If cycling’s your thing – or even if it’s not – getting on your bike is a beautiful, and healthy, way to explore the British Isles.
And if you’re concerned about the nation’s steep hills, why not cheat a bit by riding a proper leg-powered cycle.
There are plenty of fantastic cycle routes to explore throughout the UK. Here are 5 of them:
1. Camel Trail, Cornwall
Cycling UK says this is the UK’s most popular tourist cycle route, attracting 350,000 cyclists each year. It’s an 18-mile mainly traffic-free, surfaced and flat trail giving access to beautiful Cornish countryside along a disused railway line beside the River Camel from Poley’s Bridge to Padstow, via Bodmin and Wadebridge.
If you’re accompanied by young children on their own bikes, you can just ride the shorter route from Wadebridge to Padstow and back, a 12-mile round trip.
2. Mawddach Trail Cycleway, North Wales
This 10-mile route runs from Dolgellau to Barmouth, around the undeveloped Mawddach estuary. With the Rhinog hills on one side and the Cadair Idris massif on the other, Cycling UK says this level route, which follows the course of an old railway line, delights both cyclists and walkers.
The trail, which starts from the car park by the bridge at the entrance into Dolgellau, has occasional picnic areas and small nature reserves, and offers glorious views. And there’s even an RSPB observatory at Penmaenpool for birdwatchers.
3. Kingfisher Cycle Trail, Ireland
The UK walking and cycling charity Sustrans says this 230-mile trail was the first long-distance cycle trail in Ireland and follows minor country roads through the tranquil and beautiful Irish border counties, travelling through countryside dotted with rivers and loughs.
Starting from Enniskillen Visitor Centre, the trail incorporates Ballyshannon and Pettigo in the north, crossing the border into the Republic of Ireland, where it takes in Carrick-on-Shannon and Clones.
The many attractions en-route include the Lough Scur Dolmen, Castle Coole and the Marble Arch caves. The trail is split into two major loops which meet between Belcoo and Florence Court, Drumcard, and can be cycled separately. It uses quiet country roads and is fairly flat with some gently undulating hills, so it’s suitable for all levels of cyclist.
4. Bealach Na Ba Circuit, North West Scotland
One of the toughest routes in the UK, this 45-mile circuit rewards the effort needed for its alpine-style climbs with stunning views.
The route crosses the 2,056 foot high Bealach Na Ba (Pass of the Cattle), where there are breath-taking views over to Loch Kishorn and on to the Isles of Skye and Raasay, cycling clockwise from Shieldaig to Applecross on the Applecross Peninsula, and then back to Shieldaig, Cycling UK says the circuit can be done in a day if you’re fit.
5. Hartington, English Peak District
The village of Hartington gives easy access to three old railway paths: the High Peak Trail (17.5 miles) from High Peak Junction, near Cromford to Dowlow near Buxton; the Tissington Trail (13 miles) from Parsley Hay to Ashbourne; and the Manifold Trail (8.5 miles) between Waterhouses and Hulme End.
Despite the Peak District hills, cuttings and embankments keep these trails mostly flat, and they pass through stunning Derbyshire Dales countryside.