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The Best Cycle Routes in the UK and Ireland

20 of The Best Cycle Routes in the UK and Ireland

The UK and Ireland are home to some spectacular scenery, from wildflower-filled meadows in the Cotswolds to the chalky cliffs of the Kent coast – and one of the best ways to explore is on two wheels. There are now thousands of miles of dedicated cycle paths crisscrossing the country, including car-free tracks, quiet country lanes and former railway lines. But with so much choice, which should you choose for your next two-wheeled adventure? We’ve rounded up 20 of the best cycle routes in the UK and Ireland based on feedback from our social audience and editorial opinion. Each of these routes offers something unique, whether it’s breathtaking vistas that stretch for miles or challenging climbs guaranteed to test your limits. We’ve included routes suitable for beginners, families, and advanced cyclists to make sure no one feels left out too.

From leisurely lanes to pulse-pumping climbs, we’ve rounded up the best cycling routes

20. The Painters Trail, Suffolk

Length: 69 miles

The Painters Trail

If it’s quintessential English countryside scenes you’re after, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better than the Painters Trail, also known as the Dedham Valley Circuit. The route meanders along the River Stour and offers sweeping views of the rolling meadows, ancient woodlands and serene waterways that inspired artists including John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough and Alfred Munnings. Much of the route is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), so you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to picture-perfect views, plus there are plenty of chocolate box villages to potter around too. Make time to stop at Flatford (Constable grew up here) and Stoke-by-Nayland, a teeny-tiny village dominated by traditional timber-framed buildings. While it generally takes two to three days to complete the entire circuit, you can easily cut the route down into more manageable chunks.

19. Bristol and Bath Railway Path, Somerset

Length: 13 miles

Bristol and Bath Railway Path

This traffic-free path begins and ends at two major railway stations, making it the perfect urban escape route for cyclists without a car. Volunteers created the route around 40 years ago to connect the two cities and it’s now one of the region’s most popular cycling routes. The leisurely 13-mile stretch is almost entirely flat, but it takes you through some of the finest countryside in the Avon Valley, making it a worthy venture even for more experienced cyclists. Start the route in Bristol’s historic port, then ride past flower-filled meadows and winding riverside banks to the historic heart of Bath. You could easily attempt the route in one go, but it’s worth pausing for a pub lunch in Saltford or re-fueling at the Old Signal Box at Warmley Station.

18. The Tarka Trail, Devon

Length: 30 miles

The Tarka Trail

Inspired by the route travelled by Tarka the Otter in the famous novel by Henry Williamson, The Tarka Trail is a 180-mile figure-of-eight looping trail through North Devon’s ancient villages, moorlands and sweeping coastline. While you can’t cycle all of it, you can pedal along one of its most scenic stretches – a 30-mile traffic-free cycling trail between Braunton and Meeth. The trail is mostly tarmac and finely packed stone surface, making it a quick win for families and beginner cyclists, and traces the remains of an old railway route. While the climbs won’t wow you, the views certainly will. For those who want to extend the route, you can pick up Routes 27 and Route 3 on The National Cycle Network, which includes sections of off-road cycling.

17. The Monsal Trail, Derbyshire

Length: 18 miles

The Monsal Trail

Located smack-bang in the heart of the Peak District National Park, the Monsal Trail winds through undulating hills along what once formed part of the Midlands Railway, which connected Manchester to London. The trail officially starts in Bakewell (of dessert fame) but it’s worth starting in Hassop, a pretty hamlet 15 minutes north of the town. The trail traces the valley towards Millers Dale and offers spectacular views over the park’s iconic limestone dales. There’s plenty of diverse wildlife to spot along the way too, as well as a handful of reserves worth stopping at, like the Chee Dale, which becomes a blaze of colour in the summer thanks to its impressive fields of cowslips and purple orchids. The views from the Headstone Viaduct are spectacular.

16. The Viking Coastal Trail, Kent

Length: 32 miles

The Viking Coastal Trail

For old-fashioned seaside charm on two wheels, you can’t beat this 32-mile cycle in Kent. Starting at Cliffsend near Ramsgate, the Viking Coastal Trail follows the clifftop paths linking the coast’s numerous bays and coves between Ramsgate and Broadstairs. The route winds through Sandwich, Pegwell Bay and Margate, then along the sea wall to Westgate-on-Sea before meandering westwards to Recluver Country Park, home to thousands of migratory birds in the winter. There are plenty of sights to take in along the route, from Roman forts and one of England’s oldest inhabited buildings to contemporary art galleries and Margate’s iconic Dreamland. Unsurprisingly, the views are every bit as good as the sights; chalky cliffs, wildflower-filled reserves and windswept sandy beaches.

15. Rebellion Way, Norfolk

Length: 232 miles

Rebellion Way

Opened in 2022, the Rebellion Way is the perfect introduction to multi-day cycling – and East Anglia. The route circumnavigates 232 miles of one of Britain’s least hilly counties, Norfolk. So, while it may be a long route, it’s fairly undaunting. You can pick up the loop at any point, though most people recommend starting the Norwich and following the route through King’s Lynn, Castle Acre, Little Walsingham, Holkham and Sandringham. The route meanders past most of Norfolk’s iconic landmarks, including Norwich Castle, Hunstanton Pier and Blickling Estate too, offering stunning countryside vistas, and seaside views along the way. There are plenty of cosy cafes and charming pubs to catch your breath at too.

14. The Chilterns Cycleway, Buckinghamshire

Length: 173 miles

The Chilterns Cycleway

Passing through Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, this 173-mile circuit meanders through the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The route is mainly on-road and well-signposted throughout, broken into 23 sections that can easily be taken as day-long rides. Some of the best rides, include Henley-on Thames, Wendover, Amersham and Berkhamsted. There are plenty of picturesque villages, country pubs and National Trust properties to pause at along the way too. For beginners and families, the sections across Wendover Woods and Princes Risborough are ideal, while for advanced cyclists there’s the Chiltern’s Heritage Trail and Judges Ride.

13. The Camel Trail, Cornwall

Length: 12 miles

The Camel Trail

Proof that not all the best things in life are hard work, this leisurely 12-mile (mostly) traffic-free trail follows the route of an old London and South West Railway from Padstow to Wenford Bridge. The route meanders across the countryside and past some of Cornwall’s most impressive scenery, including the wooded countryside of the upper Camel Valley and the Camel Estuary, which is a haven for birdwatchers. It’s fairly level all the way, making it popular with families, but the spellbinding views of moorland, woodlands and estuary make it a worthy day out for more advanced cyclists. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife: it’s a popular spot for otters, bats, kingfishes, marsh orchids and marigolds.

12. Loch Katrine Circuit, Scotland

Length: 20 miles

Loch Katrine Circuit

Nestled deep within the Trossachs National Park, this 20-mile circuit offers sparkling views of one of Scotland’s most charming lochs and out to the surrounding mountains, forests and rolling hills. The route encircles the loch for around 13 miles of gentle climbs, gentle descents and plenty of flat sections along a zero-traffic, well-maintained path. For the best views, start the route in Aberfoyle and head south to the pier on Loch Katrine. From here, you can pick up the famous Sir Walter Scott steamship, which has ferried passengers back and forth across the waters for well over a century, then follow the B829 back to Aberfoyle. Boats depart mid-morning. If you’re feeling fit, you can forgo the boat on the way back and rack up an extra 14 miles by cycling back along the loch’s northern shore instead.

11. The Great Western Greenway, County Mayo, Ireland

Length: 30 miles

The Great Western Greenway

This 30-mile is Ireland’s longest off-road cycling trail. It boasts relatively flat terrain with no dirt tracks or wobbly lanes, making it the ideal option for beginner and intermediate cyclists on the hunt for stress-free vistas. Starting in the charming town of Westport, the route hugs the Atlantic Ocean, offering sweeping views over Clew Bay and its small islands, then traversing pretty villages like Newport and Mulrunny (don’t miss its old Irish goats). From here, it’s a glorious eight miles to Acaill Sound, famed for some of the country’s most dramatic coastal scenery. The route used to end here, but a brand-new 5km stretch now connects Achill Sound to the historic town of Cashel.

10. Yorkshire Dales Loop, Yorkshire

Length: 95 miles

Yorkshire Dales Loop

From the North York Moors to Strines, Yorkshire is blessed with brilliant cycle routes, but the Dales comes up trumps when it comes to famous climbs. This circular route flies through bucolic scenery and quaint towns, including Ilkley, Hawes, Aysgarth and Leyburn. Pass through most of the major dales in the national park, rising high above sea level and offering spectacular views. There are two particularly steep climbs on this route, with an elevation gain of 1,500+ feet, so it is best suited to more advanced cyclists. However, the path is smooth and easy to navigate. So, if you can rise to the challenge of 6-8 hours of cycling, you’ll feel on top of the world after conquering this circular route.

9. The Taff Trail, Wales

Length: 55 miles

The Taff Trail

Kicking off in Cardiff, this 55-mile route meanders out of the capital and along Cardiff Bay, disused railway ways and crashing weirs before finishing up in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Along the way, there are plenty of picturesque stops to enjoy the views or refuel with a picnic. For an even longer break, there’s the fascinating museum in Pontypridd, the magnificent Cyfartha Castle and the picture-perfect village of Talybont-on-Usk. If you don’t think you can manage the full course, cycle from Brecon Canal Basin along the well-surfaced towpath of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal. The route is made up of old railway paths, forest paths and canals.

8. The Borrowdale Bash, Cumbria

Length: 28 miles

The Borrowdale Bash

The Lake District boasts some of the country’s most breathtaking scenery, but for the best views you’ll need to break a sweat – and for this, the Borrowdale Bash more than delivers. Starting in Keswick, the 28-mile loop takes cyclists through some of the region’s most dramatic landscapes and iconic views, including the rugged fells of Borrowdale, Ashness Bridge and Surprise View. Newbies beware, this route is not for the faint of heart and the circuit includes some challenging climbs and technical descents. But for those who feel confident on two wheels, the showstopping views of cascading waterfalls and towering peaks make it all worthwhile. For the best views, cycle in a clockwise direction past Watendlath, Roshwaite and Seatoller, then stop at one of the old-world pubs or cafes in Borrowdale village before tackling the final stretch.

7. The Northumberland Coastal Route, Northumberland

Length: 48 miles

The Northumberland Coastal Route

This epic 48-mile route is the best way to explore two things Northumberland does exceptionally well: coast and castles. Beginning and finishing in Chathill, the route tucks right under the Scottish border, taking in iconic sights and plenty of windswept beaches along the way. First up is Bamburgh and its jaw-dropping Norman castle, one of the finest fortresses in the country. Then it’s onwards to the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne. This tidal island is accessed by a causeway, so you’ll need to time it right to make sure you have plenty of time to explore the remote monastery and village. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see out as far as the Farne Islands on the ride back.

6. South Downs Way, Sussex

Length: 100 miles

South Downs Way

The South Downs Way is the only national trail in England and Wales set entirely within a national park, so there’s no danger of bumping into any traffic along the way. The route weaves along typical rural English countryside, past Iron Age hillforts and Bronze Age burial grounds, though there’s ample opportunity for beginners to break along the way. In fact, with far-reaching views over the farmlands and out over the Channel, you’ll want to pause quite a few times. For the best views, begin the trail in Winchester and head east to the looming white cliffs of Beachy Head.

5. Isle of Wight Round the Island, Isle of Wight

Length: 60 miles

Isle of Wight Round the Island

With more than 200 miles of cycle lanes and paths crisscrossing the island, the Isle of Wight is a popular spot for cyclists, both novice and experienced. But for a special challenge, there’s the Round the Island. The 60-mile route circles the entire island, offering plenty of opportunities to make the most of the island’s breathtaking sea views and meandering countryside. You can pick the route up anywhere, but most people tend to begin close to the ferry terminals at either Yarmouth or Cowes. From here, you can cycle clockwise or anti-clockwise, either tackling the whole route in one or stopping at small towns along the way to split the ride into more manageable smaller sections.

4. The Caledonia Way, Scotland

Length: 235 miles

The Caledonia Way

This fairly new long-distance cycle covers an impressive 235 miles and traverses through some of the country’s most iconic rural scenery. The route combines traffic-free cycleways, gravel and quiet rural roads, so beginner cyclists need not fear encountering any cars. The route begins on the Kintyre Peninsula and meanders along coastal scenery, mountains and sea lochs of the West Coast, all against the glorious backdrop of Glencoe and Ben Nevis. The finish line is a dramatic one - a race along the dramatic geological fault line of the Great Glen and a climb above Loch Ness before wrapping up in Inverness, the capital of the Highlands. If that sounds a little too strenuous, you can break the route down into manageable chunks, such as the spectacular Fort William to Inverness.

3. Elan Valley Trail, Wales

Length: 17 miles

Elan Valley Trail

Wales isn’t exactly short on picture-perfect views, but they’re hardly a secret. The Elan Valley is an exception. Nestled in the heart of mountainous Wales, this linear trail climbs past three reservoirs, over the Rhayader Tunnel Nature Reserve and through fairytale woodlands. It follows the line of the old Birmingham Corporation Railway, built at the end of the nineteenth century to help construct the Elan Valley reservoirs, a string of four narrow lakes used to supply water to Birmingham. The route begins in Cwmdeuddwr and climbs 165 ft past Caban Coch and Garreg Ddu Reservoirs, boasting spectacular views from the Craig Goch Dam. If that hasn’t worn you out, there are several mountain biking routes to choose from at the end of the route, including the Ant Hills and Elan Epic.

2. Giant’s Causeway to Benone Cycle Route, Northern Ireland

Length: 22 miles

Giant’s Causeway to Benone Cycle Route

This 22-mile route offers spectacular sea views against the backdrop of one of Northern Ireland’s blockbuster sights: the Giant’s Causeway. This unique geological formation was created by a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago and, unsurprisingly, it’s now a World Heritage Site and designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The trail passes through the pretty resort towns of Portrush, Portstewart and Castlerock, past basalt columns and the crashing waves of the Atlantic coast. The route follows a mostly traffic-free shared-use pathway, with two short climbs and two longer climbs from Coleraine and Portrush. It’s worth the effort for those views across endless sandy stretches and sparkling waters though.

1. North York Moors Cycleway, Yorkshire

Length: 171 miles

North York Moors Cycleway

Known for its challenging hills and stunning landscapes, Yorkshire is a top spot in the UK for cycling enthusiasts. This circular route through one of Yorkshire's national parks remains a hidden gem in the region. If you're feeling adventurous, you could tackle the full 171 miles, starting and finishing in Pickering. However, for a more leisurely ride, a shorter section will still be enjoyable. Only the most experienced cyclists would dare to take on the entire 171-mile journey in a single day, requiring an early start and possibly finishing after dark. Less hardcore riders can split the trip into 2, 3, or even spread it out over a week, with popular overnight stops in Pickering, Whitby, Scarborough, and Thirsk. The route boasts a total elevation gain of 12,759 feet, offering a fantastic taste of the UK's stunning landscapes, including heather-covered hills, dense forests, and rugged coastlines. Along the way, you'll find charming pubs and cyclist-friendly cafes perfect for a well-deserved cake break.

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