Incredible scenery, challenging hills, dramatic coasts, and a few mountains for good measure… there are dozens of epic long distance cycle routes in the UK.
From the Highlands of Scotland to the vales and glens of Wales. From the atmospheric moorlands of Northern England to the glorious south coast. And, of course, the wild and rugged coastline of Northern Ireland. There is so much to discover – and what better way to do it than by bike?
Take on the challenge of one of the country’s most impressive bike rides and you’ll gain lifetime bragging rights. You’ll also have an amazing adventure, and get the chance to see the UK in a whole new way.
Most of these routes are largely off-road, so you’ll want a decent mountain bike! But some might be better suited to road or hybrid bikes, so do your research about the route fully before setting out. Make sure you know exactly what equipment and what kind of bike you’ll need!
This post was brought to you in collaboration with Bikester – who sell a wide range of bike and bike-related accessories in the UK and in Europe. All words and opinions are my own.
Best Long Distance Cycle Routes in the UK
1. Sea to Sea (aka C2C)
Distance: 136 miles
Start and End: Whitehaven in Cumbria to Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear
Also known as the C2C (which does NOT stand for Coast to Coast but is, in fact, just old-school-style text speak), the Sea to Sea is one of Britain’s most popular long distance cycles.
Starting at the Irish Sea on the Cumbrian Coast, the trail cuts across England to reach the North Sea at Tynemouth.
Along the way, it takes in the hills and lakes of the much-loved Lake District, as well as the challenging mountains of the North Pennines. Finally, descend down into the railway paths of County Durham and past Newcastle to reach the northeast coast.
2. North Coast 500
Distance: 500 miles
Start and End: Inverness (circular route)
Ooh I’m resisting the urge to include a Proclaimers reference here! The epic 500-mile North Coast 500 is often called Scotland’s Route 66 – passing through some of the most incredible and dramatic landscapes the country has to offer.
Starting and ending at Inverness Castle, this circular loop heads through the mountains and lochs of the northern highlands, and along the rugged cliffs of the northern coast. It’s usually split over 7-8 days, although those looking for a challenge may try it in 5. The current record – set in September last year by Josh Quigley – is 31 hours and 17 minutes!
3. Lôn Las Cymru
Distance: 250 miles
Start and End: Cardiff to Holyhead
This stunning 250-mile route is a serious challenge, tackling some of the most mountainous countryside in the UK. Take on the Brecon Beacons, the beautiful hills of the Wye and Severn Valleys, and Snowdonia National Park, on your route to the north coast.
It’s not a route for the faint of heart – but if you can face the challenge, you’ll be rewarded with incredible scenery, picturesque villages packed with history, and some serious bragging rights!
4. Causeway Coast
Distance: 281 miles
Start and End: Ballyshannon to Larne
Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast is well known as one of the best road trip destinations in the country. But it’s also home to one of the most amazing long-distance cycle routes in the UK: an awesome 280-mile journey from Ballyshannon in the Republic of Ireland to Larne on the east coast of County Antrim
From Ballyshannon, the route loosely follows the border up as far as Londonderry, then heads through the Glens of Antrim and along the Causeway Coast as far as Larne.
Along the way, you’ll pass through some of the best-loved towns and attractions in Northern Ireland, like Bushmills (be sure to visit the famous distillery), Ballycastle, and – of course – the famous Giant’s Causeway.
5. West Country Way
Distance: 257 miles
Start and End: Bristol to Padstow
Running from Bristol in Gloucestershire, right down through the southwest of England to Padstow on the Cornish coast – or vice-versa if you prefer – the West Country Way is one of the loveliest long-distance bike rides in England.
Starting in the picturesque countryside around the River Avon, the Mendip Hills, and Glastonbury, the route heads down through the Exmoor National Park in Devon. Eventually, you’ll reach the Tarka Trail. This 30-mile section is built upon disused railway lines, so it’s free from traffic (unlike much of this route).
Finally, tackle the rugged and windswept cliffs of Cornwall’s north coast to reach the stunning fishing village of Padstow.
6. King Alfred’s Way
Distance: 220 miles
Start and End: Winchester (Circular)
King Alfred’s Way is one of the newest long-distance cycle routes in the UK. It was created by Cycling UK in 2020, and links four of the best-loved trails in the south of England: the North Downs Way, South Downs Way, Ridgeway and Thames Path.
The name was inspired by King Alfred the Great, ruler of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex. The route begins and ends in Winchester, where Alfred the Great was buried, and connects some of the most famous sights in this part of England.
Bike through the rolling hills of the South and North Downs, visiting iconic sights like the Winchester and Salisbury Cathedrals, Stonehenge, Avebury stone circle, and Farnham Castle. According to Cycling UK the trail is ideal for gravel bikes – and it looks perfect for beginners to long-distance cycling.
7. North Wales Coastal Route
Distance: 109 miles
Start and End: Holyhead to Chester
Rich in wildlife, scenery, and heritage, this fantastic 109-mile route is the perfect way to discover the stunning coastline of North Wales. Starting in the historic port town of Holyhead on Anglesey’s Holy Island, you’ll cross the magnificent Menai Bridge to reach the mainland.
From there, it’s incredible sea views, ancient castles, and picturesque seaside towns all the way to the walled city of Chester.
8. The Caledonia Way
Distance: 234 miles
Start and End: Campbeltown to Inverness
Another well-loved Scottish cycle route is The Caledonia Way (also called the Caledonian Way). This incredible 234-mile route heads through some of Scotland’s most amazing landscapes.
The route starts out from Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsular, first following the Peninsula for its full length, then traversing the length of the Great Glen Way. Cutting across the stunning Scottish Highlands, you’ll pass the iconic sights of Loch Ness and Ben Nevis, before finally reaching the Highland capital of Inverness.
9. The Great North Trail
Distance: 800 miles
Start and End: Middleton in the Peak District to John o’ Groats
Last up – but absolutely not the least – we have the seriously EPIC Great North Trail. At 800 miles, this is one of the longest cycle routes in the UK, stretching from the Peak District in the Midlands all the way to the northernmost tip of mainland Scotland.
This award-winning route was created by Cycling UK as an alternative to the planned extension of the Pennine Bridleway – which is still only a plan since its first proposal in 1999!
The Great North Trail is a proper challenge, but it’s also easily broken down into chunks if you don’t have the time/energy/will to take on an 800-mile bike ride.
Explore the incredible variety that the North of England and Scotland have to offer: rolling hills and dales, moody moorlands, ancient castles, and the wild and rugged mountains of northern Scotland.
Do you know any more great long distance bike rides in the UK? Share them in the comments!