10 of the best cycling trail holidays in the UK

Show caption ‘Start in Margate and stop for a dip in Minnis Bay en route’: the Viking Coastal Trail, Kent Travel 10 of the best cycling trail holidays in the UK Popular bike trails for all, taking in canals, forests and seaside as well as cyclist-friendly places to stay Annabelle Thorpe Sun 22 May 2022 10.00 BST Share on Facebook

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The Viking Coastal Trail, Kent

Stretching for 51km around the Isle of Thanet, the Viking Trail can be split into shorter, family-friendly day rides, while the entire route makes a great two-day trip, combining long stretches of coast and vibrant seaside towns including Margate and Ramsgate with quiet inland villages, 7th-century Minster Abbey and the spectacular chalk stacks at Botany Bay, this is a varied ride. Start in Margate and stop for a dip in Minnis Bay, before turning inland and spending the night at the Corner House in Minster. On day two, the Kent coast rolls out from Ramsgate around the easternmost tip, until you arrive back in Margate.

Doubles from £110 B&B; cornerhouserestaurants.co.uk;explorekent.org

Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, south Wales

Photograph: The Blue Loft Picture Library/Alamy

Flat, tranquil and gloriously pretty, the towpath of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal offers a glimpse of the region’s industrial history alongside plenty of natural wildlife: kingfishers and red kites are often spotted above the water. The stretch from Llangynidr to Brecon is ideal for a day ride (28km) with a night in Brecon before returning the following day. There are some lovely canalside pubs en route, including the Royal Oak at Pencelli and the Star Inn at Talybont-on-Usk. Stay at the Grange Guest House, a chic B&B in the heart of Brecon.

Doubles from £75 B&B; thegrange-brecon.co.uk; breconbeacons.org

Tarka Trail, Devon

Photograph: Nick Turner/Alamy

Stretching for 180km, the Tarka Trail is a great long-distance route, but the section between Braunton and Meeth (49km) is ideal for a relaxed weekend as this whole part of the trail is traffic-free. The route begins with a lovely waterside ride around the mouth of the Taw River into Barnstaple and then runs through rolling Devonshire countryside on peaceful bridleways. To shorten the route a little, stop for the night at Great Torrington, where Smytham Manor offers glamping pods and lodges in a bucolic country park that lies directly on the Tarka Trail.

Pods from £35 per night; smytham.co.uk; tarkatrail.org.uk

Clay Trails, St Austell, Cornwall

Photograph: David Hastilow/Alamy

An ideal choice for younger families and beginner cyclists, or those who want to combine shorter rides with other activities, the Clay Trails take their name from the region’s history as a clay-mining area. The routes range from challenging hill rides with lovely views of St Austell Bay to gentle, flat trails that can easily be completed in under an hour. Three of the eight routes are circular, with routes through woods and heathland, as well as a 7km trail to the Eden Project. The Cornwall is an excellent family option just outside St Austell, with self-catering lodges alongside classic hotel rooms and a full-service spa.

Doubles from £103.50 B&B; thecornwall.com; claytrails.co.uk

Family Cycle Trail, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire

Photograph: Stephen Dorey/Alamy

A great family activity, this 15km loop through the forest is accessible for all ages and levels of cyclists, with a combination of former railway tracks, bridleways and paths that connect some of the forest’s highlights, including the Sculpture Trail at Beechenhurst and the Mallards Pike Lake. The Forest of Dean Cycle Centre at Cannop makes an excellent start/finish point, with bikes to hire, maps and refreshments. Stay at the Speech House, a classic coaching inn in the nearby village of Coleford.

Doubles from £76 B&B; thespeechhouse.co.uk; visitdeanwye.co.uk

Burford East Circular, Cotswolds

Photograph: Nick Turner/Alamy

This beautiful 52km trail through the Windrush Valley is a great way to see some of the east Cotswolds’ biggest sights, without needing to take the car. Beginning and ending in picturesque Burford, the trail links Blenheim Palace, Minster Lovell Hall and Eynsham Park, along with unspoilt hamlets and villages, with classic Cotstwold-stone houses. The village of Charlbury is an ideal halfway point. Soothe saddle-weary limbs with a hearty dinner and cosy night at the charming Bull Inn, before completing the circuit the following day.

Doubles from £102 B&B; cotswolds.com

The Settle Circular, Yorkshire Dales

Photograph: Jon Sparks/Alamy

This picturesque 28km trail begins and ends in Settle, taking in the southwestern edge of the Yorkshire Dales national park, with contrasting views of Ribblesdale, the Forest of Bowland and the hills of the Western Dales. All the hard work is at the beginning, with a steady climb up to Swarth Moor, before an easy downhill stretch to the village of Clapham. Here, the New Inn makes a cosy place to stay, with slap-up breakfasts to fuel the second half of the ride through the village of Eldroth and over Penny Bridge into Settle.

Doubles from £110 B&B; newinnclapham.com; cyclethedales.org.uk

Cromer Loop, Norfolk

Photograph: Keiron Tovell

This 38km route offers a lovely combination of a coastal start and finish, with time gliding along Norfolk’s quiet country lanes, discovering historic churches and quaint, unspoilt villages. The ride also takes in the country estates of Mannington – renowned for its beautiful gardens – and Wolterton; the Saracen’s Head at Wolterton is a great place to break the journey, with chic rooms and an upmarket restaurant. On the second day, drift slowly back to Cromer for a dip in the sea and a crab sandwich as a post-ride reward.

Doubles from £110 B&B; saracenshead-norfolk.co.uk; norfolkcoastaonb.org.uk

Red Squirrel Trail, Isle of Wight

Named after one of the island’s most iconic wildlife species, this 51km trail is ideal for families, with most of the route traffic-free and pleasingly flat. Beginning in East Cowes, the route follows the old railway line to Newport, runs alongside the River Medina and then joins a second railway line down to Sandown and Shanklin on the east coast. Stay the night at the Clifton, a friendly small hotel perched on Shanklin’s picturesque clifftop with wonderful sea views, before the next day’s ride through Godshill and Wroxall and back to Cowes.

Doubles from £99 B&B; thecliftonshanklin.co.uk, redsquirreltrail.org.uk

The Four Abbeys Route, Scottish Borders

Photograph: Iain Masterton/Alamy

A challenging ride with a couple of taxing ascents, this 90km route links four of Scotland’s most beautiful abbeys: Melrose – famous as the burial site of Robert the Bruce’s heart – Kelso, Dryburgh and the spectacular 12th-century Jedburgh, still complete, apart from its roof. There are two quite long and tough ascents, with the Eldon Hills rising up around the trail, and the Teviot and Tweed rivers glittering in the distance. Plan the route to allow a night’s stop in Kelso, where the Queen’s Head Inn offers a comfortable place to stay and classic pub food.

Doubles from £100 B&B; queensheadhotelkelso.com.