. If you are using a sat nav, remember to keep an eye out for the point where the railway crosses the road.
B6255 - Ribblehead Viaduct to Hawes
After the obligatory pause for a photo of the car framed by the Viaduct, it’s time to turn eastwards. As you open the driver's door, you can’t miss the B6255 unfolding in front of you as it wrestles with the contours of the moorland for miles ahead. This, quite simply, is a joyous stretch of tarmac. Fast and flowing one minute, hard on the brakes the next, the B6255 is a rare road that’ll entertain equally well in any car, from a warm hatch to a full blown supercar.
The surface is smooth, the sightlines are great and the corners are challenging. Halfway along, as the moors transition into fertile farmland and woodlands, you’d swear you were in the Scottish Highlands - sadly, the abundance of sheep over Highland Cattle shatters the illusion.
Once you reach Hawes, famous as the home of Wensleydale Cheese and one of the hubs of the Yorkshire Dales, you’ll face a literal crossroads.
The Buttertubbs Pass - Hawes to Thwaite
Named after the deep Limestone potholes you’ll encounter halfway along this six mile mountain pass, Buttertubs earned its name years ago when farmers, en route to the market at Hawes, rested at the top of the climb on a hot day. In order to conserve the condition of their prized butter, they would lower it into the potholes, keeping it cool. In recent times, the Pass featured as the second King of the Mountains climb of the 2014 Grand Depart of the Tour de France.
Despite the assertion by Jeremy Clarkson that the Buttertubs is “England’s only truly spectacular road”, we’re inclined to disagree, at least from a driving perspective. Sure, the road ducks and dives, but it doesn’t really thread together a good sequence of corners, and when it tries, it’s rather bumpy. Up here, the adrenaline pumps more from the spectacular scenery and the close proximity of a savage drop - the only thing that protects you from a fiery death at the bottom of the valley appears to be a flimsy looking garden hose.
To drive at pace up here you’ll need something with acres of suspension travel, strong brakes and the sort of steady hands that win at those trace-the-electrified-wire games at a carnival. Still, the views alone are well worthy of the detour. The question is what do you want to do once you have descended 400 ft to Thwaite on the other side? Do you double back? Or do you take…
The Long Way Round - The Tan Hill Inn
If you crave some meditative isolation driving, or you’ve worked up an appetite, turn left at the T-junction at base of the Buttertubs Pass (B6270). Drive through sleepy Thwaite and after a couple miles you’ll come across a right crossing the River Swale (Stonesdale Lane).
These initial few miles are tight, single track roads hemmed in by dry stone walls, but if you remain patient the road will eventually rise again and plateau as it skips across the top of the fell. The expansive views and sheep will return as you make your way to the roof of Yorkshire, and Great Britain’s highest pub.
With its foundations laid at 1,732 ft (528 metres), the famous Tan Hill Inn harks back to the 17th century displaying exposed wooden beams and a stone floor. The Inn is an ideal pit stop for a quick drink, a spot of lunch, or for overnight accommodation - just remember to book ahead as it's also a magnet for ramblers and bikers. The inn also welcomes four legged friends too.
If you’ve filled up on a hearty lunch, you might not be too keen to go seeking out high-g corners and rollercoaster roads. In that case, you can retrace your steps to Hawes, or may we suggest heading west along Regional Route 71, past High Greygrits trig point, continuing the scenic tour vibe.
Once you’ve returned to civilisation at the bottom, continue along the back roads to Kirkby Stephen, or take the A66 via Brough (the gateway for a cracking North Pennines drive if you are truly on a mission, but that’s a guide for another day). If you need fuel, there is a Shell/SPAR station with super unleaded in Kirkby Stephen (CA17 4RP).
Returning to the Dales from here is straightforward. South of Kirkby Stephen is the A683, a superlative stretch of road that leads to Sedbergh, which gives the B6255 a run for its money in stretches. Alternatively, if you want another crack at the Buttertubs in the opposite direction, on the outskirts of Kirkby Stephen you can trace the B6259 to Nateby, where you can pick up the B6270 back to Thwaite.
Need to know;
To drive the Buttertubs pass takes 16 minutes, so budget 30 mins travel time if you are just going to explore it and return, plus any potential photography
From Thwaite to the Tan Hill Inn is another 15 minutes
A full loop to Sedbergh will take approx 1 hr 30 minutes
Returning to Thwaite via the B6270 will take 1 hr 25 minutes
Please be mindful of cloudy conditions that could lead to fog and restricted visibility. What might be a nice day in the valley might not be so pleasant up high…
A684 - The Shortcut, Hawes to Sedbergh
For those looking to keep the pace and heart rate up - or avoid the single track tarmac - from Hawes jump on the A684 west to Sedbergh. After the initial ‘staircase’ opening salvo, potentially the fastest section of the day will present itself as the road threads along another ambrosiac valley. Just be vigilant of a couple of blind crests.
At Garsdale the drystone walls begin to pinch inwards and the road twistily traces the Clough River all the way into Sedbergh.
A683 - Sedbergh to Home?
If you’ve had your fill, Sedbergh could be the point to call time on your adventure. Want to go North? Take the aforementioned A683. Stuck for time? Carrying on along the A684 leads to a rewarding drive to the M6 motorway at junction 37, or into the Lake District towards Kendal. This is a main thoroughfare for the area however, so it's best enjoyed outside of peak hours.
Travelling back south? Jump on the southern section of the A683, which leads to Kirkby Lonsdale and the Devil’s Bridge, a popular gathering spot for bikers. This part of the A683 takes on a different character than earlier, with grassy verges, hedgerows and woodlands, more reminiscent of a prototypical B-road meandering aimlessly across farmland.
In the past, we would’ve crossed the A65 and carried on along the A683, but this section has now fallen prey to average speed cameras. An alternative that looks promising on Google Maps is the B6254. Handily, it's close to Kirkby Lonsdale, runs parallel to the A683, looks even twistier and still spits you out onto the M6 at Lancaster (junction 34). We can’t wait to try it on our next outing.
Lastly, if you have selected Settle as your base camp, a hop, skip and a jump down the A65 will see you right. However, we’d be mighty tempted to take a detour at Ingleton, picking up the mighty B6255 again to the Ribblehead Viaduct, finishing where we started on the B6479 in its equally entertaining opposite direction.
Hopefully we haven’t lost you - we have included multiple options to aid you plotting your own personal route. The Yorskhire Dales is a large National Park with a myriad of great roads any car enthusiast should add to their bucket list.
Other Interesting Roads in the Area
The below roads we haven’t sampled personally, however they come with a ringing endorsement from fellow petrolheads, and we've included a couple that have caught our eye on Google Maps Street View. These roads have been highlighted in red on the guide map;
A684 - mentioned above between Hawes and Sedbergh, the full length of this great road spans from Cumbria all the way to the North York Moors National Park, although the good-ness looks to end at Leyburn.
East on Regional Route 71 from the Tan Hill Inn - Google Street View indicates this road fattens into an enticing looking twin-lane B-road past Langthwaite towards Reeth
B6254 - as mentioned in the article, highlighted from Kirkby Lonsdale to Lancaster
B6160 - Aysgarth to Grassington. Intriguing B-road on Street View with a very promising looking stretch off the A684 past Kidstones Bank. Narrows to single track at Buckden
B6265 - comes highly recommended, flowing B-road just encroaching onto our map at the south west corner running from Skipton to Ripon. Crosses path with the B6160 at Grassington
B6480 - a short stretch between Bentham and Clapham, just off the A65
Stang Lane / Stang Top, unclassified. Looks a belter on Street View, north off Regional Route 71 at the top left corner of the map
A6108 - off map, this is a spicy looking road on the outskirts of Ripon
Petrol Stations In the Area
The Settle Co-op supermarket/petrol station does offer super unleaded, although we cannot confirm the ron or where it is sourced from. BD24 9JD
There is a community-run petrol station in the centre of Hawes, however it does not supply super. Dalehead Garage, DL8 3RG
The first confirmed sighting of a trusted super unleaded is at the Shell in Kirkby Stephen, CA17 4RP
There is a Texaco station just outside Kirkby Lonsdale, however it does not appear to supply super unleaded, LA6 2HH
Confirmed super unleaded stations in or near the Yorkshire Dales
Where to Eat, Drink & Stay
Settle, Hawes, Kirkby Stephen and Sedbergh all have multiple options for food on the go, such as fish & chips, cafe’s and tea rooms. We are much better judges of roads than restaurants or rooms however, so we’ll point you in the direction of Tripadvisor if you’re peckish or stopping over;
The Pistonheads forum also has a good thread if you’re looking for somewhere off the beaten track