Cycling with a view: 5 scenic family cycle routes
We all know the benefits of cycling: it’s great cardio, easy on the joints and decreases the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. A moderate ride burns up to 500 calories per hour, and is a proven mood-booster. So why not schedule in some family time and take in the beauty of the British countryside while you’re at it? Here are our top five routes you can do with the family:
The Speyside Way, Cairngorms National Park
Distance: 6 miles
Finish: Boat of Garten
Terrain: A combination of quiet lanes and gently undulating gravel off-road cycle paths. Sign-posted NCN 7.
This route follows a section of the scenic Speyside Way, threading its way through heather moors and native birch woodlands, where there are plenty of places to stop for a picnic and enjoy stunning views of the Cairngorm Mountains. In addition, the steam trains running along the Strathspey Railway makes for a great photo opportunity with the kids. At Boat of Garten, stock up on snacks at the friendly post office, or pop into the Boat Hotel for tea and cakes.
From here, you can extend the ride to the popular RSPB Loch Garten Osprey Centre (approx. 2.5 miles), where you can learn about a variety of beautiful birds. Alternatively you can catch a steam train back to Aviemore.
Bristol and Bath Railway Path
Distance: 13 miles
Terrain: Disused railway path, traffic-free and flat tarmac surfaces.
Escape the traffic and explore this wonderful off-road route linking Bristol and Bath along the beautiful Avon Valley. You’ll begin in the historic port of Bristol and pass via Mangotsfield, Warmley and Saltford before arriving in the heart of Bath. Along the way you can view a variety of sculptures (including a drinking giant!) and working steam engines at the old train station at Bitton. And, if the thought of the ride home seems a little too strenuous, why not take the train back to Bristol Temple Meads.
Lon Eifion – Caernarfon (NCN 8)
Distance: 12 miles
Terrain: Mixed terrain, with some traffic-free sections.
This long railway path starts near the atmospheric castle in Caernarfon and climbs south alongside the Welsh Highland Railway, past Llanwnda and Penygroes to Bryncir. Here you’ll see wonderful views west out to Caernarfon Bay and east to the foothills of Snowdonia.
Lôn Eifion’s highpoint is reached after almost 500ft of climbing, just below the radio mast, about two miles south of Penygroes. Here, the path forms part of National Cycle Network Route 8, known as Lôn Las Cymru, which links Holyhead to Cardiff. You may wish to break your journey with a visit to the Inigo Jones Slateworks at Groeslon, about 4 miles south of Caernarfon, to see craftsmen cut, shape and polish raw slate slabs into practical products such as steps, kitchen worktops and a multitude of craft items.
Distance: 13 miles
Start: Station Road
End: Parsley Hay
Terrain: Traffic-free with some easy gradients. Dust surface.
Following the route of the former Buxton to Ashbourne railway line, the Tissington Trail passes through the picturesque village of Tissington and the beautiful countryside of the Derbyshire Dales.
Begin in the historic market town of Ashbourne, which was well established in Saxon times and listed in the Domesday survey, where it’s called ‘Esseburne’. After Ashbourne, you’ll pass near to Dovedale, a dramatic limestone ravine with stunning scenery. It’s famous for its wildlife and much-loved stepping stones which cross the River Dove. Tissington Hall is also worth a visit along the way but is only open to the public for 28 days each year so check their website before heading over.
New Forest ride – Brockenhurst to Holmsley
Distance: 11.4 miles
Terrain: Traffic-free with a short initial on-road section and 300 metres on-road at Wooton Bridge.
This ride follows a section of the railway line between Brockenhurst and Wimborne, taking you through a unique landscape where a cluster of friendly wild ponies are never far. The first mile is along Sway Road, passing the Brockenhurst Manor Golf Club on the right, over the rail bridge and on to Latchmoor House. From there, the route meets the old railway at Cater’s Cottage and heads west towards the replacement bridges at Long Slade Bottom. Leave the railway here and head south for 100 metres to Wooton Bridge, where it joins a traffic-free circuit on gravel paths at Wooton Coppice Inclosure.
UK walking and cycling charity Sustrans is the pioneer and guardian of the National Cycle Network – a series of safe, traffic-free paths and quiet on-road cycling and walking routes, which pass within a mile of half of all UK homes. For more route inspiration and tips on how to get started cycling with children, please visit sustrans.org.uk