If the past year has taught us anything about cycling, it’s that there’s a lot to discover in our local areas. Although we’ve exhausted our local loops and discovered all the bridleways closest to home, Britain is home to many a hidden riding gem. From road climbs comparable to an alpine ascent (at least, at our pace), and trails not too dissimilar to the British Columbia wilderness, there’s a lot to be said for staying in the UK for your next cycling break.
We’re hearing daily of travel opening up, in Europe and beyond, but if you’re not desperate to jump on a plane this year, fear not – we’ve put together a list of some of the best places to get away from it all. From family time to gravel adventures, there’s something for everyone in the British isles.
Best for road
It may be somewhat cliché now to crown Yorkshire as the best place to ride your road bike, unless of course you’re from there. It’s hosted the 2019 road world championships, the Tour de France Grand Départ in 2014, and it’s got its own race, the annual Tour de Yorkshire – surely it’s had enough exposure? Perhaps, but maybe there’s a reason the professionals keep coming back. It’s definitely not the weather though, so pack a raincoat if you do visit, but the difference in landscapes between the Dales, the Moors, and everything in between, definitely makes Yorkshire a great place to ride your road bike.
If you’re looking for a leisurely trip, there are plenty of flatter routes available towards the east, while the north, west and southernmost areas can cover the roadies looking for a challenging escape. Follow the same routes as the pros up Buttertubs Pass or the White Horse, or plot your own route in the wilderness of the Moors. With plenty of B&Bs, lodges, and hotels to choose from, Yorkshire is a place full of variety and beauty, just be prepared to be surprised when the forecast is wrong.
Best for families
Riding bikes with your family is one of life’s greatest pleasures and the UK has some wonderful places to choose from. The Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire is packed with routes to take your kids and their bikes, including a family cycle trail at Beechenhurst, right in the middle of the forest. Here there is a 5 or 9-mile route perfect for beginners and kids who want to discover the beauty of the forest. You can hire bikes from the nearby Cannop Cycle Centre if you don’t have your own, and there’s also an outdoor play area for the kids after your ride.
With over 100 miles of way-marked routes, the New Forest is another ideal place to take your family. The trails are off-road so safe from any traffic and take in a multitude of landscapes from woodland to open heaths, not to mention the wildlife you might see that live in the forest, such as the ponies, deer, and donkeys. It’s easy to pick and choose routes according to length so you can be sure your family can have a great trip, however keen or able they are.
Best for MTB
Home to the legendary Atherton family and some of the best trails in the world is Wales. Whether you’re after some bike park action or natural trail discovery, this country has a lot to offer mountain bikers. Dyfi Bike Park and Bike Park Wales are top of our list for man-made trails. Both uplift centres, they are home to some of the gnarliest and most varied trails in the UK. Dyfi is owned and managed by the Athertons so you know it’s going to be hardcore. Bike Park Wales sits just outside Merthyr Tydfil which is a great little place to stay for a trip and has a lively town centre to visit after your days on the bike.
If you’re after more natural riding, Afan Forest contains over 60 miles of singletrack, ideal for all abilities, where you’ll be exposed to stunning views of southern Wales. In the north, Snowdonia presents extremely beautiful views from its mountainous bridleways, ideal for the adventurers among us. There are more hidden gems than we can list in this short article, but if you’re looking to get away with your mountain bike in the UK, there’s no better place than Wales.
Best for gravel
Although you might not think of the UK as being a gravel hotspot, travelling to Kielder Forest may change your mind. Located in Northumberland, it is renowned for its gravel tracks and is home to the annual gravel event, the Dirty Reiver. The forest itself is delightfully located in the middle of nowhere and covers over 650km2 with plenty of undulating tracks to choose from.
If you head further north (and west) beyond the border and into Scotland, you’ll eventually find the Isle of Arran. Previously home to Grinduro, the small isle packs a punch with plenty of gravel riding and spectacular views. You’ll have to travel by ferry but it’s only a short journey from mainland Scotland and it promises to deliver some epic riding. On the whole, Scotland is an thoroughly epic place for gravel riding, you should check out bikepacking Scotland who have been working hard to put together some absolutely stunning gravel routes.
Wherever you end up travelling with your bike, make sure you’re insured in case the worst happens. Our home and bicycle insurance covers all your family bikes for theft from a vehicle and away from home so you can be sure you and your bike are looked after no matter where you go. Why not get a quote now?
Words by Rebecca Bland