Saturday , May 28 2022

‘Traffic-free lanes and beautiful views’: readers’ favourite UK family cycle routes

Winning tip: Terrific terrain, Yorkshire Dales

In Swaledale, between Keld and Reeth, the Swale Trail is a stunning 12-mile cycle track that snakesalong the crystalline River Swale in the Yorkshire Dales. The terrain is manageable for rookie cyclists (that would be me rather than my husband and teenage kids) and there are plenty of stops along the way to have a cold drink and give the pedals a rest. The national park has upgraded the established routes, improving the surface for a less bumpy ride and there are reassuring Swale Trail signposts along the way. About three-quarters of the route is on unsurfaced tracks, the rest on nearly traffic-free lanes. Dales Bike Centre near Reeth is a good place to hire bikes, as is Stage 1 Cycles at Hawes.
Katya Kitchingman

Nutbrook cycle limits, Derbyshire

The Erewash Canal, Long Eaton.
The Erewash Canal, Long Eaton. Photograph: Colin Underhill/Alamy

Easy to reach from Derby and Nottingham, the Nutbrook Cycle Trail, between Long Eaton and Heanor, offers easy miles of car-free cycling along canal towpaths and a former railway. We did it recently as a family, including grandchildren, so our age range was seven to 70! There are very few gradients. There are interesting places along the way, including Shipley Lake, the Pewit Carr nature reserve with its wetlands, Dockholme Lock and Fox Covert nature reserve (consideredpart of the ancient Sherwood Forest), so there’s a variety of great stopping points. It’s an easy 10-mile trip and the Nutbrook cafe has lovely ice-creams and milkshakes if some need an extra incentive to pedal on.

Wheels across the Weald, East Sussex

Cyclists on the Cuckoo Trail, Hailsham,
Cyclists on the Cuckoo Trail near Hailsham. Photograph: Susie Kearley/Alamy

My kids and their friends became confident cyclists by riding the traffic-tree Cuckoo Trail in East Sussex, part of national cycle route 21. They hardly noticed the gentle gradients of the picturesque 14-mile route, which follows a disused railway through woodland and open countryside. Connecting three towns – Heathfield, Hailsham and Polegate – the trail can be accessed at various points that offer free parking and links to public transport. There are plenty of resting places for tired legs and a choice of refreshment stops just off route, including the Cuckoo Shack cafe (which has a playground). At the moment, much of the route is awash with bluebells, wood anemones and wild garlic.
Alison Field

Follow the Lune, Lancashire

The Lune route taken by our tipster ends up on Morecambe’s promenade.
The Lune route taken by our reader ends up on Morecambe’s promenade. Photograph: MediaWorldImages/Alamy

There is a good off-road route between Lancaster and Morecambe that my sons (aged 13 and nine) and I have enjoyed. Parking can be found upriver of Lancaster at Crook O’ Lune and from there, the trail runsfor about eight miles along the River Lune downstream into Lancaster, over the Millennium Bridge and out to Morecambe and the sea. Morecambe has a wide promenade with enough room for pedestrians, scooters, roller skaters and skateboarders as well as cyclists to enjoy views across the bay to the Lake District fells. We extended our trip to Heysham for refreshments.
Philip Mackintosh

Sea views from the Cinder Path, North Yorkshire

A view of Robin Hood’s Bay from the Cinder Path.
A view of Robin Hood’s Bay from the Cinder Path. Photograph: Milesy/Alamy

Our favourite family cycle route is the 21-mile Cinder Path from Whitby to Scarborough. This former railway line is practically traffic-free, with beautiful sea views. Hayburn Wyke beach and waterfall meet the path, making a perfect picnic spot, and the route passes a seal colony at Ravenscar. There are plenty of pitstops along the way before ice-cream at the beach to finish. From Scarborough, the Cinder Path starts next to the Sainsbury’s car park. If starting at Whitby, you’ll find it off a road called Southend Gardens near Pannett Park.

Pedal pasta castle, Weymouth, Dorset

Sandsfoot Castle, Weymouth.
Sandsfoot Castle, Weymouth. Photograph: Dan Tucker/Alamy

One of my favourite family-friendly cycles goes from Weymouth to Portland. It takes about 40 minutes to get there, and less on the way back, with highly appreciated downhills that bring in that crisp seaside smell. We start at Weymouth station, usually taking our bikes there on the train, and we finish, six miles later, at the Cove House Inn, Portland, with lovely seafood pasta and breathtaking views of Chesil Beach. The entire length is paved and well-signalled, and it passes through the Rodwell Trail (alongside a former railway line, and deep into woodland shade) and by Sandsfoot Castle, constructed by Henry VIII. It is an easy route that asks you to stop and take in the scenery.

Cycle the solar system, York

Passing Saturn, on the way to Jupiter.
Passing Saturn, on the way to Jupiter, North Yorkshire. Photograph: Martin Bond/Alamy

York’s solar cycle ride is great for families of all levels. My husband (40) learned to ride a bike during lockdown and this was his first big cycle. Models of the planets are staggered along the route with the distances between them to scale. There are some slight inclines but the 6½-mile trail, which follows the old east coast railway, is accessible for children and adults alike, with the planets providing an incentive to keep riding. There are plenty of points of interest, such as Brunswick organic nursery and Naburn steam swing bridge, and much of the trail passes through a nature reserve. It’s possible to start from York, where Get Cycling and Cycling Heaven hire out bikes. Some work is going on to improve the trail surfaces but we will be going back to complete the full cycle.
Kayleigh McLocklan


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Guardian Travel readers’ tips

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Wolds of wonder, East Yorkshire

A disused signal box on the Hudson Way.
A disused signal box on the Hudson Way. Photograph: steven gillis hd9/Alamy

For an easy ride through beautiful rolling countryside, it’s hard to beat the Hudson Way in East Yorkshire. The trail follows the old railway line between the historic market towns of Beverley and Market Weighton. Popular with walkers, horse riders and cyclists, it runs for about 10 miles. Along the route, you’ll pass disused stations, now transformed into characterful homes, and vantage points where you can drink in the gentle scenery of the Yorkshire Wolds. The best family rides have a great destination. Beverley has its amazing medieval Minster (one of the largest parish churches in the UK), its lovely shops and places to eat.
Paul Hartley

Giraffes and seaside, Kent

From National Cycle Route 2, animals from the African savanna can be spotted – and they can spot passing cyclists too. Photograph: Anthony Shew/Alamy

It’s not every bike ride that offers giraffe and rhino sightings as well as the more traditional draws of a country pub and an ice-cream on the beach. From Hythe in Kent, National Cycle Route 2 runs along the towpath between the Royal Military Canal and Port Lympne wildlife park, where only a fence separates you from a little piece of the African savanna. The route then takes quiet lanes heading south through Romney Marsh to St Mary in the Marsh, where the 15th-century Star Inn makes a perfect pitstop. From there, we like to head to the seaside at St Mary’s Bay and later cycle along the sea wall path back to Hythe, stopping on the way for an ice-cream on the beach.
Brian Jackson

Mineral Tramways, Cornwall

Family cycling on the Portreath and Devoran Mineral Tramway.
Family cycling on the Portreath and Devoran Mineral Tramway. Photograph: AA World Travel Library/Alamy

You can cycle from one side of Cornwall to the other in a little more than an hour or so on Cornwall’s Mineral Tramways Coast to Coast bike trail. It’s a flat 11-mile journey along a tramway that used to allow goods to be transported from the mines to the sea. You can see the old mines along the way too, and pump and engine rooms add to the interest. Portreath on the north coast is the starting point, where you can also pick up a picnic at the HUB Cycling cafe to enjoy along the way. Bike hire, advice and repair kits are also available. Cycle south-east on the trail to the finish at the picturesque harbour village of Devoran.

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