The UK has gone through something of a riding revolution over the last decade, as more and more people saddle up in search of cycling holidays, routes and locations centred around all things pedal power. You don’t have to be a Lycra lover to get the most out of whizzing around the country on two wheels, though. For families or foodies, experienced outdoor enthusiasts or downright beginners, there are loads of options across the UK that are more fun – and greener – when you’ve got a bike. Whether you’re looking to escape for the night or depart for a longer expedition, here are some ideas to get you rolling. Also check out our round up of the best bikes for cycling holidays, and if you live in London, have a read of this piece on the best cycling routes in London.
Traffic-free riding through the heart of Cornwall
Best for: families/beginners
The Southwest is a favoured holiday destination for many families come summer, and it’s also home to a great 18-mile trail that is ideal for cyclists of all abilities and ages. Named after the river it flanks, the Camel Trail is a flat, purpose-built, traffic-free path that follows the waterway as it winds its way between the Cornish towns of Padstow, Wadebridge, Bodmin and Wenfordbridge. Pick up hire bikes from Explore by Bike, Bodmin, and set off in the direction of Padstow and the coast. On arrival, reward yourself with something freshly fried at Rick Stein’s fish and chip shop, before settling down for the night if your little ones’ legs are too tired to make the 11-mile return journey to Bodmin in one day.
Exploring the Lake District’s many swimming spots
Best for: wild swimmers
Wild swimming has expanded beyond its cult following as more people look to get back to nature and take the plunge. The Lake District is the pastime’s natural home, and there are countless lakes, tarns and rivers to explore that are easily accessible by bike. Set off from Kendal towards the biggest of them all – Windermere – before following the quieter country lanes to discover the picturesque Wast Water. You can take your outdoor experience up a notch and spend the night free of charge in the Dubs Hut slate bothy (although, unless you have a mountain bike, be prepared for a long slog of hike-a-bike). Alternatively, you could go in search of more comfortable accommodation in Keswick before heading out for another day of freshwater dips.
Circumnavigating the Firth of Clyde by bike and boat
Best for: island hopping
End: Wemyss Bay
The Firth of Clyde on Scotland’s west coast is home to two of the country’s best-known islands – Bute and the Isle of Arran. And thanks to well-connected public transport, these remote spots are easier to explore by bike than you think. On arriving at Ardrossan, take the first of five ferries (CalMac’s Five Ferries ticket will cover you for all of the trips) to the Isle of Arran. From here, the route is down to you and your schedule; race to Lochranza and the next boat, or take your time, stopping off at some of the region’s world-famous whisky distilleries as you go.
Culinary tour of the Chilterns
Best for: foodies
Start: Amersham (with stops in Taplow, Marlow, Henley-on-Thames, etc)
While London is renowned for its restaurants and bars, an area on its outskirts could rival the UK capital in terms of Michelin stars per capita. Starting with a lunch tasting menu at Artichoke in Amersham, this jaunt around the Chilterns takes in the region’s most salivation-inducing stops en route to The Fat Duck in Bray. Marlow, and Tom Kerridge’s collection of restaurants, is a great destination to include at the midway point. Enjoy a pork pie with a half of locally brewed Rebellion beer at deli/pub The Butcher’s Tap or make a night of it and ease into one of the big copper baths found in The Hand and Flowers’ on-site rooms.
Tackling the Trans-Cambrian Way
Best for: hardcore riders looking for an adventure
End: Dovey Junction
Wales is the ultimate destination for those who like their cycling holidays with a side of calf-burning hills. The Cambrian Mountains are among the oldest in Europe, and this 108-mile route takes you up and over them as you snake your way from the English border to the Irish Sea. The trail is remote and predominantly off-road, but it does pass through a handful of settlements essential for supplies and the obligatory pub stops – the towns of Rhayader and Llangurig being the best to lay your head. While it is possible to attempt the ride on your own, MTB Wales offers guided tours (including women-only trips) for those who want a challenge without having to worry about the logistics.
Like this? Now read: