Activities, Culture, Destinations

Three of the most cycle-friendly National Parks in the UK

YHA Bike Cleaning Station

A host of new cycling schemes, events and investment projects have ensured that cycling within the boundaries of the UK’s National Parks is now better than ever. From brand new cycling shuttle bus services to new and improved cycle paths across tricky terrain, park authorities have been busy developing some of the UK’s most popular routes to ensure parks are as cycle-friendly as possible. The Peak District, Lake District and Brecon Beacons are possibly the most developed parks in the UK right now and offer cyclists some of the most varied routes, breath-taking scenery and largely unrivalled facilities. So whether you’re a veteran roadie, a hell-on-wheels mountain biker or just a casual cyclist looking for a new adventure, some of the best cycling routes in the UK can be found within these parks as well as a number of our most cycle friendly hostels.

The Peak District

Peak District, Paul Stevenson

With over 65 miles of off-road tracks and trails, The Peak District National Park offers a very varied selection of cycling routes and terrain. The popular Carsington Water route allows cyclists to enjoy open flat paths and tranquil woodland surroundings. The eight mile circuit, which snakes along the scenic reservoir, is mainly comprised of gravel tracks and a new traffic-free section above the reservoir’s northern shore. The trail also features a visitor centre with pay and display parking, bike hire and picturesque picnic spots.

If you’re looking for something a little more challenging, the Chatsworth Loop provides a 27.5 mile route with a number of testing inclines and hills. A popular route for families is the Monsal Trail, which runs 8.5 miles along the Midland Railway line and features a network of disused railway tunnels (with automatic light sensors), offering a unique, yet slightly unusual, way to travel through the park’s key locations.

The Department of Transport recently provided a £260k grant to boost access to cycling routes across the park, funding a bike bus across Bakewell, Buxton, Matlock and surrounding areas. The new shuttle service provides assistance and support for journeys along the trails at Monsal, Tissington and High Peak, and is run throughout the summer and at other peak periods during the year. Our recent funding project has also made our Peak District hostels more cycle-friendly, providing improved tracks, cycle stores, bike stands and outdoor cleaning facilities for eight hostels within the region.

YHA Hartington Hall is ideal if you’re looking for a Peak District hostel with excellent cycling facilities. The 17th Century manor house is close to all the major cycle routes such as Tissington, High Peak and The Manifold Trails, and provides our newly installed cycling facilities.

The Lake District

Lake District, Phil Gradwell

The £7m Golakes project, which is just reaching completion, promotes sustainable, car-free travel in the busiest parts of the park, meaning more bike friendly buses, improved tracks, electric cycle ways and more.

Despite its steep hills and challenging terrain, The Lake District Loop, a 40-mile ride, has previously been voted as the best cycling route in the UK. The circuit has been designed for experienced cyclists but if you can handle the climbs and long distance you’ll be rewarded with some of the most stunning views of the park. The Loweswater Loop is a perfect route for beginners and is only 5.3 miles long. The route is great for tourists and offers a variety of interesting stop-off points such as the Newhouse Farm Tearooms and the historic Kirkstile Inn. There are also lots of cycling events taking place throughout the year; one of the most popular is the Fred Whitton Challenge, a 112-mile charity road race which is usually held in May.

If you take your cycling seriously and are looking for cycle friendly hostels in the Lake District, then YHA Keswick based in the town centre is highly recommended. For long distance riders, the hostel is perfectly placed along the challenging Coast 2 Coast and End to End routes and keen road cyclists won’t be too far away from the Honister Newlands and Whinlatter Passes either.

Brecon Beacons National Park

Situated in the mountain range of South Wales, Brecon Beacons National Park is renowned for being one of the country’s cycling hubs. The park provides riders with 16 varied routes, which range from family friendly trails to challenging steep hill climbs. Brecon Beacons also contains a number of useful bike hire shops which are conveniently dotted around the region so you don’t have to worry about bringing your own bike. Excellent public transport links make the area accessible and a bike bus runs during summer Sundays and Bank Holidays from the end of May to the end of September. The Brecon and Monmouth Canal probably offers the most family friendly route as terrain is relatively smooth and flat and follows a towpath for just under seven miles. For the more advanced cyclists, the Abergavenny to Hay-On-Wye cycle route is a 21 mile journey which climbs the testing Gospel Pass and takes riders through some of the most breath-taking areas in the Black Mountains. If you think you’re up for the challenge, be sure to stop off at the Llanthony Priory’s ancient ruins, located in the Black Mountains along the route.

Our YHA Brecon Beacons, a converted 19th Century farmhouse, is situated in the heart the National Park and sits just across the valley from the popular Taff trail cycling route which runs from Cardiff to Brecon.

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