20 Great British Road Rides

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20 Great British Road Rides

On a calm, sunny day there is no better way to discover all of the hidden gems and stunning scenery Britain has to offer than on the back of a bike. Experienced road rider, Clive Forth has put together a book detailing his 55 favourite road bike routes around the UK which can be bought here, and we have decided to give you a taster of 20 that we particularly like. Have a read to see if your all time favourite route made the cut.
Route descriptions have been taken from The Great British Road Rides Guide by Clive Forth.

1. The South West: Exeter, A Trip to the Sea

A short loop from Exeter along flowing sections of road will lead you out to the coast before heading back inland through picturesque villages and stunning countryside.

From the station head left on the main A337 then switch right. Climbing up on St David’s Hill, follow straight on through the city centre up Iron Bridge on to North Street, passing along South Street to the main intersection with Holloway Street and take the exit onto the A3015. Passing through the village of Topsham, you will cycle over a few ascents and descents en route to the village of Woodbury. From here, follow a fast, smooth road around Blackhill towards the seaside town of Budleigh Salterton.

Choose to take an additional short loop of the seafront to enjoy the pretty views before rejoining the B3178. Passing through East Budleigh keep the River Otter on your right and follow the narrow, country lanes from Stoneyford village to Clyst St Mary. Continue on towards Woodbury Salterton and navigate a small ford just outside the village of Clyst St George. Not far from here you will find yourself back on the BC179 that you used on your outbound route. Follow this road back to Exeter or swing left to complete another loop.

Start point: Exeter St Davids railway station
Grid reference: SX 91248 93310
Postcode: EX4 4NT
Total distance: 50km
Total elevation: 600m
Max elevation: 172km

To see a rough map of this route, click here.

2. The South Coast: Southampton, New Forest, Bolderwood Bowl

The New Forest is one of the largest remaining unenclosed pastures of heathland and forest within the south. This ride will pass through an arboretum with various species of deciduous and non-deciduous trees and takes you out into the heathlands between picturesque villages.

From the town of Totton on the out-skirts of Southampton pick up the A336 on the north side of the railway. Follow the A road in a westerly direction, passing over two roundabouts into the village of Netley marsh. From here head south through a patch of woodlands towards the edge of the New Forest National Park. Passing through Goldenhayes village, you will come to Bentley Manor before following the A337 down into the busy little town of Lyndhurst. Stop off here for a coffee or light lunch before following the one way system out of the town towards Brockenhurst.

Just before Brockenhurst, take the turning towards Beaulieu where you will have the chance to visit the National Motor Museum. Cycling across Beaulieu Heath you will arrive at Beaulieu Wildlife Park – another optional stop off point – before passing through the village of Ashurst and heading back along minor roads to Totton.

Start point: Southampton Totton railway station
Grid reference: SU 36332 13339
Postcode: SO40 3AB
Total distance: 48km
Total elevation: 272m
Max elevation: 57km

To see a rough map of this route, click here.

3. The South, Chiltern Hills: Chiltern Classics

The village of Tring is located on the main railway line between London Euston and Birmingham New Street. With fast trains running in and out of the city and good road links it’s an easy place to access for a fast blast. This ride will lead you out through the picturesque village of Aldbury up into the Ashridge Estate and across to Dunstable Downs via Whipsnade Zoo. You will then descend on to the edge of Aylesbury Vale, cutting through small villages and back towards Ivinghoe. Here you start to ascend Ivinghoe Beacon, a road frequently used in the Tour of Britain and local classics.

From Tring railway station head east into the village of Aldbury and climb up Toms Hill. Continue through the Ashbridge Estate to the village of Ringshall and head over open farmland until you arrive at the undulating road below Whipsnade Down. Follow this road past the zoo (stopping off for a few hours with the lions if you like) heading towards Bison Hill and the village of Kensworth. Passing by the Whipsnade Common, begin the climb to the top of Dunstable Downs. Here you will be afforded stunning views over Aylesbury Vale and out towards Ivinghoe Beacon.

A fast descent will bring you out just outside Dunstable. Cycle along Totternhoe Road until you arrive at the village of Totternhoe and continue on through the villages of Eaton Bray, Edlesborough, Billington, Slapton and into Ivinghoe.

Start point: Tring railway station
Grid reference: SP 95047 12251
Postcode: HP23 5QR
Total distance: 53.8km
Total elevation: 717m
Max elevation: 247km

To see a rough map of this route, click here.

4. The Midlands, Cotswolds: Shakespeare’s World

It’s often windy in this area so on the outbound sections this could make for hard work as there is little shelter but on the way back you will have some protection from the hedgerows.

The ride starts from Banbury railway station. Head north from the station with the railway line on your right and you will come to a roundabout. Turn left and left again to another roundabout where you should go right. This will put you on the A442 heading out of town towards the west.

Follow the signs out towards Warmington and on to Knowle End. From here you will drop down a fast descent towards the village of Kineton before arriving at Compton Verney House. This house has been converted into an art gallery surrounded by ornamental lakes and is a great place to stop off for a while. Once back on the saddle, continue on to Wellesbourne and Stratford-upon-Avon to visit the quaint town and Shakespeare’s house. At Long Marston Airfiedl turn left towards Lower Quinton and follow the blue Sustrans signs to Ilmington and Darlingscott. Continue pedalling until you arrive at Shipston-on-Stour from where you will have a steep climb up Faint Hill into Upper Brailes before joining the B4035 back to Banbury.

Start point: Banbury railway station
Grid reference: SP 46158 40426
Postcode: OX16 5AB
Total distance: 82km
Total elevation: 750m
Max elevation: 215km

To see a rough map of this route, click here.

5. The Welsh Borders: Church Stretton, The Sting

The first two loops of from Church Stretton railway station is a real epic. The ride starts by passing through Ape Dale and climbing over Wenlock Edge, the route then heads westwards through Craven Arms and out to the town of Clun. You will pass the ruins of Clun Castle and continue west, circumnavigating around Clun Forest. At the most westerly point of this route, you will cross the border into Wales and pick up some spectacular views of the Welsh mountains before entering a superb downhill.

The route then makes its return leg heading east, passing near the town of Montgomery before crossing the border to the town of Bishop’s Castle. The final sting in the tail is a quick up and over the Long Mynd, a spectacular range of hills with some stunning views and challenging asphalt.

Start point: Church Stretton railway station
Grid reference: SO 45529 93605
Postcode: SY6 6PG
Total distance: 104km
Total elevation: 1572m
Max elevation: 492km

To see a rough map of this route, click here.

6. Wales: Betws-y-Coed, The Snowdon Sneaky Lap

This spectacular loop takes you way out into the Snowdonia National Park and circumnavigates the Snowdon range. You’ll cross Pen-y-Pass before dropping through Llanberis Pass into the town of Llanberis. Here lies the remains of Dolbadarn Castle, and the town is also the starting point for the Snowdonia mountain railway. The route then heads up towards Caernarfon where the spectacular castle sits high above the bay.

The return leg brings you around the western side of Snowdon where, if you’re lucky, you may get to see one of the steam trains running on the narrow gauge Welsh Highland railway. You will then climb back towards Capel Curig before descending past Swallow Falls back into Betws-y-Coed.

Start point: Betws-y-Coed railway station
Grid reference: SH 79534 56521
Postcode: LL24 0AE
Total distance: 82km
Total elevation: 1377m
Max elevation: 383m

To see a rough map of this route, click here.

7. The North: Littondale Loop

Expect some stunning views on this loop as you cycle around several high peaks on quiet roads leading to Littondale, along the River Skirfare. There’s little shelter along this route so it is best avoided in poor weather.

From Settle railway station head out to the village of Langcliffe from where you will need to climb a steep lane and follow a narrow strip of asphalt across the hilltops.Continue climbing up to Dawson Close and then descend down to Halton Gill. You will then begin to head south east along Littondale, passing through Arndale towards Grassington and Cracoe. Keep going until you reach Hetton and Flashby and then head through Eshton and Arton villages until you’re pedalling across Scosthrop Moor. From here you can begin the fast downhill descent back towards Settle.

Start point: Settle railway station
Grid reference: SD 81654 63454
Postcode: BD24 9AA
Total distance: 64km
Total elevation: 1063m
Max elevation: 432m

To see a rough map of this route, click here.

8. The North West, Lake District: Windermere, The 30%

This classic Lakeland ride takes you up and over the iconic Hardknott and Wyncross passes so you should be prepared for some very steep climbs and gradients as well as stunning scenery.

Starting at Windermere, head north towards the pretty town of Ambleside before continuing west to Skelwith Bridge. From here follow the River Brathay up and around Park Fell as you head towards Coniston and on to Broughton. Continue towards Whistling Green and then climb up through Crosbythwaite to Birker Fell. Here you will be rewarded with a fast downhill stint towards Eskdale Green, shortly followed by a hard club up towards Hardknott Pass where you will have to navigate tough switchbacks and even steeper gradients.

The descent down to Wyncross Bottom is full of tight corners and once you make it to the bottom, get ready to climb back up and do it all over again as you cross Wyncross Pass. Its another rough descent and then you will be in the village of Little Langdale from where you can easily make your way back to Ambleside and Windermere.

Start point: Windermere railway station
Grid reference: SD 41426 98704
Postcode: LA23 1AH
Total distance: 84km
Total elevation: 1927m
Max elevation: 418m

To see a rough map of this route, click here.

9. The North, Pennines: Hartside Haul

Beginning in Hexham this is point-to-point ride ending in Penrith or Langwathaby. You have the choice of using the rail network to link back round from either finishing place via Carlisle or you could simply make the turn in Penrith and retrace the route back to Hexham.

From Hexham town centre head past Langley and down towards the River Allen. Use the narrow bridge to cross the river and then climb through the woodlands towards Whitfield Hall. Continue your gradual climb up around Whitfield Moor and then descend through the trees to the little town of Alston. From here your descent into Penrith begins. Taking in the spectacular views of the Lake District in the distance, choose to catch a train from Lanwathaby or continue along the A686 to Penrith town centre from where you can either refuel and head back, stay the night, or catch a train to Carlisle.

Start point: Hexham railway station
Grid reference: NY 94001 64274
Postcode: NE46 1ET
Total distance: 68km
Total elevation: 1146m
Max elevation: 574m

To see a rough map of this route, click here.

10. The Scottish Borders: Moffat Mission

The first of two loops to head out from Lockerbie heads northwards towards Moffat. You will then head off into the picturesque Moffat Dale, passing the large waterfall of Grey Mare’s Tail before climbing over a pass descending down to St Mary’s Loch. The road skirts around the edge of the picturesque loch before climbing up into Craik Forest and on through Eskdalemuir Forest. You will pass the Tibetan monastery at Sayme Ling before returning through Castle O’er Forest back to Lockerbie. There are some fabulous sections of road riding offering superb views.

Start point: Lockerbie railway station
Grid reference: NY 13625 81730
Postcode: DG11 2HA
Total distance: 115km
Total elevation: 1352m
Max elevation: 384m

To see a rough map of this route, click here.

11. Scotland, The Central Belt: Longniddry, Golfers Galore

Starting in the village of Longniddry near Edinburgh, ride along the coast following the southern banks of the Firth of Forth passing Gosforth Bay, Aberlady Bay and Gullane Bay as you head towards North Berwick. Just off the route at Dirleton lies the remains of the castle (pictured above), which is well worth a visit. From North Berwick you head south, passing North Berwick Law before following the railway line back to Longniddry.

The open sections of this loop are often used by local riders for a quick blast after work or at the weekends. The road is also a great way to access the Lammermuir Hills from where there are some stiff climbs and stunning views.

Start point: Longniddry railway
Grid reference: NT 44585 76262
Postcode: EH32 0LS
Total distance: 34km
Total elevation: 196m
Max elevation: 78m

To see a rough map of this route, click here.

12. Central Scotland: Dunblane, Dance of the Naughty Knight

This superb loop takes in the spectacular Duke’s Pass. You will also pass through Doune where you will find the castle that was featured in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Beyond Doune, head west plassing Flanders Moss on the undulating road to Aberfoyle. You will pass the Lake of Menteith to the south side of Menteith Hills to Aberfoyle. With its various cafes this small town is the start to a great climb up and over Duke’s Pass. This spectacular road makes its way through woodland across to the edge of the Trossachs National Park before heading east along the shores of Loch Venachar to the town of Callander. Then, pick up the back roads heading along next to the River Teith passing back through Doune on to Dunblane.

Start point: Dunblane railway station
Grid reference: NN 78018 00967
Postcode: FK15 9ET
Total distance: 72km
Total elevation: 895m
Max elevation: 260m

To see a rough map of this route, click here.

13. Scotland, Highlands: Inverness, In Search of the Monster

This route takes you out of the Highland city up past Leys Castle and across Drumossie Muir picking up quiet back roads past Loch Mhor around Farigaig Forest. The route then descends next to the River Foyers past the Falls of Foyers and down to the shores of the famous Loch Ness. Then follow the shoreline of the loch right the way back into Inverness.

There are spectacular views across the loch with ample opportunity to stop and savour them. The road back to Inverness lies in the shade for the first half of the day and temperatures can be quite cool down by the water’s edge, particularly during winter months. When you arrive back in Inverness simply retrace your steps back into the city centre and to the railway station.

Start point: Inverness railway station
Grid reference: NH 66577 45516
Postcode: IV2 3PY
Total distance: 78.5km
Total elevation: 790m
Max elevation: 264m

To see a rough map of this route, click here.

14. The South West: Barnstaple, Exford Expedition

Barnstaple, which lies to the west of Exmoor on the North Devonshire coast, is your starting point for a classic ride that will take you high up on the moor to the village of Exford. With over 1500m of climbing this is not a ride for the faint-hearted, nor is it a ride for a wet or a windy day. Throughout the ride you will discover some quaint villages and fantastic sections of road with spectacular views over open moorland and the surrounding area, and there are many places to stop off along the way to refuel and take in the beauty of Exmoor National Park.

Beginning at the station, cross over the River Taw and join the A39 out of Barnstaple climbing up past North Devon District Hospital and descending through Woolley Wood towards Arlington Court. Continue on towards Kentisbury Ford and the village of Blackmoor Gate before starting an uphill stint towards Challacombe. Lush green scenery will surround you as you pedal on towards Simonsbath and then onto the moor and village of Exford. This is a quaint little village perfect for a short break and refuel before you tackle the step climb out of the village and descend into Withypool. From here it’s another steep climb up to Withypool Common before dropping down again into North Molton. Cross over the River Mole into South Molton and continue on towards Swimbridge before completing your loop and arriving back in Barnstaple.

Start point: Barnstaple railway station
Grid reference: SS 55593 32552
Postcode: EX21 2AU
Total distance: 88km
Total elevation: 1585m
Max elevation: 422m

To see a rough map of this route, click here.

15. The North: Buxton, Trip for a Tart

Buxton, the former Roman town of Aqvae Arnemetiae, is the gateway to the beautiful Peak District and start point for a fantastic loop that links to the town of Bakewell. This route takes in some stunning scenery and seriously fun sections of road as you head southwards from Buxton before cutting east through the edge of the Derbyshire Dales and on up to Bakewell. Rivers, woodland, quaint villages and rolling countryside: this ride has got the lot.

Keeping the railway line to your left, head south out of Buxton on the A515. Follow the roman road upwards towards Back Dale and Brierlow Bar, stopping at Hitter Hill to take in the stunning views. You will then descend through Glutton Bridge and continue on towards Longnor, over the River Manifold and to Bridge End. Enjoy the fast descent through Hulme End before starting the climb up towards Hartington. Just outside the little village of Newhaven you will pass over the Pennine Bridleway and cycle through long dale national nature reserve towards Grangemill, Winster and up to Bakewell.

After you’ve stopped for a Bakewell tart, head back towards Longnor cycling along the River Wye. From Longnor you can retrace your steps back to Buxton.

Start point: Buxton railway station
Grid reference: SK 05922 73715
Postcode: SK17 6AQ
Total distance: 74km
Total elevation: 1273m
Max elevation: 400m

To see a rough map of this route, click here.

16. Scotland, Highlands: Applecross, A Coastal Cruise

This Highland classic takes you up through Coire na Ba and Bealach na Ba before descending down to the small fishing port of Applecross. From this tranquil village, head north along the coast with the inner sound out to your left and spectacular views over the Isle of Skye. Clinging to the coastline, head up to Loch Torridon before heading inland through the Glen Shieldaig Forest. This truly spectacular route takes in some superb roads with a tough but rewarding climb over Bealach na Ba. The narrow roads keep you busy as you switch left and right, dipping up and down through picturesque woodland and quaint seaside villages. The route ends in Ardarroch village from where you can retrace your steps back to the railway station at Strathcarron.

Start point: Strathcarron railway station
Grid reference: NG 94217 42106
Postcode: IV54 8YR
Total distance: 102km
Total elevation: 2054m
Max elevation: 624m

To see a rough map of this route, click here.

17. The South Coast: Brighton and Hove, Ditchling Dilemma

The well-known seaside resort of Brighton is the start for the next loop. Brighton is steeped in history and was made popular with the Victorian day trippers, thanks to the main rail link with London built in 1841. The seaside town has a host of attractions, including the famous pier and the Grand Hotel, both built by the Victorians. This route is going to send you up onto Ditchling Beacon before dropping down into the village of Ditchling itself. From here traverse along the bottom of the South Downs before climbing back up and over the hills, dropping back down into town. Expect some steep gradients, high speeds and stunning views.

Climb out of the town and pass by the iron age hill fort of Hollingbury Castle. Head up to Ditchling Beacon and then enjoy a fast, but narrow, descent down into the village. From here continue on through the villages of Hassocks, Hurstpierpoint and Fulking, taking in the beautiful views over the South Downs as you go. You will then need to tackle a steep climb up to Devil’s Dyke before dropping down through a golf course back towards Brighton town centre. Choose to pedal straight back to the train station or continue on to the seafront.

Start point: Brighton railway station
Grid reference: TQ 31324 05759
Postcode: BN1 3XP
Total distance: 37km
Total elevation: 510m
Max elevation: 225m

To see a rough map of this route, click here.

18. The Welsh Borders: Hereford, Black Mountain Blast

This epic loop starting from Hereford will take you way up the Golden Valley to the literary town of Hay-on-Wye before circling around the outskirts of the Black Mountains towards Abergavenny. The ride then heads northwards through the heart of the Black Mountains, passing through the Vale of Ewyas and up over Gospel Pass. An epic descent will bring you back down into the town of Hay-on-Wye and a scenic stroll through the countryside leads back to Hereford.

Head out of town towards Abergavenny passing over the river. As you start to climb out of Hereford you will pass Belmont Abbey as you continue towards Clehonger and head down into Hay-on-Wye. After you’ve had a mooch around here and picked up a few second-hand books, cycle on towards Llanigon and Talgarth before arriving in Trefecca from where you can start to navigate your way around the Black Mountains and past Langors Lake.

Take the B4558 which runs parallel to the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal all the way to Ffawyddog and then start your climb up the edge of the Black Mountains towards Stanton and over Gospel Pass. You can then enjoy a descent back into Hay-on-Wye and retrace your steps to Hereford.

Start point: Hereford railway station
Grid reference: SO51524 40522
Postcode: HR1 1BB
Total distance: 146km
Total elevation: 1733m
Max elevation: 564m

To see a rough map of this route, click here.

19. The North, Pennines: Penrith, Brampton Bash

The small but busy town of Penrith lies neatly between the Lake District and the Pennines. Out to the east of the town in the northern tip of the Pennines you will find some fantastic riding. Quiet roads take you way out into this grand landscape where there are many small villages and hidden gems to discover. This ride is a short loop which takes you north from Penrith, skirting along the edge of the hills towards the town of Brampton before heading south to the quaint village of Alston. From here climb up and over Gamblesby Fell past the Hartside Cafe before descending back down into Penrith.

Head north out of the town, up Beacon Hill and on towards Lazonby before dropping down into Great Salkeld. Crossing the Eden River, follow the road through the village of Castle Carrock and past the Ralking Tarn to Brampton Station. Cycling around the northern tip of Bruthwaite Forest and Tindale Fell, drop down from the hills through Slaggyford and then follow the river to Alston. From here you can join the A686 back towards Penrith, enjoying a fantastic descent from Hartside Cafe.

Start point: Penrith railway station
Grid reference: NY 51213 29894
Postcode: CA11 7JQ
Total distance: 98km
Total elevation: 1217m
Max elevation: 574m

To see a rough map of this route, click here.

20. The Scottish Borders: Dumfries, Dalbeattie Dash

This short loop is frequently used by locals and has featured in the Tour of Britain as well as in the latest series of the British Road Race Championships. The route follows the Solway Coast, passing through the picturesque village of New Abbey and underneath Criffel before traversing above Mersehead Sands in the Solway Estuary. The route then hits the undulating coast line, passing through Sandy Hills Bay and round to Dalbeattie Forest. You will pass through ‘the granite town’ of Dalbeattie, heading inland to pick up the old military road linking Dumfries to Castle Douglas. The rolling Dumfriesshire farmland that surrounds you as you head back towards the town makes for a pleasant end to this short but tough loop.

Start point: Dumfries railway station
Grid reference: NX 97580 76490
Postcode: DG1 1NF
Total distance: 68.5km
Total elevation: 670m
Max elevation: 160m

To see a rough map of this route, click here.

For the full guide to these routes and to read about all the other amazing road bike routes Clive Forth recommends, you can purchase his book The Great British Road Rides Guide from Amazon for £16.99 with free delivery.

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