Looking for the best family cycle routes in the UK (that are near you)?

We hope this article will help!

As those of us with kids know, if you want something to do that the whole family will enjoy, a bike ride is a fantastic option. Cycling is a great way for families to get exercise and explore the outdoors – and the British countryside has miles of trails, disused railway lines and towpaths.

In creating this list, we’ve consulted our friends at Bike Club. Bike Club are a bike subscription service for kids bikes (more on what they do in our interview with them, here). They are family cycling experts and so are well placed to share their customers’ favourite places to ride!

We’re sure you’ll find a great route near you as our list covers the whole of the UK. All these routes are accessible and offer a nice day out with the family. Plus you’ll find some great views. So grab some kids bikes, pack a picnic, and head out on one of these family cycle routes today!

How have we picked these routes for families?

We’re excited to share our pick of the ten best family cycle routes in the UK.

We have picked these routes to try and get representation across the UK, and because they are accessible to families. We have also considered the following factors:

  • Suitability for all ages and abilities: We have chosen shorter routes that are suitable for young cyclists and adults. They would also be suitable routes for beginners.
  • Traffic conditions: We have chosen routes that are mostly traffic-free, or have very little traffic. Note that there might still be some sections on road, so do check the route before you ride to make sure you’re happy with it.
  • Scenic interest: We have chosen routes that are interesting and often have beautiful views, so that everyone can enjoy the ride.

What ages are these family cycle routes suitable for?

Our family-friendly cycle routes are suitable for young children who can follow instructions and are competent to cycle. This is typically children aged five and over – but, of course, it varies depending how much riding your child has done and how confident they are. It’s important to assess the route and your child’s individual abilities before choosing a route.

What makes these family routes special?

We’ve tried to pick routes we think you and your family will love – and also routes that offer a variety of experiences. Our routes cover scenic countryside to urban adventures, off-road trails to paved railway tracks.

We have also tried to include routes that are relatively close to towns so that they are easy to get to and hopefully you’ll find plenty of parking if you have to drive to the start of the route.

Tips for a successful family cycling trip

Make sure you get to the end of this article for some extra tips to help make your experience a happy one!

Father and daughter riding bicycles on a family bike ride

Best family cycle route in Cornwall – The Camel Trail

  • Distance: 12 miles
  • Metres of climbing: 180 metres
  • Terrain: Intermediate, mostly surfaced cycle path
  • Route details: Largely traffic-free, surfaced and reasonably level multi-use trail
  • Start: Padstow
  • What makes this route special? The route has stunning scenery, wildlife, and history.

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The Camel Trail is a largely traffic-free, 18-mile cycle route in Cornwall, UK. It runs along the old Bodmin and Wadebridge railway line, offering views of the Camel Estuary, wooded areas, and the coast. The trail can be started from either Padstow or Bodmin.

The trail is suitable for cyclists of all abilities, making it a popular destination for families and groups. It’s also one of the most famous family friendly bike trails in the country, with nearly 500,000 people visiting every year.

There are plenty of places offering bike hire in Padstow, Wadebridge and Bodmin. There are also lots of place to stop and eat and drink along the way.

The Camel Trail is busiest from Wadebridge to Padstow, where the wide river attracts a variety of wading birds. There is a birdwatching hide along this stretch of the trail. The section from Bodmin to Wadebridge is quieter and climbs gradually towards the edge of Bodmin Moor.

Best family cycle route in Devon – Tarka Trail

  • Distance: 7 miles
  • Metres of climbing: 60 metres
  • Terrain: Easy, mostly paved cycle paths
  • Route details: Largely traffic-free, surfaced and reasonably level multi-use trail
  • Start: Fremington
  • What makes this route special? It offers stunning views of the North Devon countryside, with routes for all abilities.

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With routes for all abilities, the Tarka Trail is the perfect way to see the stunning scenery of this region. The full railway path runs over 30 miles from Braunton to Meeth.

One of the most accessible cycling trails is the Fremington to Bideford Route. This takes you via the picturesque village of Instow and the Taw and Torridge estuaries. Keep an eye out for military hovercrafts whizzing by – a thrill for kids of all ages!

This traffic-free, tarmac trail is ideal for little ones. The 14-mile round trip however may be too long for the shortest legs.

Bideford in North Devon on the UK's popular family cycling route, the Tarka Trail

Bideford, North Devon

Best family cycle route in Surrey – The Thames Path

  • Distance: 5 miles
  • Metres of climbing: 22 metres
  • Terrain: Easy, dirt track
  • Route details: No traffic, mostly on cycle paths
  • Start: The Swan Pub in Walton-on-Thames
  • What makes this route special? This route is completely by the river. It finishes in Hampton Court, but you can continue to Bushy Park.

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The Thames winds its way through much of Surrey, offering many opportunities to join the river for a bike ride.

We particularly like the part of the route starting on the south side of the river at The Minnow in Weybridge or The Swan in Walton-on-Thames.

Head east along the cycle path by the river, and it will take you past Sunbury Lock. You will then cycle through Hurst Park and approach Hampton Court. From here you can turn back or continue by crossing the bridge and cycling with the river on your left.

If you’re not in the mood for a waterside ride, Bushy Park is a great alternative. It has acres of woodlands to explore and herds of deer. 

Best family cycle route in Essex – Flitch Way

  • Distance: 8 miles
  • Metres of climbing: 81 metres
  • Terrain: Intermediate, dirt track
  • Route details: No traffic, mostly on cycle paths
  • Start: Braintree
  • What makes this route special? It’s a railway route; a cycle path over a former railway.

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This long and leafy traffic-free route begins at Braintree. The Flitch Way is a 15-mile former railway line that has been converted into a multi-use trail. It is a popular destination for joggers, cyclists, dog walkers, families, and in some sections, horse riders.

We’ve chosen a shorter section of it, running from Braintree to the outskirts of Great Dunmow. To continue the route you need to negotiate the traffic and cycle through Great Dunmow and pick up the trail off the B1256.

The family cycle trail is flat, relatively straight, and well-surfaced, making it a good option for people of all fitness levels. It also offers stunning views of the Essex countryside.

Best family cycle route in Monmouthshire – The Peregrine Path

  • Distance: 6 miles
  • Metres of climbing: 120 metres
  • Terrain: Easy, mix of dirt and paved cycle paths
  • Route details: Light traffic and a reasonably multi-use trail
  • Start: Monmouth
  • What makes this route special: It’s a picturesque route by the River Wye. The route can be extended to Goodrich Castle.

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The Peregrine Path is a lovely cycle route that straddles the border between England and Wales. It takes in some of the stunning scenery of the Wye Valley. Starting in the historic town of Monmouth, the trail winds its way along the River Wye. It goes past picturesque villages, ancient woodlands, and dramatic limestone cliffs.

The highlight of the route is the picturesque village of Symonds Yat. It has amazing views across Wales and nesting Peregrine Falcons that can be spotted with a pair of binoculars.

There are also several other places to stop along the way for a rest. Some highlights include the Biblins Rope Bridge and the Saracens Head pub.

The Peregrine Path is suitable for cyclists of all abilities, as it is mostly flat and traffic-free. It is also a popular route for families, as it is short and there are plenty of places to stop.

Goodrich Castle in Herefordshire

The ruins of Goodrich Castle in Herefordshire

Best family cycle route in Yorkshire – Spen Valley Greenway

  • Distance: 10 miles
  • Metres of climbing: 150 metres
  • Terrain: Easy, mostly paved
  • Route details: Traffic-free route on paved cycle-path
  • Start: Dewsbury
  • What makes this route special? It’s a traffic-free family cycling route that offers stunning views of the Yorkshire countryside and a unique collection of artworks.

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The Spen Valley Greenway offers an ideal cycling experience for newcomers in Yorkshire, featuring a brief and leisurely route.

The Spen Valley Greenway follows the former Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway line. It floats over the urban areas around it, passing through a variety of landscapes, including urban areas, countryside, and moorland. It is a popular route for locals and visitors alike thanks to its scenery.

Along the way, you’ll also encounter a distinctive array of artworks, crafted by local community groups. For example, a chair made of road signs and digger parts and seats that look like bicycles.

Best family cycle route in the Lake District – The Eskdale Trail

  • Distance: 8 miles
  • Metres of climbing: 215 metres
  • Terrain: Easy, mostly flat after the initial hill
  • Route details: Mostly traffic-free on mostly paved roads
  • Start: Ravenglass Railway Station
  • What makes this route special? Eskdale Railway Museum, Muncaster Fell. Can also take a detour to Muncaster Castle.

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The Eskdale Trail is a traffic-free cycle route in the Lake District National Park. It is a great option for families looking for family cycle routes in the north west, as it is a relatively flat trail and easy to follow.

The bike trail starts at Ravenglass Railway Station and follows the River Esk to Dalegarth. There are several places to stop along the way, including the Eskdale Railway Museum and a small detour to Muncaster Castle.

The Eskdale Trail is a beautiful route that offers stunning views of the Lake District countryside. It is a great option for a fun and easy bike ride with the family.

It is open all year round, but it is best to avoid it during the busy summer months, especially school holidays.

Best family cycle route in Northumberland – The Lakeside Way

  • Distance: 25 miles
  • Metres of climbing: 426  metres
  • Terrain: Intermediate, dirt track
  • Route details: Low-traffic multi-use trail
  • Start: Kielder Water Bird of Prey Centre
  • What makes this route special? Experience the beauty of the largest man-made lake in northern Europe.

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The Lakeside Way is a unique experience. It offers stunning views of Kielder Water & Forest Park and the chance to get close to its abundant wildlife.

If you ride the whole circular route, it’s a 25-mile trail that encircles the lake, taking most cyclists three to four hours to complete. For the adventurous, the whole bike trail can be done in one day. However, there is plenty of opportunity to break it up into shorter sections or to enjoy the scenery at a slower pace.

On the Lakeside Way, you can see stunning views of Kielder Water, ancient woods, and abundant wildlife. If you are lucky you can spot ospreys, red squirrels, and deer. There are also some curious sculptures dotted along the route.

Best family cycle route in the Cairngorms – The Deeside Way

  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Metres of climbing: 24
  • Terrain: Easy, paved and unpaved cycle route
  • Route details: Light traffic from other cyclists, and walkers
  • Start: Ballater
  • What makes this route special? It is a quiet route that offers views of the Cairngorm Mountains and the River Dee.

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The Deeside Way is an extensive trail that stretches from near the heart of Aberdeen, often referred to as the oil capital of Europe, all the way to Ballater. Ballater is nestled within the Cairngorms National Park—a region renowned for its Victorian heritage and connections to Balmoral Castle.

This route closely follows the historical path of the Old Royal Deeside Railway. Beginning in Aberdeen and extending to Banchory, it meanders through woodlands and farmlands before reaching Kincardine O’Neil. Subsequently, it reconnects with the old railway line leading from Aboyne to Ballater, covering a total distance of 41 miles.

We have chosen a short section from Ballater to Cambus o’May suspension bridge.

You can extend the journey in either direction. You’ll encounter numerous opportunities to observe remnants of the old railway infrastructure. You will also treat yourself to views overlooking the River Dee, with the Cairngorm Mountains providing a stunning backdrop.

The River Dee, Scotland

River Dee flowing past the hill Craigendarroch beside Ballater

Best family cycle route in Antrim – Newtownabbey Way

  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Metres of climbing: 10 metres
  • Terrain: Easy, mostly paved
  • Route details: Traffic-free route on paved and dirt paths
  • Start: Corr’s Corner
  • What makes this route special? Mossley Mill, Three Mile Water, Monkstown Wood, Bleach Green Viaduct

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Our final family bike ride is The Newtownabbey Way, a 6km traffic-free cycle route in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It runs from Corr’s Corner to the shores of Belfast Lough at Whiteabbey Community Centre. On the way, you will pass through the grounds of Mossley Mill, Three Mile Water Park, and Monkstown Wood.

The Newtownabbey Way is a popular route for cyclists of all abilities, as it is mostly flat and easy to follow.

Tips for planning a family cycling route

When planning a family cycling route, choose a route that is suitable for the level of your children. Start off with short distances and minimal climbing and gradually increase the distance and climbing as you get more experienced. You could even venture on to quiet, minor roads once you’re feeling more confident.

Plan ahead with plenty of stops and choose a scenic and interesting route to keep focus. Plus don’t forget your helmets (and your waterproofs if you’re heading out in winter)!

Pick a good route

We hope the ideas above have given you some inspiration for planning an awesome family cycle route.

But we recognise they’re just a starting point – and sadly, we couldn’t cover everywhere in the country!

Once you want to branch out and find other safe cycle routes, the following might be helpful:

  • National Cycle Network (NCN): The NCN is a network of over 14,000 miles of cycle routes across the UK. Many of these routes are traffic-free, making them a good starting point for those looking for family friendly cycling routes.
  • Ride with GPS: Ride with GPS is a powerful and versatile tool for planning and riding bike routes. It is suitable for riders of all levels, from beginners to experienced cyclists.
  • Local resources: Many local authorities have their own cycle route maps and information. You can try the websites of your local council.

We’ve got more general route planning tips in this article.

Stay legal

Remember that you have a right to ride on the miles and miles of trail marked as byways and bridleways on OS Maps. Coatal paths, National Trust trails, Forestry England trails and parks such as Richmond Park, Windsor Great Park and various country parks around the country, are also a rich source of family-friendly cycling inspiration.

You aren’t allowed to ride on public footpaths.

Also remember that just because it’s marked as a bridleway/byway, or it’s a canal towpath, it might not be a huge amount of fun to ride – often they can be narrow and rough or overgrown. Hence it’s best to check your route in advance or use one that’s been recommended.

Plan stops

When planning a family cycling route or a route for beginners, it is important to plan plenty of stops. This will allow everyone to rest, refuel, and enjoy the sights.

Here are some ideas for stops:

  • Cafes and restaurants: There are often plenty of cafés and restaurants along cycle routes that offer family-friendly dining.
  • Playgrounds: Playgrounds are a great place for kids to let off steam and have some fun.
  • Parks and gardens: Parks and gardens are another great place to stop for a picnic or a rest.
  • Museums and historical sites: Do your research in advance and see which museums or historical sites are close to your cycle route. This is a great way to learn about the local area and have some fun at the same time.
Family on a family cycling holiday trip in France

Make sure everyone’s bike fits

It is important to make sure that everyone’s bike fits properly before you start your ride. This will help to prevent discomfort and accidents.

Here are some tips for making sure your bike fits:

  • Make sure you’re riding a bike that’s the right size for you/your kids (more on how Bike Club can help with that below!).
  • Adjust the seat height so that your feet can comfortably reach the pedals.
  • Adjust the handlebars so that your back is straight and your arms are slightly bent.

Be courteous

Always remember to follow the Countryside Code and if you’re on a shared use trail or bridleway, give way to pedestrians. You should also use your bell to let those walking know that you’re approaching.

Want to make a family cycling holiday out of it?

If you are a family that loves family friendly bike rides, why not make a holiday out of your shared passion? Don’t miss our article on family cycling holidays in the UK and our tips for how to plan a fantastic family bike trip

Want to find out more about Bike Club?

To find out more about Bike Club’s subscription service you can head on over to the Bike Club website (or read our interview with them, here). They have a wide range of kids bikes available from great brands including Frog, Woom, Forme, and more.

From balance bikes to road bikes, they have something for your little one. The best part is that you can exchange your current bike for a new one when your child outgrows it.

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Harry Gorvin

Harry Gorvin works at Bike Club, the kids bike subscription service. During the day he writes about cycling and kids bikes; when he’s not at his desk, he enjoys the occasional bike ride by the Thames.

Last Reviewed: 05 October 2023

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