Great Britain excels in cycling, hosting celebrated challenge rides like the Peak District’s Eroica Britannia(link is external) in Derbyshire, Scotland’s TweedLove Bike Festival(link is external) and the UK National Track Championships(link is external) in Manchester. But one of the best things about UK cycling is simply taking off spontaneously on a trail. Here are some ideas for exploring the UK on two wheels…
This new long-distance ride(link is external) spans the length of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides island chain. The 185-mile route crosses 10 islands in the archipelago – and it’s packed with paradise beaches visitors might not expect in the UK.
Bay Cycle Way
Starting at the nature reserves of Walney Island, this flattish route(link is external) follows a spectacular yet often underrated coastline. Pedalling 81 miles through the Cumbrian and Lancashire countryside, cyclists can enjoy bird-watching in RSPB reserves and eating in the many gourmet restaurants in the village of Cartmel.
Celtic Trail West
The Celtic Trail runs across Wales at its widest point with the west section(link is external) connecting Swansea and Fishguard via the spectacular Swansea and Pembrokeshire coastlines. The seaside resorts of Tenby and Saundersfoot are also worth a visit.
South Coast Way
This 360-mile coastal route from Dover, Kent to Dawlish in Devon stops at the seaside towns of Brighton and Hastings.
Fun and family
Two Palaces Ride, London
This two-mile loop(link is external) takes in more than just the two palaces of the title. The relaxed start from Buckingham Palace leads to a laidback ride through the Duke of Wellington Arch and into Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens on its way to Kensington Palace – best ridden on a Sunday.
Monsal Trail, Peak District
In Derbyshire’s Peak District National Park, the traffic-free Monsal trail(link is external) offers flat, easy cycling along the old Midland railway line with great views of the limestone dales. The eight-and-a-half mile trail, from Blackwell Mill in Chee Dale to Coombs Road at Bakewell, blasts through six moodily lit tunnels, up to 400 metres long.
Surprise trailside treats: The Secret Tea Garden(link is external) at Miller’s Dale.
Lagan and Lough Cycle Way, Northern Ireland
The Lagan and Lough Cycle Way(link is external) is a 21-mile, mostly traffic-free route from Lisburn to Jordanstown via Belfast. Cyclists can enjoy biking along the Lagan Towpath and Belfast Lough, with spectacular views inland to Belfast’s hills.
Cuckoo Trail, Sussex
The Cuckoo Trail(link is external) gets its name from an old Sussex tradition of releasing a cuckoo at the Heathfield Agricultural Show(link is external). Running from Polegate near Eastbourne to Heathfield itself, it covers 11 family-friendly miles of traffic-free tarmac and gravel along a railway line.
Surprise trailside treats: See if you can spot Artist Steve Geliot’s wooden benches(link is external) carved from storm damaged oaks, Hailsham village and nearby Michelham Priory(link is external), a medieval monastery-turned-country house and museum.
Fallowfield Loopline, Manchester
Head south from the HSBC UK National Cycling Centre and you’ll find the 16-mile traffic-free route to South Manchester.
Derby Canal Path and Cloud Trail
Flat, well-surfaced riverside riding(link is external) starting in Derby and ending at the engagingly named Cloud Quarry where cyclists are rewarded by wonderful views.
A popular 18-mile, predominantly traffic-free railway trail(link is external) taking in Padstow, Bodmin, Wadebridge, and Wenford Bridge; a delightful mix of Cornish woodland, birdlife and wild estuary.