Published: July 2023
The UK is a treasure trove for bikepacking. It offers diverse landscapes, stunning scenery, and a rich history to explore. Whether you're a seasoned bikepacker or a beginner looking for a challenge, there is something to get stuck into.
Let's take a look at five of the best bikepacking routes in the UK: Lands End to John O'Groats, The Old Chalkway, King Alfred's Way, Lakeland 200, and the South Downs Way.
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The Old Chalkway
The Old Chalkway is a mighty 575km bikepacking route stretching from Lyme Regis on the south-west coast, heading north-east across southern England all the way to Holme-next-the-Sea on the Norfolk coast at the North Sea. The route is billed as “Britain’s oldest highway” and follows an ancient trading route first used more than 5,000 years ago.
The backpacking route itself is relatively new, formally created in 2022 by enthusiast Ben Wormald and a friend. The route even has its own website which is well worth a look. The Old Chalkway is well connected and you’re never too far from a large settlement or train station so it lends itself well to every type of bikepacker. The creators say touring should take around 4-6 days and the route has already proved popular with FKT (Fastest Known Time) seekers where the aim is to set the fastest self-supported start to finish time on the route.
King Alfred's Way
King Alfred's Way is a relatively new bikepacking route that was created by the charity Cycling UK. It offers a unique circular journey through the heart of Southern England. Inspired by the legendary King Alfred the Great who fought against Viking invasions, the route spans 220 miles (354 kilometers) through Hampshire, Wiltshire, Berkshire, and Surrey.
You can expect a mix of gravel tracks, ancient trails, and quiet country lanes. The route winds through the rolling hills of the South Downs, the ancient woodlands of the New Forest, and the historical sites of Winchester and Salisbury. This trail is ideal for those seeking a shorter yet fulfilling bikepacking experience with a touch of history and culture.
This route is best on a gravel or mountain bike.
The Lake District is arguably the best place in the UK to ride a bicycle. There are winding climbs, epic views and cute little villages every few kilometres. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of lakes too!
For bikepackers who want to explore the Lakes, and go off-road, the Lakeland 200 is the perfect choice. This challenging loop is for mountain bikes and covers approximately 200 kilometres (130 miles). According to Fastest Known Times, less than forty riders have completed it in under forty hours. It’s a challenge.
The Lakeland takes you through remote valleys, mountain passes, and stunning lakeshores. It’s a photographer's dream and be prepared for technical sections, steep climbs, and descents. You’ll definitely feel as if you’re in the middle of nowhere, and there’s no better MTB route in the country.
This route is only for experienced MTBers!!
Lands End to John O'Groats
The legendary LEJOG, spanning from the southwestern tip of England at Lands End to the northeastern corner of Scotland at John O'Groats, is the ultimate bikepacking adventure in the UK. Covering approximately 874 miles (1,407 kilometers), this iconic route takes you through some of the most stunning landscapes, historical sites, and charming villages in the country.
As you pedal through England, you'll pass through the Cotswolds, cross the rugged terrain of the Peak District, ride through the brutal Lake District, and venture through the beauty of the Scottish Highlands. The route's diverse terrain will challenge you physically and mentally, with both metaphorical and literal highs and lows.
The current record is 41 hours, 4 minutes and 22 seconds. Could you beat it?!
LEJOG can be completed on anything, but we’d recommend a road bike!
South Downs Way
The South Downs Way isn’t the toughest or the most technical route in the UK, but it takes in a myriad of surfaces and offers a great experience.
Ancient paths and bridleways, taking riders through picturesque villages, open farmland, and impressive hilltop forts. As you pedal along this route, you'll be treated to panoramic views of the English Channel and the surrounding countryside
At 100 miles (161 kilometers) in length, it is a great route to dip your toe into bikepacking. More experienced riders may even want to do the South Downs Way and Back! Not every bike packing tour has to take you to the depths of nowhere or bring crazy experiences. The South Downs Way is perfect for all. We’d highly recommend.
This route is for MTB or Gravel, not road bikes!
These are just five of the best, the UK offers some of the most accessible bike packing routes in the world. Bike packing is an adventure, but it’s one that requires plenty of thought. Be sure to thoroughly research and plan your trip, consider weather, accommodation, equipment and food. It is the UK - don’t forget to pack the rain jacket!