Top 5 Traffic Free Cycle Routes in the UK

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This year promises to be a momentous year for cycling, not only can we look forward to the Tour de France starting in Britain,  but also the Commonwealth Games promises to be a memorable celebration for many of our cycling superstars. Here at cottages4you we love cycling. A quiet bridleway, the sun beating on your back with the birds and the insects playing the soundtrack, you can’t beat it. There are many great routes across Britain that you can enjoy without having to weave in and out of the traffic; here is a selection of some of our favourites.

1.       The Camel Trail, Cornwall

Arguably the most famous cycle trails in the country, the Camel Trail meanders along the southern edge of the Camel Estuary from Padstow  towards Wadebridge, and for the more adventurous, then on towards Bodmin and Wenfordbridge. The trail follows the line of a disused railway surrounded by the delightful rolling greenery of the beautiful Cornish countryside.  The Camel Estuary itself is absorbing, a huge expanse of sand that disappears daily with the return of the tide. The changing landscape adds to the magic, as the view will in all likelihood have changed dramatically by the time you return. Bicycles are available for hire so if you don’t want to worry about taking your bicycles away on holiday, you can pick out your ideal ride in Padstow and then you can travel as far as you choose along one of the most popular cycle routes in Europe.

2.       The New Forest, Hampshire

Cycling and forests go hand in hand and the sights and sounds of one of Britain’s most famous forests provides the backdrop to some fantastic cycle trails for all of the family. Explore over a 100 miles of forest trails away from the Hampshire roads, starting as short as 3 miles and going up to 21 miles there is plenty of choice to match everyone’s ability. Children will be delighted by the local wildlife, look out for ponies, deer and the unforgettable bright flash of a kingfisher!  Following the gently sloping routes through woodland and surrounding moorland, you will find a landscape is full colour throughout the year. Whether your visit coincides with the bluebells in spring or the golden tones of autumn, cycling is the best way to get to know and fall in love with the New Forest.

3.       The Strawberry Line, Somerset

This traffic free route from Yatton through to the Somerset village of Cheddar, takes its name from the cargo that was carried along this former railway line, taking fruit from the heart of Somerset to the city of Bristol. Today you will still pass the fruit in the fields but at a much more leisurely pace, passing secluded wooded valleys through tunnels and into the Mendips!  This ten mile route is idea for families and you be rewarded at journeys end by the awe inspiring Cheddar Gorge.  One of the most spectacular natural wonders in England, this is the most popular tourist attraction in Somerset.  This limestone gorge is also home to a fascinating network of caves and underground rivers, complete with stalactites and stalagmites!  A visit to Cheddar Gorge is a day out in itself

4.       Dolgellau to Barmouth, North Wales

Otherwise known as the Mawddach Trail, the ten mile riverside route from the delightful  Dolgellau to Barmouth lies at the foothills of the western flank of Snowdonia. The route itself is not encumbered by any steep inclines, but enjoys one for the most spectacular settings for any cycle pathway in the country.  Like so many of our treasured traffic free routes, this trail follows the line of a former railway on its journey beside the river Mawddach towards the estuary beyond. The views are truly breath taking; with mountains on one side and on the other side sea, it is easy to understand why this route is so highly regarded by cyclists and walkers alike. With such close proximity to the estuary remember to take your binoculars to view the multiplicity of wading birds that make this beautiful spot their temporary home, and who could blame them!

5.       Tissington Trail, Derbyshire

Open for the past 43 years, the Tissington Trail is a 13 mile route that links Ashbourne  with Parsley Hay in the Peak District National Park. It has quickly established itself as one of the premier cycle paths in the country, enjoying special views across the haunting Derbyshire landscape. Like many on our ‘favourites list’ the Tissington Trail is ideal because by in large there are no steep hills to worry about. Renowned for its moorland, the Peak District makes a lasting impression and the Tissington Trail offers visitors great views of the rolling hills and dales that draw people back year after year. To enjoy the trail at its best, perhaps plan a visit during the summer months when the hillsides are at their greenest and the butterflies provide the company along a bridleway that is suitable for cyclists of all ages.

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Uncovering the UK and Ireland’s best historical attractions

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Edinburgh Castle: Scotland’s top paid tourist attraction

The UK and Ireland are home to a huge range of historical attractions, from castles and cathedrals to relics and Roman ruins. Every year, both British and overseas visitors book their breaks with these attractions in mind – and so here’s a round up of our top historical attractions in the UK and Ireland.

The Tower of London is undoubtedly one of England’s top historical attractions, its gruesome history a reminder of what life used to be like. The Tower previously served as a treasury, an armoury, a public records office, the Royal Mint HQ, the home of the Crown Jewels and a prison: it is a building that is steeped in history. Modern day tours take visitors on a journey through time, exposing the tower’s bloody history, viewing the Crown Jewels and telling the story of the Tower through the eyes of a Beefeater. Children will also enjoy trying on armour.

Moving further north, head to Edinburgh to visit the city’s stunning castle, an iconic building that sits on top of a volcano that is now extinct. St Margaret’s Chapel is the only remaining part of the original castle, built around 1130, with the remaining castle having been rebuilt in the 14th and in the 16th centuries. A former ancient stronghold, home of Scottish monarchs and army headquarters, Edinburgh Castle is the top paid tourist attraction in Scotland.

For a break in the South West, a trip to the Roman city of Bath is a must. The city was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1987, and visitors can experience a tour through most stages of British history in just one city. Must-visits are the stunning Bath Abbey – still used as a place of worship – and a tour of the Roman Baths, including the Roman Temple, the Sacred Spring, the Museum and the Roman Bath House.

Not too far from Bath is the historic site of Stonehenge in Wiltshire: probably one of the most famous historic sites in the world. The majestic ring of stones is thought to have been erected between 3000 and 2000BC, and considering the size of the individual stones, the method of construction is a mystery. It is uncertain as to why the monument was built – possibly as a place of healing, a religious site or as an observatory. What we do know is that a great deal of restoration work has been carried out on the stones and a fascinating visitor centre built, with an incredible number of people visiting the site each year to see the stones and learn about the history of the site in the visitor centre.

Always a popular tourist destination, Highclere Castle has become even better known in recent years as the home of popular television series Downton Abbey. The Jacobethan country house is located in Hampshire, and has extensive grounds that were the work of Capability Brown. Until recently, only the ground floor and first floor were usable, with a vast amount of repairs needed. However, with a fresh influx of visitors as a result of the Downton Abbey series, major repairs to both the interior and the Castle’s turrets are now in progress. The Castle is open to visitors during the summer, but remains the home of the Earl and Lady Carnarvon during the winter months.

No mention of British literature is complete without referring to William Shakespeare, and his birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon continues to be one of the UK’s top historical attractions. The house, situated on Henley Street, is a beautiful half-timbered building where the author and playwright is believed to have been born back in 1564. A relatively simple house, it has been lovingly restored, and now includes a visitors’ centre as well as actors in full historical dress re-enacting what life would have been like in Shakespeare’s time.

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Get the gift of the gab at Blarney Castle

If planning a trip to Ireland, be sure to take in Blarney Castle, a medieval stronghold located in Blarney, near Cork. Originally built before 1200AD, the castle was rebuilt in the 1400s by Cormac McCarthy. Although partially ruined, some rooms and the battlements are still accessible to visitors, along with its gardens with stunning rock formations and further attractions. The main reason that visitors flock to Blarney, however, is to kiss the Blarney Stone: a block of bluestone that is built into the castle’s battlements. Whoever kisses the stone is, according to legend, supposed to be blessed with the gift of the gab…

The number of historical sites in the UK and Ireland is enormous, with plenty for visitors to explore. Take a look at the cottages4you website for a range of stunning historical hideaways in the UK and Ireland.