tour de britain

April 20th, 2009

Cycling through the countryside couldn’t be more quintessentially British.  So why not experience some of Great Britain’s beloved sites on a bike as a member of The Royal Oak Foundation – U.S. affiliate of the National Trust of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.  Membership to Royal Oak – just $55! – grants free admission to all of the Trust’s properties (over 300 historic houses and gardens, 700 miles of coastline, and 620,000 acres of countryside).  Over 100 of these are close to the National Cycle Network, and some offer perks such as “tea-room vouchers” for on-site eateries to those visiting on two wheels instead of four.  Pedal away!

Giant’s Causeway (©NTPL/Joe Cornish).

Here are ten of the best bike routes:

Ashridge Estate, Buckinghamshire – Keep your eyes peeled for fallow deer and fungi! Learn about the Duke of Bridgewater Monument and Iron Age fort found on five family-friendly routes that run around the vast ancient woodland and rolling chalk grasslands of this estate.  (For more information call 01494 755557).

Barrington Court and Montacute, South Somerset – Ease round a gentle 20-mile circular bike ride along an old railway line and quiet rural lanes with stunning views of the Quantock Hills, the Blackdowns, and the Somerset Levels.  This is an area famed for its orchards, which make great homes for birds, butterflies, and cider-makers.  (For more information call 01460 242614).

Blickling, Norfolk – Choose from a wide range of bikes to hire and pedal on any of the network of cycle paths around the park and gardens.  Look out for a mile-long lake, a pyramid-shaped mausoleum, and a brilliant variety of birds and flowers, with bluebells blooming in spring and skylark singing in mid-summer whenever the sun is out.  (For more information call 01263 738030).

Box Hill, Surrey – Box Hill’s woodlands and chalk downs are a popular destination for a family bike ride. If feeling energetic, follow the winding road up to the summit, or stick to the less strenuous bridleway along the side of the hill and look out for the dozen species of orchid in the early summer months.  At the crest of the hill, perseverant bikers are rewarded with a spectacular view – on a clear day, one might even be able to spot the sea!  (For more information call 01306 885502).

Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire – Discover the northernmost part of Sherwood Forest by hiring bikes to pedal around 20 miles of cycle routes where you can encounter Europe’s largest lime tree avenue, over 200 species of birds at the lake, and exotic plants in the Pleasure Ground.  Recharge with a tasty meal at the refurbished restaurant made of ingredients from the kitchen’s garden.  (For more information call 01909 544917).

Coniston, Cumbria – With a range of gentle lakeshore and woodland bike rides, pedal-power is one of the best ways to experience this stunning corner of the Lake District.  Coniston Water is the famous site where motorboat racer Donald Campbell travelled at over 300mph in the Bluebird on the lake.  While one might not reach that speed on a bike, it will be all the better for enjoying the views and spying the wildlife en route from birds and butterflies to Beatrix Potter’s favorite Herdwick sheep.  (For more information call 01539 441197).

Erddig, Wrexham – The best way to see the estate’s parkland, woodland, and rolling farmland is to hire some of their bicycles and set out with a cycle map along one of three routes and explore the vast country park.  Children will love the chance to let off steam and uncover the park’s wilder residents – from farm animals to fungi, ancient trees to bumble bees.  Finish up with a little refreshment in the restaurant.  (For more information call 01978 315151).

Gibside, Newcastle and Gateshead – With red kites whirling over the treetops, Gibside feels a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the Tyne quayside.  The route is dotted with great picnic spots and spectacular vistas where one can refuel before freewheeling the eight miles back down the Derwent Walk to Newcastle.  (For more information call 01207 541820).

Plymbridge Woods, Devon – This gentle 10-mile cycle ride stretches from Plymbridge Woods up the valley, over rivers, across breathtaking viaducts, and through a tunnel to Dewerstone Woods.  It’s a lovely bike ride all year round; early summer offers the added bonus of close-up views of peregrines and their chicks nesting on a cliff in the Cann Quarry.  (For more information call 01752 341377).

Portstewart to the Giant’s Causeway, North Antrim Coast – This 12-mile circular cycle route around a Blue Flag beach and Northern Ireland’s only World Heritage Site offers the chance to explore one of the most famous and beautiful stretches of the North Antrim coast by bike.  It’s a great route for budding wildlife-detectives, with seabirds and porpoises to spot and lots of cliff top and heathland flora too.  (For more information call 028 2073 1582).

Note:  Most properties have cycle parking on site or nearby, unless stated otherwise.  For more information and for downloadable cycle routes visit or the individual property pages.

Leave a Reply



« »