A few weeks ago, we spent a couple of nights camping in Yorkshire. We enjoy cycling together as a family but sadly, it’s quite rare to find somewhere off road where the girls can ride safely. Locally, we cycle in the Forest of Dean but we were keen to try somewhere new, and Sutton Bank National Park Centre in Yorkshire looked ideal.
About Sutton Bank National Park Centre
Cycling is actively encouraged in Sutton Bank National Park. You can hire or even buy a bike there, or bring your own. We brought ours, but realised when we were there that Lia’s cycle helmet wasn’t ideal. We made use of the well-stocked cycle shop to grab a new helmet.
The Sutton Bank visitor centre is a hive of information about the North York Moors National Park. Located a short drive from Thirsk, it’s easy to get to and has ample parking, as well as a cafe with indoor and outdoor seating. We chose a route that followed much of the family cycle trail, then added on an extra loop to make it a little longer.
The whole area is dog friendly and Bubbles was more than happy running alongside us as we cycled. More challenging trails are available if you’re looking for a tougher ride. The National Park is famed for having the ‘finest view in England’ and walkers and cyclists alike start at the visitor centre to enjoy the countryside.
A recent addition to the area is a walk suitable for robust wheelchairs, which was designed by an accessibility expert. As well as walking and cycling, the visitor centre has information on numerous activities in the area. They can recommend places to eat, tell you about special events and suggest suitable days out. They also have an excellent website with information about the area.
Cycling at Sutton Bank
Armed with plenty of water, suncream and a picnic, we were ready for a day cycling in the countryside. A beautiful field of hay bales was an ideal lunch stop, and the cycle trail varied from grassy paths to quiet roads to farm tracks. The whole route was well marked and we picked up a map from the visitor centre so we knew which colour trail signs to follow.
As well as drink and rest breaks, we did have to stop on numerous occasions to admire the incredible views. Whilst this made the day rather longer, it also meant that the girls didn’t get too tired or fed up of cycling. It’s a stunning place to visit and the bike tracks were perfect for children.
When we’d finished our cycle trail, we noticed a little mountain bike skills area right next to Sutton Bank visitor centre. Keen to try out something a little different, the girls decided to go around the circuit. As soon as they got on there, I realised how lucky we were that they hadn’t spotted it earlier in the day. They absolutely loved whizzing around it, racing each other and us. I’m fairly certain they would have stayed there all day if we’d let them.
Camping in Thirsk
We stayed at Hillside Caravan Park just outside Thirsk. This is a lovely little site with 50 hard-standing pitches. Each one has an electric hook up and its own water supply. Camping pods and self-catering accommodation are also available. A small coffee lounge has free WiFi and the toilets and showers are clean and well maintained.
For children, there is a small play park and plenty of grassy space to run around. As it’s a quiet site, the girls were also able to ride around on their bikes without us worrying about cars. My husband and I both took our bikes out on the roads around the campsite in the evenings when the children were in bed. There are some lovely countryside routes but the hills around the area make for a tough ride!
We would highly recommend North Yorkshire to anybody who is into cycling. The ability to find trails suitable for the children or take on a challenging ride ourselves in the same area made it the ideal place to spend a few days. We’ll definitely be back again in the future to take on some tougher trails as the children’s cycling skills improve.