Britain is a rich and varied land when it comes to bike riding, so no matter where you live you never have to go far to experience supreme, scenic cycling. Here are five of the best routes.
Level: medium, 44 miles (72km)
The centrepiece of this stunning ride in the Northwest Scottish Highlands is the wild, single-track mountain pass of Bealach Na Bà – the closest thing we have in Britain to the long, winding roads of the Alps. Linking the remote village of Applecross with civilisation, the Bealach is, at 9km, one of the longest climbs in Britain and boasts the greatest height gain (626m) of all.
From Shieldaig, a good base, the shortest loop is 44 miles (72km), and you should head clockwise to catch the climb from its best side. Keep a close eye on the weather and be sure to attempt it in the summer: getting caught out in the cold on this peninsula is an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.
Level: family, 5 miles (8km)
It may be short, but the stretch of road covering this limestone headland above the Welsh seaside town of Llandudno is very, very, sweet. The name, given by the Vikings, means ‘sea monster’ and it’s what this lumpy protuberance resembles from the town’s promenade.
Rising 207m out of the sea it’s a mini-mountain to the residents here, and one that is experienced best by bike, with the five-mile Marine Drive skirting its way around its tip. With such extraordinary views, be sure to keep at least one eye on the road.
Level: hard, 26 miles (46km)
As a cycling destination, the Lake District has few peers and the market town of Keswick is a perfect place to set up base. From here there’s an anti-clockwise, 26-mile (46km) loop that takes you over two of the best mountain passes in the national park. First up, Whinlatter; a relatively gentle two-mile climb carved through Britain’s only true mountain forest of the same name and a regional mountain biking hotspot.
Then there’s Honister, beginning by Buttermere Lake, gradually at first before transitioning to something far more testing towards the summit. You’ll feel remote but like most climbs in the Lakes, you’re never too far off the grid. For the more adventurous, these two climbs are included (from the opposite direction) in May’s Fred Whitton Challenge cycling event, an ultra-tough 112-mile ride through the best of the region.
Level: easy, 29 miles (48km)
Britain is a hilly place, not least within its National Parks – a veritable rollercoaster of peaks and troughs. But if hills aren’t your thing, then praise be for the New Forest, a largely pancake-flat park on a grand canvas, and an idyllic hotspot in the sprawling south of England.
Brockenhurst is the perfect place to base your ride. In every direction stretches an abundance of quiet lanes tailor-made for cycling, particularly for new riders. Watch out for the ponies, which roam the park unencumbered and often traipse onto the road.
Level: family, 15 miles (24km)
Connecting two iconic cities in the South West of England is this 15-mile (24km) strip of traffic-free path. No matter whether you’re a racer, commuter, pootler or toddler, the path sees cyclists of all ages and abilities cohabiting in the name of pedal-powered transport. Enjoy an ice cream at the Warmley café, witness an old steam engine in action at Bitton and have lunch at the pubs in Saltford.
It’s one of many off-road paths developed and maintained by sustainable transport charity Sustrans, including the Camel Trail in Cornwall, the Peregrine Path in Monmouth and the Spen Valley Greenway in Dewsbury.