Cycle touring does not have to involve travelling to far-flung places. There are plenty of long distance cycling routes in the UK. In fact, one of the best bits about a bicycle is being able to start from your front door if you like. You can pack up your bags, set off on your bicycle and end up as far-flung as you want. After all, in the famous words of Bilbo Baggins, “The road goes ever on and on.”
But, not everyone has the months of spare time required to accidentally cycle to the other side of the planet and save the world from an evil dark lord. A fair few of us rather like planning our cycle tours in advance too. With that in mind, here are our top picks of some of our favourite long distance cycling routes in the UK.
Marked Cycling Routes
1) The C2C Cycle Route
Distance: 137 miles
Theme: Cross Country
Location: North England
If you’ve spent much time hiking, you’d be forgiven for instinctively calling this route the Coast to Coast. And, yes, it does go from one side of the UK to the other. However, some smart cyclist decided to differentiate it from the well known walking route. It’s pronounced “Sea to Sea” and abbreviated “C2C”. Yeah…. The route takes you from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, starting in Whitehaven (with a great big sign) and finishing in Tyneside.
2) The North Cycle Route (EV12)
Distance: 1712 miles
Theme: Coastal Breezes
Location: East Coast and Shetland
This is probably the longest signed bike tour in the UK. Starting from the northern tip of the Shetland Islands, it runs down the east coast of Scotland and England to Dover. It’s actually part of a 3692 mile European bike tour that circumnavigates the North Sea, ending in Norway. Or from Norway to Shetland, we suppose, depending on which side you want your sea breeze.
The UK part of the route is on a combination of on-road and off-road bike paths. It’s signed all the way to London with EV12 stickers and Sustrans ones (National Cycle Route 1) to Dover. Typically, the route will do what it can to keep you off roads and away from cars (including the classing three sides round a car park). You shouldn’t need a mountain bike though – it’s not that off road.