Yorkshire’s rolling hills and unspoilt countryside were deal breakers as far as Tour de France organisers were concerned.
The beauty of natural landmarks like Aysgarth Falls and the awe-inspiring views from the top of Buttertubs are expected to strike a chord with the billions of viewers tuning into watch the opening stages of the Tour de France in Yorkshire.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park is both a haven for nature and cyclists, and the growing anticipation of Le Tour is bringing the sleepy rural villages to life.
As part of the run up to Le Tour the Dales have also become an artistic hub hosting Yorkshire Festival commissions including Tour de Cinema screenings that have seen cyclists ride out to outdoor screenings in picturesque locations such as Malham.
Kettlewell’s May’d in’t Dale Festival of Wool and Ale was also supported by the £2m cultural celebration, showcasing the village’s music and farming history on May 5, while the Lippy Logic comedy drama is to show at Grassington Methodist Church on June 25.
Nearby Skipton Cycling Club has been out publicising the area’s undoubted credentials as a top cycling location worthy of hosting sections of Le Tour. Two rides of varying distances saw scores of riders take to the North Yorkshire hills for Le Petit Depart on June 1.
The town is likely to be a major hub for spectators before, during and after riders pass through on July 5 - the riders also cycle through sections of nearby Wharfedale the following day.
The Rapha Tempest Festival of Cycling at the 16th Century Broughton Hall estate, near Skipton, will host 15,000 fans during four days of music, film nights, food markets and cycling events from July 3 to 6.
Owner of the estate Roger Tempest said: “It’s fantastic for Broughton to be at the hub of such an unforgettable sporting moment. We have hosted many similar events on the estate and guarantee a first class experience for our guests.”
When Le Tour speeds through North Yorkshire on July 5, official Grand Depart spectator hubs are also likely to be filled with thousands of expectant fans.
Around 12,000 people will gather across two sites around Skipton High Street, while national park centres in Grassington, Aysgarth and Hawes will cater to more rural hubs. As the riders near the final parts of the first stage around 10,000 people will witness the peloton in full flow in Leyburn Market Place.
The National Trust is also transforming pockets of the countryside along the Tour de France route into campsites hosting everything from Macbeth on a bicycle to hog roasts, beer tent and big screens. Money generated from letting pitches at temporary National Trust sites including at Buckden in Upper Wharfedale will be used to fund the charity’s conservation work.
Leafy countryside villages across the Dales are preparing to host celebrations on a scale never seen before locally. The YHA Hawes hostel will host a street party and barbecue on July 5 as an addition to the 1,500 fans expected to gather at its national park centre.
Anticipation has been building, with Hawes-based Wensleydale Creamery among the businesses to extend opening hours, open up a new garden, seating area and water refill station for cyclists at its site at the foot of the notorious Buttertubs Pass climb.
David Hartley, of the creamery which has launched an on-pack competition for Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese buyers to win one of five Forme bikes, said: “It is a brilliant opportunity for all of Yorkshire to wow thousands of visitors and spectators, showcasing all the Dales has to offer from the stunning scenery to fantastic flavours of our award-winning Yorkshire produce.”
Nearby Muker, in Upper Swaledale, will host the first King of the Mountains Festival to up to 5,000 people featuring UK acts including BBC Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens and To Kill A King from July 4 to 6. Landlords of the Farmers Arms pub and landowner Christine Clarkson are behind the event featuring food, drink, a bar and secure parking and camping.
Meanwhile Masham is preparing to host 20,000 people. A village festival hosted by local businesses including Black Sheep Brewery will see it partner neighbouring Theakston’s brewery on a number of joint cask ale beers for the first time since Black Sheep founder Paul Theakston left the family firm. Sales of the Black Sheep’s newly-launched ‘Velo’ pale ale to mark the Tour de France will also help to raise funds for official Grand Depart charity partner Marie Curie Cancer Care.
Jo Theakston, Black Sheep’s sales and marketing director, said: “These are exciting times in Yorkshire. We are having the biggest party Masham has ever seen and the yellow pump clip of Velo will be prominent throughout that celebration.”
RACE TIMINGS STAGE ONE SATURDAY JULY 5
Cyclists will ride through Skipton at 12:47
The Tour de France publicity caravan will pass by two hours before the riders in each area.
Cracoe - 13:01
Buckden - 13.28
Kidstones Pass - 13.33
Buttertubs Pass - 14:22
Grinton Moor - 14:57