15 great cycling routes for spring

Two people on touring bikes with luggage are cycling past a country church in spring
Cycling UK’s Cantii Way will show you the sights of Kent
Spring has sprung and it’s time to reward yourself – and your bike! – with some longer rides. Content officer Rebecca Armstrong identifies some great routes that are ideal for riding at this time of year

Spring is a great time to spend a day or longer in the saddle. The days are longer, the weather is (hopefully!) warmer and drier and we’re all ready to shrug off that winter sluggishness.

The UK is blessed with many great cycling routes that are ideal to try out at this time of year. Here are 16 of our favourites. We’ve chosen a range of rides, from family-friendly shorter ones to full-on bikepacking adventures, which still shouldn’t be too tricky at this time of year.

There are routes all over the UK and we’ve even got a couple of overseas ones that are accessible by ferry. So there’s sure to be one that’s right for you!

1. Red Squirrel Trail, Isle of Wight

Start/finish: Cowes
Length: 51km
Further info

Starting at East Cowes, where you disembark the ferry, the route takes you through stunning Isle of Wight countryside, including woodland, farmland, estuaries and a stretch of the coastline. It’s mostly on old railway line surfaced with tarmac or hard gravel. Some short sections are on the road.

The Isle of Wight is one of the few remaining strongholds for red squirrels in the UK and this iconic species can be seen on the route. The best place to spot one is at Alverstone Mead Nature Reserve. The island will be teeming with wildlife at this time of year, so keep an eye out.

2. Cantii Way, Kent

Start/finish: circular; we suggest starting and ending in Wye
Length: 234km
Further info

One of our EXPERIENCE routes, Cantii Way is a long-distance bikepacking route that takes in the coastal villages, chalk cliffs and rolling hills of east Kent. It’s named after the Celtic tribe which inhabited the area during the Iron Age. The route uses traffic-free cycle paths, bridleways and quiet roads. It’s beautiful at this time of year, with thousands of bluebells brightening up your ride.

Take the whole route at a leisurely pace to explore the gorgeous Kent countryside or choose a shorter section. You’ll experience vibrant art trails, eco-friendly farms, vineyards and the unmistakable pointed white tops of oast houses along the way. 

Two people on packed touring bikes are cycling past the ruins of a castle
Check out views of Castle Rising in Norfolk on the Rebellion Way. Photo: Jordan Gibbons

3. Rebellion Way, Norfolk

Start/finish: circular; Norwich makes a good start and end point
Length: 372km
Further info

You might not associate rural Norfolk with rebellion, but you’d be wrong. This long-distance bikepacking route from Cycling UK is named for two famous rebels: warrior queen Boudicca of the Iceni and Norfolk landowner Robert Kett.

Consisting of a mix of quiet, mostly flat back roads, byways, cycle paths and bridleways, it’s an ideal introduction to multi-day, on- and off-road adventuring. You can choose to tackle the whole route or ride sections. One intrepid group of mums rode a section with kids in tow – literally.

With ancient sites, stunning vistas and thriving wildlife to see along the way, this route is ideal for spring.

4. Rutland Water, Rutland

Start/finish: circular, but it’s advised to start and end at Whitwell or Normanton
Length: 37km
Further info

One of the largest man-made lakes in the UK, Rutland Water is set in more than 3,000 acres of beautiful rolling countryside. The route goes all around the reservoir, taking in woodland, pretty villages and spectacular views over the lake.

It’s mostly off road on compacted paths, with a short section on the road, making it ideal for a family day out. The full loop can be shortened by not riding the peninsula. There are plenty of cafés and pubs to stop for lunch.

Take some time to check out the Lyndon Nature Reserve – the ospreys should be back at this time of year and as the season progresses might be seen on the nest.

5. Taff Trail, Cardiff/Powys

Start/finish: Cardiff/Brecon
Length: 88km
Further info

This walking and cycling route starts at Cardiff Bay and heads along the River Taff, through the Brecon Beacons to Brecon. The route comprises a mixture of riverside paths, railway paths and forest roads.

Along the way you’ll discover stunning mountainous backdrops, crashing waterfalls, crystal clear reservoirs, impressive castles, industrial towns (including Tom Jones’s birthplace!) and much more. There are plenty of places to stop for a picnic and to enjoy the wildlife.

Ride it all or just a section. You can always turn around and cycle back to Cardiff if you wanted more of a challenge.

Brunel Trail-Sustrans.jpg

6. Brunel Trail, Pembrokeshire

Start/finish: Nayland/Johnston
Length: 14km
Further info

This almost entirely traffic-free route starts at Neyland Marina, before following Cleddau Estuary through the broadleaved woodland of Westfield Pill Nature Reserve. It continues along the disused Great Western Railway line to Haverfordwest. The railway was built under the direction of Isambard Kingdom Brunel more than 150 years ago. He used Neyland as the base for his ferry service to and from Ireland.

The route is family friendly, mostly on paved paths, with some sections on shared paths next to sometimes busy roads. There is some road riding in Haverfordwest, but these are mostly quiet. There are cafés at Neyland, Johnstone and Haverfordwest.

7. Mawddach Trail, Gwynedd

Start/finish: Dolgellau/Barmouth
Length: 14km
Further info

This short, almost exclusively traffic-free route is another one that’s good for families. Starting in the historic market town of Dolgellau, it follows the disused railway line from Barmouth to Ruabon along the banks of the Mawddach Estuary to Barmouth, once a popular seaside destination for Victorian holidaymakers.

It’s flat with a fairly even surface and most of it is wide, making it suitable for most cycles. However, there is a narrow footbridge with a steep up-ramp between Dolgellau and Pont y Wernddu.

It offers stunning views over the estuary, two RSPB reserves, and you cross a spectacular Grade II listed bridge to enter Barmouth.

8. Lochwinnoch Loop Line, Renfrewshire,

Start/finish: Glengarnock/Paisley Canal
Length: 22km
Further info

Another disused railway line, this mostly off-road route starts in Glengarnock and skirts Kilburnie Loch. It then heads to Lochwinnoch, where you’ll find the RSPB reserve of the same name, with viewing hides looking out over Bar Loch and Castle Semple Loch. In spring you’ll see great crested grebes displaying.

The route is hard surfaced and well signposted. Along the way you’ll get stunning loch-side views, and there are cafés at Glengarnock and Lochwinnoch. The route ends at Paisley Canal, where you can pick up the 32km Paisley and Clyde Railway Path, which ends on the banks of the Firth of Forth at Gourock.

A ruin on an island in a loch with a mountain in the background
Enjoy stunning views on Sustrans’ Oban to Fort William route

9. Oban to Fort William, Inverness-shire

Start/finish: Oban/Fort William
Length: 77km
Further info

This (unusually for Scotland) largely flat, mostly traffic-free route starts in Oban, home of the famous whisky distillery. Much of it runs along a former railway line, with some sections on quiet, rural roads.

Much of the route hugs the coastline and it offers spectacular views of lochs, forests, castles and mountains. There are also a couple of ferry crossings.

The ride ends at Fort William, where you can catch the Fort William to Mallaig steam train – although you’ll have to find somewhere safe to leave your bike.

While it’s doable in a day, splitting it over a long weekend will give you the opportunity to explore the area.

10. Assynt Achiltibuie Circuit, Highland

Start/finish: Achiltibuie
Length: 112km
Further info

This challenging ride isn’t for the faint hearted. There are some epic climbs, but these are rewarded with equally impressive views. It’s all on roads, but this part of Scotland is generally quiet so you’ll often have them to yourself.

The first part of the route follows the coast road, offering gorgeous views of the sea. You’ll also go through pretty villages, pass Stac Pollaidh, Cùl Mòr and Sula Bheinn mountains and many beautiful lochs – as well as a lot of sheep. Check out the ruins of Ardvreck Castle on the banks of Loch Assynt.

There are plenty of cafés, pubs and restaurants along the way. Try a pie at Lochinvar Larder.

11. Raad Darwheeyl, Douglas, Isle of Man,

Start/finish: Douglas
Length: 146km
Further info

Reachable by ferry, and birthplace of cycling legend Mark Cavendish, Isle of Man offers several routes. This one is a challenging but rewarding ride. It starts and ends at the island’s capital, close to the harbour, and completes a full circuit of the island.

The route sticks to the coast road, offering panoramic sea views and the chance to spot wildlife such as seals and basking sharks. Guillemots, kittiwakes and puffins nest on the cliffs around Castletown, where you’ll also find Castle Rushen where you can get refreshments. It takes in many of the isle’s highlights including the Sound and Calf of Man, Peel Castle, Kirk Maughold Church and Laxey Wheel.

A man is cycling along a path on a Brompton, he is waving at a women with a black dog
The Comber Greenway is an accessible path ideal for family cycling

12. Comber Greenway, Co Down and Co Antrim

Start/finish: Belfast/Comber
Length: 11km
Further info

This short, traffic-free route is ideal for families. Following a former railway line, this quiet green corridor is relatively flat, has a smooth surface and is nice and wide. Both Belfast and Comber have plenty of eating places.

The route passes through CS Lewis Square, where you’ll find an art installation commemorating the Belfast-born author and his fictional world of Narnia. It also offers views of Stormont, Scrabo Tower, the Harland & Wolff cranes and the Belfast Hills.

More experienced cyclists could continue along the road to Castle Espie nature reserve, with its nesting terns and oystercatchers.

13. Causeway Coast Cycle Route, Co Antrim/Co Londonderry

Start/finish: Giant’s Causeway/Castlerock
Length: 37km
Further info

This route starts at the unique 60-million-year-old geological formation Giant’s Causeway. It passes through the seaside towns of Portrush and Portstewart, ending in Castlerock, a popular tourist destination.

The route is well signposted and much of it is traffic free. It takes in wonderful coastal views, ruined medieval castles, sandy beaches and idyllic fishing towns and villages. Portrush is a good place to stop for food.

At Castlerock, take the time to visit Mussenden Temple. This 18th-century coastal estate, owned by the National Trust, features gardens, an arboretum, mausoleum and Gothic lodge. Al’s Coffee Bar can be found tucked under a yew tree at Lions Gate.

14. Bilbao to Santander, Spain

Start/finish: Bilbao/Santander
Length: 118km
Further info: there’s no official website, so try an internet search

This beautiful route along northern Spain’s Cantabrian coast is popular with cyclists. The start and end points are served by ferries from the UK; it follows mostly quiet surfaced roads and paths. It largely reflects the Camino del Norte, part of the legendary Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.

You’ll experience mountain scenes, gorgeous sandy beaches, quaint fishing villages and cliff-top views over the sea. And, of course, you get to sample all that great Basque food!

Spring is a great time to visit. While not as warm as summer, it’ll be less packed with tourists, and it’s not as rainy as autumn or winter.

Two men are cycling up a coastal road with the sea and cliffs in the background. They are wearing cycling kit
Enjoy spectacular sea views cycling around the Isle of Man

15. Hook of Holland to Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Start/finish: Hook of Holland/Amsterdam
Length: 90km
Further info: again, no official website, so try an internet search

The Netherlands is a cyclist’s dream, and Hook of Holland is easily reachable by ferry from Harwich. With Eurostar now taking bikes again, you can head back to the UK by train from Amsterdam. Eminently doable in a day, though, you could stay overnight and ride back to the ferry port the next day.

Unsurprisingly, most of this route is on dedicated cycleways. It goes through The Hague before heading up the North Sea coast to Haarlem and then crossing over to Amsterdam. There are plenty of places to stop and eat along the way, and with the Netherlands’ cycling culture you can be sure of a warm welcome.

Final words

We have tried to find routes that are served by public transport; however, this isn’t always possible. If you drive to the start point, remember you’ll have to return to your car. Whether this is by bus or train or simply turning round and cycling back.

If you don’t want to take your own bike, most of these routes have cycle hire close by. Check out the websites for more information. There are guided tours for Bilbao to Spain. These are costly but they do mean someone else does the planning.

If you take on any of these routes, we hope you enjoy them!

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