9 of the most stunning cycle routes in the UK

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Cycling is a great way to both exercise and explore the country — and as an added bonus, it’s also a sport that is easy to do while maintaining social distancing and keeping in line with lockdown rules.

So no matter where you live in the U.K., you will likely be close to some spectacular cycle routes with stunning views and, of course, a few pub stops to have lunch and a tipple to keep you fuelled.

Below is a round-up of some of the “must-do” cycle routes in the U.K. New to the sport? Don’t fear, as the routes below are graded on difficulty to help you choose the right one. And remember, you can only exercise outside once per day, only with your household or one other person and not outside your local area.

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1. Camel Trail: Bodmin to Padstow — Cornwall

(Photo by Education Images/Getty Images)
(Photo by Education Images/Getty Images)

This route is designed for the whole family to enjoy and runs along a disused railway. Most Brits flock to the southwest for the glorious beaches, but there is a vast amount of outdoor activities to enjoy, too. This purpose-built trail is known as the Camel Trail and passes through Cornish towns such as Padstow, Wadebridge, Bodmin and Wenfordbridge. Don’t fret if you don’t own a bike. You can hire one.

Distance: 18 miles

Difficulty level: Easy

2. Bristol to Bath Path — Southwest England

This path connects Bristol and Bath for cyclists of all abilities. It’s often used by commuters, as it’s a traffic-free path, but in normal times you’ll see families, day-trippers and also spot some unusual modes of pedal-powered transport along the route such as penny-farthings. If you’re looking for a nice lunch on the way, stop in Saltford for a selection of pubs and restaurants

Distance: 15 miles

Difficulty level: Easy

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3. The Trans-Cambrian Way: Knighton to Dovey Junction — Wales

(Photo by James Osmond/Getty Images)
(Photo by James Osmond/Getty Images)

Not for the novice rider, this three-day Welsh cycle route through the Cambrian Mountains is a real test for your thighs and calves. On the way, you will see historic settlements and pass a few pubs and in non-COVID-19 times, if you’re not a fan of doing this alone or planning the logistics, then you can get guided tours with MTB Wales, which even offers women-only tours.

Distance: 103 miles

Difficulty level: Advanced

4. Land’s End to John O’Groats — Cornwall to Scotland

(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid /Getty Images)
(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid /Getty Images)

Pipped as a once-in-a-lifetime thing to do, this huge cycle route starts at the tip of Cornwall and goes to the top of Scotland — so covers the length of Britain. A typical route would mean you cycle along the Cornish coast, across Dartmoor, through Cheddar Gorge, across the River Severn, pass through Herefordshire and Shropshire, the Yorkshire Dales, Cumbria then into Scotland through Loch Ness before arriving at John O’Groats.

You would need to know your way around a bike in case of any maintenance issues, and it is advised to plan your accommodation in advance to cover the 15-day journey, cycling about 65 miles per day.

Distance: 847 miles

Difficulty level: Advanced

5. Brockenhurst, New Forest — Hampshire

(Photo by Libin George/Getty Images
(Photo by Libin George/Getty Images)

You may be a keen cyclist but dread the thought of hill climbs. If so, don’t be put off as there are trails that are completely flat, such as ones in Brockenhurst, which has officially been declared “Britain’s most beautiful place to live.” It’s quiet, designed for new riders and you will even pass some grazing ponies, which roam the park freely. If you need to hire a bike, you can do so from a shop in the centre of the village. It also offers an app, which has recommended cycle routes with directions so you don’t get lost on your way.

Distance: Varies, but up to about 29 miles.

Difficulty: Easy

6. Crab and Winkle Way — Canterbury to Whitstable

(Photo by CBCK-Christine/Getty Images)

This is a leisurely cycle, which is almost traffic-free between Canterbury and the harbour in Whitstable, Kent. There is a slight hill, but the reward is the view over Whitstable before continuing through the Blean Woods, one of the largest areas of broadleaved woodland in southern Britain.

Stop at the Windling Pond to have a picnic if the weather holds or wait until you get to Whitstable to sample the local seafood and get a selfie down Squeeze Gut Alley. If you’re full after lunch and don’t fancy the cycle back, then you can always get the train from Whitstable.

Distance: 7.6 miles

Difficulty level: Moderate

7. River Lea to Olympic Stadium — London

(Photo by Simon Montgomery/Getty Images)
(Photo by Simon Montgomery/Getty Images)

This is probably one of London’s lesser-known cycle routes. You start in Tottenham Marshes and then head south along the towpath to Hackney Wick station. The towpath will then take you to the London Olympic Stadium or you can follow the Hertford Union Canal to Victoria Park. This route is suitable for the whole family and a great way to see a part of London that you wouldn’t normally consider cycling around. Once you are at the Olympic Stadium, you can ride the slide at the ArcelorMittal Orbit, have lunch in the park, take a boat tour or get a selfie next to the 2012 Olympic Rings.

Distance: 6.4 miles

Difficulty: Easy

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8. Merthyr Tydfil to Brecon — Wales

(Photo by Michael Roberts/Getty Images)

It may not be the most glamorous cycle to start with but you quickly forget the industrial views as you come up to the River Taff and the Cefn Coed Viaduct and the reservoirs, Pontsticill, Pentwyn and Talybont. Before hitting Brecon, you’ll see waterfalls and the mountain landscape of Monmouthshire. If you’re looking for a longer ride, it’s part of the Taff Trail from Cardiff at a total of 55 miles.

Distance: 25 miles

Difficulty level: Advanced

9. Loch Katrine — The Trossachs, Scotland

(Photo by David C Tomlinson/Getty Images)
(Photo by David C Tomlinson/Getty Images)

This is quite an unusual cycle route as you have the option of taking your bike part of the way on a steam pleasure boat, which has been operating the loch since 1843. The route starts at Trossachs Pier complex and goes anti-clockwise along the shoreline until it reaches the pier at Stronachlachar.

The track is quite flat but that doesn’t mean you won’t have stunning views during the three hours it takes to cycle the round trip. Look out for red kites, eagles, wildcats and deer along the way. If you need to hire a bike, there is a local hire shop called Katrine Wheelz at Callander.

Distance: 26 miles

Difficulty level: Moderate

Bottom line

Don’t overexert yourself if you are new to cycling. Just because a route is short, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be super easy. Be mindful that cycling conditions change and ensure you have a helmet, lights, high-vis gear and a pump. If you’re hiring a bike from companies on organised routes, they usually also rent safety equipment. Take snacks and water with you and remember to keep to social distancing!

Featured photo by Jonathan Blackham/Getty Images

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