Tour de France's English highlights

Clockwise from top left: Kilnsey Crag, Harewood House, Betty's tea rooms, Aysgarth Falls, York Racecourse and Ilkley Moor Tour de France organisers said they were attracted to Yorkshire by the region's outstanding natural beauty

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From the bleak moors of the Yorkshire Dales to the genteel streets of Cambridge, the Tour de France's return to England in 2014 will take in some of the country's most spectacular landscapes and historic towns and cities.

BBC News looks at some of the highlights along the way and gauges reaction from people along the route.

The first stage on 5 July departs from Leeds Town Hall, a suitably imposing symbol of Victorian civic confidence to send the cyclists on their way.

Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, said: "I've never had so many people contact me to say how unbelievable this is for them in their lifetime being able to see one of the biggest sporting events in the world."

Cyclist outside Leeds Town Hall The city of Leeds has secured the honour of hosting the start of the 2014 Tour de France

From there the cyclists make their way a few miles north to Harewood House, a grand 18th Century country house whose grounds, designed by landscape architect Capability Brown, are now more widely known as the location for ITV's long-running soap Emmerdale.

Tour de France officials were entertained at Harewood during Yorkshire's bid to host the event.

Mike Schafer, chief executive of the Harewood House Trust, said: "We will work hard to help showcase the beautiful county of Yorkshire to the world - this is an opportunity for us all and we look forward to July 2014."

The route then takes in the market town of Ilkley, whose cycling club has more than 1,000 members and claims to be the fastest growing in the UK.

Katherine Church, a member of Ilkley Cycling Club, said the town was an "obvious choice".

"It's just beautiful. The roads are amazing, the climbs are incredible, the scenery is spectacular, there's lots of different challenges. It's just going to be brilliant."

Keighley and Ilkley MP Kris Hopkins said: "I have no doubt that it will also encourage people of all ages to dust off their bikes, pull on their helmets and get pedalling."

Kilnsey Crag Cyclists will be able to take in some of the Yorkshire Dales' breathtaking scenery, including the famous Kilnsey Crag

Moving into the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the Tour will pass through the villages of Rylstone, home to the Calendar Girls, Kilnsey with its spectacular limestone crag and Aysgarth, close to the stunning Aysgarth Falls.

Councillor John Weighell from North Yorkshire County Council said: "I'm absolutely thrilled to see the Tour take in some of the most stunning scenery in the Yorkshire Dales.

"Just to have the Tour for almost a full day is wonderful news for the economy and for tourism in North Yorkshire."

Start Quote

We have hosted the Queen, the Pope, Royal Ascot, The St Leger, the Olympic Torch and now the Tour is coming to the city”

End Quote William Derby Clerk, York Racecourse

The first day ends at the spa town of Harrogate where the weary competitors may be tempted to revive their spirits at the refurbished Turkish Baths or with a cuppa at the famous Betty's tea rooms.

Betty's spokeswoman Paula Kaye said: "We are extremely excited about the news that the sprint finale of the first day of Le Grand Depart will be in Harrogate."

Day two of the 101st Tour gets under starters orders at York racecourse.

Clerk of the course William Derby said: "In our history we have hosted the Queen, the Pope, Royal Ascot, The St Leger, the Olympic Torch and now the Tour is coming to the city, it's exciting news.

"We know that a season at York Races generates £58m for the local economy so can understand how an event like the Tour could well generate double that amount for the region over the weekend alone."

Haworth The town of Haworth already attracts tourists as the home of the Bronte sisters

On its way south the route then wends its way through the Pennines, taking in Haworth, known worldwide as the home of the Bronte sisters, and Holmfirth, the filming location for BBC sitcom Last Of The Summer Wine.

The Pennine leg includes the challenging ascent of Holme Moss, a moor rising to 524m (1,719ft) just within the Peak District national park.

Matthew Dixon, a member of nearby Bradfield Parish Council, said: "Bradfield and the surrounding areas has stunning countryside that will provide a breathtaking backdrop to the Tour de France. Village folk are already very excited at the prospect."

Stage two will end in Sheffield where Marco Mori, from La Squadra cycling club, said: "It's fantastic news, especially for those who've been involved in cycling all their lives.

"There's a lot to look forward to, and even beforehand the teams will be over here checking out the route - we'll be seeing team riders, team cars."

Bicycles outside St John's College, Cambridge One in four people in Cambridge cycles to work

From Yorkshire the Tour moves to the east of England with the third stage beginning in Cambridge on Monday 7 July.

The city, famous for its university, is also a hub of science and technology and is often referred to as the cycling capital of the UK.

Councillor Martin Curtis, Cambridgeshire's "cycling champion", said: "For me, this news cements Cambridgeshire's reputation as a place which has cycling in its DNA, with thousands of people getting on their bikes every day."

Colin Bedford, who runs March Veteran and Vintage Cycle Club in the city, said: "Our club has been involved in three Tours de Britain and fingers crossed we might be asked to put on a display to entertain the crowd for the Tour de France, which honestly would be the bee's knees."

It is then on to the relative tranquillity of Epping Forest, where Chris Whitbread, leader of Epping Forest District Council, said riders could enjoy "many historic gems" before heading to the capital.

"I would love for them to come to my home town of Epping obviously, but there's the forest, of course and Waltham Abbey," he said.

In London, the route takes in the Olympic Park and a final sprint to The Mall.

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