The best UK cycle routesCycling is a great way to be active while soaking up breathtaking views and it is a proven way of reducing stress by releasing our ‘feel-good’ hormones known as endorphins and lowering the levels of the body’s stress hormone known as cortisol. On top of that, cycling is as good for you as it is for the planet.
Whether you’ve just bought your first bike, or are a professional cyclist, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of finding a few close-by routes and sticking to them repetitively. Cast your eyes a little further however, and you’ll see that the UK has so much to offer for cyclists.
1. The Camel Trail, Cornwall
This route provides access to the beautiful Cornish countryside along an 18-mile disused railway line between Wenfordbridge, Bodmin and Padstow and it is ideal for a carefree cycling, a family ride, or an easy Sunday saunter.
You can start your ride in Padstow with a trip to one of Rick Stein’s many eateries, before following the well-surfaced estuary path to Wadebridge. If you get tired, you can call it a day here or carry on towards Bodmin, passing through idyllic woodland and some of the south west’s most breath-taking landscapes as you go.
2. Bristol to Bath Railway Path, Somerset
Bristol is a dynamic city in which it is impossible to get bored. Many activities are possible with the family, including cycling since Bristol has been named England's "first cycling city".
A 16-mile cycle route connects Bristol and the contemporary city to Bath, one of the UK’s jewels, known for its Georgian architecture and Roman Baths. The path is flat and forbidden to cars, and many stops are set up along the river, perfect for having a little picnic between two stages. And while it is not the shortest route between the two cities, it is by all means the most pleasant one with a smooth, wide path lined with trees which will give you the feeling as if you’re cycling in a secret tunnel between the two beautiful cities. Bristol Temple Meads and Bath Spa railway are conveniently placed at either end of the trail.
3. Forest Way, Sussex
The Forest Way is a 11-mile route on the National Cycle Network that connects East Grinstead to Groombridge.
This route is flat and traffic-free, with seats and picnic benches along the entire route, making it the perfect day out for families. It takes you through the heart of the East Sussex countryside where you might spot dragonflies, newts, swallows, badger tracks, deer, or foxes. The upside is that it is not just a cycle path on the former railway line but a designated linear country park.
4. Callender to Killin Cycle Route, Trossachs
The little-known island of Inchbuie in the middle of the River Dochart in Killin is home to one of the most beautiful cycle trails. While it is still made on a disused railway line, the cycleway is often described as “challenging” because of the mountains. The 24 miles long trail goes through the Loch Lomond and Trossachs national park and largely follows the defunct Callender and Oban Railway. Take a note that keys to the island’s entrance gate can be obtained from the local library.
5. Box Hill Olympic Circuit, Surrey
Follow in the pedals of the pro peloton as you speed through some of southeast England’s most accessible and beautiful scenery. A highlight of the 2012 games, the Surrey Hills have risen to become one of the UK’s must-ride locations.
On 16.8km of curving rural roads, this short loop is a great introduction to both the area and the now-iconic Box Hill. With views overlooking the River Mole from the top, the twisting 2.5km ascent is a rewarding test of stamina suitable for both beginners and expert cyclists.
6. The Settle Circular, Yorkshire
Yorkshire is one of the world's greatest locations when it comes to cycling. Since the Tour de France passed through the region in 2014, it has rapidly climbed to the top of many a cycling fan’s bucket list.
The abundance of choice across the county gives you the chance to see Yorkshire at its most charming and challenging. As you pass through the scenic villages of Arncliffe, Kilnsey and Grassington, prepare for short, sharp climbs, fast-rolling falls and stunning views of Pen-y-Ghent and Pendle Hill.
7. Elan Valley, Wales
This hidden gem will take you far off the beaten track. Following the old Birmingham Corporation Railway line, the Elan Valley is an all-ability bike centre that's one of the best mountain biking spots in Wales.
Starting at Cwmdauddwr, the straight trail winds through the valley, taking you over Rhayader Tunnel, a Wildlife Trust Reserve and home to a range of bat species. Continuing through woods and countryside, the track then climbs past Garreg Ddu Reservoir – a great place for a photo of the surrounding valleys – before finishing at Craig Goch Dam.
8. Richmond Park, London
Located at England’s capital, there's no denying that Richmond Park is one of London's most popular cycle escapes. The royal park's short 10.8km loop has a lot to offer and it’s perfect for beginners. The key to Richmond Park is laps. Choosing the clockwise or anti-clockwise circuit, get ready to face the challenging climbs of either Broomfield Hill (clockwise) or the longer and steadier Dark Hill (anti-clockwise).
Whether it's an easy one-lap ride around the serene surroundings or a multi-lap training session, be sure to stop for a moment and admire the distant views of St Paul's Cathedral – and if you're lucky, you might even encounter some of the park's famous deer.