Cycling nirvana
© Getty / Michael Carver

8 of the most beautiful cycling routes in the UK

Looking for a change of scenery on your weekend ride? Then one of these eight awe-inspiring routes could be just the answer this year…
Written by Adam Yare
6 min readUpdated on
Whether you've just got yourself a new bike or are a hardened cyclist, the thrill of discovering the world on two wheels is tough to beat. But, as fun as it is, it's all too easy to fall into the trap of finding a few local routes and sticking to them religiously.
If the thought of dragging your bike out for a loop of the same old circuit is getting you down, then worry no more. From Land’s End to John O’Groats, here are some of the most beautiful and challenging rides that the UK's shores have to offer.

1. The Lakeland Loop, Lake District

Hardknott Pass, Lake District, Cumbria cycling

The view from Hardknott Pass makes the effort to get there worth it

© Chris Fifield-Smith / Flickr

Start point: Broughton-in-Furness

End point: Broughton-in-Furness

Distance: 65km

Elevation gain: 1,393m

If your legs can hack it, the Lakeland Loop will take some beating in the beauty stakes. Once voted Britain’s best bike ride, this tough 65km circuit shows off the lakes at their very best.
With the opening kilometres hugging the shoreline of Lake Coniston, it’s clear why cyclists hold the loop in such high regard. Offering spectacular views of the region’s rugged landscape, the undulating and technical terrain negotiates one of England’s toughest climbs.
Believe the hype – the mere words 'Wrynose Pass' will induce many a cyclist into a cold sweat. Hitting gradients reaching 30%, don’t be ashamed to drop to a granny gear if you want to reach the summit.

2. Box Hill Olympic Circuit, Surrey

Prudential Ride London 2019 Box Hill

Box Hill now forms part of the iconic Ride London route

© Prudential RideLondon

Start point: Box Hill

End point: Box Hill

Distance: 16.8km

Elevation gain: 266m

Follow in the pedals of the pro peloton as you speed through some of south east England’s most accessible and beautiful scenery. A highlight of the 2012 games, the Surrey Hills have risen to become one of the UK’s must-ride locations.
On 16.8km of meandering rural roads, this short loop is a great introduction to both the area and the now-iconic Box Hill. With views overlooking the River Mole from the top, the twisting 2.5km ascent is a rewarding test of stamina suitable for both beginners and seasoned riders alike.

3. The Camel Trail, Cornwall

The Camel Trail cycle route, Cornwall

This traffic-free route is ideal for beginners

© Graham Bland / Flickr

Start point: Padstow

End point: Bodmin

Distance: 19.1km

Elevation gain: 68m

Perfect for a day of carefree cycling, a family ride or an easy Sunday saunter, the Camel Trail has something for everyone.
Running the length of a disused railway line – the largely traffic-free route spans 19km of beautiful Cornish countryside.
Start your ride in Padstow with a trip to one of Rick Stein’s many eateries, before following the well-surfaced estuary path to Wadebridge. If your legs are tired, you can call it a day here or carry on towards Bodmin, passing through idyllic woodland and some of the south west’s most breathtaking landscapes as you go.

4. The Settle Circular, Yorkshire

Penyghent, yorkshire dales cycle

Drink in the views across the Dales as you battle the undulating roads

© Peer Lawther / Flickr

Start point: Settle

End point: Settle

Distance: 64.2km

Elevation gain: 1,142m

The secret is well and truly out: Yorkshire is one of the world's best locations when it comes to cycling. Since the Tour de France flew through the region for three days in 2014, God's Own Country has quickly ascended to the top of many a cycling enthusiast’s bucket list.
With an abundance of choice across the county, this leg-aching 64km loop from Settle is Yorkshire at its most beautiful and challenging. As you pass through the picturesque villages of Arncliffe, Kilnsey and Grassington, prepare for short, sharp climbs, fast-rolling descents and stunning views of Pen-y-Ghent and Pendle Hill.

5. Assynt Achiltibuie Circuit, Scotland

The ruined Ardvreck Castle reflected on the waters of Loch Assynt, Sutherland Shire, in the Scottish Highland

Ardvrek Castle is just one of many magical landmarks to spot on this ride

© Gordie Broon Photography

Start point: Achiltibuie

End point: Achiltibuie

Distance: 121.8km

Elevation gain: 2,079m

While Yorkshire is currently gaining all the plaudits on the professional circuit, if you want something a little quieter, it’s time to start looking even further north. Rapidly rising in popularity, Scotland’s quiet and untapped highland roads are unparalleled when it comes to natural beauty.
Beginning in the small village of Achiltibuie, prepare for a full day’s riding across an awe-inspiring backdrop of imposing mountains (Suilven, Cùl Mòr and Stac Pollaidh), surging coastal roads and landmarks such as Loch Assynt and the ruins of Ardvreck Castle.

6. Elan Valley, Wales

Caban Coch Dam, Elan Valley

The Caban Coch Dam is one of the highlights of this off-road route

© Ed Jeavons / Flickr

Start point: Rhayader

End point: Rhayader

Distance: 26.9km

Elevation gain: 239m

This hidden gem will take you far off the beaten track. Following the old Birmingham Corporation Railway line, the Elan Valley is an all-ability bike centre that's one of the best mountain biking spots in Wales.
Starting at Cwmdauddwr, the linear trail winds through the valley, taking you over Rhayader Tunnel, a Wildlife Trust Reserve and home to a number of bat species. Continuing through woods and countryside, the track then climbs past Garreg Ddu Reservoir – a great place for a photo of the surrounding valleys – before finishing at Craig Goch Dam.
If you're looking for a bit more action, riders can also choose from one of the seven mountain bike routes, including the easy 9km Ant Hills or somewhat harder 60km Elan Epic.

7. Richmond Park, London

Deer in Richmond Park, London

Will you be lucky enough to spot the park's iconic deer?

© Conrad Olson / Flickr

Start point: Roehampton Gate

End point: Roehampton Gate

Distance: 10.8km

Elevation gain: 108m

A cycling oasis amongst England's capital, there's no denying that Richmond Park is one of London's most popular cycle spots. Covering 2,500 acres, don't be fooled into thinking that the royal park's short 10.8km loop has nothing to offer.
Ideal for novices and club riders, the key to Richmond Park is laps. Choosing the clockwise or anti-clockwise circuit, get ready to face the challenging climbs of either Broomfield Hill (clockwise) or the longer and steadier Dark Hill (anti-clockwise).
Whether it's an easy one-lap ride around the tranquil surroundings or a multi-lap training session, be sure to stop for a moment and admire the distant views of St Paul's Cathedral – and if you're lucky, you might even glimpse a sight of the park's famous deer.

8. Applecross via Bealach na Bà, Scotland

Bealach na Bà Scotland

The Applecross Pass is the steepest ascent of any road in the UK

© Simon Varwell / Flickr

Start point: Applecross

End point: Applecross

Distance: 68.5km

Elevation gain: 1,538m

And so we save the best for last. Nobody ever said that discovering the UK’s most beautiful cycle spot was going to be easy, and this 70km ride from the village of Applecross goes to prove it.
Voted as one of the world’s best roads, the circuit follows part of the North Coast 500. Dubbed Scotland’s answer to Route 66, the Applecross Loop has it all in abundance: coastal roads, highland landscapes and minimal traffic. But, perhaps the biggest draw of the course is the climb of Bealach na Bà.
At just over 9km, Bealach na Bà (it means Pass of the Cattle), rises from sea level to a height of 626m. Often compared to the great alpine mountain passes of the Tour De France and Giro d’Italia, those who dare to take it on will be rewarded with tight switchbacks, 20% gradients and outstanding views of the Isle of Skye.

Looking for more route inspiration?