Continuing in our series of long-distance cycling routes articles, we’ve rounded up the best cycling routes in the UK and Ireland that you can tackle either on your road or gravel bike.
We want to show off some of the best long-distance routes these countries have to offer, some of which are multi-day, some on road and some off-road (but do-able on a gravel bike).
We hope this list inspires you to discover what’s on your doorstep – and that you don’t necessarily need to travel abroad to discover some fantastic riding!
For our pick of the best cycling routes in the world, read this and for our pick of the best cycling routes in Europe, read this
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In the interests of complete transparency, we haven’t (yet!) cycled all of the routes/events in this article. If you have ridden any of these, let us know in the comments below!
All metrics in this article are approximate.
Cycling routes in the UK
The following routes take in more than one country within the UK.
Land’s End to John O’Groats (LEJOG)
Land’s End to John o’Groats, or, LEJOG, is one of the best cycling routes in the UK, and for good reason! The route runs from southern England to the northernmost tip of Scotland and completing it is a significant challenge for most riders.
There are many different road cycling routes available that take in some of the best long distance cycling the country has to offer. You’ll find coastal vistas, hidden valleys and some of the finest places to cycle in the United Kingdom.
It’s a popular route and cyclists can choose between a self-supported trip or support from tour operators who will help with luggage, accommodation and other services too. The duration of the tours depends on your speed and selected package, but usually take between seven days to three weeks to complete.
It’s a challenging route, but an excellent way to see the best of Britain by bicycle. It’s the kind of route any self-respecting British cyclist has either done or is hoping to do.
Read our Q&A on cycling Land’s End to John O’Groats with Pedal Britain.
Coast and Castles route
The Coast and Castles route is often recommended as one of the easier long-distance cycle rides in the UK, making it the perfect introduction to long-distance riding. It travels from Newcastle in England north to Edinburgh in Scotland, taking in quiet trails and historical landmarks.
In case you just want to ride part of the route, we’ve heard the section from Newcastle to Berwick-on-Tweed is particularly spectacular. This takes in unspoilt coastline and the ports of Alnmouth, Craster and Seahouses. You may even be able to cross the tidal causeway to Lindisfarne, the ancient monastic site, if you arrive at the right time. You’ll also come across the castles of Dunstanburgh, Warkworth and Bamburgh.
The route is suitable for all types of bikes including road bikes. Interestingly, it’s proved so popular that it’s now part of one of the best EuroVelo routes, the North Sea Cycle Route, or EuroVelo 12. As a result, it is well signposted, making it one of the most accessible cycling routes between Scotland and England.
Beginning in the coastal town of Aberystwyth in Wales, the Lon Cambria is a long-distance cycle route that travels from mid-Wales to the border of England. At 180 kilometres it’s best done over a couple of days, particularly if you want to soak up the sights that this long-distance bike ride has to offer.
It’s suitable for both road and hybrid bikes, with most of the route on the road. Some small gravel sections can be avoided by taking minor diversions. As part of the Lôn Las Cymru, or National Cycle Network (NCN) Route 8, some sections are signposted but we’d recommend using a map or GPX for reassurance.
Cycling routes in Scotland
North Coast 500 (NC500)
One of the best cycling routes in Scotland, the NC500, or North Coast 500 is the British equivalent to America’s Route 66. In this sense, it’s not just popular with cyclists, but with drivers too. The route is very rural, so it isn’t usually heaving with vehicles – but it has got more popular recently, so do take care at busy times of year.
The route begins and ends in Inverness, taking in a circular route. Initially, it heads west towards the coast, then follows it to John o’Groats before circling back to Inverness. Be prepared for some testing climbs on the route, with just under 10,000 metres of elevation gain across it.
Most people tackle the NC500 over a week, although the record for fastest completion is 27 hours 36 minutes (moving time). But, as it’s one of the best cycling routes in Britain, we’d recommend taking your time to absorb the gorgeous Scottish landscape and help your legs recover from all the climbing.
Our popular article on cycling the NC500 will be useful if you’re considering this route.
Want a custom map to commemorate your ride once you’ve completed it?
Check out these beautiful GPX-based prints.
John Muir Way
The John Muir Way is a popular long-distance walking and cycling route through Scotland. It begins in Helensburgh in central Scotland, and follows a scenic route to the coastal town, and birthplace of John Muir, Dunbar.
It’s fully waymarked as both a walking and cycling trail so it’s easy to follow. Given that the route combines on and off-road sections, we’d recommend either a gravel or sturdy tourer bike to enjoy the journey. The journey can be split into multiple days, or done in one go if you’re brave enough!
It’s a great way to see lesser known parts of Scotland, and all the gorgeous vistas that the country brings.
Cycling routes in Ireland
Kingfisher Cycle Trail
The Kingfisher Cycle Trail was the first long-distance cycle route developed in Ireland. It’s split into six parts. You can dip in and out of these to build up to a 500-kilometre long route. It takes in quiet countryside, including rolling hills, lakes and rivers. It might not be the most popular, but we think it’s one of the best cycle routes in Ireland.
It’s suitable for road bikes but be aware that some of the roads are quite rough. You’ll find brown signs with a white kingfisher marking the route for much of the way. However there are sections which are missing signposts so download the maps to a device such as a cycling computer to make sure you stay on the right path. As many parts are rural, you might not have a phone signal so it’s best to be prepared!
Mizen to Malin (MizMal)
Ireland’s answer to LEJOG, MIZMAL takes the first three letters from the town at the start of this route (Mizen) and the first three letters from the town at the end of the route (Malin).
This enchanting route along the west Irish coast and takes in much of the Wild Atlantic Way.
It can be seen as among the best cycling routes in the world, thanks to its gorgeous Gaelic surroundings. Rugged coastlines, brooding Atlantic waves and blissfully quiet roads are prominent throughout this 1,050-kilometre ride. Cyclists also often comment on the warm welcomes received in the traditional villages they cycle through.
First mapped by an Irish rider a few years ago, it’s now one of the most prominent cycle routes in Ireland. Beginning in the southwestern town of Mizen, the route follows the Atlantic coastline to the north of Ireland, ending in Malin. It can be ridden unsupported, or with the aid of a tour company who will provide the luggage transfer and accommodation.
It’s certainly one of the most scenic cycling routes on our world’s best cycle routes list, but just make sure you pack a raincoat. Even in summer, the Emerald Isle’s weather can be somewhat unpredictable, so being prepared is your best protection against the elements.
Don’t miss our in-depth article on the MizMal route.
Please see our article on the best cycling routes in Europe for our write up of these routes (and more!).
Cycling routes in Wales
The Dragon ride sportive is renowned for hosting some of the toughest cycling routes in the UK. The longest is the ‘Dragon Devil’ at 304km. It takes in a circular route, beginning and ending at Margam Park in Port Talbot with 4,351 metres of ascent for riders to tackle.
This long-distance cycling sportive is not for the faint-hearted, but those that do ride it are treated to some of the most spectacular views Wales has to offer. It’s suitable for road bikes and is signposted (but only on the day of the sportive). We’d recommend downloading the GPX file just in case!
Check out our pick of the best UK sportives.
Lon Las Cymru
Stunning mountains and challenging terrain earn the Lon Las Cymru its place on our list of the best cycle routes in the UK. Typically ridden from south to north, riders begin in Cardiff Bay and ride for 400-kilometres to Holyhead, through two national parks, Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons.
The route is partially signposted as part of the National Cycle Route (NCN) Route 8, but we’d recommend downloading a map before you go. As part of the route is off-road, gravel or touring bikes with wide tyres are most suited to Lon Las Cymru. However, as with many of the best cycling routes, you can always adapt them to create your own journey. For example, if you want to ride a road bike, you can avoid certain off-road sections.
Cycling routes in England
With plenty of traffic-free paths and flat sections, the Devon C2C is one of the best family cycling routes in England (albeit we’re probably talking families with teenagers rather than pre-schoolers!). Younger riders will enjoy the heights of the Gem Bridge crossing, while the route is also long enough to present a challenge to more experienced cyclists too.
As part of the route is made up of former railway lines, there are sections of compact gravel so we’d recommend taking either a touring or gravel bike for puncture protection. With stunning views of Devonshire and plenty of places to stop for refreshments, we think this earns the title of one of the best cycle routes in England.
North Norfolk Coast Cycleway
The North Norfolk Coast Cycleway is short enough to ride in a day, but long enough to be a challenge. It’s also pretty flat so it would make a great first long distance adventure.
Suitable for road bikes, it takes in some quiet lanes in some of the most beautiful areas to cycle in England. You’ll ride through fields and marshes, past castles (including Sandringham Castle!), villages and beaches, making it a great way to explore the region of Norfolk.
The route is partially signposted, as part of the National Cycle Route (NCN) 1, Regional route 30, but do make sure you take your own maps or download a GPX route as occasionally signage does change on these long-distance bike rides in the UK. We’ve also heard that Sustrans is removing most waymarking from the NCN routes.
Oxford to Cambridge
Oxford and Cambridge are the UK’s two most famous universities and are also often regarded as two of the best places to cycle in England thanks to their cycle-friendly infrastructure. So why not ride between the two?!
Beginning at Oxford New Theatre, this route follows quiet lanes and the occasional bridleway along the adjoining countryside between the two cities. This rural ride gives you a quintessentially British experience with a wealth of historic churches, village greens, country pubs and village shops.
Road bikes are suitable for all but the bridleway sections, so a gravel bike may be a better bet.
We’ve included it as one of the best long-distance bicycle routes as it’s quiet, relatively flat, and can be enjoyed by families with older kids. It’s not all signposted so we’d recommend downloading a route before setting off on your Oxbridge adventure.
Yorkshire Dales Cycleway
Yorkshire cycling routes are well known for their steep hills and gorgeous moorlands, which is why we’ve included the Yorkshire Dales Cycleway as one of the best long-distance cycle routes in the UK. This fully signposted route is designed as a circular route of the national park, but it can be split into separate days if need be.
The route takes you along the Swale and Wharfe rivers, passing towns such as Grasington, Hawes, Kettlewell and Malham as well as the dramatic Settle-Carlisle railway viaduct.
The route is entirely on the road, although at some points you may be wishing you had mountain bike gearing! With 4,320 metres of climbing, it’s not an easy feat, but the views make the hard work well worth it.
Sea to Sea (C2C)
One of the most well-known bike tour routes in the UK is the Sea to Sea (C2C). Highly regarded as a sort of bucket list ride for many amateur cyclists, C2C sees riders travel from one side of the country to the other. This C2C begins in Whitehaven and traverses east towards the Sunderland coastline.
It can be done either in one go or over multiple days, depending on how hard you want to ride. Road bikes can be used but there are some small diversions necessary to avoid off-road sections. These aren’t signposted so it’s best to take your own map or GPS device.
It’s also worth knowing that as one of the best-known UK cycle routes, it comes with a particular tradition: riders dip the rear wheel in the Irish Sea at the beginning and the front wheel in the North Sea at the end!
Hadrian’s Cycle Way
If history is your thing, Hadrian’s Cycle Way offers an alternative C2C route.
It takes you from Ravenglass on the Cumbrian coast (in the Lake District National Park) and then follows the route of Hadrian’s Wall to South Shields on the east coast. The route starts in Ravenglass because it was the site of the Glannaventa Roman fort and finishes in South Shields at the Roman Arbeia Gatehouse. It takes in breathtaking coastlines and rugged Northumbria countryside, making it a cracker of a UK cycling route.
Known as National Cycle Route (NCN) 72, it’s partially signposted, particularly as you join part of the C2C route.
Road bikes should be fine for this journey as the route takes in quiet lanes and traffic-free cycle paths at every opportunity, but a gravel or hybrid would give you more options for exploring off-route. Bear in mind that you will need to take a short ferry ride across the Tyne to your final destination of South Shields.
King Alfred’s Way
One of the newest cycling routes in Britain is King Alfred’s Way. It’s an off-road circular route that begins and ends in Winchester. Recommended bikes are either gravel or mountain bikes.
Although the entire route is 350 kilometres, there are plenty of guides to help you split it into shorter segments so you can tackle one of the best long-distance bike routes at your own pace. Do note, however, that it’s not signposted so it’s best to download your own maps beforehand.
Designed as an adventure cycling route, you can either choose to bikepack or stay in one of the many hotels and B&Bs on the route. It’s a perfect route for history buffs as it takes in a loop of the historic Wessex region. With plenty of architecture and monuments to whet your appetite. it’s swiftly becoming known as one of the best cycling routes in England.
Which long distance UK cycle routes have you tackled?
We’d love to hear your experiences – share them in the comments below!
Likewise, let us know which routes we’ve missed from our list. We love to hear your thoughts!
Looking for more inspiration? Head to our destinations page where you’ll find guides to cycling destinations around the world.
Want to check travel restrictions before you go? If you live in the UK, the best place to start is the government’s travel website. From there you’ll be able to check Covid restrictions and more.
Want a personalised map to commemorate your long distance ride?
These cycling map prints are just the ticket.
More info here. Prices start at £35.
Books that will help continue your research
For more inspiration on the UK’s greatest cycling rides, check out some of these fantastic books:
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