Thanks to lockdown and quarantine rules, getting away for a holiday this year has been tricky. So, it’s no surprise that millions of Brits are considering a staycation this summer, with campsites reporting record bookings as holidaymakers explore the UK.
We’ve already looked at ten of the best days out in Essex, but what if you want to go further afield? Heading out with the family on your bikes can combine sightseeing, exercise and a bit of fresh air so, for inspiration, here are five of the best family-friendly cycle routes in the UK.
1. Bristol to Bath
The Bristol and Bath Railway Path is one of the UK’s finest cycling and walking routes. The 13-mile journey follows a disused railway path into the Avon Valley making it perfect for families.
You’ll start in the port of Bristol and pass by Mangotsfield and Saltford before arriving in the heart of Bath. En route, you will pass through Staple Hill tunnel and can view a variety of sculptures, a signal box café at Warmley, and working steam engines at the old train station at Bitton.
When you arrive in Bath, you can explore the city’s remarkable history by visiting the Roman Baths, the Jane Austen Museum, and the botanical gardens. And, with tired kids at the end of a busy day, it’s easy to hop on the train back to Bristol.
2. River Aire, Yorkshire
This route of just over 16 miles takes you through the stunning Aire Valley where you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful countryside, a rich industrial history, stunning scenery, the longest canal in the country, and a World Heritage Site.
The route begins at the railway station in Leeds, and soon becomes a peaceful haven as you cycle out past Kirkstall Abbey, Bramley Falls, Rodley, Calverley Woods, Apperley Bridge, Buck Wood at Thackley, Shipley, Hirst Wood, and Dowley Gap.
One of the highlights along the route is Saltaire, near Shipley, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its preservation as a Victorian industrial village. Named for Sir Titus Salt, the area has many features, so it’s a great chance to take a break and visit the gallery, fine boutiques, antique shops and excellent cafés and bakeries.
Your journey finishes at the Bingley Five Rise Locks, an engineering masterpiece of its time and ten minutes from Bingley Railway Station where you can catch the train back to Leeds.
3. Bo’ness to Burntisland – exploring the Forth
If you like scenic, level cycling with views, Bo’ness to Burntisland is a great way to explore the beautiful Forth estuary.
There is loads of parking at the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway where your journey begins. You can then follow the well-signposted Route 76 along the River Forth with views of Blackness Castle and three of the most famous Forth Bridges.
You’ll head past the port of Rosyth before crossing the Forth, onto a beautiful stretch of the Fife coastline. The path follows the coast past Dalgety Bay and through woodland to Aberdour and its award-winning sandy beaches – a great place to stop off for a while with the kids for a play and an ice cream!
The path then runs through woodland between the sea and the railway line as you cycle to Burntisland.
4. Blackpool to Fleetwood
While this route covers just 12 miles, it’s likely to take you and the family a full day to complete, simply thanks to the distractions you’ll encounter on the way!
Blackpool is one of the UK’s most famous seaside destinations, and this journey takes you past all the town’s main attractions on what the local council claims to be the UK’s longest seafront cycle route.
You’ll begin near the famous Blackpool Pleasure Beach, so there’s likely to an early stop at the country’s most visited amusement park as your kids take in the iconic rollercoasters.
Heading north as you hug the beach, you’ll see Blackpool’s three piers as you cycle the Golden Mile and you’ll pass Blackpool Tower – one of the most recognisable landmarks in the country. Stop awhile and head up to the top of the Grade 1 listed building or, if heights are not your thing, try the pitch-and-putt golf course at Anchorsholme Park.
If you have smaller children then Jubilee Park in Cleveleys boasts a children’s playground and gardens or you can press on and enjoy the views over Morecambe Bay towards the Lake District, a striking contrast to the noise and bright lights of Blackpool.
When you reach Fleetwood, you’ll find a boating lake and crazy golf, and the beach is great for a picnic. If you’re feeling energetic you can turn around and pedal the 12 miles back, or hop on one of the coast’s famous trams.
5. Two Rivers’ Way – a circular route to Burnham-on-Crouch
This picturesque cycle route starts from one of England’s leading yachting centres, Burnham-on-Crouch. From here, the route heads north to explore the Dengie Peninsula, situated between the Rivers Blackwater and Crouch.
You’ll pass through small villages and tiny sailing hamlets, and much of the countryside, reclaimed by man from the sea, today is internationally renowned for its wildlife. Along this route, you can take a ride on a real steam train, visit the Saxon church of St. Peter’s, and try the local oysters at Burnham.
This leisurely round trip covers around 25 miles, but if there are little legs in the family there are short cuts that will more than halve the distance! There’s a handy route map here.