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So, you’ve bought yourself a bike. Time for an adventure! Which doesn’t mean sitting crammed under your new Brompton in a stuffy car on the M4.
True post-lockdown escapism? Try freewheeling down an ocean track next to Lindisfarne Castle and piling your bike basket with wild Isle of Wight garlic en route to the hotel. Cycling holidays are all about the journey (and the destination, if you pick your path wisely): exploring Suffolk’s beach hut-lined coastline and the Yorkshire Dales’ chocolate box villages at pedal pace gives you time to drink it all in, and Cornish cream teas and beer-battered cod taste better when you’ve earnt them getting there under your own steam.
From the two-day island circuit to the week-long castle crawl, this is your route planner.
Bristol and Bath Railway Path: Bristol harbour to Bath city centre, Somerset
Time from London: 1 hour 40 minutes
Distance: 16 miles
USP: Train-spotting. Disused Mangotsfield station gave Dad’s Army star Arnold Ridley the inspiration for his play The Ghost Train.
Refuel: Afternoon tea at former station cafe Warmley Waiting Room. Its bathroom in an old police box is in Lonely Planet’s top 100 toilets in the world.
A cycling pub crawl. This flat, wide, raffic-free route was Sustrans’ first ever major project and connects the foodie hotspot of Bristol with the handsome Georgian streets of Bath via a disused railway line. Start at Bristol’s historic harbourside (you can pick up a Brompton folding bike at Bristol Temple Meads station) and just follow the little red signs through Avon Valley Park, Saltford and Bitton via sculptures, working steam engines and plenty of pub stops. Catch the train back or pedal both ways.
Round-the-island: Isle of Wight, Hampshire
Time from London: 1 hour 50 minutes to Portsmouth, then 45 minutes by ferry
Distance: 68 miles
USP: Garlic, the only thing the IOW does better than cycling. Newchurch’s 60-acre The Garlic Farm, cafe and restaurant is day one pitstop highlight.
Refuel: Ventnor Bay Crab Salad from The Beach Shack in Steephill Cove.
Bike-friendly B&B: The award-winning Royal Hotel, Ventnor. Doors reopened last month with a distinguished new head chef and a locked storage room for bikes.
Minibreak mode starts the moment you ask for a ticket to Ryde at the ferry office. Nearly half of this southern isle is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Lonely Planet named it the best place in the world for cycling, so it’s a loop for every rider’s bucket list: white cliffs, seawall promenades, rolling English countryside and old smugglers inns in quaint villages. Head clockwise and follow the blue and white signs for the best vistas and quiet lanes.
South west coast-to-coast: Ilfracombe to Plymouth, Devon
Time from London: 4.5 hours
Distance: 99 miles (33 a day)
USP: Old railway bridges and Thomas the Tank Engine-style signal boxes
Refuel: A roast Devon pork baguette from Fremington Quay Cafe. Call and collect in advance.
Bike-friendly B&B: Meadowlea Guest House, Okehampton. Hosts Mark and Lesley welcome wet cyclists (there’s an overnight drying cupboard) and make a mean full English breakfast.
Enjoy the scenery of northern coast-to-coast rides with fewer of the hills, thanks to a labyrinth of former railway lines. Devon’s mostly-flat National Cycle Route 27 skirts Exmoor and Dartmoor national parks via quiet country lanes, Victorian viaducts and a section of the famed Tarka Trail, Britain’s longest traffic-free cycle route. Enjoy views over Cornwall, the Exe estuary and the lush green valleys of West Country rivers before arriving in historic Plymouth.
Tyne to the Forth: Newcastle, Northumbria to Edinburgh, Scotland
Time from London: 3 hours
Distance: 200 miles
USP: Seven castles in four days. This route takes in Bamburgh, Warkworth, Alnwick, Dunstanburgh, Lindisfarne, Norham and Edinburgh Castles.
Refuel: Fish and chips on the harbour wall from Foulis, Berwick-upon-Tweed, the northernmost town in England.
Bike-friendly B&B: St Valery Boutique B&B, Alnmouth. The handsome Victorian villa stores bikes, dries clothes, prepares picnic hampers and has deep bathtubs in all the rooms for post-ride soaks.
Epic views, less epic on the legs. This four-day, surprisingly-flat coastal ride takes in castles, nature reserves, Areas of Oustanding Natural Beauty and the world-famous Lindisfarne, a tidal island also known as Holy Island, reached by a paved causeway covered by the North Sea twice a day. Finish with views over the capital of Scotland and the Firth of Forth as you cruise into Edinburgh.
Heritage coast tour: Needham and back via Southwold and Aldeburgh, Suffolk
Time from London: 1 hour 20 minutes
Distance: 123 miles
USP: Windmills and wild dunes
Refuel: A glass of Suffolk sparkling wine from Shawsgate Vineyard near Woodbridge.
Bike-friendly B&B: Windmill Lodges’s self-catering log cabins near Framlingham each come with their own hot-tub.
If you want flat, head to East Anglia. Suffolk’s unspoilt coastline makes a gentle ride, taking in RSPB reserves, winding creeks, market towns and the lost city of Dunwich. Spend a night by Southwold’s timeless beach-hut studded seafront, watch the fishermen haul their boats onto the beach at Aldeburgh and explore Woodbridge’s working water-wheel Tide Mill. Cyclebreaks.com has a pre-written itinerary.
Way of the Roses: Morecambe, Lancashire to Bridlington, East Yorkshire
Time from London: 4 hours
Distance: 170 miles
USP: Ancient spires and dry stone walls
Pitstop: Coffee at Dancing Goat cafe, York. Cappuccinos have bikes stencilled into the froth.
Bike-friendly B&B: The Royal Station Hotel in Carnforth offers secure cycle storage and packed lunches on request.
One for a challenge. Climbs on this coast-to-coast route reach 402m in places but it’s worth it for the panormas of some of the best natural beauty in northern England. Hotspots include Ripon Cathedral, Morecambe’s seafront and York Minster but the real magic lies in meandering through lesser-known towns like Pateley Bridge, tea rooms in Clapham and pubs in Appletreewick. Ride east to west to catch the prevailing tailwind.