North East towpath bike rides: Solar System Route, River Ouse

Pedal into outer space on this cosmic ride from the heart of York

Towpath bike rides: Solar System Route along the River Ouse


Miles: 6.8 miles (one way)
Suitable for: All bike types
Start point: Rowntree Park, York

In 1999, a team from the University of York created a scale model of the solar system along 10 km (6.4 miles) of the old East Coast mainline railway, between York and Recall. As well as all the Sun and all the planets of our solar system, you can also spot the Cassini and Voyager spacecraft, at a third of their actual size. Add to this a host of railway relics and a beautiful river to ride along and this should make for a fascinating day out.

Start your ride in Rowntree Park in the historic city of York. Follow the riverside path, keeping an eye out for the colourful ice cream boat across the river just before Millennium Bridge. Follow National Route 65 signs past Knavesmire Wood and through Bishopthorpe village, before joining the Solar System Greenway route to Naburn. The scale of the entire model is 575,872,239 to 1, so every 100 metres along the route represents 57 million kilometres in space. Certainly something to think about as your cycling along!

Before you get to Naburn you’ll see an on old steam-powered bridge that once carried The Flying Scotsman on its journey north. On top, there’s an eye-catching sculpture: a fisherman and his dog constructed out of galvanised steel rods. Under the bridge you can see where the steam engine was housed, and on top used to be the signal box, where signalmen were stationed to watch out for barges coming up the Ouse to York.

In Naburn, you’ll find a host of old station buildings, including one that houses a cafe over the summer. Other options for refreshment include the Blacksmith’s Arms in the village, and a community nursery between Mars and Jupiter, where you can grab a cuppa or an ice-cream on your way back.

Plan your next day out along the River Ouse on the Canal & River Trust website.

Share the space: drop your pace
We want everyone to enjoy visiting our canals and rivers. More than anything we want people to be safe – and with our towpaths busier than ever this is something that all visitors need to play a part in. When cycling, please pay attention to safety and warning signs, and be considerate of others. Read more about our ‘Share the space: drop your pace’ campaign on the Canal & River Trust website.

Jack Cousin