11 of the Best Places to Cycle in England

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Cycling offers an unrivalled way to spend quality time together as family, whilst also being both physically and mentally beneficial to all riders. Finding new and exciting routes is a great way to maximise your fun. So why not leave the car at home and take a picnic to make the most of your family day out?

The Bikeability Trust, the national charity for Bikeability, the UK government’s cycle education programme, has compiled a list of the very best places to cycle found across the country, so you and your family can start planning your next adventure.

Many of the routes in these locations will be traffic-free or on quiet roads, ideal for families with children who have recently completed their Bikeability. And do check out National Rail’s Plus Bike website which is a one-stop shop for information about travelling sustainably by bike and train!

two parents and child looking at a map

1. CANAL/RIVERSIDES

Canal paths offer some of the country’s most stunning scenery, with water and countryside views. Canal paths are easily accessible, and the terrain tends to be relatively even, making it an ideal ride for the whole family to enjoy, regardless of age, ability or experience.

You are never too far from a river or canal, and the Canal and River Trust have mapped out some really great locations and paths (canalrivertrust.org.uk).

2. PARKS

Being in a wide-open space, with scenic views as far as the eye can see is great for your mental health, relieving stress and boosting your mood.

With so much space and often easy terrain, your children have the freedom to ride on ahead and take control of their adventure. Check out some of the best green spaces (fieldsintrust.org).

3. COASTAL PATHS

Offering breath-taking scenery, coastal paths are a great way to soak up the sea air and breeze while you cycle. Coastal paths (theguardian.com) will vary in terrain and undulation, from flat seaside promenades perfect for a relaxed day out, to dramatic cliff tops providing a slightly more challenging route for you and your family to tackle together. Do check which way the wind is blowing and head out into it – you’ll get an easy ride back!

4. WOODLAND & FOREST RIDES

Get off the main road and into a world of your own as you go back to nature, exploring the vast and historic woodlands and forests of England – you might even be able to spot some wildlife from your saddle!

There are open-access forested areas all over the UK, full of amazing flora and fauna to spot. A great place to start is with the Forestry England site.

5. NATURE RESERVES

England is home to 224 National Nature Reserves which showcase some of the most diverse wildlife and interesting geographical sites across the country. Many reserves, along with other open access countryside spaces will have a number of permissible traffic-free cycle routes for you to explore.

With a vibrant mix of heathland, woodlands, wetlands, marshes and lakes, there is plenty to take in and enjoy throughout the year. Find your nearest Nature Reserve (sustrans.org.uk).

6. LAKESIDES

There is no escaping it, children love water, and adults too. What could be better than cycling along the shoreline, admiring the scenery, and stopping to getting your feet wet with a paddle. Time researching a lakeside destination near you will be time well spent! Here is some inspiration from the Lakes and Countryfile site to whet your appetite.

7. NATIONAL TRUST PROPERTIES / LAND

Why not combine your bike ride with some history, culture and nature? Sometimes there will be a programme of great activities for children on site at your local National Trust venue. British Cycling has a unique partnership with the National Trust meaning that now, many venues provide bike hire. And to boot, there are a few sites out there with free entry for those arriving by bike (just be sure to do your homework beforehand). Find your nearest venue (nationaltrust.org.uk).

8. MOUNTAIN TRAILS

If you’re looking for a more challenging route on your family bike ride, why not head up towards the more mountainous regions of England. You’ll get a great cardio workout as you cycle up and down the hills, but the views will make it all worth the while. Check out some of the best mountain trails (www.mbr.co.uk).

9. URBAN ENVIRONMENTS

Cycling is a great way to explore a town or city. From vibrant centres to the hidden gems of tranquil green spaces, many towns and cities have a network of signed cycle routes (off-road, quiet back streets, dedicated cycle routes) that allow you to take in the cultural heritage, diversity and beauty of the town or city you are exploring. Find some of these urban routes (sustrans.org.uk).

Bring your bike and your buddies down to one of 14 closed road city centre rides throughout Britain this summer. British Cycling is closing the roads in towns across the UK again this year and throwing cycling festivals for everyone. It’s totally free to take part and you get to see your city from the saddle! And there’s stunt shows, street food and endless family friendly activities. Find out how to take part and where your nearest Let’s Ride (letsride.co.uk) event is.

10. TRAIL CENTRES

For anyone wanting an ‘off-road’ experience, you can find your nearest Trail Centre. You’ll find miles of forest or gravel tracks with varying degrees of difficulty from beginner, family through to expert, great locations, often a café, places to clean your bike afterwards, and often bike hire if you need it as well. View more information to get you started (bikeradar.com).

11. NATIONAL CYCLE NETWORK

Our friends at Sustrans have done all the hard work for you, identifying and mapping out (sustrans.org.uk) a wide range of traffic-free routes, or quiet roads which are cycle friendly. You don’t need to ride a whole route (although you can of course), just find your nearest section and enjoy.

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