7 Of The Best Bikepacking Routes In The UK
Image credit: Marek Piwnicki/Unsplash
Bikepacking is undeniably one of the best ways to explore the UK. Travelling under your own steam whilst carrying your own equipment is a really rewarding experience. By blending the speed of cycling and minimalist nature of backpacking, you can travel big distances each day, but still have the intimacy of exploring new areas at a slower pace than if you were travelling by car.
So if you fancy giving bikepacking a go, here are some of our favourite routes in the UK.
Lands End To John O’Groats
- Distance: 874+ miles
- Time: 10 – 21 days
Taking you from the tip of the country to the tail, LEJOG sees you tackle the length of the British mainland. The route is a British bikepacking classic, and thanks to its length and varying terrain, it’s certainly a good challenge.
There are a number of variations of the route, but most typically start in the south and end in the north, primarily so that you can take advantage of the south-westerly winds that blow frequently across the UK.
For those looking for the ultimate challenge, check out the GBDURO race which sees you tackle the route self-supported on predominantly off-road surfaces.
Lon Las Cymru
Image Credit: Philippa Cox
- Distance: 250 miles
- Time: 3 – 6 days
Starting in either the north or south of the country, the Lon Las Cymru route sees you meander the full length of Wales, taking in coastal paths to national park climbs courtesy of Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons.
The route is a great introduction to bikepacking with plenty of accommodation en-route and clearly marked signs throughout (route number 8 on the National Cycle Network). The distance is great for experienced riders to tackle in a handful of days, but is also achievable for newer riders over the course of a short week.
Head over to our article with Philippa Cox who recently tackled the route.
The Pennine Bridleway
Image Credit: Ian Cylkowski/Unsplash
- Distance: 205 miles
- Time: 3 – 5 days
Traditionally starting to the south of the Peak District in Wirksworth, the Pennine Bridleway is the longest off-road trail in the UK. The route will see you work your way through the full length of both the Peak District and Yorkshire dales, soaking in beautiful scenery before finishing in Kirkby Stephen.
Spending most of your time on bridleways and tracks, you’ll want to be riding a gravel or mountain bike for this one. Wide and knobbly tyres will also come in handy on some of the technical descents and challenging climbs that you’ll take on over the course of the journey.
West Highland Way
Image Credit: Ilya Ilford/Unsplash
- Distance: 96 miles
- Time: 1 – 3 days
Originally made to be a walking route, the West Highland Way is a great test for those that prefer to stick off-road. Starting north of Glasgow in Milngavie, the off-road trail works it through some of the most dramatic and stunning landscapes that the UK has to offer, including Loch Lomond, the Falls of Falloch, Glencoe and Ben Nevis.
With wild camping permitted across Scotland, the route is a great way to get remote, although there are bothies along the route should you be hit by any heavy weather. The distance can be tackled by expert riders in a long day, but most riders will get most enjoyment by tackling the trail over two or three days.
Working through the Scottish highlands, beware of the weather which can be severe in winter months. The route is best tackled in the spring and summer, but be conscious of the infamous highland midges.
North Coast 500
Image Credit: Colin Horn/Unsplash
- Distance: 500 miles
- Time: 4 – 11 days
Scotland’s North Coast 500 has grown in reputation over recent years, and is touted by many as the UK’s equivalent to the USA’s Route 66. The loop takes in some of the best scenery Scotland and the UK has to offer, touches each coastline of Scotland, and squeezes in a number of big climbs for good measure.
The route is fully on road, most of which are quiet, but at the cost of distance, you can avoid potentially busy sections by taking deviations onto minor roads. A good challenge of any cyclists fitness, you’ll want to get some training in before tackling this one!
Second City Divide
Image Credit: Illya Vjestica/Unsplash
- Distance: 400 miles
- Time: 4 – 9 days
The Second City Divide is a relatively new route that starts in Glasgow and ends in Manchester. Although as whole the route is new, the trails, tracks and roads that you encounter are steeped in history and offer a beautiful route between two of the UK’s second-biggest cities.
Gravel bikes are perfect for the route, as whilst you spend a good chunk of time off-road, there are plenty of linking country lanes. Taking you across Kielder Forest Park, the Pennine Bridleway, Yorkshire Dales and more, you’ll find a huge range of trails, scenery and roads along the journey.
Find out more about the route from the creators at Second City Divide.
The West Country Way
Image Credit: Louis Tripp/Unsplash
- Distance: 130 miles
- Time: 2 – 5 days
The West Country Way is an off-road route that traverses the south-western peninsular of the UK, taking you from the English Channel across Dartmoor, through the wooded trails of Exmoor and ultimately ending up at the Bristol Channel.
You’ll want to tackle the route on a mountain bike or burly gravel bike, and thanks to the boggy nature of Dartmoor, be prepared for a fair bit of hike-a-bike depending on the weather. For the same reason, it’s worth riding the route in spring, summer or autumn, as Dartmoor is often too boggy to ride over in the winter.
The route can be comfortably done in four days, but can also be shortened down to two or three with longer riding hours. Dartmoor is also the only area in the UK where wild camping is freely permitted, so it’s worth taking advantage and spending a night off-grid.
If you fancy having a go at any of the routes above or want to take on a bikepack of your own, then our Ultralight collection is a great place to find the best lightweight equipment for your adventure.
About the Author:
Huw Saunders - Outdoor Expert
Growing up in rural Wales, Huw has been immersed in the outdoors for as long as he can remember. If not surfing the Welsh coast, he can now usually be found either running or hiking in the Peak District and through the winter, tries to get out to Europe to ski as much as possible.