Thinking of a cycling holiday in the uk? we've got you covered
We’re all going on a…. staycation in England!
With the sunny Spanish beaches and Roman colosseums looking increasingly improbable for a holiday this year, there’s never been a better time to say adiós to an overseas getaway, and a big fat hello to a UK staycation.
And with COVID looking like it’s going to be hanging around for a little while longer, a cycling holiday can be a great option to avoid the crowds. Stay in your own socially distanced bubble as you pedal around the British countryside, sampling the delights of local pubs and farm shops.
Whether it’s a short weekend or a two week break, we’ve been testing and researching the best UK cycling routes to help you plan your staycation.
The power is in your hands
Remember, when it comes to cycling holidays there are no rules. You choose your mileage, pace and destination.
If - like us - you’ve engaged in some serious lockdown gluttony and are concerned that your recent consumption of jam donuts have affected your fitness, then choose a lower mileage! It’s a holiday! If you want to spend a morning pedalling 10 miles, before lounging in the gardens of the aforementioned pubs, then you do just that.
Don’t let a lack of equipment put you off either. You don’t need a shiny new touring bike. If it’s got two wheels and moves forwards, you’ve got your vessel. Buy a rack and some second hand panniers off ebay and you’re ready to rock n roll.
Although, as a disclaimer, it’s always a good idea to get your bike serviced before you go, lest you find yourself halfway up a Welsh mountain with an unruly steed on your hands.
North Coast 500 (500 miles)
We’re starting off with the most challenging trip on our list. If you fancy tackling some serious climbs and unpredictable weather then head to Scotland to pedal the North Coast 500. A newbie to the UK’s cycling routes, the NC500 was created in 2015 to boost highland tourism.
Beginning in Inverness, the 500 mile route traverses the most northern points of the UK mainland. In return for your efforts you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking scenery, from the Torridon mountains to Sinclair’s Bay.
Other highlights include John O’Groats and Ardvreck Castle. Oh, and there’s the added benefit of legal wild camping in Scotland. Feel free to pitch your tent anywhere, unless specifically told not to.
To get inspired, have a watch of the record-breaking round-the-world cyclist, Mark Beaumont playing tour guide on the NC500. Unlike Mark, however, we’re not suggesting you do it in three days!
Four Abbey’s Route (55 miles)
Melrose Abbey (source: visitscotland.com)
If you fancy exploring stunning Scottish landscapes without the epic climb of Bealach na Ba, then the Four Abbey’s Route could be the trip for you. The 55 mile route around the Scottish borders takes in the countryside surrounding Melrose, Dryburgh, Jedburgh and Kelso abbeys.
With just a few short climbs, the route could easily be done as a two day excursion. Whilst a few small stints on ‘A’ roads are unavoidable, the majority of the route ambles through sleepy villages. Spend the days indulging in local produce from farmers markets and tea rooms, before crashing for the night in one of the quaint BnBs along the way.
Hadrian’s Cycleway (170 miles)
Hadrian's Cycleway (source: cycle.travel)
We’re still in the North! National Cycle Route 72 is Hadrian’s Cycleway, a 170 mile route through some of England’s most dramatic landscapes. Running through country lanes and river paths, the route has very little traffic making for stress free cycling. And for all you history buffs, there are plenty of Roman forts along the World Heritage site.
Roughly following the route of Hadrian’s Wall, the cycleway is a fairly easy ride, never going more than 250m above sea level. Beginning near Carlisle, the route takes you through the market towns of Brampton and Hexham, before ending in Tynemouth near Newcastle.
South Downs Way (100 miles)
If the thought of white chalk cliffs and breathtaking views over to France are making you want to hop in that saddle, then the South Downs Way could be just for you. Mainly off road, the route offers spectacular vistas across Sussex and Hampshire.
Enjoy the expanse of space and freedom as you travel up and down the undulating hills, with plenty of history along the way, from neolithic burial mounds and Iron Age hill forts. And since the hills of the South Downs can be a cruel mistress at times, why not stop for a couple of nights in Brighton, soaking up the seaside atmosphere and sweet little vintage shops.
Eurovelo 2 Capitals Route
That brings us to the final route on our list, another big’un. If you’ve got some time on your hands, why not tackle the Eurovelo 2 Capitals route, a 500 mile cycling route from Anglesey in the north of Wales across to Norfolk.
The route takes you through Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons, along the river Severn and over to London, before finishing in Harwich. The highlight of course is Snowdonia, with its endless rolling landscape. In fact, if time’s not in your favour, why not do a mini-Eurovelo, only pedalling the Welsh section.
Fully signposted and easy to follow, Eurovelo routes have plenty of services and bike shops along the way to make your holiday as stress relaxing as possible. Although the idea of a European cycling holiday still feels like a distant dream, checkout the Eurovelo website to see the expanse of routes on offer.
And there we have it - a few of the UKs best bike routes to give you some food for thought. For many of us, this year didn’t work out as intended, but if you’ve got some time on your hands over the next few months, then a few days of pedalling could be a cracking way to salvage something out of 2020.