• Distance 4 km
  • Elevation gain 250m
  • Difficulty
  • Epic rating

Buttertubs Pass (or in Tour de France language, Côte de Buttertubs!) is a giant of Yorkshire and a really satisfying climb.

It can either be climbed from Hawes (to the south of the summit) or from Thwaite (to the north). The climb from Thwaite is definitely the harder option (the Buttertubs Pass gradients average about 6% in this direction though the first 1.5km is more like 9%). However, either offer spectacular scenery and a great sense of achievement.

The pass is one of the best known in the region, and featured in the 2014 Tour de France stage in Yorkshire. It will also make an appearance in the 2019 UCI World Road Race Championships men’s race.

The overall statistics hide the fact that there are sections of downhill within the overall climb. Don’t underestimate it!

All metrics in this article are approximate.

Highlights

Conquering one of the best known climbs in the area. The scenery is also memorably impressive on both the way up and down, whichever way you tackle this climb: on the Thwaite side, you get views across Swaledale and on the Hawes side, across Wensleydale. At the summit, looking south towards Swaledale, you feel on top of the world.

Top of Buttertubs Pass from Hawes, Yorkshire DalesSummit of Buttertubs, looking back to Hawes
View down to Hawes from the Buttertubs PassView back down to Hawes from near the bottom of the Buttertubs Pass on the Hawes side
Cyclist out of the saddle on Buttertubs Pass, Yorkshire DalesAt the summit, coming up from the Thwaite side

Route notes

1. Buttertubs Pass (from Hawes)

Heading north out of Hawes, passing the Simonstone Hall Hotel, the road starts to gradually increase in gradient.

The first part of this climb is the steepest, with extended sections above 10%, but the pain begins to subside when you eventually pass over a cattle grid and start to see the tops of the moors.

The road meanders along gently upwards for a few kilometres further with stunning views to your left.

Eventually you will start to see a downhill stretch but after a few hundred metres the road kicks up again for a kilometre, to the top.

Cycling up Buttertubs Pass from HawesOn the way up Buttertubs
Top of Buttertubs Pass from Hawes, Yorkshire DalesApproaching the summit
Descent of Buttertubs Pass to ThwaiteDescending to Thwaite

2. Buttertubs Pass (from Thwaite)

You turn onto Cliff Gate Road from the B6270 that runs to Thwaite through Swaledale. You’re climbing from the gun, and the first 1.5km sees an average around 9% but with sections that are much steeper within this. There’s a wide, Alpine-style switchback at this point followed by a cattle grid – keep your momentum through this at all costs!

Turn off up Buttertubs PassTurn off for the Buttertubs Pass
Looking up the Buttertubs Pass from the bottom near Thwaite, Yorkshire DalesLooking up towards the switchback
Steep ramp before the downhill section on Buttertubs PassGrinding up Buttertubs Pass, before the downhill section

You descend for about a kilometre before the final, gruelling push to the top that will see your lungs bursting and your thighs crying for mercy…

There are fantastic views to the left throughout the climb – but you’re unlikely to notice them given the nature of this climb!

Cyclist at the summit of Buttertubs Pass, Yorkshire DalesAt the top of Buttertubs Pass
The view down Cliff Gate Road from the summit (what you’ve just climbed!)
Cyclist climbing the Buttertubs Pass by bike, Yorkshire DalesWhat a climb!

Café stops

This climb has got Thwaite at one end and Hawes at the other, so no shortage of cafes!

 

Accommodation

The Dales has loads of accommodation options to suit all budgets. Our tips on the best places to stay can all be found in our main destination guide for the Yorkshire Dales.

 

Tips

Read our tips for riding the Yorkshire Dales.

If you’re descending down towards Thwaite, watch out for the tight hairpin midway down and the final steep section at the bottom of the climb, where you’ll need to come to an abrupt halt at a stop sign.

The climb is very exposed to the elements and can be very windy in the upper reaches.

Watch out for wandering sheep.

The road featured in Stage 1 of the 2014 Tour de France.  Jens Voigt was in the lead on the way over, on his way to being the first in the polka dot jersey that year. Christian Prudhomme said “I think the Buttertubs climb can now call itself the Alpe d’Huez of Yorkshire”.

Wonder why it’s called Buttertubs? That’ll be due to the 20-metre-deep limestone potholes near the top. Wikipedia says that “the name of the potholes came from the times when farmers would rest there on their way to market. During hot weather they would lower the butter they had produced into the potholes to keep it cool.”

If you’re looking for the Buttertubs Pass Strava segment, it’s here.

Looking for a Buttertubs Pass postcode: just go to the intersection of the B6270 (near Thwaite) and Cliff Gate Road.

Want more?

Don’t miss our main cycling guide to the Yorkshire Dales, which has links to all our rides and information on where to stay, when to visit and bike hire. You can find links to more of our route guides in the Articles section below. Happy riding!

Clare Dewey

Clare Dewey is a road cyclist with a passion for travel. She set up epicroadrides.com to help make it easy for road cyclists to explore new places by bike.

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