Classic Lakeland Passes – The Big Six


  • All SIX of the classic Lake District road passes
  • Lake District circumnavigation by road bike
  • Ideal reconnaissance for the Fred Whitton Sportive
  • 5,000m of Ascent
  • 180km / 112 miles – On Road
Number of Days: 2
2020 Land Only Price From: £445
Grade: Hot
Group Size: 4 – 14
View: Kit List


Fri 20 Mar (Evening) – Sun 22 Mar 2020 
Fri 3 Apr (Evening) – Sun 5 Apr 2020 
Fri 10 Apr (Evening) – Sun 12 Apr 2020 (Easter – Early Booking Essential) 
Fri 24 Apr (Evening) – Sun 26 Apr 2020 

If our published dates don’t suit then don’t worry.  We often run this trip for groups of 4 plus on demand. 
Call us on 01768 778848 to discuss your requirements.

Trip Overview

Day 1 Arrival & Meet in Coniston, The Lake District

This evening meet at the group Hotel in the small Lakeland Village of Coniston.  Depending on everyone’s arrival times we may take the opportunity to sit down and discuss the next few days riding over a pint.
Overnight in a Hotel.  Meal/s included: No meals included in the Trip Price for this day.

Day 2 A Day of Three Passes

After breakfast at the hotel we fettle our bikes so they are ready for the day and set off to the official starting point of the Fred Whitton Sportive, which forms the basis of this ride.  A steady climb starts our ride which then winds its way on back roads towards Ambleside.  We make a right turn towards Windermere and we’re shortly climbing again until we arrive our first true Lakeland pass ascent, Kirkstone pass.  We regroup at the top of the pass and then enjoy the free wheel all the way to Glenridding and the spectacular scenery of Ullswater.

Although there are six true pass climbs in total on this route, the terrain in between these is not to be taken lightly and in classic Lakeland style there are a few surprises, none of them flat, before we reach Keswick, where we will generally stop for lunch.

With Honister and Newlands Pass still to go we spin off down the Borrowdale Valley warming up for our next climb. Honister has a steep start and we think if you reach the cattle grid on this climb then you have broken the back of it.  The pass eases off and allows you to catch your breath ready for the final assault to the top, which is next to Honister Slate Mine.  Caution is required on the very steep and off camber descent as we curl down the valley amongst dramatic scenery to Buttermere.  A deep breath and we begin our final climb of the day up Newlands Pass.  We finish the day with a flowing descent into Newlands Valley and magnificent views of Catbells and the surrounding Lakeland peaks.

To round of a great day of cycling we are greeted at our accommodation with well deserved tea and cakes.

96 km / 60 miles.  Overnight in a B&B.  Meal/s included B, L (Dinner, in a local pub, is not included in the Trip Price)

Day 3 Three Down And Three To Go

We are just over half way around this classic cycling journey and, as you would expect, we start the day after a leisurely breakfast with a climb – Whinlatter Pass.  This pass is the easiest of the six passes (if there is such a thing!) and winds its way up through the Forest Park of the same name.  The descent is more gradual than yesterday’s cols and we soon drop down to the village of Lorton.  Making a left turn we head next to Loweswater and the short, and fantastically named climb, of Fangs Brow.  We stop at a quiet picnic spot for a fresh coffee and a snack from the Rather Be Cycling support vehicle and continue on our way.

We make sure we are wrapped up warm for the next section as we pass across Cold Fell (very often the name seems appropriate) and continue over undulating terrain until we reach Ennerdale Bridge.  This section can be particularly tough, especially if there is a headwind, and this  is the point on the Fred Whitton event where you have no option other than to climb back over the passes to get back to the start!  Undeterred we continue on making a left turn at Gosforth, and up the Eskdale Valley towards the hamlet of Boot.

Hardknott pass sits boldly in front of us ….. not even hiding its steepness and ready to challenge you at every pedal stroke.  We take a few calm deep breaths as this is the biggest challenge of the weekend, with gradients on the climb of up to 1 in 3 (33 percent!).  A good strategy is to ride the first section over the Cattle Grid in bottom gear and in a very controlled way, a slightly less steep false flat follows and we can use that usefully to prepare for the notorious switchbacks further up which has made many a cyclist get off and push!  If there is any descending traffic we’re as well to let it clear past us here, as if we meet on a corner often there’s no room to manoevre and that forces an unclip and dismount.

Finally at the top we draw breath and then prepare to take our time on the steep and very uneven descent off Hardknott Pass down into the Duddon valley which, in turn, connects us to our final pass – Wrynose.  We take a gentle spin up the first section of the pass waiting for the last steep stretches of tarmac to the top.  At the top of the pass is the Three Shire Stone which marks the meeting point of the Historic Counties of Cumberland, Lancashire and Westmorland.

We pat ourselves on our backs knowing that the Big 6 are now behind us.  Proud but tired we enjoy the last few miles back towards Lake Coniston.  We have no doubt that we’ll toast the trip with a final brew and cake, if not something stronger.

84km / 52miles.  Meal/s included B & L

Additional Information
The Fred Whitton cycle sportve is held every year in May and plenty of early training and reconnaissance is required during the Winter months. Fred Whitton was a member of the Lakes Road Club and was full of enthusiasm for cycling and the club, also acting as Club Secretary. All proceeds for the Fred Whitton go to charity and details of how to enter can be found by clicking HERE

What’s Included

  • 2 nights accommodation*
  • All meals as detailed in the trip overview.
  • Meal Key: B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner. Please note that all lunches are picnic style and are designed to suit cyclist’s appetites.
  • All baggage transfers in our baggage vehicle.
  • A daily provision of Clif bar nutritional products.
  • The services of a Rather Be Cycling qualified Bike Guide.
  • The services of a Rather Be Cycling baggage vehicle driver / assistant.
  • Access to commonly required tools, mechanical advice & assistance.

What’s Not Included

  • Travel to and from Coniston – the start and end points of the trip.
  • Suitable Travel Insurance covering you for road biking – recomended.
  • All drinks e.g. bottled water, coffees, teas, alcohol, etc.
  • Entry fees e.g. to visitor attractions, etc.
  • Spare / replacement bicycle parts & accessories e.g. tyres, tubes, wheel/s, etc.
  • Other expenses e.g. souvenirs, additional food, laundry, etc.
  • Tips – at your discretion* All accommodation is allocated and priced on a twin occupancy basis. Please contact us for Single Occupancy Rates.

Bike Spec

  • This is a road cycling weekend holiday and a road, sportive or touring bike is ideal for this trip. We recommend 700x23c tyres and have found Michelin Pro 3 & 4 tyres to perform very well. Compact or triple gearing giving a bottom gear of between 30″ and 40″ is suggested for this trip. Alloy rims or carbon rims with alloy braking surfaces are preferable to full carbon rims for this trip.
  • Your bike should be fully serviced, and thoroughly tested, before your weekend holiday.