Patchwork fields stretching to the horizon, ancient hills and mountains rolling down into dunes and sandy beaches on the coast, rich green woodland and country lanes – Britain’s great outdoors is a feast for the senses and an adventure waiting to happen. It’s also a great opportunity to get cycling, feel the thrill of speed, take in some fresh air and cover some real ground as you explore the natural terrain here. Here’s a few of the best cycling routes you can take to get acquainted with Britain.
Tissington Trail, Peak District National Park
Take to the dramatic landscape of the Peak District on the magnificent Tissington Trail. At 13 miles (21km) it’s suitable for families, and you’ll be able to take in grand views across the lush green dales of the White Peak near Alsop, not to mention soaking up the peaceful atmosphere in the stunning village of Tissington itself: a great place to stop for lunch.
Exmoor Cycle Route, Exmoor National Park
Pretty woods, sweeping moorland and sandy dunes along the coast are what to expect on Exmoor. The Exmoor Cycle Route is a 60 mile circuit that runs through some of Exmoor’s loveliest parts, and it’s a great introduction to the Devonshire countryside. Starting at Minehead, you’ll pass through beautiful chestnut forests and along the North Devon coast, where you can see across the Bristol Channel to the coast of South Wales. There are some big hills, it must be said, so make sure you’re ready to work those legs.
South Downs Way, South Downs National Park
The gently rolling hills of the South Downs National Park are among Britain’s most iconic landscape. Patchworked fields and meadows, grazing sheep and deciduous woodland are all in abundance here, with a healthy smattering of country pubs for good measure. The South Downs Way, the 160 km National Trail that runs from Winchester to Eastbourne, is the only National Trail fully accessible to cyclists, so you can choose a stretch that suits you, or spend a weekend covering the full distance.
Lôn Las Cymru, Brecon Beacons National Park
Lôn Las Cymru – or National Cycle Path 8, to give it it’s more prosaic name – passes through the heart of Wales from Anglesey to Cardiff through the Wye Valley, crossing the Snowdonia National Park, and the Cambrian Mountains. It’s split into two parts, the north and south paths, and collectively these paths extend over 300 miles. As you can imagine, it’s not one for the faint-hearted. If you’re an experienced cyclist that’s used to challenging routes however, it’s one of the most rewarding routes around, as the terrain you cover: towering mountains, lush green valleys and forests, ancient coach roads and railway paths, is truly the stuff of adventures. Not to mention great photographs.
Two Valleys Route, Yorkshire Dales National Park
While the Yorkshire Dales has many claims to fame, it has a special one for cyclists this year as its where the Tour de France’s Grand Depart took place in 2014. The Dales are an ancient landscape of river valleys and great, impressive hills, studded with ancient buildings and crisscrossed by drystone walls, replete with country villages and towns and even the occasional castle. It’s a dream come true for cyclists, and the Two Valleys route is a challenging, but rewarding way to tackle it. Winding around the northern part of the Dales known as Herriot Country (named after the famous writer, whose books are set here), the route heads east along Wensleydale, west along Swaledale, and includes steep climbs and fast decents through stunning surroundings.