Cycling is a superb activity to incorporate into any holiday. You get to see far more of an area than you would on foot, while also engaging with your surroundings in a way that sitting in a car or a bus cannot reproduce.
For the keenest riders a cycling holiday means spending hours in the saddle and tackling monster climbs every day, but that’s not how it has to be. If you’re looking for an easier ride that showcases some of the best scenery the UK has to offer, Ribble Cycles has recommended four accessible trips. But first, let us suggest you go (south) west, young man.
Carmarthenshire, South-west Wales
There’s a whole load of excellent riding available in this part of Britain, with National Cycle Route 4 following a long stretch of the coast. Base yourself in Llanelli or Carmarthen and you’ll be right on the trail ready to ride whenever and wherever you like. But if you’d rather have a route in mind, then Discover Carmarthenshire has put together three hand-illustrated maps for traffic-free family-friendly rides around the area.
The first is a 22km route along the coast between Bynea and Pembrey Country Park. We recommend finishing at the latter, so you can then enjoy the dry ski slope, toboggan run and archery range in the park. The second route is a 19km off-road path between Llanelli on the coast and Cross Hands further inland. The route, which follows the old Mynydd Mawr Mineral railway, is hillier for those heading from Llanelli, so if you want to take it easier on yourself start inland at Cross Hands and ride for the coast. The last of the three routes is an 11km ride along the River Amman between Pantyffynnon and Brynamman. The latter village is right on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, so if you want to extend your ride into the park then start at Pantyffynnon.
Head to the Discover Carmarthenshire website to download the maps for each route, plus a guide to what you will be able to enjoy along the way.
Camel Trail, Cornwall
Running for 18 miles (29km) from Padstow to Wenford Bridge, the Camel Trail passes Wadebridge and Bodmin and offers spectacular views of the surrounding moorlands and woods. Birdwatchers in particular should give this ride a go because it passes alongside the Camel Estuary, home to many varieties of feathery fauna.
“It’s ideal for anyone looking to get away on a solo cycling holiday or as a family,” says Matthew Lawson of Ribble Cycles.
“Known as a largely traffic-free trail, the route follows an old railway line and is fairly level for its duration.”
You can also break the trail up into a few sections if you don’t fancy riding 18 miles in one go. From Padstow to Wadebridge is 5.5 miles (8.9km), Wadebridge to Bodmin is 5.75 miles (9.3km), and Bodmin to Wenford Bridge is 6.25 miles (10km).
For more info on the route head to sustrans.org.uk.
Manifold Way, Staffordshire
There are plenty of interesting sights crammed into this nine-mile (14.5km) track, which runs between Hulme End and Waterhouses. Riders get an unrivalled view of a limestone gorge in the Staffordshire Peak District, as well as passing Thor’s Cave (a natural cavern high up a steep limestone crag) and a Bronze Age mine. There also a 100m tunnel to ride through – probably at pace, tunnels are scary places.
You can see more details about the Manifold way at peakdistrict.gov.uk.
Hadrian’s Cycleway, Cumbria
If you do want to tackle something a bit longer, this coast-to-coast trail is 174 miles (280km) long. It’s still a very accessible ride for casual cyclists, with friendly terrain and plenty of great places to stop and eat, drink and be merry along the way.
Naturally the biggest sight to see is Hadrian’s Wall itself, but you’ll also take in Carlisle Castle, Newcastle’s Black Keep, the Bath House at Glannoventa and Lanercost Priory along the way.
This trip will take some proper planning, so get started at hadrian-guide.co.uk.
Three Parks Trail, south Wales
For those heading to south Wales on their holidays, make sure you fit in a trip along the Three Parks Trail, which, as you might have guessed, visits three parks in the course of its 13-mile (21km) route.
Those parks are Sirhowy Valley Country Park, where the trail starts, Parc Penallta and Taff Bargoed Millennium Park, all of which offer stunning natural scenery. If the ride whets your appetite for more time in the saddle, the Three Parks Trail finishes not far from the Taff Trail, Wales’s longest cycle route, which you can join at Quakers Yard.
For more info on the Three Parks Trail visit sustrans.org.uk.