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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
7. Richmond Park, London
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
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.