With its rolling hills, picturesque scenery and fascinating history, it’s easy to see why the UK is a much-loved holiday destination..
But while many flock to the traditional tourist hotspots, a savvy few are leaving their cars behind and using bikes to uncover the country’s hidden gems instead.
And with cycling experiencing a surge in popularity at the moment, it’s never been easier to jump on a bike and see the area like a local. These days you don’t even have to worry about cramming your own bike into a car; hire scheme Bike & Go, which operates from over 60 participating UK train stations, allows you to take your bike wherever you want within the 24-hour hire window.
Here’s our guide to some of the best places to see by bike – no lycra required.
The delights of hip city Liverpool and its impressive art scene have been well documented, but a lesser known fact is that just a few miles down the River Mersey lies one of the area’s hidden jewels. Blundellsands is a gorgeous suburb boasting million-pound houses, a beach and Turner Prize winner Antony Gormley’s spectacular art installation ‘Another Place’. 100 cast-iron, life-size sculptures of the artist’s own body which were exhibited in Germany, Norway and Belgium before settling in Crosby in 1997.
Jump on the train from Liverpool to Blundellsands & Crosby Station then head to the beach and ride along the waterfront, taking in the impressive site of the figures spread out along three kilometres. You won’t find any ‘kiss me quick’ hats or greasy chippies here, but if you stay on the path and continue riding towards Liverpool, the Crosby Lakeside is a lovely waterside spot to enjoy coffee and lunch.
Hire a bike from: Blundellsands & Crosby Station
Take the train from Norwich Railway Station to Hoveton & Wroxham Station where, just across the street, you’ll find Wroxham Station on the Bure Valley Railway Line. From here you can cycle the purpose-built footpath and cycle track which runs the entire nine-mile length of the private heritage-operated railway line alongside awe-inspiring steam trains. Eventually, you’ll arrive at Aylsham, an attractive market town with plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants. From here you can ride to Blickling Hall, before taking the train back from Aylsham to Wroxham.
Hire a bike from: Norwich Railway Station
Near to the pretty town of Beverley, with its cobbled streets and café culture, lies a much-loved stretch of open pasture bequeathed to the town where cows and sheep graze alongside picnicking families. Beverley Westwood is also home to Beverley Racetrack and a golf course, so weekends see plenty of activity. A £200,000 cycle path is being developed this year which will make it even easier for cyclists to enjoy the delights of Beverley Westwood and you’ll see some great views of the town and the stunning Beverley Minster. If you’d rather dine than picnic, there are plenty of options to suit all budgets in Beverley town centre.
Hire a bike from: Beverley Station
Just a short 20-minute cycle from Halifax train station lies the beautiful Ogden Water Local Nature Reserve. The perfect place for a family outing, there are numerous woodland trails and waterside paths to explore as well as stunning views across Calderdale and as far as the Peak District. There’s also a visitor centre serving hot drinks and gingerbread men, and some lovely walks around the water. Just remember to lock up your bikes before entering, as cycling is not allowed around the nature reserve itself.
Hire a bike from: Halifax station
Edinburgh has a growing reputation as one of, if not the, most bike friendly cities in the UK. Tourists and residents alike love the ease with which they can cycle around the area (although watch out for the cobbled streets around New Town and Stockbridge). Out of town, there are many safe, traffic-free cycle paths. One of the most popular routes runs along an old railway line with deep embankments to the vibrant, coastal resort of the Port of Leith. Here you’ll find a unique area steeped in history – and now lined with restaurants, delis, contemporary galleries, as well as the 5-star Royal Yacht Britannia. If you need help with detailed route planning, pick up a copy of Spokes Edinburgh Cycle Map (£5.95) which shows every bike path and track in the city.
Hire a bike from: Haymarket Station
Liverpool Street Station is a central spot for many of London’s most visited attractions, and hiring a bike from here is one of the cheapest ways to enjoy a sightseeing trip around London (Bike & Go charges just £3.80 for 24 hours plus an annual subscription charge). From here you’ll be able to reach Tate Modern, St Paul’s Cathedral, Covent Garden and Madame Tussauds within around 30 minutes. But if you want to escape the hustle and bustle Regent’s Park (around four miles away from Liverpool Street Station) offers the perfect retreat. Here you’ll find stunning gardens, a boating Lake, London Zoo and the historic Primrose Hill; the perfect way to spend a day.
Hire a bike from: Liverpool Street Station
Following the track bed of part of the former Birkenhead Railway and running through the Wirral Country Park (the UK’s first when it was created), this beautiful route leads you through the Wirral coastline This old disused railway line has been transformed into a stunning 12.2 mile coastal route running from West Kirby to Hooton in Chester. There are a number of stop-off points throughout the way at Thurstaston, which has a lovely visitors’ centre, and Parkgate, where you’ll find restaurants, ice-cream parlours and seafood shops. There are also old railway features along the route, such as Hadlow Road Railway Station which has been restored so that it now looks just as it did in the 1950s.
Hire a bike from: West Kirby Station