Patchwork fields stretching to the horizon, dramatic landscapes and centuries of history - Britain's great outdoors is a dream place for cycling. From exploring medieval abbey ruins along the Scottish border to whizzing through the Yorkshire countryside made famous by the Tour de France, here are a few of the best cycling routes in Britain, ready for when we can all travel again.
Start: Parsley Hay
Length: 13 mile/21km
You can look forward to taking in the dramatic landscape of the Peak District National Park on the magnificent Tissington Trail, a traffic-free route which largely follows a former 1899 railway track connecting Buxton and Ashbourne. At 13 miles (21km) it's suitable for families, and you'll be able to take in grand views across the lush green dales of the White Peak near Alsop, not to mention soaking up the peaceful atmosphere in the stunning village of Tissington itself: a great place to stop for lunch. It’s also a centre of well dressing, an annual tradition dating back to pagan times. Due to return in spring 2022, this celebration sees local villages decorate their historic water sources using a host of different natural materials.
Length: 60 miles/97km
Pretty woods, sweeping moorland and sandy dunes along the coast are what to look forward to on Exmoor. The Exmoor Cycle Route is a 60 mile circuit that runs through some of the area's loveliest parts, and is a great introduction to the Devonshire countryside. Starting at Minehead, you'll pass through beautiful chestnut forests and along the North Devon coast, where you can see across the Bristol Channel to the coast of South Wales. There are some big hills, it must be said, so make sure you're ready to work those legs. If you’re longing to explore a quaint English village, you can stop at Lynmouth, home to the water-powered funicular Cliff Railway – the highest of its kind in the world. Joining the towns of Lynmouth and Lynton, it rises 150 metres to reveal views that have been wowing visitors since 1890.
Length: 100 miles/160km
The gently rolling hills of the South Downs National Park are among Britain's most iconic landscape. Picturesque fields and meadows, grazing sheep and deciduous woodland are all in abundance here, with a healthy smattering of country pubs for good measure. The South Downs Way runs from Winchester to Eastbourne, is the only National Trail fully accessible to cyclists, so you can choose a stretch that suits you, or spend a weekend covering the full distance. Alongside beloved beauty spots such as Devil’s Dyke and the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs, the trail is also home to numerous historic sites, including a mosaic-filled Roman home at Bignor Roman Villa and Amberley Museum, an open-air site dedicated to the region’s industrial heritage. If you’re seeking more extreme cycling-based thrills, you can look forward to the undulating mountain bike trails in Hampshire’s Queen Elizabeth Country Park, which is also en route.
Finish: Cardiff Bay
Length: 139 miles/223km for the northern route and 171 miles/275km for the southern route
Lôn Las Cymru - or National Cycle Path 8, to give it it's more prosaic name - passes through the heart of Wales from Anglesey to Cardiff through the Wye Valley, crossing the Snowdonia National Park, and the Cambrian Mountains. It's split into two parts, the north and south paths, which collectively extend over 300 miles. As you can imagine, it's not one for the faint-hearted. If you're an experienced cyclist that's used to challenging routes however, it's one of the most rewarding routes around, as the terrain you cover: towering mountains, lush green valleys and forests, ancient coach roads and railway paths, is truly the stuff of adventures. Not to mention great photographs. On a future trip, why not plan to stop at the market town of Machynlleth? Part of the eco-friendly UNESCO Dyfi Biosphere, here you can enjoy a boat trip through an abandoned slate mine at Corris Mine Explorers. Alternatively, you can soak up contemporary art at MOMA Machynlleth, followed by coffee and cake in the gallery’s Tabernacle Coffee Shop - the essential cyclists’ fuel!
Length: 40 miles/67km
The Yorkshire Dales are an ancient landscape of river valleys and sprawling hills. Studded with ancient buildings and crisscrossed by drystone walls, the scenery is replete with country villages and even the occasional castle. With hundreds of different cycle routes, it's a dream come true for cyclists. Among the highlights is a route made famous by the 2014 Tour de France known as the Two Cols, a challenging, but rewarding way to see the Dales. Winding around the northern part of the Dales known as Herriot Country (named after the famous writer, whose books are set here), the route heads west along Wensleydale, east along Swaledale, and includes steep climbs and sharp descents through stunning surroundings.
Length: 55 miles/88km
If you’re looking for a fairly challenging circuit packed with history and heritage, you can look to discover the Four Abbeys route, just ten miles north of the Scottish/English border. Following the Tweed and Teviot rivers, this 55-mile journey comes peppered with romantic ruins, castles and museums, which can be explored in one day or split to create a short cycling holiday. The gems of the route are the 12th century border abbeys of Kelso, Dryburgh, Melrose, and Jedburgh. If that’s not enough history for your itinerary, add stops at Jedburgh Castle Jail and Museum and the Mary Queen of Scots’ Visitor Centre, too.