It took a long time, but the UK is finally being recognised as one of Europe’s premier cycling destinations. With some of the world’s safest roads, an increasingly cycle-obsessed population, and an incredible variety of activities, the UK looks like a top cycling holiday choice this year.
There is so much to do in the UK on a bike, it’s hard to know what to start with.
The UK is blessed with some incredible coastline to cycle. From the White Cliffs of Dover to the secluded smuggler’s caves of Devon and Cornwall, from vast beaches so flat they race rocket cars on them to the picturesque fishing villages of the Yorkshire coast, you are in for a treat.
Recently, the UK coastal path was completed. It is now possible to go on foot or bike the entirety of the length of the UK coast. What is more, every few miles there is a town or city you can stop off to eat, get repairs, enjoy the scenery, and rest in. Pick a coastal town or village, pick another somewhere down the coast, join the dots on the map and you have a holiday! Particularly beautiful are the South Devonshire, Cornish, Sussex, Yorkshire, all of Scotland, and North Wales coasts.
The UK has a lot of surprisingly easy to navigate cities. They are crowded and bustling but recently local governments have invested in extensive cycling infrastructure, including dedicated cycle lanes and improved junctions.
Great cities to explore on your bike start with London, of course. A huge metropolis, it can be difficult to get around, especially when you are on a budget. A great deal of the best attractions in London are within a few miles of each other and since they improved the cycling conditions, it is much easier to get there on a bike than by car. You can look at the river and Tower Bridge, see Buckingham Palace, and cycle around Greenwich in a day, even with young children. A more sedate pace is recommended, there’s a lot of London to see but it pays to see it properly.
Other amazing cities to do on a bike include Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, Edinburgh, and Cardiff. All of them offer easy access to the surrounding countryside, which is one of the best things about a cycling holiday in the UK. Stay in metropolitan comfort and get out for some incredible scenery and terrain with easy.
The UK was one of the earliest adopters of the idea of a National Parks and now we have loads of them. The Lake District is probably the best for cycling because it has so much varied terrain, from hardcore mountain bike trails to gentle rides around a lake. Also, it is astoundingly beautiful.
The Yorkshire Dales is another top destination. If you go in late April / early May, you can catch the Tour de Yorkshire, one of the best cycling events in Europe. Hugely varied terrain and astounding vistas make the Dales a definite top 3.
Have you heard of the New Forest? Actually about 500 years old, it was planted to provide oak for the British Navy. Now it’s one of the most beautiful forests in the country and packed with incredible cycling. It’s especially suited to children and campers.
The Cairngorns in Scotland have some of the best cycling on the Island. It can be windswept and a bit cold but it is utterly beautiful. There are loads of different difficulty routes to take and plenty for kids to do apart from cycling.
Maybe the Brecon Beacons appeals? Or the Killarney National Park? There is so much to choose from.
Before you arrive
You need to check a few things before you arrive in the UK for a cycling holiday. The first is insurance: are you insured? The NHS will treat you regardless of insurance but it could cost you a lot of money if you’re knocked off your bike.
The second thing to check is your bike’s maintenance. Are your tyres in good condition? Do your brakes work? Have you got working lights? It is your duty to have a roadworthy vehicle when you are in the UK, the consequences can be severe if your bike is not properly maintained and you are in an accident.
The third thing you need to know about is the Highway Code. Rules for riding in the UK are similar to the rest of Europe or the USA, but ignorance of the law is no defence. Know your signs and signals, and especially you need to know that the Brits drive on the left, not the right. Most foreign riders’ accidents happen at junctions turning left, so drill it into your brain the right things to do.