Whether you are a thrill-seeking downhill mountain biker, a cyclo-sportive enthusiast, or you love to gently pedal your way through breath-taking landscapes, there is a huge choice of routes for you in the Lake District. With its dramatic hills, tranquil lakes, and winding country roads, the region is a paradise for cyclists of all abilities. Best of all, there are many opportunities to rest and refuel in the towns and villages you’ll discover. In this blog, a brief guide to cycling in the Lake District, we recommend some of the best cycle routes and cycle hire shops in the Lake District. Perhaps you fancy testing out an e-bike for a day?
FAMILY FRIENDLY & GENTLER ROUTES
- The Threlkeld to Keswick Trail is a 5km off-road, tarmacked route on a former railway line. Even better, it starts at the north end of St. John’s-in-the-Vale, just a few miles from Fornside. You’ll find yourself gracefully curving through the dramatic scenery of the gorge, overlooking the rapids of the twisting River Greta as well as being immersed in delightful woodlands. The trail (see our other blog) is marked with many informative signs about its history. For those with an engineering interest, there are new and refurbished bridges, two tunnels, a deep rock cutting, and remnants of mechanical signal infrastructure. If your party are road-ready (and can tackle a hill) you could loop in a visit to Castlerigg Stone Circle (see our other blog), which is even older than Stonehenge!
- The Pump Track in Fitz Park is a great place for adventurous children to challenge themselves and burn off some energy. Café West is a short stroll away, if you fancy sipping a coffee whilst watching them ride.
- For woodland cycle trails with dramatic mountain glimpses, you can’t beat Whinlatter Forest. There is a range of well-marked trails, the most family-friendly of which is the Grey 10km Gorse Trail which is mainly on wide forest roads, so suitable for any sort of off-road bike including e-bikes, mountain bikes and gravel bikes. For a fabulous introduction to singletrack mountain biking, try the Blue 8km Quercus Trail, incorporating rollers and small jumps (which can be easily avoided if preferred!). The recently refurbished Ambio Café will probably be a ‘must’ after your ride!
- For a complete day out, Lowther Castle offers a gentle river loop trail (as well as cycle hire) around its glorious estate. Why not combine this with a trip to the castle itself?
MOUNTAIN BIKING – DOWNHILL & SINGLETRACK FOCUS
- There is something for everyone at Whinlatter Forest. They have a range of well-marked singletrack trails, graded Blue, Red and Black. With numerous walking trails, Go Ape, The Gruffalo Trail and Ambio Café, not to mention a very hilly weekly ParkRun, Whinlatter offers something for anyone who loves the great outdoors.
- Grisedale Forest is a little further to travel, but offers another range of singletrack trails for the avid mountain biker, as well as walking trails and a rather nice café.
MOUNTAIN BIKING: CROSS COUNTRY
- Borrowdale Bash – an 18 mile classic favourite loop starting and finishing in Keswick and taking in pretty trails, a challenging road climb, numerous technical descents and spectacular views. With so much climbing and off-road, ensure you are fully prepared!
- Skiddaw Loop some sixteen miles around Skiddaw, some of which are on roads (this link shows the alternative route from when the K2T was closed and the best way back was along Lonscale Terrace, but now you can ride along the Blease Terrace and via Threlkeld and the K2T trail)
- A shorter version of this would be what we call ‘The Terraces Loop’, up and down the wonderful Glenderraterra valley, which we can glimpse looking north from Fornside. Take the route from Keswick up Latrigg, along Lonscale terrace, back along Blease terrace and back via either Brundleholme lanes or the K2T former railway line.
- The Old Coach Road is an out-and-back trail, small parts of which might challenge your technical hill climbing but most of its 8km length is beautifully cyclable on a gravel bike, e-bike or mountain bike. See our walking blog describing it here – scroll down to number 9 in the blog.
- There are numerous cycling trails around Ullswater (including of course the link over Sticks Pass to Legburthwaite, a mile from Fornside, if you can arrange to be dropped off). The Ullwater Steamer usually has room for bikes, if you want to cycle half the lake and take the leisurely option back.
- The Lake District has many famous ‘passes’, involving a challenging ride up and a breathtaking descent. As collectable as Wainwrights, you may recognise the names Whinlatter, Wrynose, Hardknott, and Kirkstone, amongst others. Many of them feature in the iconic Fred Whitton Sportive. How many passes can you achieve in a single holiday (or single day out!)?
- This route takes in Whinlatter and Honister Passes as well as views over five of the Lakes.
- For those looking for something less arduous, Borrowdale Loop is a fabulous ride in one of the most picturesque valleys of the Lake District. Starting and ending in Keswick, you circle Derwentwater anticlockwise, heading to the pretty village of Grange, and back underneath Catbells and through Portinscale.
- At the time of writing, the road to the west side of Thirlmere is partially closed due to the risk of rockfall. You may still enjoy much of the route on an ‘out and back’ as far as the closed point, and the road is very quiet – you may see more red squirrels than people. Hopefully it won’t be long before all of this lovely route will reopen for cyclists – see here for updates.
EVENTS, RACES AND LONG DISTANCE CYCLE ROUTES
As you might expect with the popularity of cycling in the Lake District, there are many annual events to choose from. Taking part in an event is a great experience and provides another level of fun. Or you might like to try a supported longer-distance ride.
- Fred Whitton Challenge Sportive takes place during May each year. Named after the man who inspired the 112 mile ‘toughest route in Britain’. Perhaps not recommended for your first ever sportive, but definitely something to aim for!
- The Lakeland Loop, billed as a warm-up or training ride for the Fred, is still an impressive 69 miles and three of the big passes. Be warned by what it says on the tin, “… and if you’re hoping that the rest is flat, then you’re going to be disappointed.”
- Gravel Fella offers three off-road routes between 50 and 100km and also takes place in April.
- About a third of the famous Coast to Coast (C2C or sea to sea) cycle route is in Cumbria – route 71. There are a few official routes, but they all pass close to Fornside. The link provides more details. In addition to the usual ‘relaxed’ three day approach to this 140 mile epic, there are events supporting riders who wish to compete and complete it in less than a day.
- Websites listing upcoming events include sportive.com and battistrada.com.
THE BEST LOCAL BIKE SHOPS, CYCLE HIRE AND E-BIKE CHARGING POINTS
- Cyclewise at Whinlatter Forest for repairs and hire and also some very lovely and practical accessories. We can also recommend their 1:1 and small group mountain bike lessons – just make sure you book in advance.
- In central Keswick, BikeTreks, Whinlatter Bikes and E-Venture Bikes are all great shops with knowledgeable and helpful staff. Bike hire starts at £20 and hiring an e-bike starts at just £35, so if you’re curious, why not give it a go?
- To find e-bike free charging points look here.
Cycling in the Lake District is an unforgettable experience. The stunning scenery and friendly yet peaceful atmosphere make it the perfect destination for cyclists looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. If you’re staying at Fornside we offer plenty of space to store your bikes … so pack your saddlebags and pump up your tyres – adventure awaits!