On Your Bike: 11 Top Cycling Routes in the UK

September 16, 2016

The UK is full to the brim with amazing places for two-wheeled fun. From the breathtaking views at the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland to a tour of the Welsh Valleys, General Manager of Merlin Cycles, Andrew Oldham shares his favourite UK cycling trails.

If you’re looking for a little inspiration on where’s good to get out and about on your bike, Merlin Cycles have scoured the land to bring together 11 best tracks and trails from each region in the UK, perfect for your two wheels.

It's time to put the pedal to the metal. 

1. Isle of Arran, Scotland

Man fixing bike wheels

If you’re a self-confessed cycling lover, then it’s likely you’ve already paid a visit to the Isle of Arran. Situated just off the east coast of Scotland - its closest big city is Glasgow - the Isle has beautiful rolling hills and a real tough and rugged landscape, but don’t be put off. It may seem small but it's packed to the seams with all manner of trails ranging from easy to severe, so there’s something for everyone. The distances vary too, so there are simple six-mile trails if you’re off on a family day out and 21 milers with extreme hills if you’re looking for a challenge. Compare prices for flights into Glasgow and catch a ferry to the island. 

2. Tudor Trail, Kent, South East

Cycling Signs for Penshurst Place and Gardens and Tonbridge, Kent

Running from the spectacular Tonbridge Castle to Penshurst Place, the Tudor Trail takes you right through the centre of the market town and gives you glorious views of the countryside along the way. Your journey will be mostly off-road, giving you a better adventure than just sticking to the pavements, but your efforts will certainly be rewarded with the fantastic view of Penhurst Place - a Medieval castle with tons of charm. Make a weekend of it and stay in a quaint hotel in the Penshurst Place area. 

3. The Cinder Track, Yorkshire and the Humber

A cycler at Bike It Hike It in Henderson

Stretching up the coast from Scarborough to Whitby, the Cinder Track gives you the secluded ocean tour that you’ve always dreamed of. It’s a decent distance of 21 miles, so it’s perfect for a day trip. Why not pack a picnic and take in the incredible sea views, visit some secret coves while you’re at it and pop into a couple of the historical sights you’ll come across along the way? We're there. Now all we need to do is book train tickets with Trainline.com.

4. Castlerock to Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

Cyclists on the Causeway Route, Antrim, Northern Ireland

With breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, you’ll certainly enjoy your fair share of seaspray on this coastal journey. There are a few hills throughout the ride but the end result is certainly worth it. You’ll finish your adventure at the visually stunning Giant’s Causeway, so make sure you set off early in the day so you have plenty of time to explore and take pictures. Northern Ireland's north Antrim coast is a once-in-a-lifetime place to visit so make sure you hop on the short flight over to Belfast and beyond soon.

5. Hamsterley Forest, Durham, North East

People cycling on the path in Hamsterley Forest in Durham

With over 2000 hectares of forest and more than 33 miles of forest trails to explore, it’s no surprise that Hamsterley Forest comes out as our top pick for the North East region. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely cycle with the family or for some adrenaline-pumping mountain bike action, this is the destination for you. You might be slightly pooped after all that pedalling, so why not rest your head in the super luxurious Ramside Hall Hotel and Spa

6. The Green Way Trail, Stratford Upon Avon, West Midlands

On Your Bike: 11 Top Cycling Routes in the UK - The Green Way Trail, Stratford Upon Avon, West Midlands

Starting in the historic town of Stratford Upon Avon, the Green Way Trail is 17 miles long and takes you through some of the region’s typically quaint and little English villages and hamlets. It’s perfect if you’re looking for something to do one sunny Sunday. Whilst you may encounter the odd hill, there’s nothing too steep or tiring and you can take plenty of breaks along the way whilst taking in the spectacular views. If you fancy making a weekend of it, we would recommend staying at the quaint Ettington Park Hotel in Stratford Upon Avon. 

7. Elan Valley Trail, Wales

a family of cyclists riding along the elan valley cycle route.

Wales is famous for its breath-taking views and there will certainly be plenty of those if you head out on the Elan Valley Trail. It’s an 18-mile round trip where you get to take in some incredible views of the reservoir whilst nestled in a valley of beautiful rolling hills. Perfect for a couple of cycling enthusiasts who are looking for a great day out, it’s also ideal if you’re thinking of getting into off-road cycling. Just remember to bring a map or why not peruse the other trails on offer in Wales if you're extending your stay.

8. Windermere, Lake District, North West

Mountain bikers in the Lake District

If you’re paying a visit to the North West of England, you can’t miss the Lake District. And if you’re in the Lake District on a cycling adventure, you may as well visit Windermere. One of our favourite cycle routes in this region takes you from Kendal to the town of Windermere and we promise that it is one incredible treat for the eyes. 11.5 miles of undulating country lanes and cycle paths mixed with gorgeous views of the River Kent. You’ll certainly be back for more. Windermere is perfect for a chilled out weekend break so make sure you stay in the gorgeous Linthwaite House

9. The Monsal Trail, Peak District, East Midlands

Mountain biker on the Monsal trail in Peak District, East Midlands

At a leisurely 8.5 miles and a completely traffic-free route, the Monsal Trail in the Peak District is perfect for quiet family days out. You’ll be heading straight through the heart of the Peak District so you’ll be enjoying gorgeous forest views and breathing in lungfuls of fresh air. There are plenty of trails for you to choose from depending on what kind of adventure you’re looking for. Jump on a coach to Derby, the closest town to the Peaks. 

10. Marston Vale, East England

Marston Vale cycle path, East England

This is one for the leisurely cyclist. Perfect if you’re not looking for anything too tiring, the Marston Vale consists of two 4 km loops in a figure of eight. Both tracks are fully surfaced so you’ve got a completely smooth ride ahead of you. You’ll get to enjoy some incredible forest views, as well as some gorgeous lake scenery. If you’re thinking of a fun and jam-packed day out in the fresh air, then this is the trail for you. Make sure you all in to the Forest Centre for a cuppa too. 

11. Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, South West

Autumn in Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, South West England

The Forest of Dean is one of the most beautiful places in the country. Often considered to be a fairytale forest, if you head there in spring time and summer you’ll be greeted with glorious blue skies and blankets of brightly hued flowers. With distances ranging from three to 11 miles, it’s perfect for both families and keen mountain bikers. The terrains vary dramatically, ranging from completely flat to some hills that are nearly vertical. Get ready for an adventure.

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Andrew Oldham Travel and cycling fanatic Andrew is the General Manager of one of the largest running bike stores in the UK, Merlin Cycles.