Words by Cat Crimmins
With the recent fabulous weather and the ever-increasingly ridiculous Euro exchange rate, it’s not too crazy a thought of having your annual family holiday right here in the UK.
So this year, swap the Alps for a road trip to the best family trail centres around the UK – you may even get just a hint of a suntan in the process!
Forest of Dean
The Royal forest is one of the best-kept secrets in Europe, it has everything that a biking family could want and more!
It has a variety of difficulty grades of riding from the beautiful 9-mile loop through the royal forest to the gnarly and fantastic black graded downhill tracks. Additionally, the main centre, Pedalabikeaway, has a great café with fresh local food and delicious homemade cakes. The on-site shop has a large selection of children's clothing and accessories including rental bikes for adults and children alike, and an uplift service to boost you up the mountain.
There is a weekly kids club which runs throughout the year, ideal for beginners to advanced riders of ages 5 to 12 years. A monthly advanced downhill session is also held for 8-14-year-olds which is run by qualified British Cycling coaches, some of whom are world cup racers! For more information about mountain biking in the Forest of Dean, read our comprehensive guide here.
- Green – Family trail: 17km
- Blue – Verderers trail: 11km
- Red – Freeminers trail: 11km
- Black – a dozen downhill tracks from 1 to 3 dot-graded for difficulty including the fantastic Countdown to Launchpad suitable for the little rippers first go at gravity mountain biking
- Three skill park areas
Fancy a day off the bikes? Why not go for a canoe trip down the beautiful river Wye?
It’s played host to the XCO World Cup. It’s in the heart of cycle-mad Yorkshire and is one of the largest trail centres in the UK.
In the centre of the forest is a purpose built cycling hub with a café, a visitor centre and a friendly bike shop that offers beginner family sessions in addition to boys and girls specific sessions.
If you don’t need all the facilities, then head to Dixie Hollow, where there is a brilliant new skills area where your little rippers would be happy to spend the day while the adults tag team it around the trails that go past.
- Green – Ellerburn Trail: 3km
- Green – Green cycle route: 10km
- Blue – Blue cycle trail: 13km
- Red – Red cycle trail: 30km
- Black – World Cup cycle trail: 6km
- Bike park
Fancy a day off the bikes? Why not head to Scarborough to dip your toes in the sea?
Perhaps not the most obvious choice to be on the list. However once you have visited this lovely little spot, then Laggan will always have a place in your mountain biking heart. It’s a small trail centre with a teeny tiny shop and café, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in friendliness, views, miles and miles of heather and arguably the best red graded trail in the UK!
It has a scenic green trail with an actual single track to get the youngest rippers feel the thrill of mountain biking, a fun skills area that will challenge the most skilled of riders and a great bike park where the climb up is soon forgotten when they start to swoosh down hill.
The reds and black trails are techy and short, so easy for parents to tag-team, and they come with some of the best views of any UK trail centre.
- Green – 3.5km
- Red – Lower red 6.9km
- Red – Upper red 6.5km
- Black – 6.4km
- Bike park - 3.6km
- Skills area
Fancy a day off the bikes? Why not visit the award winning Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore?
Coed y Brenin
The first mountain bike trail centre in the UK and where many of us veteran aged riders cut our ‘trail centre teeth’ at. Partly due to a proactive mountain bike ranger they now have some of the best trails/skills area in the country to inspire the next generation.
The green and blue trail run alongside each other so if you have rippers of different abilities, then you can almost ride together and even join each other for a lovely natural wild swim half way along.
There is a play area, orienteering and trail running routes, a kids mountain bike club and the shop is well stocked with children’s clothing, and if that is not enough then the Foundry bike skills area is arguably the best trail centre skills area in the UK!
- Green – Yr Afon: 10.8km
- Blue – Mino Taur: 8km
- Red – Cyflym Coch: 11.2km
- Red – Temtiwr: 7km
- Red - Dragons Back: 31.1km
- Black - Tarw Du: 20.2km
- Black - MBR: 18.4km
- Black – Beast of Brenin: 38.2km
- Skills area
Fancy a day off the bikes? Why not scale a proper mountain? Cadair Idris is one of the most spectacular mountains in Wales
Whilst trail centres can make life easier when you visit as a family, there’s nothing quite like riding out together on a true mountain bike ride.
This family run highland estate is 10000 hectares and has numerous tracks running through it that allows you to dictate how far you want to go and how technical you want to make it.
The biking on the tracks is not overly difficult (probably blue graded equivalent), however the panoramic scenery and the river crossings all add to the ‘out there’ adventurous feeling. Take a picnic and soak in the views at Loch Morlich with it’s lovely inland beach or if your little rippers are finding this too tame then the iconic Lairig Ghru is just there!
There is bike hire both in nearby Aviemore and Rothiemurchas itself, plus some fabulous eateries close by.
Fancy a day off the bikes? Take the funicular railway up to the top of the Cairngorm range
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