Cycling mania is sweeping the country. As the Aviva Tour of Britain reaches its climax and the Deloitte Ride Across Britain sees over 800 cyclists make their way from Land’s End to John O’ Groats, here’s our own, more gentle take on the national craze.
Cycling is now one of the fastest growing sports in the country, and whether you are one of the new breed of Mamils (middle aged men in Lycra) or a fair-weather freewheeler, there’s no denying its attraction and the sense of freedom and exhilaration it delivers.
In honour of this week’s Tour of Britain, we have mirrored the 8 stage structure with our own 8 top cycle rides, easily accessible from our UK Forest locations. Some are gentle, some more strenuous, but they all offer the chance to escape into a world where two wheels is all you need for a few blissful hours.
1. Strathyre: Pick up the cycle track from Callander to Strathyre on your cabin doorstep. Part of Sustrans National Route 7, it is a gentle ride along a disused railway line that takes you past lochs, mountain, rivers and villages without hitting a public road.
2. Ardgartan Argyll: Follow the ancient way of the cattle drovers along the West Loch Lomond Cycle Path, a 16.5 mile route from Tarbet, just beside Ardgartan Argyll to Balloch at the southern end of Loch Lomond. It follows Loch Lomond all the way and conveniently, there is a train station at both ends, so you can easily return in time for a long soak in the hot tub before dinner.
3. Cropton and Keldy: The Moor to Sea Cycle Network is North Yorkshire’s flagship cycle route, taking 6 to 7 days. We’re not suggesting you do the whole route but pick it up at Pickering to Langdale End for a pleasurable 15 mile jaunt.
4. Sherwood Forest: Sherwood Forest is cycling heaven and routes are conveniently marked by the Forestry Commission as Family, Moderate, Hard or Extreme. Try The Kitchener Trail; at 8 miles long it is fast and challenging and graded as Hard. It’s a great introduction to single-track for riders wanting to progress into off-road cycling.
5. The Forest of Dean: After Sherwood Forest’s challenging trail, we’ve gone for something altogether gentler at the Forest of Dean. The Family Cycle Trail is a waymarked circular route, mainly on old railway lines passing villages and picnic spots. This route has been especially surfaced and is suitable for all ages and abilities.
6. Thorpe Forest: Head over to Thetford Forest, managed by Forestry England for a number of trails with varying degrees of difficulty. We recommend the Poacher Trail, a 6.5 mile long moderate route which takes in the picturesque woodland and heathland of Brandon Country Park.
7. Blackwood Forest: The Ox Drove Way is a circular (or top-heavy figure of 8) off-road trail which can be picked up at Micheldever Woods, approximately 4 miles from Blackwood Forest. It is a strenuous but rewarding 25 mile trail named for the fact that it picks up part of an old drover route for cattle.
8. Deerpark: The 18 mile long Camel Trail offers a delightful cycle ride through the heart of Cornwall, following the path of a disused railway line. Named after the camel estuary, it is level and well-surfaced and has recently been voted the 2nd most loved cycle route in the country.
Bike hire is available at every Forest Holiday location, although it is worth including it in your cabin booking rather than waiting until you are onsite. And of course, those aching limbs will need soothing after a long day’s cycling and that’s why we recommend you book a Golden Oak or Silver Birch cabin, complete with outside hot tub – you will have earned it!