Whichever way you go, it is a hard climb from Little Salkeld but at the top awaits Hartside Café, a (motor)bikers’ haven. At 580 metres (1900 feet), it is the highest tea shop in England and on a fine day you can see across the Solway Firth to Scotland. The views of the Eden Val ey are terrific: not for nothing was the drive along the A686 voted one of the ten best in the world by the AA. Your climb is rewarded by one of the best sections of downhil in the North West, as the route plunges 1,000 feet into Alston. Near the bottom of Benty Hil there is a road on the right heading towards Leadgate and Garrigill. You have a choice – take it, or continue the delirious descent along the A686 until you get to the handsome town of Alston, perched on the edge of the Pennines.
The heather-clad moors, fells and valleys are alive with curlews, lapwings, peewits, peregrines and grouse, while deer and red squirrel roam this natural fastness.
There is some fine cycling across Alston Moor before you get to Nenthead. You can either take the B6277 past Garrigil or take the more direct A689.