Top UK Family Cycling Trails to Try This Summer

Summer is on the horizon and it’s the perfect time to take to the outdoors for a picturesque cycle through some stunning scenery. Whether you’re a lone rider looking to take in stunning views in new places, or you want to get the whole family active with some fun cycling adventures, this list of top cycling routes is bound to give you inspiration for planning your next two-wheeled outdoor excursion. In the UK we’re lucky enough to have hundreds of miles of pristine cycle paths and off-road trails to try out. And with the growing popularity of E-bikes your bike rides can be even more enjoyable.

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The Tarka Trail

Loughshore Trail

The Peregrine Path

The Eskdale Trail

The Manifold Way

 

The Tarka Trail - Devon

The Tarka Trail provides an excellent opportunity to explore the natural beauty of North Devon, creating a memorable experience for both cyclists and walkers.

The Tarka Trail is a popular cycling and walking route in North Devon, England, named after Henry Williamson's famous novel "Tarka the Otter." This scenic trail offers a variety of landscapes, from coastal views to rural countryside, making it a favoured destination for both locals and tourists.

The trail spans approximately 180 miles (290 kilometres), forming a figure-of-eight loop centred around Barnstaple. Utilising disused railway lines, much of the route is flat and accessible, ideal for cyclists of all levels. The trail encompasses a diverse range of terrains, including estuaries, woodlands, riversides, and moorland, and is mostly off-road, providing a safe and enjoyable environment away from traffic.

One of the most popular sections of the trail is the 30-mile (48 km) stretch from Braunton to Meeth along the old railway line. This section is a favourite of families due to its relatively flat and smooth surface (perfect for an E-bike). Another notable section is from Barnstaple to Bideford, which offers stunning views of the Taw and Torridge estuaries. The trail passes through various habitats, making it a great spot for birdwatching and enjoying diverse flora and fauna. Along the way, you might spot otters, the creatures that inspired Williamson’s novel.

The trail features plenty of historical sites and landmarks, like the charming village of Instow and the historic town of Bideford. You'll find plenty of quaint cafes, cosy pubs, and lovely picnic spots along the trail, so you can take a break, refuel, and enjoy the scenery. And if you haven’t brought your bike, no worries! There are bike-hire facilities at several locations, so you can easily explore the trail.

For those planning to cycle Devon’s Tarka Trail, preparation is key. Even though most of the trail is flat, it's a good idea to bring water and snacks to keep you properly fuelled. While the trail is well-marked, carrying a map or downloading a GPS route can be helpful. Helmets are recommended, and cyclists should be mindful of walkers and other trail users, particularly in busy sections.

Loughshore Trail - Antrim

This trail around Lough Neagh provides a unique way to experience the natural beauty, peaceful countryside and cultural heritage of Ireland.

The Loughshore Trail is a scenic cycling route that circles Lough Neagh, the largest lake in Northern Ireland. The trail is approximately 128 kilometres (80 miles) long and offers a mix of tranquil rural landscapes, charming villages, and historical sites. Typically started in Antrim town, the trail can be accessed from various points around Lough Neagh, following quiet country roads and dedicated cycle paths, making it suitable for cyclists of all levels.

The trail features several key attractions, including Antrim Castle Gardens, which boasts beautiful gardens and historical ruins, and Randalstown Forest, a serene forest rich in wildlife. Cyclists can also explore Oxford Island, a nature reserve ideal for bird-watching, and Shane’s Castle, with its picturesque ruins along the shore. Portmore Lough, managed by the RSPB, is another highlight for bird-watching enthusiasts.

Along the way, the route passes through several charming villages and towns. Antrim, the starting point, is known for the Antrim Castle Gardens, while Randalstown is famous for its viaduct and forest. Crumlin offers a quaint village atmosphere with access to Lough Neagh, and Moira provides historical buildings and a charming village ambience.

Cycling conditions on the Loughshore Trail are mostly flat with a few gentle hills, making it accessible for families and less experienced cyclists. Although some sections may have light traffic, most of the trail is on quiet roads or dedicated paths. Facilities along the route include several cafes, pubs, and restaurants for refreshments, as well as public restrooms and picnic areas at key points. Larger towns like Antrim and Lurgan offer bike rental and repair services.

The trail offers numerous opportunities to see local wildlife, especially around the nature reserves and forested areas. Bird watchers will particularly enjoy stops at Oxford Island and Portmore Lough, both renowned for their bird populations. To prepare for the journey, ensure your bike is in good condition and bring repair kits, as some areas will be fairly remote.

The Peregrine Path - Monmouthshire

The Peregrine Path offers an excellent opportunity for two-wheeled outdoor exploration in a fairytale setting along the England/Wales border.

To Wales now and The Peregrine Path in Monmouthshire, UK. It provides a picturesque and secure environment for cyclists and pedestrians, offering a wonderful way to appreciate the area's natural beauty. The cycling route usually begins in the historic city of Hereford and often extends to the charming market town of Monmouth, covering approximately 15 miles (24 kilometres). Along the way, travellers can enjoy scenic countryside views and encounter various forms of wildlife, including the peregrine falcons that give the path its name.

As the path winds through the Wye Valley, it offers stunning landscapes and opportunities to explore historical landmarks. Notable sites include the remains of Tintern Abbey, the medieval Goodrich Castle, and various quaint villages that add a touch of history and charm to the journey.

Designed to be accessible to a wide range of users, the Peregrine Path is suitable for families with children, casual walkers, as well as cyclists. Its relatively flat terrain ensures that people of all fitness levels can enjoy the route. Additionally, the path's separation from motor vehicle traffic enhances safety along with its magical feel, and clear signage helps users navigate and stay informed about distances, and nearby points of interest and helps encourage respect for nature. Staying on the designated path helps protect local wildlife and vegetation, and taking any litter with you keeps the route clean and enjoyable for other riders.

The Eskdale Trail – The Lake District

It’s best to cycle the Eskdale Trail from late spring to early autumn when the scenery is most vibrant, offering a perfect blend of natural beauty, historical intrigue, and wildlife.

The Eskdale Cycle Trail is a scenic route in the Eskdale Valley, within the Lake District National Park in Cumbria, England. Spanning roughly 10 miles, the trail offers a moderately challenging ride suitable for cyclists with some experience. The journey begins in the picturesque village of Eskdale Green, which provides a perfect starting point with amenities for visitors.

Cyclists will traverse through the stunning landscapes of the Eskdale Valley, which features a mix of off-road tracks and quiet country lanes. The route meanders through beautiful countryside, dense forests, and along the serene River Esk, offering a ride through lush greenery with panoramic views of the surrounding hills and valleys. This natural beauty is particularly striking in the spring and summer months.

Along the trail are several points of interest, including historical landmarks such as the Eskdale Mill, one of England's oldest water-powered corn mills. The area is also rich in wildlife, with sightings of red squirrels, deer, and various bird species enhancing the experience for nature enthusiasts. Additionally, the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, a narrow-gauge heritage railway known locally as La'al Ratty, runs through the valley. This charming feature allows cyclists to combine their ride with a train journey, adding a unique touch to the adventure.

The Manifold Way- The Peak District

A river trail that has everything from beautiful scenery to ancient history.

The Manifold Way meanders through some of the Peak District’s most captivating landscapes, enchanting visitors with its serene beauty and rich history. As cyclists and walkers make their way along the path, they're greeted by the gentle flow of the River Manifold. The trail's relatively easy terrain makes it accessible to people of all ages and fitness levels, making it a popular destination for families and laid-back leisurely outings.

In addition to the natural beauty, the Manifold Way is steeped in tales of bygone eras. Remnants of the railway's infrastructure can be seen along the route, providing glimpses into the region's industrial past. Weathered bridges, abandoned platforms, and old railway buildings serve as poignant reminders of a time when steam locomotives once traversed these valleys.

Perched high above the valley floor, stands the entrance to Thor’s Cave, adding an air of the ancient to the surroundings. Exploring the cave rewards adventurers with a breathtaking vista! The perfect place to stop for a picnic. At every turn, the Manifold Way encourages exploration and discovery, inviting travellers to slow down and savour the simple pleasures of the route.

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