We asked top blogger VeloCityGirl to join us on a cycling break and share with you her favourite places to go cycling in the UK.
Jools Walker is a London-based cycling blogger and regular presenter on ITV4’s The Cycle who’s a firm believer that there is something for everyone when it comes to exploring life on two-wheels. Discover the twists and turns of her 65 mile ‘Round the Harbours’ cycling tour from Portsmouth through Hampshire.
We’ve visited Portsmouth before to see friends, but me and my partner had never actually cycled there or done ‘Round the Harbours’: a 30 - 65 mile ride around the Hampshire harbours, coastline and countryside. This summer we finally did it!
Portsmouth is just 90 minutes by train from London Waterloo. Our 40 minute ride to the station and loading up our bikes and luggage onto the bike carriage was just the start of a very easy journey.
Arriving at Portsmouth and Southsea, we had a short cycle to our chosen base for our stay - Premier Inn. With two road bikes and a weekends worth of gear, we needed space that we wouldn’t have got crashing with friends. With Premier Inn being bike friendly and central to where our ride would begin, it was a logical choice. Both bikes were fine to stay in our huge room, which was utter peace of mind! There was also free Wi-Fi, a desk for me to work from and a huge bed and bathroom… all bases were covered!
Settled in, we headed out to explore the city. Portsmouth is quite flat, and with dedicated bike lanes along the seafront, it’s great for cyclists of all abilities. You can enjoy the journey and the gorgeous views - and even pick up ice cream along the way! After riding for hours, we returned to the hotel, and tucked into a much-needed Steak dinner at the Thyme restaurant… awesome fuel after a long afternoon in the sun!
The following morning was the big day, and that required lots energy! The Full Breakfast (along with a few cheeky Muffins from the Continental Selection for the ride) fuelled us up nicely! We cycled to Hayling Island Ferry for the short but beautiful crossing. Rolling off at West Beach, the surprise of bumping into a Kite Festival was a lovely sight. It was ace to see so many young families out cycling when we took the glorious Billy Trail to Havant. Stunning views over the city and of the harbours peppered our ride over Portsdown Hill to Fareham. Our last Ferry ride of the day was crossing from Gosport to Gunwharf Quays, taking in the Historical dockyard and HMS Warrior before returning (happily exhausted) back to our room. Never has a power shower and bed felt so good… and we both slept like logs in THAT comfy bed.
You don’t have to hop on a plane to seek out different terrains to ride though. There is a mix of these dotted around the country! One of my favourites is the Monsal Trail in Bakewell. A glorious and traffic free cycling route, it’s right in the heart of the Peak District and an amazing way to see some of the National Park and its wildlife by bike. Running between Blackwell Mill in Chee Dale and Coombs Road at Bakewell, this 8.5 mile trail will take you through breathtaking countryside as well as the four converted railway tunnels on the route: Headstone Tunnel, Cressbrook Tunnel, Litton Tunnel and Chee Tor Tunnel. Each 400 metre one is lit during the daytime, and is like entering another world with each ride! With a Premier Inn located in both Buxton and Matlock, you’re guaranteed a bike-friendly start and end to your adventure.
If you fancy a bit of a challenge, the Trough of Bowland could be the cycling route for you. Located in the north of Lancashire, there is a mix of beautiful countryside and tough climbs that will certainly put your legs to the test! Between the Yorkshire Dales and the Coast you’ll find The Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (to give it it’s full name), where you can ride on rolling roads almost untouched by traffic, while taking on gradients that go into double figures. With the vast forest land, there are many routes you can plot out, depending on the level of difficulty you’re in the mood for. With six Premier Inn’s located in Lancashire (with the Lancaster and Preston North Hotels being the closest to the Forest), you can plot your ride around a comfortable base with ease.
I’m returning to Hampshire again for another stunning cycle route – The New Forest. Seeing it on two wheels is breathtaking, and is a wonderful way to truly experience all it has to offer. There are miles of off road tracks, which are ideal for families wanting a safe and gentle cycling holiday and accessibility for riders of all levels. There is large a range of routes to choose from – including longer distance rides such as the 25 mile Lyndhurst to Burley trail, which includes highlights like seeing the wild deer from the viewing platform at Bolderwood! You can take your own bikes to the closest Premier Inn at Lymington, or hire some within the New Forest – a service that is available all year round. The ease of a cycling break with these options makes it all the more appealing to visit, knowing that you can just chill out at the end of it all.
Check out more great cycling trails in the UK and Scotland
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