Don't pass up these mountain passes

It’s summits that usually get tick lists but we argue that passes should too. And here are a few our favourites.

>>> The 100 best mountain bike routes in the UK

Mountain Passes. There’s definitely something magical about reaching those fabled gaps between summits and soaking up the view of the next valley or glen, and of course, your descent – the reward for all that effort.

Nan Bield, Lake District

16km/10 Miles
Ride time: 3-4 hours
Why ride it? Steep, techy singletrack, Big mountain pass
Where to eat? Wilf’s, Staveley

There’s no shortage of high passes in the Lakes. But this remains our favourite due to the amazing singletrack descent. From Sadgill (Landranger 97/NY483056) climb N up the ride-able Gatesgarth Pass and drop to the S tip of Haweswater. Singletrack leads SW from here, steeping radically to become a carry at Small Water. It’s then a scramble with your bike to the top. Drop S all the way to the road and then follow a good track E to hurdle a final hill to the finish.

Bealach an Sgairne, Scotland

32km/20 Miles
Ride time: 4-5 hours
Why ride it? Steep, techy singletrack, Big mountain pass
Where to eat? Jacobites, Morvich

You’ve got to work hard for this one. First with a technical track that seems to take more than it gives, then with a soft and at tims boggy slog. But the descent to the coast is one of the best going – worth every penny. From Morvich (Landranger 33/NG945202) follow lanes E to the activity centre. Take the track SE to Glenlicht house, then E to the junction W of the Alltbeithe Hostel. Now struggle W to Loch a’ Bealaich and carry up to the col. All that’s left is pure unadulterated pleasure…

The Gap, Brecon Beacons

35km/22 Miles
Ride time: 5 hours
Why ride it? Big mountain passes
Where to eat? Star, Talybont-on-Usk

The Gap, or Bwlch ar y Fan, to give it its Welsh name, is true South Wales classic. And at 599m, it’s the highest pass in this collection???. From Talybont-on-Usk (Landranger161/SO115225), take the Taff Trail SW, leaving it then to climb due S (signed Brin Ore). Continue onto the ridge at SO102176. Follow the main track SW through another pass – Pen Bwlch Glascwm. Climb a steep ramp and break WSW onto a boggy track that becomes rocky and drops to the Pentywn Reservoir. Climb NW on the road, then N onto a track at SO035173. Climb to the Gap, descend to the road head and take the narrow gate on the R. At the road, turn R and take lanes E to SO059245, and follow the BW to Llanfrynach, then the canal home.

The Wayfarer Memorial, Berwyn Hills, North Wales

51km/30 miles
Ride time: 6 hours
Why ride it? Big mountain terrain and some great trails
Where to eat? New Inn, Llangynog

Not just an awesome high pass, but a historical one in cycling terms, and with a plaque and visitors’ book to commemorate it. From Llangynog (Landranger 125/SJ053261), head NW up the B4391 (off road options prove frustrating) then break N to across the moortop to drop into Cwm Pennant. Follow the B4491 in Llandrillo and bear R (SE) to clamber up to the pass. Pass the memorial, and drop to Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog. Head SW on lanes, S on a track then SW to Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant. Now head W then NW to Cefn-coch and continue W on bridleways that will eventually drop you back to Llangynog.

Dale Head, Yorkshire Dales

27km/17 miles
Ride time: 3 hours
Why ride it? Typical Dales riding
Where to eat? Pen y Ghent Cafe

Whilst not as craggy and mountainous as the other passes listed here, Dale Head, between Pen y Ghent and Fountains Fell, is good climb, and one to feel prettty proud of if you make it without footing. The riding’s fun too – typical Dales at every turn. From Horton (Landranger98/SD809723) head NE on a walled track and follow the continuation over Foxup Moor and down to Foxup. Head SE for 3km, turn L over New Bridge and climb to the Pass. At the top, break W at Dale Head, then SW to Helwith Bridge.