Guest post by Michael Payne
England is a beautiful country for cycling. Its famous countryside areas offer routes that are both challenging and picturesque, and in many cases you can also begin or end a cycling journey with a specific attraction or tourist destination. That way, you really get the most out of traveling to the UK, from both an adventurous standpoint and in terms of general tourism. There are actually dozens of noteworthy cycling routes around the relatively small country. But here we’re focusing on four that might be of particular interest to tourists.
The Lakeland Loop
The Lake District in England is a popular stop for travelers regardless of whether they have any interest in cycling. Ranked among the most beautiful national parks in Europe, the Lake District National Park is full of rolling peaks, glacial lakes, camping areas, and, yes, hiking and camping trails. It’s a breathtaking area to explore no matter how you go about it, and if you do decide to go cycling there you may want to plan on camping for a few days as well, or else staying in some of the small towns or inns around the area.
The Lakeland Loop is the primary cycling route through the park, though we should stress it’s not for beginners. As you might expect in a district full of small mountains, there are some very steep climbs involved. The trail starts near pretty Lake Coniston and continues in a 65km loop, with the notorious Wrynose Pass marking the most difficult stretch (though also one of the most beautiful, as it takes you to one of the park summits).
The Cotswolds Line
Like the Lake District, the Cotswolds is a region that attracts tourists anyway. With low rolling hills, fairy tale villages, roadside pubs and herds of sheep, it encapsulates many people’s idyllic vision of the English countryside. Some also go there to visit the town of Cheltenham, which has become a popular destination via its local spas and annual horse racing festival. Indeed the festival makes for a good excuse to visit and try the cycling route; it’s a four-day party and a magnificent sporting exhibition featuring several Grade 1 races and a knowledgeable crowd of spectators.
Whether you visit for the festival or simply travel to the Cotswolds in search of adventure however, The Cotswolds Line is another of the country’s better cycling opportunities. Mixing quiet country roads, little hills breaking up the landscape, and a final run through Broad Campden (a perfectly picturesque little town), it’s an extraordinarily pleasant route, and a little easier than the Lakeland Loop.
Coasts & Castles
This is an interesting route to consider in part because it gives you the chance to explore one of the great English cities not named London. The city of Newcastle is a wonderful place, known for its walking (and cycling) bridge, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, as well as for its own castle and a local pub scene. Additionally, Newcastle’s St. James’ Park – where Newcastle United plays football – is said to provide an unrivaled atmosphere. So, for those interested in sport it’s a terrific stop.
As for the actual cycling route coming out of Newcastle, what could sound more quintessentially English than “Coasts & Castles”? A fairly easy route that moves from the coastline inland and past some famous castles (notably Lindisfarne and Bamburgh), it offers a great mix of scenery to enjoy. It’s not the easiest ride in the country, but it’s still a leisurely option next to the Lakeland Loop.
Hadrian’s Cycleway is a little bit more involved than some of these other options. It’s a 280km trail stretching across much of the North of England, along the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site. It involves coastal views, open countryside, and stops at a number of historical sites, Roman ruins, museums, and small towns and visitor centers along the way. That is to say, it’s a long ride but not a particularly difficult one if you decide to break it up with stops along the way.
That’s something you should definitely do, because Hadrian’s Wall and the Roman forts along the way are among England’s most fascinating tourist attractions anyway!