November 04, 2020
Active Travel

6 Great Long-Distance Cycle Routes In The UK

By Jonathan Oldaker

Updated for 2022

A long-distance cycle route used to be about 100 miles. Yes, I hear you, that still is a long way, but for a growing number of cyclists nowadays it’s light work.

That’s because long-distance rides are becoming increasingly popular. Audax routes such as London-Edinburgh-London and Paris-Brest-Paris are receiving more and more applications each year.

It’s clear why: Multi-day rides offer a whole lot more than just a bike ride. There’s the sense of adventure, the personal challenge, and the variety of scenery (and weather) you’ll experience along the way.

Some cyclists choose to tour at a leisurely pace, staying at hotels or B&Bs, while on the other hand bikepacking is the new kid on the block.

Bikepacking involves taking a sleeping system (that means a tent, or sometimes just a bivvy bag), a stove, and just about everything else you need to survive with you strapped on your bike. You’ll see the sun-rise, often ride through the dark, and experience plenty of rain, but the pay-off is worth it.

So if you’re planning your next solo adventure, or trying to convince a group of friends to join you, we’ve got six of the greatest routes in the UK to get you started.

Do of course be aware to thoroughly research routes before attempting, and note that the mileage totals are estimates.


1. Sea to Sea (C2C)

The coast to coast is one of the UK’s most popular and well-worn long-distance routes.

Starting at the Cumbrian coast, the route crosses the Lake District, followed by the Pennines. The final stretch is on County Durham’s railway paths, winding towards the coast in Tyneside.

And if you wondered, C2C doesn’t actually stand for coast to coast, instead it’s just ‘sea’ said out loud. Despite this, it is known by many as the coast to coast route.

Distance: 136 miles, with 79 of those completely free from traffic
Time required: 1 day


2. The North Coast 500

The North Coast 500 is a relatively new route at just 5 years old, and was put together to showcase Scotland’s stunning northern Highlands. Yet in that short time it’s risen to the top of many global road trip lists, and there’s a reason why.

You start and finish at Inverness Castle, which has already exceptional views. From there, you’ll wind through the regions of Wester Ross, Sutherland, Caithness, Easter Ross and the Black Isle.

Expect plenty of climbing, inclement Scottish weather, midges, but most importantly exceptional scenery and the trip of a lifetime.

Distance: Just over 500 miles
Time required: 1 week+


3. King Alfred’s Way

Just recently launched by Cycling UK, the King Alfred’s Way connects four of England’s existing national trails: the North Downs Way, South Downs Way, Ridgeway and Thames Path.

Certain sections along the way have been upgraded to accommodate cyclists, with the route using existing byways, bridleways and quiet country roads.

The route is largely off-road, and you’ll need more than a road bike. Many use mountain bikes, but this route is sure to be tackled by many gravel bikes with bikepacking set-ups.

Cycling UK have provided a full GPX route and plenty of information to follow online.

Distance: 220 miles
Time required: Typically 2-3, or more days


4. Lôn Las Cymru

Wales is home to both Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons, a must-see for any traveller. And it’s the Lôn Las Cymru that goes through both.

From Cardiff to Holyhead, you’ll travel through some of the most scenic parts of Wales. It’s not easy, with mountainous countryside meaning plenty of climbing, but this one is definitely worth your time.

Distance: 250 miles
Time required: 4+ days


5. Great Western Way

The Great Western Way follows a route along the canals, rivers and vales from Bristol to London. Thanks to the canals it’s an almost pan-flat route, and therefore ideally suited for a more leisurely tour and entry level long-distance ride taking you to the heart of the capital.

The inspiration for the route is the engineering of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Accordingly, you’ll take in the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the historic SS Great Britain and beautiful Temple Meads station along the way.

Distance: 136 miles
Time required: 12 hours


6. The West Country Way

Again starting in Bristol, the West Country Way travels to Cornwall, not London. The route takes in the Mendip Hills and Glastonbury, before taking you to the North Devon coast, and plunging into Exmoor National Park.

Next up is the Tarka Trail, a 30 mile section of traffic free disused railway lines. Finally, you’ll tackle the North Coast of Cornwall. With dramatic cliffs and breathtaking views, you’ll finally arrive in Padstow, a quaint fishing village famously known for its Rick Stein fish and chips.

The route is largely on public roads, but with traffic-free sections like the Tarka Trail, too.

Distance: 250 miles
Time required: 5+ days


Extra route: 7. The West Kernow Way

This is a newly worked on route by Cycling UK that takes in some of Cornwall’s most beautiful and historic monuments, including the amazing Bronze age Mên-an-Tol, St. Michael’s Mount, and the Botallack tin mines.

It is largely off-road, meaning you’ll need at least a gravel bike, with a mountain bike offering even more comfort. Being Cornwall, it’s hilly too, with lot’s of sharp short climbs and barely any flat!

There is a full guide available here.

Distance: 230 kilometres

Time required: 2 to 3 days

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