The UK has some beautiful countryside, heritage sites and landscapes to explore, and what better way to do this than on your bike.

You don't need to bust the bank for a weekend away. A cycling weekend is a perfect getaway to explore new places, get fit and save pennies.

Cycle Touring Essentials

We've researched some beautiful routes around the UK which we think should make it onto your cycling to-do list this year. All these routes are largely traffic free, so there's no need to panic about those busy, sometimes intimidating, roads.

All you'll need is a bike, and with these routes, any outdoor and road worthy bike will do. You'll also need a helmet, a sense of adventure... and some waterproofs (there's not much we can do about the unpredictable British weather).

Introduction to Cycle Touring

Newry Collage

The Newry Canal Towpath is a linear 20-mile ride starting in Portadown and finishing in Newry. This route takes you mainly via towpaths, along the canal front with a few quiet minor roads.

This beautiful canal was first opened in 1742 to transport coal, but after 200 years of service, and the growing rail network, the canal is now no longer in use.

Along the route, you'll come across cultural pieces of art commissioned by Sustrans, along with historical and informative signposts about the history of the local area.

Passing through Portadown and onto Scarva, you'll be close enough to take a short detour to the Terryhoogan Aqueduct. From here you'll ride past Lough Shark, known for its excellent fishing... no sharks though.

Lastly, you'll arrive in the beautiful town of Newry where their stunning town hall is something not to be missed.

At both ends of the route, there are easily accessible train stations, allowing you to cycle one way, and train back if you don't have the time or energy to do the round trip.

China Trail Collage

If you don't have all the time in the world, then the lovely China Trail is a great circular 9-mile route, starting and finishing in Stoke City centre.

Despite being a city route, it's mostly traffic free, but it's packed with great stopping points and places you'll need to visit along the way, such as pottery factories, museums and British Heritage sites.

Starting off in Hanley Park, you join cycling Route 5 which offers a mixture of road and off-road cycling. Passing by the Middleport Pottery factory, and local art galleries, there's plenty of stunning forest areas to stop for a rest and a spot of lunch.

Drakes Trail

The Drakes Trail begins in Plymouth and finishes 21 miles up the road in Tavistock. This trail is a section of the mammoth 99-mile Coast-to-Coast route: Devon to Ilfracombe.

Drake's Trail is named after Sir Francis Drake who was born in Tavistock. This trail boasts a beautiful scenic journey through Plymbridge Woods, along viaducts and next to stunning hillside views.

The route is more suited to those riders with more than a beginner skill level, as there's a steady climb for a majority of the route with the gradual descent in the final 5 miles. After a long day of riding, it's common for riders to spend the night in Tavistock before the return journey the next day.

The route mostly comprises of tarmac terrain, with some short gravel areas and short road sections.

Once you've completed this 21 miles section, how about tackling the 99-mile Coast-to-Coast beast?

Lochwinnoch

Setting off from Paisley Canal train station, this beautiful scenic route will take you along 14 miles of cycle paths to the lovely setting of Glengarnock.

The trail makes use of the old railway lines along the Barr Loch and canals in the picturesque Scottish countryside. With mostly tarmac terrain, you'll ride past Castle Semple Lock which is a perfect place to stop and do some bird-spotting, a popular hobby to see the wild native birds to the area. This site has been deemed of Special Scientific Interest, and there are lots of activities to do, and equipment to hire, for a true action packed adventure.

Along the 14 mile route are a number of easily accessible train stations should you choose to cut your trip short and head back at any time.

Aviemore to Carrbridge

Aviemore is a popular hot spot for a range of outdoor activities, such as skiing, hiking and biking, and it's the start location of this 11-mile route to Carrbridge train station, the final stop.

Cycle through the wonderful National Park with its beautiful natural setting, and wildlife. The route will take you along the old railway lines in the area and through some stunning landscapes.

It's mostly a traffic free route with some gradual climbs on a tarmac road, but you'll be hopping in and out of some residential areas along the way. Nothing too busy though.

cynon trail

A twisting and winding 9-mile trail takes you along the old Glamorganshire canal. Starting off in Abercynon and ending in Hirwaun over a mixed terrain of tarmac and gravel.

The route will take you through Cwmbach, and then to the former mining town of Aberdare with its 500 acres of beautiful countryside at Dare Valley Country Park. Stunning lakes make it an ideal place for water activities if you need a little cooling off.

This trail is linked to the Cynon River Park where sections are currently under development, however, the Abercynon also connects with the famous 55 mile Taff Trail... If you're feeling really adventurous.

Bristol to Bath

This is a super popular cycle path between 2 stunning and cultural English cities. The Bristol - Bath path is a 13 mile stretch of old railway lines providing smooth tarmac and traffic free cycling the whole way.

There's plenty to see on this route, even a drink guzzling giant, and old steam trains. It's historical and artistic, and certainly not a boring ride to rack up the miles on.

Because the route ends in the heart of Bristol or Bath, there's plenty to keep yourself occupied with for the rest of the day. If you're feeling a little tuckered out from a day of cycling, simply hop on the train to head back, or spend the night and make the return journey the next day.

The Green Lady Trail

This beautiful welsh trail is perfect for beginner cyclists as it uses many cycle paths, with very little road sections. Starting in Nantgarw, and cycling 7.5 miles in a liner route takes you through some amazing local sites.

This section of the great Celtic Trail transports you past the stunning Caerphilly Castle, the second largest castle in Europe. Mainly keeping to cycle route 4, this will take you through some residential areas before leading you onto the Machen cycle path. Along some disused railway lines, keep an eye out for the vintage and quirky pub, the Forge and Hammer where you can stop for a rest, and a well deserved cuppa.

These are just a few of the beautiful and cultural cycle paths in the UK, guaranteed to take you to new places and explore areas of our preserved heritage.

If you're looking for more ideas and destinations, the National Cycling Network has plenty of routes to choose from, and you can even tailor your own to accommodate your time, skill and location.

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