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Travelling by bicycle is a fun, fast and eco-friendly way to discover Britain’s major cities, from spying iconic landmarks to learning about cultural gems. Whether you’re dreaming of a bike tour of Royal London, hopping on a tandem through Bristol’s docks or riding in the shadow of Edinburgh’s extinct volcano, there are miles of adventures waiting to be had.
To mark World Bicycle Day on 3 June 2021, here are some tours, routes and tips for exploring Britain’s cities on two wheels…
When it comes to guided bike tours of London, you’ll be spoilt for choice. In addition to a Discover London Tour using classic Raleigh bikes, Red Bike Tours also offers a private tour option, complete with a personal concierge service for the entire trip. Fat Tire Tours features specialised routes around Royal London, while those looking to discover a different side to the capital can take an Alternative London Bike Tour of the vibrant East End.
For an independent two-wheeled adventure, you can look forward to grabbing one of the 11,500 Santander bikes stationed at more than 750 docking stations around London. One of the most exciting routes to explore is the Thames Path, including the six-mile section from Battersea Park to Tower Bridge. This largely traffic-free path allows you to take in major landmarks such as the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament and St. Paul's Cathedral.
Dream place to stay: If you’re a health-conscious cycling fan, you can enhance your eco-friendly trip with a stay at the stylish Inhabit hotel, which offers a range of daily activities including meditation, Pilates and guided nature walks.
Zipping 55 miles south to coastal Brighton, you can take in the sights by day on a Brighton Grand Bike Tour by the Jolly Explorer, or enjoy an atmospheric twilight experience. If you want a more spontaneous adventure, you can hire a Californian style cruiser bicycle from Brighton Beach Bikes, or plan to discover the streets on a BTN Bike, the city’s bike sharing scheme.
One ride to look forward to is a 10-mile stretch of the National Cycle Network, linking the nearby village of Rottingdean to Shoreham Port. Hugging the coastline, this route provides striking cliff-top views and passes Brighton’s vibrant marina, the iconic West Pier and plenty of traditional beach huts. For an intermediate-level experience, there’s the 28-mile loop from Preston Park to Devil’s Dyke, which delivers a dose of Sussex’s famous rolling hills.
Dream place to stay: For a four-star guest house with an eco-friendly ethos, you can plan a stay at Brighton House.
Gliding into south-west England, there’s a whole range of saddle-based sightseeing to look forward to in Bristol. This includes Cycle the City, who will offer foodie adventures, as well as classic sightseeing, once restrictions allow.
If you want to create your own itinerary, you can head to Bristol Cycle Shack, near to Bristol Temple Meads train station, for hassle-free bike hire, including the option to rent a tandem! Dreaming of exploring one of the city’s best-loved areas? Follow the Bristol Docks Cycle Loop, which takes in iconic views of the Clifton Suspension Bridge and Bristol Cathedral, as well as several harbour-side eateries. You may also wish to consider the 13-mile Bristol & Bath Railway Path, a traffic-free route linking the two cities. Alternatively, head to the coast along the 11-mile Bristol to Portishead route, passing the grandeur of Queen Square and travelling under the famous suspension bridge along the Avon Gorge.
Heading north, the edgy city of Manchester has routes and upcoming schemes to excite. With a completion target of winter 2021, Manchester is creating the Bee Network, 55 miles of protected cycling and walking routes across the city. Manchester Bike Hire is also available if you want to nip across the city on two wheels.
One of Manchester’s more established cycle routes is the Ashton Canal Cycleway, offering six miles of traffic-free cycling between the city centre and Ashton-under-Lyne. Starting from Piccadilly Gardens, this canal-side path passes the National Cycling Centre velodrome, Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium and the living history museum of Clayton Hall.
Dream place to stay: Located on Manchester’s buzzing Deansgate strip, Qbic is a vibrantly designed hotel complete with solar panels. You’ll also enjoy facilities including vegan and cruelty free toiletries, environmentally friendly rain showers and organic mattresses.
A short distance from Bristol is the Welsh capital, Cardiff, and Cardiff Bay, a revitalised docklands spot with a lively waterfront. Here you can enjoy a four-mile circular trail to the seaside town of Penarth. This leisurely route crosses the Pont y Werin (The People’s Bridge) and is traffic free, but adrenaline junkies should take note of the white water rafting available en route at Cardiff International White Water centre!
Cardiff’s city-wide cycle scheme, Nextbike, allows you to easily rent pedal and electric bikes via an app, while accessible bike hire is available at the Pedal Power centres at Bute Park or Cardiff Bay.
Dream place to stay: If you’re looking to boost your wellbeing, you may enjoy Voco St David’s on Cardiff Bay, a five-star hotel with a luxury spa and bedding made with 100% recyclable materials.
Edinburgh Bike Tours have a range of options if you’re dreaming of exploring the Scottish capital. This includes a 20-mile historic buildings and hidden trails adventure and a shorter tour around Holyrood Park, the Royal Mile and Scottish Parliament.
You can hire mountain, road or electric bikes from the central Cycle Scotland, or hop on a Just Eat Cycle, Edinburgh’s bicycle sharing scheme. One dream-worthy cycle route through the Scottish capital makes up part of the National Cycle Network’s Route 1. Picked up near Haymarket train station, the four-mile stretch takes in the iconic shopping district of George Street and parts of Old Town, passing Edinburgh University and the peaceful George Square Gardens. It then joins the Innocent Railway Path tunnel, which passes under the extinct volcano, Arthur’s Seat. From there, you can continue onto Duddingston Loch, the only natural freshwater loch in Edinburgh, which is found on the southern side of Holyrood Park.
Dream place to stay: If you’re a gourmet looking to reduce your foodie carbon footprint, you can plan a stay at Prestonfield House, an opulent five-star hotel boasting a locally-sourced menu.