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The Lake District's Best Bike Rides

Some say the Lake District was made for cycling with extreme off-road mountain biking to gentle country lanes, cross country routes as well as the Lake District Cycling Loop. Bike hire in the Lake District can be found in most areas including electric bikes which could be a good idea; mountain biking in the Lake District can be a bit more enjoyable with a bit of assistance! We have picked a variety of the more popular routes to inspire you.

Grizedale Forest

Here you’ll discover some great possibilities for mountain biking in the Lake District. Whether you’re a beginner or expert the Forest offers a fantastic opportunity for natural cycling and includes family trails, cross country and downhill routes plus the extreme North Face trail. The forest is a very safe place to develop your cycling skills in a traffic free environment, information about all routes mentioned plus many more can be found at the Grizedale Visitor Information Centre.

For starters families can go to Moor Top car park and follow the gentle 2 mile long Goosey Foot trail taking you past two of the many tarns or try the Mushroom cycle trail. Children will enjoy navigating the route and finding wooden mushrooms hidden away in the forest. These routes are a great introduction to cycling in the National Park.

Once you’ve honed your cycling legs you may want to progress to the Cross Country and Downhill Mountain Biking trails. You’ll be spoilt for choice with all of them giving a challenging off-road experience that will test your fitness and technique.

Take the ghostly Grizedale Tarn trail passing through atmospheric forests around Bogle Crag or the longer Hawkshead Moor trail overlooking Coniston Water plus fabulous views into the very heart of the Lake District. The 7 mile Moor Top trail takes you through ancient oak woodlands where you can listen to the bird life especially if cycling early or late in the day.

If you prefer a longer and hillier route the Silurian Way cycle trail is for you, look out for varied wildlife habitats as well as enjoying panoramic views. The Mountain Bike Orienteering trail includes 6 graded courses from 8 miles and easy, ideal for beginners, or 20 miles with lots of climbing on hard forest roads for the more experienced.

The marked North Face trail starts at the Visitor Centre and includes 9 sections on the west side of Grizedale Forest. This isn’t for the faint hearted with parts of the route graded as difficult and includes adrenalin fuelled leg burning sections through the oak woodlands and conifer forest. You’ll travel along twisting tracks and board walks, up challenging climbs and down tricky descents with drop offs and rocks to tackle, or avoid, add to this fabulous Lakeland views opening up before you. This route is suitable for proficient mountain bikers with off-road experience and a good level of fitness.

Whinlatter Forest

This is a great location close to Keswick with 2 purpose built bike trails, the red Altura Trail and the blue Quercus Trail as well as Mountain Bike Orienteering. Whinlatter Forest Park is England’s only mountain forest at 790 metres above sea level so the Lakeland views and further to Scotland are spectacular as you cycle round.

The red Altura Trail (difficult) is 12 miles of challenging mainly single track for the more advanced rider and includes berms, jumps, rock features plus much more. There are fantastic views of Derwent Water, Bassenthwaite, Helvelyn and Skiddaw as you get higher in the forest.

The blue Quercus Trail (moderate) is 4.6 miles long and a hidden gem waiting to be discovered with a flowing track, gentle berms, rolling jumps and gradual climbs, so suitable for everyone even adventurous beginners wanting to test themselves. The trail is named after the Latin for Oak, Quercus Petraea, as the furthest loop runs through the Masmill Oak Woodland.

The Mountain Bike Orienteering trail explores the forest with some long climbs so suitable for competent riders. The object is to score as many points as possible in a fixed time, say 1 hour, by finding pinch markers at control points to mark your score box.

Detailed maps for all the Forest trails can be purchased at the Whinlatter Visitor Centre.

The Lake District Cycling Loop

This circular route, also known as the Lakeland Loop, has been voted the best cycle ride in Britain. The 40 mile journey takes you through stunning scenery, along quiet roads beside Coniston Water and includes the challenging Wrynose Pass. Altogether you will climb 1700 metres with only half a mile on the main road. Some have done it in just over 3 hours, but we recommend you take as long as you want and revel amidst the majestic Lakeland scenery with the occasional stop off for a rest!

Starting in the lovely village of Lowick the ride begins with an undulating 10 mile stretch along the shores of Coniston Water with panoramic views of Coniston Old Man. After a sharp climb at the head of the lake you head up Hawkshead Hill then you’ll pass the Wild Boar Pub before descending to Little Langdale. Now it’s time to get those legs spinning with a 30% ascent up the formidable Wrynose Pass, once at the top you’ll be rewarded with 15 miles of descent nearly all the way to Broughton-in -Furness. To get back to Lowick you ascend up through Woodland Fell, also known as the ‘sting in the tail’ of this ride, then two miles downhill to reach your end destination feeling very pleased with yourself!

Photo - Thetford Forest Park - Forestry Commission

Kendal to Grange-over-Sands

This is a lovely 15 mile route taking you from the ‘Gateway to the Lake District’ to an Edwardian seaside resort with open views of Arndale and Silverdale AONB.

Starting at the old canal head directly below Kendal Castle, which itself is well worth exploring before you set off with 12th Century medieval ruins on a hilltop affording great views. You then follow the cycle path along the canal for a couple of miles until you join Natland Road where you follow the signs for the National Route 6 to Lancaster. You’ll pass through Natland then come across the village of Sedgwick and from here the name changes to Route 70. Sizergh Castle is another great place to call in on the way, a National Trust property with a great cafe, medieval house and lovely grounds.

On from here you go past the Gilpin Bridge Inn then to the Derby Arms at Witherslack via a minor road avoiding the busy A590. At a crossroads you turn left and go through a tunnel under the main carriageway which takes you to Meathop, past Meathop Fell and over the River Winster. You now follow the route to Grange-over-Sands, past the golf course on the B5277 and over the footbridge to the railway station. This may not be the longest bike ride but has so much to offer on the way and with only one steep section can be a wonderful day out cycling and exploring.

Photo - Visit Norfolk

The Eskdale Trail

The Eskdale Trail includes a train ride from Ravensglass to Dalegarth taking about 40 minutes then a pleasant 8.5 mile pedal down from the foot of the Scafell range, through the historic Eskdale Valley, finishing on the shores of the Irish Sea. It can take about 2 hours or longer depending on how many stops to admire the views.

This is certainly a bike ride with a difference, starting from Ravensglass on a converted carriage on the Ravensglass and Eskdale Railway, and terminating at the gorgeous village of Boot sitting in the scenic Eskdale Valley. There’s a tea shop and 2 pubs so you can take your pick and we recommend taking some time out to visit the Exhibition and Information Centre at pretty Eskdale Green before setting off.

This is a fairly easy bike ride with a mixture of gentle country lanes, rough tracks and grassy fields which give you the opportunity to look out for wildlife including roe deer, red squirrels and buzzards soaring high in the sky. There’s only one climb of any significance, the summit of Chapel Hill, where you will be rewarded with lovely views.

You will arrive back in historic Ravensglass, a gorgeous coastal hamlet lying on the estuary of three rivers, the Esk, Mite and Irt, which was once an important Roman Naval base in the 2nd century. You can head for anyone of the shops, pubs or tea rooms or even the Roman Bath House. If you want to venture further visit nearby Muncaster, home to the World Owl Trust, a cafe, playground, gift shops and castle.

Photo - Visit Norfolk