8 Great Off-Road Bikepacking Routes In The UK

We’re going to have to face it, that big bikepacking trip you’ve got planned abroad is going to have to wait. Coronavirus disruption is certain to linger over 2021, stopping almost all adventures abroad.

But it’s not all bad news. In fact, it could be a blessing in disguise. The UK countryside has a vast network of bridleways, towpaths, and National Parks – all right on our doorstep.

And with the growing popularity of off-road gravel riding and covid-friendly camping, bikepacking and the UK have the potential to be a match made in heaven. We’ll think about the rain later.

Not only that, but the terrain across the UK itself is very diverse. From the open, flat roads of East Anglia to the dramatic Highlands in Scotland, there’s enough variation for radically different trips and experiences.

Choosing a bike for the trip is ultimately up to you, but the majority of these routes are suited to wider tyre gravel or all-road bikes, and many will prefer hardtail or even full suspension mountain bikes.

You could call up a friend or decide to go it alone, either way be sure to get planning now to make the most out of your trip!

Here’s a selection of eight of the best bikepacking routes in the UK for 2021 and beyond.

1. The South Downs Way

White chalk and views for miles, all drenched in years of history. The South Downs Way is traversable on either mountain bike or gravel bike, depending on your preference, and makes for one of the most accessible entries into bikepacking.

You can choose to go east to west or west to east. Either way, the South Downs Way has lots of small climbs, but isn’t too testing on the legs compared some other trips on the list.

In the rain, chalky sections can be unpredictable, but on a warm summer’s day there’s nothing better.

There are many who have completed the route in a day (some even going there and back…), but to immerse yourself in bikepacking, a solid three days should do the trick.

Distance: 164 km
Time: 2-4 days
Full route available here.

2. Peddars Way

You can start the Peddars Way by catching a train to Thetford, Norfolk. From here, the route follows an ancient Roman road towards the coast, finishing in Holme-next-the-Sea.

On the way you’ll pass castles, great wildlife, and lush farmland.

A typical gravel bike will likely suit the route just fine, but is also ideal for mountain bikes.

The linked route links to Kings Lynn after you finish the Peddars Way, the most convenient nearby train station. But you could always choose to follow the route back to Thetford, too.

Distance: 77 km
Time: 2 to 3 days, depending on your finishing point
Full route available here.

3. Yorkshire Dales 300

This is a route for the climbers among you. The Dales 300 takes in over 20,000 feet of climbing in total, across ‘only’ 300 kilometres.

Put together by bike mechanic and true local Stuart Rider, the course starts and finished in Skipton. Easily accessible by train, you’ll soon be out in the stunning Dales.

One of the many highlights is Buttertubs Pass – a great chance to test your legs on an iconic climb.

While possible on a gravel bike, with some walking here and there, you’ll be able to tackle the route more suitably on a mountain bike.

Distance: 300 km
Time: 5 days
Full route available here.

4. The Penduro

Organised by The Racing Collective, the Penduro is an event staged in the Pennines. The 2021 route is 160 km, and riders are timed in ‘enduro’ style segments along the way to make up an aggregate time.

However, it makes for a great bikepacking route too. You can take things easy on a hardtail mountain bike, or gun your way through on a gravel bike. Either way, the Pennines is a stunning place to ride your bike.

Distance: 160 km
Time: 1-3 days depending if your ‘race’ the route or travel more leisurely
Full route available here.

5. King Alfred’s Way

The King Alfred’s Way links up four existing national trails: the North Downs Way, South Downs Way, The Ridgeway and Thames Path.

It takes in some serious history along the way, including some challenging climbing and technical singletrack.

Because the route is a circuit, you can join wherever is most convenient for you, finishing where you started.

Distance: 220 miles
Time required: 2-5 days
Full route available here.

6. Trans Cambrian Way

Beginning in Knighton, a Welsh market town, the Trans Cambrian Way traverses the heart of Wales, winding its way to the Irish sea.

With forest trails and river crossings, this is an ideal three day mountain biking tour taking in remote and stunning scenery.

Due to the water crossings, it’s best to do this one over Summer. Look forward to spectacular reservoirs and the challenging Welsh terrain.

Distance: 176 km
Time: 2-4 days.
Route available here.

7. GB Duro/GB Divide

The GB Duro is another event put on by The Racing Collective, with full GPX routes recently made publicly available. This one is no walk in the park, and puts an interesting twist on the traditional Land’s End to John O’Groats.

You’ll follow testing off-road trails stretching the length of the country. The inaugural event was graced by World Tour rider Lachlan Morton – who won in an astonishing time of 111 hours.

There’s no need to try and better that frankly ridiculous time, however, and with the route available you can either choose smaller sections, or attempt the whole thing in one epic week long adventure.

Distance: 1,963 km
Time: 2-4 weeks
Full route available here.

8. The Great North Trail

Another epic, this trail begins in the Pennines and finishes on the Northern tip of Scotland.

The route takes in Kielder Forest, the Grampian Mountains, the Scottish Borders and more. Pieced together by CyclingUK in 2019, you can choose to tackle sections or bikepack your way across rugged Scotland.

Unlike some other trails on this list, the Great North Trail leans towards mountain bikes. Especially if you’re spending long consecutive days in the saddle, you’ll appreciate a full suspension bike. And for the technical downhill parts, you’ll have a blast on a mountain bike.

Just watch out for the midges!

Distance: 1,256 km
Time: 2-4 weeks
Full route available here.

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