There are hundreds of tracks and trails created especially for cyclists around the British Isles, so travelling this lovely land on two wheels is easier than you may think. So, whether you’re up for a mountain challenge or a gentle shoreline meander, here are a few of the best routes for taking in the splendour and history of the UK’s countryside by bike.
Guernsey West Coast Cycle Tour, Perelle, Guernsey
For a small island, Guernsey has a lot to see and, with minimal car traffic, exploring it by bike is ideal. This cycle tour, which can be done as part of a Princess shore excursion, covers the ancient burial chambers of Trepied Dolmen, Second World War bunkers built by locals and a significant swathe of history in between. It’s a scenic route, too, leading through protected shingle banks, the Colin Best Nature Reserve and alongside the pristine beaches of L’Eree Bay.
Camel Trail, Bodmin, Cornwall
This 12-mile cycle, following an old railway line, leads you through some of the loveliest of Cornwall's countryside without being too effortful. Running between Bodmin, with its wild moorland, and Padstow, known for its pretty harbour and glut of topnotch seafood restaurants, the route passes through an area of outstanding natural beauty. Wildlife including otters, kingfishers and bats can all be spotted along the way, and for a mid-cycle refreshment, stop off at Nanstallon, home to Camel Valley vineyard, to enjoy a cool glass of Cornish white wine.
Loch an Eilein, Aviemore, Inverness
You’d be forgiven for thinking that cycling in the Highlands of Scotland must only be for the super fit, given how mountainous the region is. But this beautiful route in the Cairngorms is fairly short (around four miles), flat and still offers rewarding sights along the way. The winding, enchanted trail leads through Scottish woodlands and past the ruins of a castle standing proud on an island in the middle of Loch an Eilein.
Slieve Croob Cycle Route, Castlewellan, Co. Down
This circular cycle route is not for the fainthearted, leading into the heart of both the Mourne and Slieve Croob mountains in Northern Ireland. For those fit enough to take on the challenge, it’s well worth the effort, though, as it not only offers spectacular views of the mountains but also takes in Castlewellan Forest Park and Drumkeeragh Forest, the bay and castle at Dundrum, as well as Murlough National Nature Reserve. Sea, lakes, mountains, forests and sky – it’s a ride with a bit of everything.
Ayrshire Coast Cycleway, Irvine, North Ayrshire
You don’t have to travel far from the urban density of Glasgow to reach the beauty of Scotland’s West Coast. Starting from near the beach at Irvine, this cycleway sweeps along the coast, offering stunning views over to the Hebridean Isle of Arran, before swinging inland through Gailes Marsh and Shewalton Wood, two Scottish Wildlife Trust reserves. The route returns to the coast again at Troon to follow the sea south along the shoreline to Ayr.
Kent Coastal Castles Ride, Deal, Kent
As the coast that faces Europe, Kent’s southern beaches are marked with history and a bike is a good way to explore the story of England’s encounters with the wider world. Make a start in Deal, a quaint seaside town with the squat defences of Deal Castle at one end of its promenade, and then follow the coast to The Strand, Walmer, reputedly where the Roman fleet made landfall in 55 BC. The route then takes you gently up the hillside through the Kent countryside, opening up to sea vistas before you reach your destination: the equally charming village of St Margaret’s at Cliffe.