6 Brilliant New British Bikepacking Routes

The UK is quickly becoming one of the top bikepacking destinations in the world. From the Scottish Highlands to the Cornish coast, here are six of the most exciting new routes in Britain.

28th March 2023 | Words by Jazz Noble

Bikepacking - put simply - is a combination of all-terrain cycling and multi-day backpacking. You get all the challenges and beauty of a long-distance adventure, coupled with the speed and gnarly antics of biking. This also means taking in more sights in a shorter amount of time. Think: riding through a mountain pass, a boggy heathland, a sleepy forest, and a jagged coastline, all in a day’s work. Not bad, huh?

Like multi-day backpacking, bikepacking also brings with it that real sense of achievement in carrying everything you need on your back, or rather, your bike. Pannier bags aside, you’ll also find innovative carry options such as handlebar bags, frame bags, saddle bags, fork bags and more. All transported and powered by your own two legs, it’s a rewarding feeling like no other.

Think: riding through a mountain pass, a boggy heathland, a sleepy forest, and a jagged coastline, all in a day’s work.

The UK is becoming quite the bikepacking haven too. Whilst a little research will show you popular routes such as the Trans-Cambrian Way, the Highland Trail 550, King Alfred’s Way or the Lakeland 200; there’s also a whole host of new bikepacking routes out there to discover. Every year, in fact, thanks to bikepacking enthusiasts and charities like Cycling UK, there seem to be new trails and forgotten paths opening up all across Britain.

From the craggy coastlines of Cornwall and the rolling chalk downs of Kent, to the boggy, rocky, and oh-so-stunning landscapes of Scotland; here are six of our favourite new bikepacking routes to sample this year…

The Latest Bikepacking Routes In The UK:

  • West Kernow Way
  • The Cantii Way
  • Bikepacking Argyll’s Islands
  • The Rebellion Way
  • The Great North Trail
  • East Devon Trail

West Kernow Way

A group of cyclists travel down a gravel path on a bikepacking trip by the sea in Cornwall. Credit: Cycling UK

Length: 150 miles (230 km)
Average time taken to complete: 3 to 4 days
Start/finish: Figure-of-eight loop starting and finishing in Penzance via St. Just, Porthleven, Coverack and Scorrier

Launched in September 2021, the West Kernow Way is a largely off-road loop of west Cornwall starting and finishing in Penzance. Using off-the-beaten-track bridleways, quiet roads and forgotten ways such as Tinner’s Way, this bikepacking route takes in a huge number of sights. Whilst riding along the jagged Cornish coastline, you’ll also pass places like the Botallack tin mines, the Mên-an-Tol monument, Land’s End, Lizard Point, Carn Brea and much more.

Conceived by Cycling UK as part of the EU-funded EXPERIENCE project, the idea was to develop sustainable year-round tourism in Cornwall that doesn’t solely focus on the summer tourist rush. In this sense, riders are encouraged to cycle through the spring and autumn months for this route, though with the right gear you could probably go any time of year.

With 10,700ft of elevation and some very steep inclines, you’re going to want a good gravel bike or mountain bike with a wide-ranging gear setup. It can also get quite rocky in some places so a minimum tyre width of 40mm is recommended. If (like us) you’re partial to a Cornish pasty, it’s also definitely worth investing in a feed bag or a neat little handlebar bag for pasties on-the-go.

The Cantii Way

Two cyclists travel along a quiet tarmac road, surrounded by fields, in Kent on a bikepacking trip. Credit: Cycling UK

Length: 150 miles (230 km)
Average time taken to complete: 3 to 4 days
Start/finish: Wye loop via Herne Bay, Folkestone and Rye

Named after the Celtic tribe that occupied this area during the Iron Age, the Cantii Way is one of the newer routes on this list and takes in an area of East Kent known as ‘the Garden of England’. Specifically, it passes through the Kent Downs Area Of Outstanding Beauty including coastal towns, woodland trails, chalky cliffs and beautiful heritage sites.

As one of the more accessible routes, it’s suitable for most types of bikes other than road bikes with very narrow tyres. It also uses a mix of cycle paths, country lanes, gravel track and bridleways, and has mostly flat terrain. In this sense, the Cantii Way makes for a good introduction into multi-day bikepacking if you’re a first timer.

Highlights along the route include: the iconic white cliffs of Dover, the luscious woodlands of Wye, the historic city of Canterbury, Whitstable beach, a trip through an RSPB reserve, and the wealth of local produce and fresh seafood you’ll get to sample along the way.

Bikepacking Argyll’s Islands

A cyclist travels down the mountain pass between the Paps of Jura, a group of mountains in the Inner Hebrides in Scotland. Credit: Bikepacking Scotland/ Markus Stitz

Length: 308 miles (496 km)
Average time taken to complete: 6 to 8 days
Start/finish: Glasgow via Oban, Craighouse, Port Askaig, Kennacraig, Colintravie, Rothesay, and Gourock

New from Bikepacking Scotland, this route takes you through Argyll’s islands, the Inner Hebrides and Bute. This includes the beach-laden Isles of Mull, Jura, and Islay, along with jaunts along the West Highland parts of mainland Scotland too.

With scenic ferry journeys, trips to iconic whisky distilleries, and plenty of opportunities to camp on the sandy white beaches of the Hebrides, this one’s more of a journey than a simple cycling route. Think: late nights star-gazing on the Isle of Mull, early morning run-ins with Highland cows, unbeatable mountain pass cycles through the Paps of Jura, and hidden bothies dotted throughout.

There’s a whole mix of terrain on this route so you’ll want a good gravel or mountain bike to see you through the whole adventure. It’s definitely worth packing some good waterproofs and a midge net too, as you never know when you’ll cross paths with the fearsome Highland midge… (Note: there’s actually a pretty good midge forecast for the spring to autumn months).

The Rebellion Way

Two cyclists bikepack the Rebellion Way route in the green Norfolk countryside. Credit: Cycling UK

Length: 232 miles (373 km)
Average time taken to complete: 4 to 6 days
Start/finish: Norwich via King’s Lynn, Wells-next-the-Sea and Sheringham

Launched just this October, The Rebellion Way takes in some often overlooked expanses of the Norfolk countryside. With a name inspired by the historic rebellions in the area, the route itself actually crosses paths with popular rebellion sites such as the remains of Boudicca’s Iceni tribe settlement, and Kett’s Height, a key location in the rebellion of Robert Kett.

You’ll also cycle through the tranquil Thetford Forest, parts of the stunning Norfolk coastline (AONB), a multitude of quaint medieval churches, halls, manors, and ruined castles, as well as the Norfolk Broads and parts of the ancient Peddars Way.

Whilst the mileage is fairly hefty, the route is designed to be manageable by anyone with a reasonable fitness level on most types of bikes. It doesn’t actually climb above 100m at any point and has very few steep sections to tackle, with mostly non-technical terrain throughout. In this sense, the Rebellion Way is another great contender for those looking to delve into bikepacking for the first time, or simply those looking for a more leisurely adventure this year.

The Great North Trail

A winding tarmac road running through the hilly Peak District in Northern England

Length: 825 miles (1327 km)
Average time taken to complete: 18+ days
Start/finish: From the Peak District to Cape Wrath or John o’ Groats in Scotland

From the undulating hills of the Peak District and the remote moorlands of the Yorkshire Dales, to the breathtaking Northern Highlands and Northernmost tip of mainland Scotland; this is one hell of a bikepacking route.

Map showing hilly Peak District in Northern England

Designed to connect the Pennine Bridleway with the northern tip of Scotland, the Great North Trail is an award-winning long-distance cycling route that takes in four National Parks and a huge variety of terrain. It’s designed as a mountain bike route and covers singletrack paths, old Roman roads, exposed moorland trails, and forest paths, as well as canal paths and disused railways. At roughly 825 miles, it’s no small feat either, though you can break it up into smaller sections if you wish.

In terms of the destinations along the way, you’ll start in the Peak District and the South Pennines, and then head north to the Yorkshire Dales, the North Pennines, the Scottish Borders, the Grampian Mountains and the Northern Highlands. For the finishing point, you can either choose to end in Cape Wrath or John o’ Groats.

With plenty of big climbs, gnarly descents and challenging stretches of off-road terrain, this is bound to be an adventure you’ll never forget.

East Devon Trail

View of the sunny coastline and rocky cliffs in Devon, South West England

Length: 115 miles (185 km)
Average time taken to complete: 3 to 5 days
Start/finish: Exeter via Budleigh Salterton, Beer, Axminster and Tipton St. John

Though you’re sure to spot a whole host of wildlife on any one of these routes, the East Devon Trail has been uniquely curated to cross several nature reserves along the way. Including Mutter’s Moor, Seaton Wetlands, Trinity Hill, Fire Beacon Hill and Venn Ottery Common; expect to see fauna such as Dartford warblers, river otters, oystercatchers, rare nightjars, common lizards and adders, to name a few.

Wildlife aside, you’ll also be privy to the amazing landscapes of Exe Estuary, Pebblebed Heaths and the almighty Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. This will include terrain such as heathlands, jagged cliffs and coastlines, gravel tracks through river valleys, and quiet singletracks for miles. The region also prides itself on local delicacies such as Devon cream teas, freshly caught fish and chips, traditional ales and much more.

A rare sighting of a Dartford Warbler bird on a yellow and green bush

With over 100 miles of East Devon to explore, there’s definitely something for everyone here. (It’s worth noting that, due to the number of nature reserves, binoculars come recommended for this trail).

Jazz Noble is a London and Northern Ireland-based writer with a passion for hiking, cycling and the outdoor world.

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