From the quiet one-lane roads in Northern Ireland to the delightful countryside paths in Bristol, exploring the United Kingdom is best done on two wheels. Whether you've bought your own or need a bike hire for the day, the lush greenery and fresh open air beckons. Here the 10 best cycling routes in the UK.
Editor's note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government advice.
Bristol & Bath Railway Path – Bristol or Bath
This bike trail between Bristol and Bath is a delightful way to explore the countryside between the two cities. It runs for 14 miles along an old railway track that was decommissioned during Beeching's cuts in the 1950s. Sights include disused mills and a picturesque old station at Bitton (now part of the restored Avon Valley Railway). The trail links up with other bike trails including the Dramway Path and the River Avon Trail. The official starts of the path are at St Phillips Rd in Bristol and Brassmill Lane in Bath, but you can access it at various points along the route.
Tamar Trails – Devon & Cornwall
This project has opened up 25km (15.5 miles) of hiking and biking trails which were previously off-limits to the public. The trails start at the visitor centre just off the A390 between Gunnislake and Tavistock, and wind their way along the banks of the river, passing through riverside copses and several disused mine workings. The trails are ideal for mountain bikes, on foot or even by Segway. There's a cafe and bike-hire outlet at the visitor centre.
Camel Trail – North Cornwall
Closed in the 1950s, the old Padstow–Bodmin railway has been turned into Cornwall's most popular bike trail. The main section starts in Padstow and runs east through Wadebridge (5.75 miles); the trail then runs on all the way to Poley Bridge on Bodmin Moor (18.3 miles). Bikes can be hired from Padstow Cycle Hire or Trail Bike Hire at the Padstow end, or from Bridge Bike Hire at the Wadebridge end. Most people do the route from Padstow and back, so it's often quieter (and much easier to find parking) if you start from the Wadebridge side.
Ystwyth Trail – Wales
Suitable for cyclists and walkers, Ystwyth Trail 21-mile waymarked route mainly follows the former Great Western Railway from Aberystwyth southeast to Tregaron, shadowing the River Ystwyth for the first 12 miles and ending in the Teifi Valley. Pick up the trail from the footbridge on Riverside Tce in Aberystwyth, or start from Tregaron if you prefer heading downhill.
Loch Katrine Circuit – Scotland
An excellent 20-mile circular cycle route from Aberfoyle starts on the Lochs & Glens Cycle Way on the forest trail. Following the southern shore of Loch Achray, you reach the pier on Loch Katrine. The 10:30am boat (or afternoon sailings in summer) takes you to the western shore, from where you can follow the beautiful B829 via Loch Ard back to Aberfoyle. Instead of getting the boat, you could bike it along the loch's northern shore, adding an extra 14 miles to the trip. An alternative to the forest trail from Aberfoyle is taking the A821 over Duke's Pass.
Rheidol Cycle Trail – Wales
Sticking mainly to designated cycle paths and quiet country lanes, the 17-mile Rheidol Cycle Trail heads from Aberystwyth Harbour to Devil's Bridge through the beautiful Rheidol Valley. Along the way it passes the Woodland Trust's Coed Geufron, and side routes lead to Bwlch Nant yr Arian, Rheidol Power Station and Rheidol Mines. The last section is very steep.
Kingfisher Trail – Northern Ireland
The Kingfisher Trail is a waymarked, long-distance cycling trail that starts in Enniskillen and wends its way through the back roads and on to county Fermanagh before continuing to the Republic of Ireland through Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan. You can get a trail map from the Enniskillen tourist office or online.
Loughshore Trail – Northern Ireland
Encircling Lough Neagh is the 112-mile Loughshore Trail cycle route. For most of its length it follows quiet country roads set back from the shore. A downloadable leaflet on CycleNI's website lists cycle-hire shops along the route.
Sea to Sea Cycle Route – England
Cycle this 140-mile route (also called C2C) from Whitehaven across the Lake District and the northern Pennines all the way to Newcastle.
Clay Trails – Southeast Cornwall
A web of trails weaves about the clay country around St Austell, exploring the weird landscape of spoil heaps, mica dams and turquoise pools. Nature has reclaimed many areas, and you'll probably spot lots of wildflowers and birdlife flitting around the gorse.
There are various routes, all suitable for pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists. One trail directly passes next to the Eden Project, one through the Pentewan Valley and another which passes the Wheal Martyn Country Park. The trails are the best way to explore the area around St Austell, and way quieter than the much more popular and better-known Camel Trail near Padstow. Bikes can be hired from Pavé Velo and Pentewan Cycle Hire.
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