If you wander off the beaten track in Britain you’ll find some great cycling routes that give you incredible views of the beautiful landscape. Touring an area by bike also allows you to stop and look at the things you would often miss in a car and you burn off some of those extra calories from the delicious cakes you may ‘accidentally’ sample in the cafes and bakeries en-route.
For some leisurely family cycling, try the Eden Valley, tucked between the Lake District and the hills of the Northern Pennines. The valley is fairly quiet but easily accessed from the Lakes. Stop at the Village Bakery at Melmerby (www.village-bakery.com) for some special organic home baked goodies. You’ll then be ready to tackle Hartside Pass – it’s the nearest thing you’ll find to an alpine pass in this country. At 5 miles uphill, it’s a challenge but the view over the Lake District at the top is well worth it – and there’s a café at the top too. The road can be busy in summer, so take care on this one.
The Tarka Trail is one of the best ways to explore the delightful Devonshire countryside. With over 30 miles of disused railway track running alongside the banks of the River Taw, the path makes for a tranquil and relatively undemanding exploration of the region. Of cultural interest, the area provided the inspiration for Henry Williamson’s classic novel: ‘Tarka the Otter’. Find more info on the Devon County Council website: http://www.devon.gov.uk/tarkatrail
The Camel Trail in Cornwall is an easy 17 mile off road family friendly route from Padstow to Pooley’s Bridge. It takes in some of the most beautifully diverse scenery that Cornwall has to offer plus there are a range of different routes that allow for all abilities. While in Cornwall you might want to bring your cycle and get discounted access to the fantastic Eden Project. Just another incentive to keep you out of the car! Find more info about the Camel Trail at: http://www.thisisnorthcornwall.co.uk/camel_trail.htm
The Edinburgh to Falkirk Wheel takes in a stretch of the Union Canal, built in 1817 by construction workers, including the notorious Burke and Hare, whose dastardly deeds are soon to be retold on the big screen. This gentle route follows a towpath but is quite narrow in places so it is perhaps best to attempt it at quieter times during the day. Most riders should find the trail fairly easy and the pace is most definitely yours to set. To follow this route you will need to display a British waterways cycling permit, download for free here: http://www.waterscape.com/things-to-do/cycling/permit. You can find more info on the route here: http://cycling.visitscotland.com/find_route/edinburgh/edinburgh_falkirk_wheel
The Tissington Trail runs along a 13 mile route from Ashbourne to Parsley Hay in the Peak District. As with the Tarka Trail (not to mention some of the UK’s finest routes) it has been repurposed from its former use as a railway line. And as it’s a fairly flat route you’ll get plenty of chance to admire some of the glorious countryside around Buxton. You might even encounter some of the local wildlife in their natural environment. Find more info here: http://www.derbyshire-peakdistrict.co.uk/tissingtontrail.htm
Dumfries and Galloway provide plenty of off-road opportunities to test your mountain biking abilities. The 7 stanes trails have different options for all levels of experience but have one thing in common: beautiful scenery and a fantastic opportunity to get out and explore the wilds of Scotland. View more information at http://www.7stanes.gov.uk/.
There are far too many family cycle trails to list but check the national cycle network website before you leave for your holiday – http://www.sustrans.org.uk/what-we-do/national-cycle-network and find the bike routes in the area.