Spring is coming. There couldn't be a more perfect way to shake off the winter doldrums and witness the budding greenery than from the comfort of your saddle.
We asked Martyn Brunt from Sustrans to recommend the best cycle paths for downhill forest trails, dazzling stretches of coastline, quaint villages, crumbling castles and short city-centre dashes. All these paths form part of the huge Sustrans National Cycle Network – a series of traffic-free paths and quiet on-road routes that stretch 14,500 miles across the British Isles. There's a whole two-wheeled world out there to explore.
I'll be coming round the mountain
If you want spectacular mountain views then there is no better place to head than the Scottish Highlands and the Callander to Killin route.
OK, so we’ll be upfront – this ride is definitely a challenge but trust us, it really is worth the effort. Showcasing Scotland’s natural beauty, the route travels into the heart of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Starting in the pretty town of Callander (known as the ‘Gateway to the Highlands’) you’ll pass waterfalls, glens, lochs and heather clad mountains.
Quaint and quintessentially English
If you’re after unspoilt, quintessentially English villages in a beautiful rural setting, then the Cotswolds is the perfect destination, and the Windrush Valley Cycle Route in Oxfordshire is the perfect ride.
Transport yourself from the bustle of historic Witney to the beautiful, quiet lanes of the Windrush Valley on this ride into the Costwold countryside. Burford makes a great stopping off point – it's one of the most picturesque towns in England – with a medieval bridge, old stone houses and attractive Georgian and Tudor shop fronts.
If vibrant forest trails are what you’re after then the Afan Valley in South Wales is the ultimate destination.
This great route takes you on a short jaunt from the coast right into heart of Afan Forest Park. With panoramic forest views, extensive wildlife and campsite facilities you could make this a multi-day adventure. If you fancy testing your mettle, there are five world class mountain bike trails and mountain bike hire available in the park.
Crashing waves and coastal sunsets
There are so many stretches of amazing British coastline that it’s almost impossible to choose a favourite, but the unexplored Burgh by Sands to the Solway Coast trail in Cumbria is idyllic.
The perfect place to watch the sun going down, this ride offers 24 miles of beautiful salt marsh and farmland before arriving at the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Alternative: We can't recommend coastal cycle routes without mentioning the Causeway Coast Cycle Route, in County Antrim This stunning 23-mile cycle route runs along the North Atlantic coast from Castlerock to the Giant's Causeway World Heritage Site and a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Along the way you can enjoy fine sea views from Barmouth Viewpoint across the mouth of the River Bann, and also over the sandy beach at Portstewart across to Scotland and the Mull of Kintyre.
A cycle through history
If you fancy exploring a bit of England’s rich heritage then there is no better place to start than the historic Shropshire Castles Cycleway.
This route offers you the chance to experience South Shropshire’s historic castles and the beautiful countryside surrounding them, much of which is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Visit the historic towns of Shrewsbury, Bishop’s Castle, Craven Arms and Ludlow, which are renowned for traditional shops, lively street markets, art and craft galleries and storybook castles.
City centre dash
If you want a short city centre dash that takes you away from the hustle and bustle then the Tamsin Trail in London is the route for you.
This ride takes you on a loop around the beautiful Richmond Park. Here you can lose yourself in the ornamental woodland garden, go deer-spotting and find the perfect spot for a picnic. King Henry's Mound is the highest point within the park and has a telescope where you can see all the way to St Paul's Cathedral.
Martyn Brunt is the National Cycle Network Development Manager at Sustrans and he loves nothing more than hopping on his bike on a Sunday, followed by tea and cake.