Introduction: Breathtaking Cycle Routes to Christmas Markets
What could be more festive than a Christmas Market? Twinkling lights, the aroma of mulled spices wafting through the cold air and the chance to get some cool and unusual presents for loved ones. But Christmas shopping can mean time away from the bike, and it seems a shame to waste even a minute of riding time, particularly if you are trying to get those base miles in for the year ahead or want to spend some quality time riding with your family.
Happily, there are plenty of Christmas Markets in spots that are ideal for cycling, whether you fancy hitting the mountain bike trails, heading off on a winter road ride or a relaxing winter ride with your kids. Dare we say it, a pre-market bike ride is also the perfect way to work up an appetite for a mince pie or bratwurst or two!
Bath Christmas Market
One of the most beautiful Christmas Markets in the UK, at the Bath Christmas Market you can wander around over 180 traditional wood cabins festooned in fairy lights, lining the streets around the iconic Bath Abbey. There are plenty of traditional crafts, decorations, plus local produce and drinks to choose from.
It’s the perfect way to finish a day that starts with a ride along the 13 mile circular Bath Two Tunnels loop. Taking you via quiet and off-road Sustrans paths, along the Kennet and Avon Canal, you’ll pass through some stunning wintry countryside, and also through the Two Tunnels themselves, a lit cycleway through former train tunnels, along National Cycle Network routes 24 and 4.
Date: 27th November - 14th December
Location: Bath Abbey
More info: Bath Christmas Market
Cycle Route: Sustrans Bath Two Tunnels Loop
Glasgow Christmas Market
Inspired by the 2014 Commonwealth Games? Ride in the tyre prints of champions on the Cathkin Braes mountain bike trails! With 5.5km of graded trails there’s a route for every level of budding MTB athlete. Or if skinny tyres are more your thing, enjoy a bracing ride along the Clyde and Loch Lomond Cycle Way, which takes you from the centre of Glasgow to Balloch on a mostly traffic free route - but you might need to dress warm and pop on the ice tyres if it’s snowy!
After all that exertion, head into Glasgow for a bright and sparkly Christmas Market with presents galore, and plenty of food and drink to fuel the hungry cyclist. There’s also an amazing Ice Rink with Christmas Workshops running for families, so there’s no reason for anyone to get bored this winter.
Date: 16th November to 23rd December
Location: St Enoch Square, Glasgow
More info: Glasgow Loves Christmas
Ice Rink: 27th November - 31st December, Glasgow On Ice Christmas Ice Rink
London Southbank Winter Festival and Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
The UK’s capital city can be a very pretty place to visit in the winter, but shopping in the main areas can be more like hell than heaven. Happily, it’s easy to avoid the usual shopping traps, and get all your present purchases done while enjoying the twinkling lights and culinary delights Christmas has to offer. Hop on a Boris Bike, which is only £3 for the day for journeys under 30 minutes.
Spin your way along the riverside to the Southbank Winter Festival and you are guaranteed to find some quirky and cool gifts. It’s perfect for a romantic winter wander, and you can finish the day up with a cocktail and seat at La Soiree, a cabaret and burlesque show.
Alternatively, spin your way along the river, up past the Houses of Parliament and on to Hyde Park for the Winter Wonderland. This is much more than just a Christmas Market, with fairground rides, an ice rink, and Santa Land to visit. Pace yourself or make a weekend out of it, as there’s a lot to see!
Dates: Southbank Winter Festival 5th November - 11th January, Winter Wonderland 21st November - 4th January
Location: Southbank and Hyde Park, London.
Cycle Route: Barclays Cycle Hire,
Ulverston Dickensian Christmas Market
If you fancy something a bit unusual, grab your Victorian Garb and head to the Lake District for the Ulverston Dickensian Festival. For one weekend at the end of November, you can wander the streets admiring the costumes, joining in the festivities, riding the Helter Skelter and riding on a horse drawn carriage. There’s a Christmas Market packed full of goodies, so you can get your shopping done too.
And of course, the Lake District is well known for it’s stunning road rides and epic mountain bike rides. Wrap up warm, head out early, and you could be greeted with stunning snow-capped mountains as you pedal along through the bracing fresh air. If you don’t fancy venturing forth up mountains, Grizedale Forest trail centre has plenty of graded routes through the woods which will provide plenty of shelter from the elements.
Dates: 29th - 30th November
Location: Ulverston, southern Lake District
More info: Ulverston Dickensian Festival
Cycle routes: Grizedale Forest
Bristol German Christmas Market and At-Bristol Ice Rink
Enjoy some bratwurst and beer as you shop for jewellery, crafts, and local ales in the Bristol German Market, in the Broadmead shopping area. If you fancy a little festive exercise you can then pop over the harbourside for a spin around the At-Bristol Ice Rink, or head up over the Clifton Suspension Bridge for a mountain bike ride round the purpose built trails at Ashton Court. If you don’t fancy bringing your bikes down, you can rent them on site, and the easy blue trail is perfect for families. From the top of the hill, you can enjoy stunning views over the city, before heading back down for a mulled wine or two.
If you are feeling super enthusiastic, you can do two markets in one weekend! Enjoy Bristol, then take the Bristol to Bath Sustrans Route and visit the market there too.
Date: 7th November - 22nd December
Location: Broadmead and Bristol Harbourside, Bristol
More info: Bristol German Christmas Market
Ice Rink: 8th November to 6th January, At-Bristol Ice Rink
Padstow Christmas Festival
This is THE festival for the foodies out there! Four days of food heaven awaits you in Cornwall, in what has become one of the UK’s biggest food festivals, and best of all it’s free. We like that a lot. If you are looking for some inspiration, then get yourself along to one of the many culinary demonstrations from over 40 renowned chefs, including Rick Stein himself.
Get your Christmas food shopping done in comfort with the Christmas Festival housed in a marquee, which means no worries about wintry weather. There’ll be everything from Christmas puds to local ales on sale, and of course plenty to sample too.
Of course, you’ll want to work up an appetite for the festival, and what better way than to cycle there! We recommend getting yourself to nearby Wadebridge, then cycling along the Camel Trail which takes you direct to Padstow along a beautiful off-road route. Following an old railway line, you’ll ride along the Camel Estuary, in all its wintry glory.
Cycle hire is available in both Wadebridge and Padstow, and it’s perfect for families. More of a mountain biker? Cardinham Woods is a new trail centre near Bodmin, with blue and red routes, and plenty of non-cycling things to do too.
Dates: 4th - 7th December
Location: Padstow, Cornwall
More info: Padstow Christmas Festival