Looking for a challenge this summer? These 10 bike rides will not only test your mettle, but showcase the best of Britain’s scenery
1. Sea to Sea
The Sea to Sea route crosses the Lake District |©VisitBritain / Rod Edwards
This is one of Britain’s most popular cycles, starting on the Cumbrian coast before crossing the Lake District followed by the Pennines, and finishing off in the railway paths of County Durham. Sustrans recommends riding it from West to East due to prevailing winds and gentler gradients. The entire route is 136 miles, 79 of which are traffic free.
2. Garden of England
Take in Kent’s dramatic coastline|Visit Britain / Thanet District Council
Cycle straight out of London along a traffic-free route by the Thames before heading down to Dover and onto Hastings. The route takes in the undulating Kent countryside, as well as dramatic coastal scenery and historical places of interest, such as the Royal Military Canal and Samphire hoe. In Hastings, you can link up with the Downs and Weald route to complete the circuit back to London.
3. Hadrian’s cycleway
Follow Hadrian’s wall | Visit Britain
This 174 mile route combines wild countryside, Instagram-worthy coastal scenes and World Heritage sites all in one. Starting in Ravenglass, Cumbria, it follows the coast up to Hadrian’s Wall and ends in South Shields. Using a mix of country lanes and traffic-free paths, it should take three days to complete, depending on how many Roman forts, bath houses and castles you stop at along the way.
4. The West Country Way
With a mighty 240 miles of classic West Country scenery, this route combines the Camel Trail, Tarka Trail, Avon Cycleway and Bristol & Bath railway path, taking in Exmoor, the Mendips and Glastonbury along the way. The route begins in Padstow Harbour and ends in either Bristol or Bath, but can be cycled in either direction. Remember to leave extra time for those all-important cream tea stops.
5. South Midlands
Easily accessed by train, this route links Oxford to the cities of the East Midlands, following four old railway lines to make 84 of its 148 miles traffic free. Expect everything from rolling farmlands and meandering towpaths to modern cityscapes and charming market towns. Ends in Derby or Nottingham.
6. The Caledonian Way
A challenging, 237 mile route from Campbelltown on the Kintyre peninsular to Inverness in the Highlands, the latest section of which (from Fort William to Inverness) only opened in October 2015. The route takes in dramatic Scottish scenery (think coast, forests, mountains and lochs), with challenging hill climbs and large sections of traffic-free paths. Gaps remain in the route between Oban and Fort William, where cyclists have to use main roads or ferries.
7. Fakenham to Harwich
Stop off in Framlingham to visit its famous castle | Visit Britain
Not a fan of hills? Then this is the route for you. It may be a daunting 163 miles long, but it’s one of the flattest National Cycle Network routes in the country. It shows off East Anglia at its best, passing through historic spots like Norwich, Framlingham and Woodbridge before finishing at the Essex coast in Harwich.
8. The Hebridean Way
Riding the Outer Hebrides is on many a cyclist’s bucket list, and rightly so. The 150 mile route takes you from Castlebay on the Isle of Barra all the way to the Butt of Lewis, at the far north of the archipelago. The trip takes three to four days, depending on prevailing winds, and offers stunning views of white beaches, Caribbean-esque seas, fearsome crags and unspoilt countryside.
9. Lôn Las Cymru
This is one tough cycle route, starting in Holyhead and crossing three mountain ranges to reach Cardiff in the south. With the route including Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons and the Cambrian mountains there’s challenging hill climbs, but the views make it worthwhile.
Much of the route follows the Welsh Coast Path | Visit Britain
Another route that starts in Holyhead, but this time taking in the coastal towns and historic villages of the Welsh coast. It follows the Wales Coast Path for much of the way, offering mountainous landscapes, castles and cathedrals galore, before ending in Chester 105 miles later.
Find information on all of these routes on Sustrans.org.uk