50 family-friendly cycle routes in the UK
With school summer holidays in the UK starting soon – Scotland first next week, with other nations following in July – you might be thinking of ways to keep the kids occupied. A family bike ride can be a great way to spend time together, get outside and tire the young ones out a bit so they'll sleep later – giving you some much-need quiet time.
But finding suitable routes close by can be a challenge. We’ve taken the hard work out of it for you with our list of 50 routes suitable for families all across the UK. There’s a good mix of distances and difficulties, so you’re sure to find one that works for your family’s needs.
Dalby Forest in Yorkshire has the popular Ellerburn Trail, perfect for smaller children who can choose from a 1.7 mile route or a 2.8 mile route.
Liverpool Loop Line is a great urban route that is 10.8 miles long. It is flat and is almost free from traffic. Do beware there is a small section along the A59.
Millennium Greenway is a 7.4-mile traffic-free route along an old railway line from the city of Chester to the Wharf at Connah’s Quay.
Grizedale Forest is packed with lovely off-road routes. Goosey Foot Tarn Trail is a great place to start with little ones. It is two miles long.
Manifold Track is an eight-mile route that follows the route of the disused Leek and Manifold Light Railway in the Staffordshire Peak District.
Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. The family cycle trail at Beechenhurst is nine miles long and perfect for beginners who want to explore the forest.
Nutbrook Trail in Derbyshire is a 10-mile trail through Shipley County Park. Entry to the park is free, but there is a parking charge. There are also two play areas for children.
Rea Valley Route is a linear six-mile route through traffic-calmed streets and a canal towpath that links Birmingham city centre with Cannon Hill Park and King’s Norton Park.
Forest Way in East Grinstead. The route passes through the village of Hatfield, the setting for A A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. This 10-mile route is traffic free, and is part of the High Weald area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The Phoenix Trail in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire is a 7.5-mile, flat, well-surfaced traffic-free ride between Princes Risborough and Thame.
Cuckoo Trail is an 11-mile route from Polegate to Heathfield in East Sussex. Look out for oak and metal sculptures by local artists along the way.
Marriot’s Way in Norfolk is a 26-mile footpath, bridleway and cycle route which follows the routes of two disused railway lines and is split into easy-to-manage sections for a short or longer ride.
Bristol and Bath Railway Path is 13.9 miles long, flat, traffic free, and uses the old railway line between Bristol and Bath.
The Camel Trail in Cornwall is a beautiful 18 miles of woodland and coastal paths. You can follow as much as you want: Padstow to Wadebridge is 5.5 miles, Wadebridge to Bodmin is 5.75 miles and Bodmin to Wenfordbridge is 6.25 miles. Largely traffic free.
Mote Park, Maidstone, is a 450-acre park with National Route 177 running through it – the park itself is traffic free and a great route for beginners.
Richmond Park, London. Richmond Park is the biggest enclosed park in London, where deer roam freely and where cycling is popular. Follow National Route 4 through the park, and if you follow further you find the London Wetland Centre, where there is plenty to do for kids.
Red Squirrel Trail is a 32-mile loop of flat cycling for the family: choose your route, however long you’d like. Although I have ridden it many times, I haven’t actually seen a Red Squirrel!
The Downs Link: this 36.5-mile route from Guildford to Shoreham by Sea is great for families as you can pick small sections. It is a popular route as it is accessible by train.
Craigavon Lakes Mountain Bike Trail is a 6.4-mile traffic-free loop with lovely views. Best for those with some basic off-road riding skills.
Dungannon Park is a 1.6-mile-long loop with splendid views across the park. It’s traffic free and suitable for young children.
Crom in Co Fermanagh. Cycle along while trying to spot Pine Martens and visit Crom Castle. It’s four miles long.
Castlerock to Downhill Forest is a coastal path, with a lovely forest. It’s just two miles so good for little ones.
Rathlin Island offers an adventurous day out, with cycling and walking the best ways to get round this largely traffic-free island.
Comber Greenway: a seven-mile traffic-free route along the old Belfast to Comber railway line. Watch out, though, as some junctions cross roads.
Lagan and Lough Cycle Way connects Lisburn, Belfast and Newtownabbey. It’s 21 miles, but can be easily split up into smaller family-friendly sections. It is lovely to ride alongside the river Lagan.
Ballycarton Wood is a short, linear route that is 2.4 miles of dusted forest road, beautiful views and a great beach view.
Antrim to Randalstown is 5.2 miles of beautiful track with plenty to look at – marinas, nature attractions and castle ruins.
Circuit of Great Cumbrae is a 13-mile circular route around the island’s coast, with lovely views of Bute.
Loch Katrine: why not go for a steam boat ride and then a cycle ride? A great place for a family picnic too. The route is 13 miles long so suitable for older children.
7stanes, Dalbeattie – Ironhash is a seven-mile green trail which is a good taster for teenagers who want to try mountain biking.
Ben Nevis, Fort William., for family cycling at Nevis Range. It’s a trail centre with plenty of cycle routes that are rideable with a trailer or tag-along.
Culbin Forest, near Inverness, has plenty of wildlife, views and forest tracks. Hill 99 is a 3.5-mile way-marked trail, or you can choose your own adventure.
Tentsmuir, south of Dundee. A good network of firm, level trails offers easy cycling through pine-scented forest, windswept sands and a wonderful range of wildlife.
Argyll Forest Park is Britain’s oldest Forest Park. Only a short distance from Glasgow, it has some fantastic cross-country mountain biking routes.
Lon Eifion trail in Caernarfon is a 3.5-mile section of an old railway line linking Caernarfon with the old slate harbour of Port Dinorwig (Y Felinheli).
The Three Parks Trail is an easy 13-mile traffic-free route that takes in three of Wales’s parks. Look out for a large sculpture Wheel of Drams and you head through ancient wild oak wood and park land.
Swansea Bike Path is six-mile traffic-free route along the coast, with a view of Oystermouth Castle. Great views of Gower Peninsula.
Clydach Gorge, west of Abergavenny, is an easy route with just one steep part. The smooth-going, 7.9-mile route offers views of Clydach Gorge, Skirrid Mountains and Brecon Beacons and Sugar Loaf Mountain.
Peregrine Path, straddling the border between Wales and England, is a beautiful ride, with plenty of places to stop and explore. It is mostly a traffic-free tarmac path. The full route is 7.5 miles.
Afan Valley route between Port Talbot and the Afan Valley offers lots of wildlife and easy riding. Mixed surface, but also plenty to do along the way, including the Afan Forest Park Visitors Centre and Mining Museum at the end.
The Millennium Coastal Path starts at the Discovery Centre in Llanelli and follows a coastal path to Pembrey County Path. The 4.5-mile linear route is traffic free, flat and smooth..
Mawddach Trail has no climbs and no traffic. Discover the Mawddach Estuary below the foothills of Cadair Idris. It’s just under nine miles long.
Elan Valley: start at Cwmdeuddwr on the western side of Rhayader, where there is parking and a number of cafés, shops, pubs, a bike shop and toilets. It’s 18 miles long but easy to do shorter sections.