The Best Family-Friendly Bike Rides In The UK


Mawddach Trail photo by Sam Howard

Mawddach Trail

Start: Dolgellau

Finish: Barmouth

Distance: 9 miles

Time taken to cycle: 1 hour 30 minutes

Forming part of Lôn Las Cymru which runs from Holyhead to Cardiff, the Mawddach Trail is one of the most scenic railway paths for bike rides in the country. The trail follows the old railway line from Barmouth to Ruabon which was open between 1869 and 1965, and popular with Victorian holiday makers visiting Barmouth.

The trail starts from the heart of the town of Dolgellau where there are views across the hills to the north rising to over 2000ft. There are two atmospheric wooden bridges, the first a toll bridge at Penmaenpool carrying road traffic and the other at the mouth of the estuary carrying the railway line, pedestrians and cyclists into Barmouth.

The estuary is now rich in bird life and you’ll pass the Mawddach Valley – Arthog Bog RSPB reserve, where the old signal box is used as an observation centre.


Photo by Sam Howard

Bristol and Bath railway path

Bristol and Bath Railway Path

Start: Bristol

Finish: Bath

Distance: 13 miles

Time taken to cycle: 2 hours

The Bristol and Bath Railway Path is one of the UK’s finest cycling and walking routes and the first route built by Sustrans. It follows a disused railway path into the beautiful Avon Valley making it perfect for families and novices on bike rides.

Beginning in the historic port of Bristol you pass by Mangotsfield, Bitton, Warmley and Saltford before arriving in the heart of Bath. Along the way you pass though Staple Hill tunnel and can view a variety of sculptures, a signal box café at Warmley and working steam engines at the old train station at Bitton. Once in Bath, you can take in the cities remarkable history by visiting the Roman Baths, Jane Austen Museum and botanical gardens. It’s also easy to jump on the train back to Bristol if your legs are too tired for the cycle back.


Photo by Jonathan Bewley

Union Canal

Union Canal

Start: Edinburgh

Finish: Falkirk

Distance: 30 miles

Time taken to cycle: 4 hours

This fantastic route stretches from the centre of historic Edinburgh, all the way to Falkirk, where you can experience the impressive Falkirk Wheel in action, ideal for cultural bike rides.

Starting in Edinburgh city centre, travel to the city’s leafy western suburbs with lovely countryside views along the way. After eight-miles you arrive in Ratho, where the Bridge Inn is perfect for a coffee stop or quick bite to eat. The Canal between Ratho and Linlithgow is tucked away between other busier transport links and offers a get-away-from-it-all feel. Numerous bridges, impressive aqueducts and the pretty Linlithgow canal basin are highlights of this 13-mile section of the route. At Linthingow, you’ll find a great museum and tearoom at the canal basin and can also access to Linlithgow Palace, owned by Historic Scotland.

From here its 11-miles onto Falkirk wheel, following a route through a mixture of open countryside and settlements, over aqueducts and under tunnels.

There is also the option to cycle shorter sections of the route, such as Linlithgow to the Falkirk Wheel or Linlithgow to Ratho.


Picture by Tony Marsh

Aire Valley Towpath

Aire Valley Towpath, West Yorkshire

Start: Leeds railway station

Finish: Bingley Five Rise Locks

Distance: 16 ¼ miles

Time taken to cycle: 2 hours

The Aire Valley towpath encompasses beautiful countryside, rich industrial history, stunning scenery, the longest canal in the country, and a world heritage site. Starting in the vibrant city of Leeds, this peaceful bike ride travels out past Kirkstall Abbey, Bramley Falls, Rodley, Calverley Woods, Apperley Bridge, Buck Wood at Thackley, Shipley, Hirst Wood, Dowley Gap and the Three and Five Rise Locks at Bingley.

The highlight along the route is Saltaire near Shipley, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its preservation as a Victorian Industrial Village. Named for Sir Titus Salt, the area has many features, so be sure to stop and visit the gallery, fine boutiques, antique shops and excellent cafes and bakeries. At the end of the ride, you’ll reach the Bingley Five Rise Locks, an engineering masterpiece of its time and just ten minutes from Bingley Railway Station.


Photo by Paul Kirkwood

Bike ride

Brampton Valley Way, Northamptonshire

Start: Market Harborough

Finish: Northampton

Distance: 14 miles

Time taken to cycle: 1 hour 10 mins

Starting in Market Harborough at the southern end of Britannia Walk, this route follows one of the longest dismantled railway paths in the country, ideal for unique bike rides. The path runs alongside Oaklands Park and crosses Scotland Road until it reaches rolling open countryside. The path then gently climbs its way to the Oxendon Tunnel before crossing the flat valley of the River Ise. From here you can visit local attractions such as Kelmarsh Hall, Brixworth Country Park and the Northampton and Lamport stream railway.


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