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    The 7 Best Long Distance Cycle Routes in the UK

    By Paul Easto, Founder
    More by Paul

    The UK Was Made for Long Distance Cycling

    Nowadays, barely a day goes past when the latest feat of mind-boggling cycling endurance pops up into my social media feed. 200 miles in a day – is that all? Across Europe in a week – no problem! Round the world in the summer school holidays – ok, that might be pushing it, but in 2017 Mark Beaumont did manage it in 78 days averaging a remarkable 240 miles (380km) each day.

    However, for most of us, long-distance cycling is less concerned with über feats of endurance and more about the journey. Several days of simply riding your bike, where all your worries seem to slip away with each pedal stroke and the main concern is usually how far it is to the next cafe stop.

    In the UK we are blessed to have an increasing number of fantastic long distance cycling routes. I originally had planned to limit the choice below to 5 but it seemed almost churlish to omit a couple of classics. Of course, whether they are the UK’s best is purely conjecture. However, what is not in doubt, is that all of them are great bike rides each offering something different in terms of challenge, duration, landscapes and culture.

    For each ride, you’ll find details of the distance and recommended duration for those looking to ride 40-50 miles (70-80km) each day. I’ve also tried to select one route highlight which you simply cannot miss. It’s an impossible task but I thought I would have a go anyway!

    1. Cycle England’s C2C
    2. Scotland’s Caledonian Way
    3. England to Scotland Border Crossing
    4. Scotland’s Coast to Coast Cycle Route
    5. Hadrian’s Wall Cycleway in England
    6. La Vuelta a Dales
    7. The North Coast 500

    Cycle England's C2C

    C2C England

    Arguably the most well known long distance trail of them all, the C2C. This is actually short for “Sea to Sea” rather than Coast to Coast. The route travels across Northern England from the Irish Sea in the west to the North sea in the east. Along the way, you’ll ride through the Lake District National Park before crossing the Pennines and then descending through County Durham to reach the sea at Roker near Sunderland.

    While the Whitehaven to Sunderland is the most recognised route, the draw of the surrounding landscapes invites some creativity with actual route choice. One of our favourites is to complete a coast to coast journey by riding through a magnificent trio of National Parks – The Lakes, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors. It’s a longer trip but takes in some of the UK’s best scenery and roads with plenty of classic climbs.

    Distance: 137mi/221km
    Duration: Usually 2-3 days
    Must Do/See: A Lakeland Coffee after tackling the climb to Hartside Summit.

    Self Guided C2C Holiday

    Scotland's Caledonian Way

    Caledonian Way

    The Caledonia Way is Scotland’s newest long distance cycle route travelling through some of the country’s most iconic scenery. It combines quiet rural roads with traffic-free cycleways and flowing gravel sections as you journey south to north through the heart of the Scottish Highlands.

    This is a truly great ride, especially if you are looking to get off the beaten track away from the main tourist trail. On the south part of this route, through the Kintyre and Knapdale peninsulas, you may well have the route to yourself along with Scotland’s finest coastal scenery. Heading north, the magnificent mountains and sea lochs of the West Coast start to dominate the scene as you ride in the shadow of the craggy peaks of Glencoe and Ben Nevis. The final part of the route follows the mighty Great Glen. It’s a spectacular finish to the ride, as you climb high above the vast waters of Loch Ness before descending to the finish in the Highland Capital of Inverness.

    Distance: 234mi/377km
    Duration: 5 days
    Must Do/See: Kilmartin Glen, 5000 years of remarkable human history.

    Self Guided Caledonian Way

    England to Scotland Border Crossing

    border crossing

    This is undoubtedly one of our favourite long-distance routes for many reasons. Using mostly flat and quiet roads, it’s a great choice for someone tackling their first multi-day cycle route. You get to ride across a country border (which always carries a certain appeal), through a wide variety of landscapes and are never short of a welcome place to stop either to recharge or to explore the region’s rich cultural heritage.

    Heading north from the outskirts of Newcastle, you soon leave the city behind and enter a world of natural and historic beauty. Warkworth, Bamburgh and Lindisfarne castles are outstanding monuments that will mark your progress as will the many charming villages which provide the backdrop to some of the UK’s most amazing coastline. As you reach the Scotland/England border you are spoilt for route choice. Stay near the coast for easier riding or head inland to ride through the Border Hills to the finish of this epic ride in Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh.

    Distance: 200mi/321km
    Duration: 4 days
    Must Do/See: Crab sandwiches & a pint in the charming village of Craster.

    Self Guided Border Crossing

    Scotland's Coast to Coast Cycle Route

    Scotland Coast To Coast

    There are many ways to ride across Scotland both on and off-road. If you’re looking for the most direct route, it’s just 36mi/58km from Bonar Bridge to Ullapool which makes for a fun day ride. My choice of route goes to that which takes you from Ardnamurchan Point on the edge of the Atlantic to Cruden Bay on the North Sea Coast. Starting on the very western edge of the UK and traversing the Highlands to reach the east coast, this really does feel like you riding across a country.

    I had the good fortune to tackle this 400km route with my daughter as a 4-day fundraising ride for Macmillan Cancer. It was a truly memorable trip, with some wild weather on the first day following by 3 days of blue skies and warm temperatures. The route has nearly 5000m of elevation so there’s plenty of challenge, none more so than the 20% ramps which take you to the summit of the Lecht Pass.

    Distance: 250mi/400km
    Duration: 5 days
    Must Do/See: Aviemore-Ballater, one of the UK’s most beautiful cycle rides.

    Hadrian's Wall Cycleway in England

    This multi-day journey through the history of Ancient Britain would be my first choice for an easy-going long-distance cycle in the UK. With various places of interest along the route, it would be ideal for a family adventure.

    The full distance is 170mi/274km but there are several options to shorten the route without missing out on any of the highlights. My recommendation would be to start in Cumbria and finish in Tyne and Wear, making the journey a very satisfying coast to coast adventure. This trip naturally encourages you to take your time as your cruise from village to village, along the line of the 2,000-year-old Hadrian’s Wall. Be sure to explore the fascinating sites of Birdoswald and Vindolanda as well as England’s favourite market town, Hexham.

    Distance: 130mi/208km
    Duration: 3-4 days
    Must Do/See: Vindolanda – fascinating history + superb cream tea!

    Self Guided Hadrian’s Wall Cycleway

    La Vuelta a Dales

    Cycling yorkshire dales

    Coined by Harry Dowdell in his guidebook “Cycling in the Yorkshire Dales”, La Vuelta a Dales is billed by its architect as “a multi-day cycling immersion”. It’s hard to disagree with that assessment and I would be as bold to suggest that the Yorkshire Dales is the best region for road cycling in the UK.

    If you’ve never ridden here before, you may be wondering why both the Tour de France and World Cycling Championships have graced these roads. However, invest the time in riding the 200 miles of La Vuelta a Dales and you’ll soon understand why. Perhaps posing a different question as to why you’ve not ridden here before? Anything less than 4 days and this long-distance ride will challenge most cyclists. Be prepared for multiple climbs, often on grades that make you wonder how you’ve already run out of gears. Each day, you’ll be following in the draft of the cycling greats as you tackle iconic climbs such as Trapping Hill and Grinton Moor. If you need any further persuasion and no small amount of inspiration, the Day 1 highlights from the Tour de France in 2014 are well worth checking out.

    Distance: 203mi/305km
    Duration: 4-5 days
    Must Do/See: The ride through Swaledale – my favourite 20km of tarmac.

    Self Guided Tour of Yorkshire

    The North Coast 500

    north coast 500

    The final entry that makes the list is the most challenging ride here, the North Coast 500 (NC500) would hold its own in any of the world’s best long distance bike rides. Often described as Scotland’s answer to Route 66, cycling the NC500 will take you through some of the most impressive wild places in Europe. The ever-changing landscapes are guaranteed to take your breath away as is the 10,000m+ elevation you’ll cover over the 500mi/800km route.

    April to June would be my recommendation as this offers (but, by no means, guarantees) the best chance of dry weather and light winds. With over 20 hours of daylight in June, you’ll have no shortage of time and you might be surprised how far you end up riding in a single day.

    Distance: 500mi/800km
    Duration: 7-8 days
    Must Do/See: The epic Bealach na Ba – the UK’s most alpine climb.

    Self Guided North Coast 500

    Meet the Author: Paul Easto

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