by Tom dB
Rising above Bassenthwaite Lake just outside Keswick, Whinlatter forest is Englands’ only mountain forest, so it seems appropriate that there are now official mountain bike trails there. Whilst it may seem odd to go to the Lakes, home of some of the best riding in the land, to ride man-made trails there is some logic to it. As anyone who’s ever ventured to the Lakes will tell you the weather is even more unpredictable than your standard British random sun and rain lucky dip. Should you need to duck out of a planned adventure into the wilds of Cumbria the trails at Whinlatter are weather proof. That’s not to say they should be regarded as for emergencies only, they are plenty of fun in their own right.
The Altura Trail was launched at Whinlatter in June 2008, or more accurately half of it was. The North loop opened for business but the South loop was still under construction by Clixbys, the same people who built the fabulously technical Stainburn trails. However in late 2008 the 9km South loop was finally opened as well. The latest development is the opening of the brand-new Blue graded route, 10km of beautiful flowing singletrack incorporating rolling jumps, berms and a few bits of boardwalk or optional North Shore features for those wishing to improve their skills.
The Altura Trail is a red graded route with black options here and there to test and tease you. The North Loop is currently 10km long it’s constantly being improved and lengthened and the plan is to have 19km of trail when completed.
The main difference between Whinlatter and other trail centres are the views. Flowing singletrack, both up and down, through the trees will suddenly burst onto open sections that allow you to look over Keswick and Derwentwater and over to Skiddaw and into the Newlands valley. Worth stopping for.
All trails have their highlights, almost their raison d’etre and the Altura Trail is no different. The descent from the top is fast with berms large and small flinging you this way and that with a few little drops to keep you on your toes. The final section of the North loop back down to the centre should leave a smile on your face with the speed and have you going round for ‘one more go’.
- Food: The cafe at the forestry centre does a fine line in cakes, the carrot cake being particularly good, and hot food. The cafe, hire centre and shop are open from 10am til 5pm in summer and til 4pm in winter. Keswick has plenty of places to eat from standard pub fare to Thai and Mexican. The Lakeland Pedlar in central Keswick serves up great veggie food and have the best coffee in town.
- Parking: Being a Forestry Commission forest there is plenty of Pay & Display parking, but at weekends it can be quite busy as you’d expect.
- Accommodation: Being right next to Keswick accommodation shouldn’t be a problem. There is a campsite in Braithwaite at the bottom of the forest road on the Keswick side. For more information on where to stay have a look at Keswicks’ Tourist Information website. www.keswick.org
- Spares/Bike Shops/Bike Hire: At the forest centre itself there is a bike shop run by Cyclewise stocked with plenty of waterproofs and innertubes to keep you out on the trails. They also offer Cube bikes to hire and training in and around the forest. www.cyclewisetraining.co.uk
In Keswick itself is the famous Keswick Mountain Bikes. Keep a look out for the Singletrack Awards banner they ‘borrowed’ a few years back and failed to return. Naughty boys. www.keswickbikes.co.uk
Getting There – From the M6 at Penrith head West along the A66 towards Cockermouth. Past Keswick look for signs for Braithwaite and Whinlatter Pass on your left. Head up the winding road ( B5292) until you see a large sign welcoming you to the visitors’ centre.
Postcode for sat navs: CA12 5TW