Regular Cycle Sprog readers will know that our guest blogger Emma is on a quest to explore the disused railway lines of Yorkshire to find family friendly cycle routes. The old industrial heritage of the area means that there are plenty around, and this time she headed to the 6.4 mile long York Solar System Cycleway.
One of the most important things about going on a family bike ride with small children is avoiding boredom, and there is definitely plenty to keep the children’s interest as this cycle route is a scale model of the Solar System, spread out along 6.4 miles of the old East Coast main-line railway.
Along it you can find scale models of all the planets in our solar system as well as models of two Space Shuttles – the Cassini and the Voyager.
Here we are at Jupiter – it’s not everyday you follow signs to Mars or Saturn!
The York Solar System Cycleway is very educational (even the adults learnt something!). The models of the planets are to scale, as well as the distances between the planets. This cleverly means that as you travel towards the Sun the planets get closer and closer together.
Unfortunately we missed Pluto on our way towards the Sun as it was up a spur up a short incline to the right as you join the main route. A few of the slower riders managed to find it on our return journey.
As well as the space themed ride towards the sun, there is also fun area under the A64 road bridge next to the Sun when you get there. It has a series of lumps and bumps to play on, making the journey even more worthwhile for little riders.
York Solar System Cycleway – the practicalities
The York Solar System Cycleway is a fabulous family cycling route which I would thoroughly recommend for all ages.
The path is mainly off road with one very short on road section through a quiet housing estate.
Arriving by car:
If you are driving to the start of this cycle route, you can park at the Pluto end of the route in the village of Riccall just off the A19 south of York.
There is also really easy access to the route from the Park and Ride car park called Askham Bar. You can park for free and a path takes you under the main road and directly to the Sun model.
However, do note that Askham Bar isn’t friendly for cars with bikes on roof racks – thanks to Jamie for letting us know that. So you’ll have to take the bikes off the roof before parking up.
Jamie reported that they rode from the Sun to Pluto, where they had a picnic and then rode all the way back again. Here’s a photo he took at Saturn:
What’s it like riding the York Solar System Cycleway with kids?
Jamie also created this great video on You Tube, which really shows what the route is like to ride the York Solar System route – it really brings home how huge our solar system is!
Arriving by bike or train:
The York Solar System Cycleway forms part of the National Cycleway Route 65 (Yorks to Selby Sustrans Route) and was one of Sustrans first traffic free paths. Follow the signs for Route 65 from York Railway Station. It’s possible to purchase a Cycle Map of the area.
Interesting fact: Sustrans bought the trackbed of the old East Coast Mainline railway for just £1!
Refreshments and toilets:
There are no facilities at either end of the route but there is a quirky serve yourself honesty café on the route where you can get hot and cold drinks, ice creams and homemade cakes as well as provides toilet facilities.
If you want more information about the Solar System model itself, it has it’s own website, which also gives more facts and figures about each of the planets
About the Author: Emma Young is a mum of two children and a transport planner, promoting sustainable transport. As well as being a guest blogger for Cycle Sprog she also runs the Child Friendly Bike Rides in Yorkshire Facebook Group.
Other posts you should check out:
- The Swale Trail, Yorkshire Dales – a family mountain bike trail of two halves
- Harrogate to Ripley Cycleway – a family cycle ride
- Family camping with a cargo bike (and no car)
- The best bikes for 6 and 7 year old kids (20″ wheels)
- On the right track – family cycling in West Yorkshire
- Let’s Ride with the kids at the Brownlee Centre
This post was first published in February 2017, and updated in January 2021.