“A bicycle ride around the world begins with a single pedal stroke” – Scott Stoll
Cycling has grown as a popular sport in Britain over the past 5 years, with many of us taking to the roads on two wheels for both recreational and commuting purposes. Never have we seen so many MAMILs (middle-aged men in Lycra) speeding along the tarmac and brightly coloured groups of all ages out on club spins. Once an elite sport, cycling has now become an accessible hobby for everybody which in turn is helping both our physical health and our natural environment.
As well as large chain retailers and independent bike stores profits increasing, cycle tour companies and bike hire establishments have gained a lot from the popularity of the sport too. Many people are taking to two wheels on their holidays and exploring new areas in this fun and energetic way. Whether mountain terrain, woodland tracks or quiet country lanes, holidaymakers are more and more keen to discover the UK by bike!
Northumberland boasts some of the most breathtaking routes in the country, which will help you explore the county’s special and diverse countryside and coastal scenery. Here are some route suggestions which might come in handy if you’re planning some bike fun in Northumberland soon. Some of these routes are really long ones covering a few counties at a time, but we have suggested start and finish points within Northumberland which you could tackle in two parts, or if you’re really keen, one go!
Please note that these routes are for more experienced riders, perhaps those who think riding 50 miles in a day is a piece of cake!
Road biking in Northumberland
"There is nothing, absolutely nothing, quite so worthwhile as simply messing about on bicycles." - Tom Kunich
The Pennine Cycleway (NCN Route 68)
This picturesque cycle route runs from Derby (Derbyshire) to Berwick-upon-Tweed (350 miles), passing through the counties of Derbyshire, West Yorkshire, Cumbria and then entering Northumberland via the South Tyne Valley. Crossing over Hadrian’s Wall and then passing through Kielder Forest and Northumberland National Park, this route takes in some of the county’s most stunning scenery.
The trail is mostly off-road and largely made up of purpose-built canals, riversides, disused railway lines, minor roads and urban cycle paths. Over 60% of it is traffic free! Rather than cycling the whole route, why not pick up the route along the way?
Suitable for: Gravel bikes, tour bikes, cyclocross bikes, mountain bikes and e-bikes
Suggested start: Cawburn
Suggested end: Wooler
Estimated length: 60 miles
Coast and Castles cycle route
This is a relatively flat cycle route taking in some of England’s most impressive castles on a beautiful coastal ride you will never forget. The route runs between Tynemouth and Berwick-upon-Tweed (200 miles), entering Northumberland itself at Seaton Sluice. It is called Coast & Castles after the 100 or so miles of shoreline it follows, threaded through Northumbrian fishing villages, past vast sandy beaches. Now there is an alternative route continuing north along the coast instead of cutting inland via the Scottish Borders. The coastline is dotted with ancient castles such as Warkworth, Bamburgh, Dunstanburgh and Lindisfarne.
Passing through these coastal villages, you will taste some of the Northumbrian culture and enjoy coffee stops at some of the welcoming cafes to re-fuel, perhaps with a bit of cake too. You will certainly burn off the calories!
Suitable for: Gravel bikes, tour bikes, cyclocross bikes, road bikes and e-bikes
Suggested start: Tynemouth
Suggested end: Holy Island
Estimated length: 64 miles
Cycle hires in Northumberland
There are many establishments throughout Northumberland that are ready to help you find the perfect set of wheels to carry you through your adventure with style and ease. Some of you might have your own bikes, but a lot of people love the ease of hiring a bike to take the hassle out of travelling with it. Here are our recommendations:
- Berwick Cycles. 17A Bridge St, Berwick-upon-Tweed TD15 1ES | Tel: 01289 331476
- Pedal Power Cycling. Coquet Enterprise Park, 6, Morpeth NE65 0PE | Tel: 07790 596782
- Valley Cycles. Teal Ave, South Beach, Blyth NE24 3PT | Tel: 07411 664854
- The Bike Shop. Willowburn Industrial Estate, Unit 4, Alnwick NE66 2PF | Tel: 07599 350000
- The Bike Place in Kielder. Kielder Cycle Centre, Kielder, Hexham NE48 1ER | Tel: 01434 250457
- The Bike Place Ltd. The Stone Barn Kielder Waterside, Hexham NE48 1BT | Tel: 01434 250144
Mountain biking in Northumberland
"May your trails be crooked, winding, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds." - Edward Abbey
The Sandstone Way
This is a new 120-mile mountain biking route between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Hexham. It links, and is named after, the numerous sandstone features, crags and outcrops which are characteristic of the region. The route traverses through an amazing ever-changing landscape which is rich in history, geological features and iconic scenery. The route links the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with Northumberland National Park, making it one of the most scenic rides in England.
The Sandstone Way has been designed for mountain bikers with most of it being off-road and safely crosses a constant flow of rivers, four main roads and two railway lines. It just about covers the whole length of Northumberland! You might not be able to do the whole thing in a day, so why not just do a section of it? Find out more.
Suitable for: Mountain bikes, gravel bikes, e-bikes (mountain)
Suggested start: Rothbury
Suggested end: Holburn
Estimated length: 40 miles
Kielder Forest mountain biking
This is one of England’s premier mountain biking areas with 13 way-marked trails which vary from easy to demanding. This is an area for the whole family if biking is what you are in to! The 27-mile Lakeside Way is a newer path around the lake, giving access to stunning views and abundant wildlife. Numerous shorter routes are also available, so you can try out a few in a day!
The Deadwater Trails in Kielder Forest are among the best single-track trails in England, offering some of the finest views in the county which will keep you coming back for more! The Red Trail is the highest in England, climbing to 1,900ft (580m) – take on a challenge during your break and get amazing photos of the view. Or try the extremely challenging Black Trail – go on, you can relax in your cottage later!
Other places to take the mountain bike:
- Hexhamshire Common – south-west of Hexham
- Cheviot Hills – south-west of Wooler
- Simonside Forest
- Harwood Forest
- Thrunton Woods
Your cycle essentials
It's a good idea to be prepared for any ride, whether you are going out for a short spin, a long run or an endurance ride. Hopefully this list will help you be that little bit more prepared...
- Padded gloves
- Buff and high-vis waterproof
- Repair kit – multi-tool, puncture kit
- High energy snacks – protein bars, sugary treats. Provide for the amount of time you will be out
- Water bottle
- GPS Garmin/Strava if you want to calculate your distance and time
- First aid kit – plasters, bandages, painkillers
- Padded shorts and breathable clothing. Try and wear high-vis clothing as much as possible for road safety
- Comfy shoes, clipped shoes or trainers
If these routes look like something you would want to undertake on your holiday to Northumberland why not check out our Northumberland cottages? We have coastal cottages that would suit as a great base for you take on the Coast and Castles cycle route, and Kielder cottages that would be the perfect option for mountain biking adventures. For those of you who want to make sure you have a special place to return to after days out working the legs, browse our luxury collection and our Northumberland cottages with hot tubs too!