14 best UK cycling holidays (+ best UK cycling routes to ride when there) Back to top
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14 best cycling holidays in the UK and Ireland
(+ the best cycling routes to ride when you’re there)

If you're considering cycling holidays in the UK and are looking for inspiration for the best places to go and routes to ride, then look no further. 

Here we share fourteen of the best UK cycling holidays and cycling routes.

It turns out that an amazing cycling holiday doesn’t have to involve an airplane!

It’s time to make the most of your weekends and time off work. Take a look at our pick of the best cycling destinations/cycling routes in the UK and get planning your next UK cycling break.


Written by John Vicars


1. Best cycling holidays (and routes) in England

Lake District

Cyclist on the Hardknott Pass, Lake District

Great for:  

Well-known killer climbs in stunning countryside

Where to stay:

Ambleside

Beautiful but brutal, stunning but savage. Just an example of how many cyclists feel about riding in the Lake District.


The area is spoken about in cycling circles all over Europe thanks mainly to the famous Fred Whitton Challenge annual sportive that takes in some iconic killer climbs. At 180 kilometres in length with a cumulative elevation of around 3,500 metres it is a test for anyone and includes the well-known passes of Kirkstone, Hardknott, Honister and Wrynose plus many more challenging ascents.


Set around the highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike, and skirting the well-known waters of Coniston, Windermere and Ullswater the route showcases the magnificence of the Lake District National Park which covers over 850 square miles of breathtaking countryside.


As a major tourist destination in its own right this UNESCO World heritage area has over 3,500 places to stay, is well known for its lakes, forests and fells and for the Cumberland sausage. It also has more microbreweries than any other county in England.


Of course you don’t have to ride the full Fred Whitton course if you don’t want to but at least you can try one or two of the passes whilst you’re there to get the feel. But beware if you choose to ride Hardknott as the gradient ramps up to around 30% in parts!



Suggested Lake District cycle route

GPX 
Length: 180 kilometres

Elevation gain: 3,500 metres

Yorkshire Dales

Cycling around Malham Tarn

Great for:  

Riding famous cycling routes of the UK

Where to stay:  

Kettlewell


Our view

The Yorkshire Dales is home to some of the best road cycling in the UK. It has proudly hosted both the Tour de France and the UCI World Championships in recent years. Partly as a result of this, it has risen to prominence as a must-visit cycling destination in the UK. When you stand back and admire the stunning, wild countryside complete with its ferocious gradients and rapid descents, it’s not hard to see the attraction.


It’s easy to lose yourself as you meander along remote country lanes catching glimpses of Roman remains, craggy cliffs and villages that appear to have got stuck in time.


It can be bleak, cold, wet and miserable at times and the roads can be grippy. But if you want to test your fitness and mental resolve, a cycling camp in Yorkshire should be part of your annual  training schedule. 


Try the famous passes of the Buttertubs and Kidstones or the long winding ascent of Greets Moss. Once you’ve tried Yorkshire’s cycle routes you will be back for more!



Suggested Yorkshire cycle route

GPX
Length: 105 kilometres

Elevation gain: 1,652 metres



More information on cycling in the Yorkshire Dales

Our guide to cycling the Yorkshire Dales

Peak District

Peak District cycling route Winnts Pass

where to stay:  

Ashbourne

great for: 

Rural lanes and a few steep ascents


Our view

The Peak District spans 550 square miles and is one of the most visited country parks in the UK. Yet it can also be a perfect hideaway for  a UK cycling holiday that lets you get away from it all while sampling some of Derbyshire’s best cycle routes. Ancient stone villages, connected by hundreds of miles of stone walls, lie beside stately homes, caves and huge reservoirs.


The northern Dark Peak is characterised by bleak and exposed moorland and rocky outcrops whilst to the south, the White Peak consists of limestone dales. There are no mountains but the area is like a giant roller coaster, forcing you up short, sharp inclines and then rapid, twisting descents.


The most famous climb in the area is Winnats Pass, just outside the town of Castleton. It’s a fearsome one mile ascent that cuts its way through two huge steep-sided grass banks, with a gradient that touches 20% in parts. Struggle to the top and then descend the iconic Mam Tor down to the village of Edale.   



Suggested Peak District cycle route

GPX

Length: 36 kilometres

Elevation gain: 618 metres



More information on cycling in the Peak District

Surrey Hills

Views back across the valley, halfway up Box Hill by bike

Where to stay:  

Dorking

great for:  

Well-known climbs in stunning countryside


Our view

The 2012 London Olympics road race put the Surrey Hills, and in particular Box Hill, firmly on the world cycling map. The race looped around the county before returning back to the capital for its sprint finish. 


However the cycling routes of Surrey have been a favoured location for amateur cyclists for many decades. The area is renowned for its steep hills and sharp descents, all set in an area designated as one of outstanding natural beauty. You can ride along quiet country lanes, through forests and visit picture-postcard villages as you navigate through some of the finest real estate in the country.


Whilst Box Hill is the most well-known of the climbs, with its famous Zig Zag road, it is by no means the hardest of the climbs in the area particularly when set against the likes of White Down Lane, Leith Hill and Barhatch Lane. If you fancy reccing the RideLondon route Surrey is a great choice for a UK cycling weekend - just make sure you bring your climbing legs!



Suggested Surrey cycle route

GPX

Length: 95 kilometres

Elevation gain: 1,532 metres



More information on cycling the Surrey Hills

Our guide to cycling the Surrey Hills

Our article on the Prudential RideLondon 100

Brighton

Brighton pier

Where to stay:  

Brighton

Great for:

Combining cycling with a trip to the coast


Our view

Brighton has for many years been a popular stomping ground for cyclists, and has plenty to offer on top of the annual London to Brighton charity ride. It’s also a wonderful seaside resort, complete with pier and Georgian seafront terraces. If you’re looking for a road cycling holiday in the UK then Brighton is a good place to base yourself.


With easy access to the eastern fringes of the South Downs, and the rolling hills of the High Weald, you can quickly be out of town and cycling on some of the quietest road routes in the UK. But if you prefer somewhere flatter then there’s plenty to explore in Brighton itself or make you way out along the coastline and explore the historic and picturesque villages on route. 


For the avid climbers out there you can test yourself on the well-known ascents of the nearby Ditchling Beacon and Devils Dyke. At the summit of the latter you can see for miles and are rewarded with tremendous views across the South Downs.



GPX for our suggested Brighton cycle route

GPX

Length:148 kilometres 

Elevation gain: 1,765 metres



More information on cycling around Brighton

Our article on cycling around Brighton

South Downs

The top of the Beacon Hill climb, South Downs, UK

Where to stay:  

Winchester

Great for:  

Exploring ENgland by bike


Our view

We love the South Downs’ gorgeous English countryside, quiet country roads and quaint villages. For us, these things make the South Downs National Park countryside around Winchester one of the best places to cycle in the UK.  


The terrain is a mixture of gentle rolling roads with some aggressive and sharp climbs that can appear totally unannounced, as you navigate your way around the twisting lanes. Whether you’re on a flat stretch or climbing in the smallest gear, the one thing that you are guaranteed for certain is the ability to enjoy the remarkable panorama of the English countryside. 


From splendid cathedrals to ancient market towns to the quintessential English pub and old tea shops, you will definitely feel at home in this part of the world as you pedal along on some of the best road bike routes in the UK.



GPX for our suggested South Downs cycle route 

GPX

Length: 102 kilometres

Elevation gain: 1,307 metres



More information on cycling the South Downs

Our article on cycling the South Downs

Isle of Wight

Golden sands with bicycle in front of railings at Ventnor esplanada

Where to stay:  

Bonchurch

Great for:  

Sea views and bucolic English countryside


Our view

It’s perhaps not that well known, but the Isle of Wight has been branded as the ‘cycle island’ boasting 200 miles of cycling routes, an annual festival and a sportive that circumnavigates the entire island.


Lying just off the south coast of England, and a 15 minute hovercraft journey from the mainland, this beautiful and picturesque island makes the perfect place for cycling holidays in the UK. The island is a popular place for holiday makers, so there’s lots to do for those not on a bike - from the attractive Victorian seaside towns, to historical monuments such as Osborne House and spectacular coastal walking trails.


If you don’t fancy the lap of the island, you can make use of some easy cycle routes along the myriad of traffic free cycle paths. Perhaps followed by an afternoon on the beach and a few hours exploring the iconic Needles cliffs and the harbour at Cowes.



GPX for our suggested Isle of Wight route

GPX

Length:109 kilometres

Elevation gain: 1,352 metres



More information on cycling on the Isle of Wight

Our guide to cycling the Isle of Wight

Cornwall

View down to a classic Cornish beach

Where to stay:  

Bude to Land’s End

Great for:  

seeing the most beautiful parts of Cornwall on one signed route


Our view

Cycling in Cornwall is generally known for two things. Amongst those taking on Land’s End to John O’Groats, Cornwall is feared as a rollercoaster start to the ride - the gruelling first couple of leg-sapping short sharp hills on steep-sided lanes.


Amongst those looking for family cycling holidays in the UK, Cornwall is synonymous with the Camel Trail. This traffic-free route runs 18km along the River Camel between Padstow and Bodmin. There’s then an additional, harder 9km to Blisland on Bodmin Moor.  There are lots of place to hire bikes and places to stop, so the 18km stretch is particularly great for kids.


However, there are a lot of other great cycling routes in Cornwall too.

Those in Cornwall on holiday with the family, there are the Mineral Tramways Trails and, around St Austell, the Clay Trails. 


Road and gravel cyclists should check out the Cornish Way, a 288km route along the length of Cornwall. 47 kilometres are off-road, but the remainder is on-road, designed to avoid major roads and take in as many historic towns, fishing villages, moor and mining landscapes as possible. There are six individual trails that make up the Cornish Way, helping you to break up the route should you wish. 


You can ride the Cornish Way in either direction. The GPX below shows the east to west route - this is the way we’d do it for the sense of achievement of arriving at Land’s End. There are also various different route options that make up the 288km route (around Bude you can go along the very hilly coastline and just before Bodmin, you can detour north to Padstow instead of South to St Austell). 



GPX for our suggested Cornwall cycling route

GPX

Length: 207 kilometres

Elevation gain: 2,535 metres


Note: as we haven’t ridden this route (yet), if you want to ride it we suggest you check out the official website rather than rely on our GPX!


2. Best cycling holidays (and routes) in Scotland


Scottish Highlands

Applecross Pass viewpoint, top of Bealach na Ba, NC500 cycle route Scotland

Where to stay:  

Northern Highlands

Great for:  

the stunning Bealach na Ba climb and completing a very cool cycling loop of Scotland

Our view

The North Coast 500 brings together some of the most beautiful coastal terrain in the northern highlands. It’s a true test of fitness and endurance for any cyclist. 


Choose when you want to complete the route and in how many days.

Soak up the wilderness as you ride along many single track roads and trails, through seaboard villages and rugged countryside.


The North Coast route is a circular ride, starting and finishing in the village of Tornapress. The route includes the fearsome 9 kilometre ascent of Bealach na Ba, described by some as the best cycling climb in Great Britain. It feels a bit like a typical Alpine mountain pass, with several hairpins and 20% gradients. It also offers stunning views over the nearby Isle of Skye.


Undoubtedly one of the best places to cycle in the UK, and ideal for a UK-based cycling holiday.



GPX for our suggested NC500 route

GPX

Length: 625 kilometres 



More information on cycling the NC500

Article on cycling the North Coast 500

Scottish Borders

Peebles, on the Tour o the Borders Scottish cycling route

Where to stay:  

Peebles

Great for:  

Some of the best road cycling terrain in Scotland


Our view

Big, wide open spaces where you can see for miles. Heather covered hills and acre upon acre of woodland, lochs and rivers. 


This is Scottish border country and the home of some of the best cycling routes in Scotland.


The area’s pièce de résistance is the famous Talla Wall climb. Leaving the village of Tweedsmuir with the reservoir on your right you will find this testing little ascent. It's only 1.8 kilometres in length but packs a big punch – an average gradient of 8.3% which tops out in places at 24.9%.


The Tour O’ the Borders is the local sportive that’s staged each September. It starts and finishes in the town of Peebles and includes the Talla Climb. Your next weekend cycling break in the UK sorted?!



GPX for our suggested Scottish Border cycle route

GPX

Length: 123 kilometres

Elevation gain: 1,452 metres


Note: for the official sportive route, we suggest you check the Tour O’ the Borders official website rather than rely on our GPX.



3. Best cycling holidays (and routes) in Wales


Snowdonia

Llanberis Pass in the Snowdonia National Park, an exceptional cycling route

where to stay:

Llanberis

great for:

Some of the most dramatic landscapes in Wales


Our view

In the north west corner of Wales lies a dramatic mix of Celtic culture, rugged mountain scenery and coastal vistas. It’s all woven into 2,000 square kilometres of delightfully varied landscape.


The centrepiece of the park is Mount Snowdon, which rises from sea level to 1,085 metres and is the highest mountain in England and Wales. It can’t be crested on a road bike but there are plenty of sensational road cycling routes in Wales, including a loop that circles the base of the mountain.


Starting and finishing in the old mining town of Llanberis, the route takes you to the coastal town of Caernarfon, where you can detour to see the famous castle. Then it’s on to the Llanberis Pass, as you ride around the famous Snowdon horseshoe.



GPX for our suggested Snowdonia cycle route

GPX

Length:56 kilometres

Elevation gain: 848 metres

Brecon Beacons

Cycling route through the Brecon Beacons Wales

Where to stay:

Margam

Great for:

Brutal climbs amidst natural beauty


Our view

The Brecon Beacon National Park is a protected area of stunning wild moorland which runs from the Black Mountain in the west, through the Beacons and the Usk valley, to the Black Mountains in the east.


Comprising bare, grassy moorland with an abundance of reservoirs, caves and waterfalls you will likely see more mountain sheep and ponies than fellow travellers in this remote part of south Wales.


The infamous Dragon Ride is one of the toughest sportives held in the UK, and is held in the area. The Dragon Devil route is challenging to say the least with 5,000 metres of climbing over 300 kilometres including the fearsome ascents of the Devils Staircase and Elbow. So if you like your road cycling routes to be challenging you know what to earmark for your next UK cycling weekend with your mates!



GPX for our Brecon Beacons cycle route

GPX

Length: 300 kilometres

Elevation gain: 3,500 metres


Note: for the official sportive route, we suggest you check the Dragon Ride official website rather than rely on our GPX.



More information

Check out our pick of the best UK sportives, which includes the Dragon ride


4. Best cycling holidays (and routes) in Ireland


Giants Causeway

Giants Causeway Ireland

Where to stay:

Ballycastle, Northern Ireland

Great for:

Spectacular scenery and a test for anyone


Our view

In the north east of Northern Ireland lies the Giant’s Causeway and the Antrim coastline. It’s world famous and a holiday destination in its own right. Why not bring your bike and make it a cycling holiday?!


Okay, you’ll need to be prepared for the fact it rains a fair bit and sometimes the wind howls in off the Atlantic Ocean, but you would be hard pressed to find a more beautiful and testing area to ride your bike.

If the weather is fine it’s even better as the views of the sea from the rugged coastline of high cliffs are simply spectacular. The tough and energy sapping Torr Head Road, with its numerous hills and sharp descents coming one after the other is like riding a giant roller coaster.

 

Take a look at the Giants Causeway Sportive and its ‘Giant Killer’ route of 187 kilometres which is one of the best cycling routes in Ireland (like the Dragon Ride, we included it in our best sportives write up, here).



GPX for our suggested Giants Causeway cycle route

GPX

Length: 187 kilometres

Elevation gain: 2,313 metres


Note: for the official sportive route, we suggest you check the Giants Causeway sportive official website rather than rely on our GPX.


More information

Check out our pick of the best UK sportives, which includes the Giants Causeway sportive

Wild Atlantic Way

View across the coast of Ireland and the Wild Atlantic Way cycle route

Where to stay:

West coast of Ireland

Great for:

Ireland's ultimate test (you could, of course, also just ride a section!)

Our view

For those wanting a really big test, and the opportunity to try one of the world’s best cycling routes, the 2,500 kilometre Wild Atlantic Way lies in wait. 


This route offers a big endurance test, passing through seven of Ireland’s westernmost counties.


With the fearsome and choppy Atlantic Ocean as your constant companion as you traverse the western coastline, the route takes you the length of the island passing through famous landmarks, heritage sites, traditional villages and rolling countryside.


There are a number of organised events which take in all or part of the route, but whichever you choose you are largely on your own. You’ll need to be self-sufficient as well as fit.



GPX for the Wild Atlantic Way cycle route

GPX

Length: 2,500 kilometres 

Elevation gain: 20,000+ metres


Note: there are lots of slight changes that can be made to the Wild Atlantic Way route. If you want to ride the official route, we suggest you check out the official website rather than rely on our GPX.

What next?!

We hope you've enjoyed our pick of the best cycling holiday destinations in the UK. Where do you love to ride in the UK? Will you be taking a staycation this year? Let us know in the comments below!

If you want more information on cycling in the UK, check out our UK cycling homepage. From there you'll find links to all of our in-depth guides and articles on UK cycling.

Our pick of the UK's best sportives might also provide some inspiration. Enjoy!



Read on!

Highlights of the Kent and East Sussex hills by bike
Your insider's guide to one of our favourite rides from Dorking, taking you over some of the best (and steepest!) climbs in Kent and East Sussex.
Kidstones Pass, Buttertubs Pass + Greets Moss loop, Yorkshire Dales
Our guide to a Yorkshire Dales cycling loop that takes in the famous Kidstone Pass and Buttertubs Pass and adds in beautiful Greets Moss. Find out what to expect, here.
Country lanes of the Surrey Hills loop
A great introductory loop to the Surrey Hills along winding country lanes. Read on to find out what to expect.
Round the Isle of Wight cycle route (aka Isle of Wight Randonnee)
Your one-stop guide to the round the Isle of Wight cycle route, perfect if you want to do the Isle of Wight randonnee or if you want to ride it alone.
South Isle of Wight in a nutshell
Your guide to a short ride that incorporates some of the higlights of the South of the Isle of White.
Lighthouse, Needles and Downs: the most scenic Isle of Wight cycle ride?
Your guide to a memorable Isle of Wight cycle ride that takes in three of the Island's highlights: St Catherine's Lighthouse, the Needles and the downs above Ventnor.

About John Vicars

Cycling up Buttertubs Pass from Hawes

John divides his time between England and Spain and, together with his wife, clocks in around 10,000 miles each year searching out Europe's finest roads. John loves to share his experiences (good and bad) from the saddle and has a particular loathing for double digit gradients, sub-zero temperatures and red traffic lights!


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