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Top 10 UK cycling routes

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It's not easy to find time to work out, let alone raise money for charity - but luckily Cycletta -- cycling events specifically for women on traffic-free roads -- offer a chance to do both. There are two rides coming up this year: Cycletta South on Sunday 11 September at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire and Cycletta North on Sunday 2 October at Tatton Park, Cheshire.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for a more relaxed way to cycle through England this summer, then take a leaf out of Matt Carroll’s new book, Escape Routes , a hand-picked selection of stunning cycle rides. Here are our favourites…

Tavistock to Horndon

14 miles approx

Bedding down in a train station ticket office might not strike you as the height of luxury, but at Old Tavistock Railway Station things have changed. For starters there are no trains (not since the Sixties) and secondly the station buildings, including the porter’s cabin and former refreshment hall, have been converted into luxurious self-catering cottages.

The cycling around here is rather fabulous, too. After slipping out of town along a quiet side lane, it isn’t long before you arrive at the first idyllic country pub of the day – The Trout and Tipple – where a glass of something long and cool will refresh you for the trip onto Dartmoor.

Riding around here is like entering a life-sized Postman Pat world – all intricate lanes and babbling brooks – and after cruising through the village of Mary Tavy you’ll come to curiously-titled pub, the Elephant’s Nest.

A tasty plate of Brixham scallops with diced chorizo will refuel you for the home run, which sees neatly parceled pastures turn to untamed scrubland as you thread your way through spectacular moorland that would have Thomas Hardy going weak at the knees…

Stop and see:

Tavistock Pannier Market (01822 611003; tavistockpanniermarket.co.uk) is five minutes’ walk from the railway station cottages, and has been running since 1105. You can buy everything from plants to jewellery and books to bags – plus there’s a great coffee shop (Dukes).

Eat and drink:

The Elephant’s Nest (01822 810273; elephantsnest.co.uk) has worn slate floors, epic views from the garden and a menu to die for.

Sleep:

Old Tavistock Railway Station Cottages (01822 610136; oldtavistockrailwaystation.co.uk). Choose from the Ticketing Hall, the Refreshment Hall and the Porter’s Office – all of them are equipped with five-star facilities.

Rent:

Tavistock Cycles (01822 617 630. tavistockcycles.co.uk).

Tetbury to Sherston

13 miles approx

Take any road out of Tetbury and you’ll be cruising along quiet country lanes within five minutes. But if it’s pretty pubs and prahper ale you’re after, head past the church and freewheel down over Bath Bridge.

Coasting along with the summer smell of fresh-cut grass wafting across, it’s not long before you’re arriving at the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village of Shipton Moyne, where traffic amounts to the occasional tractor. It’s also home to the strangely named Cat and Custard Pot pub, where the ale of choice is Wadworth 6X – brewed down the road in Trowbridge. On sunny days, you can sit on the wall outside and watch people on horses clip clop past.

Suitably refreshed, pedal onward through Easton Grey (the village that time forgot) and on to Sherston, for a plate of Malmesbury Gold sausages and spring onion mash at the 16th-century Rattlebone Inn (01666 840871; therattlebone.co.uk).

Post-lunch, you take a peaceful back-road over to Westonbirt Arboretum – which is awash with pink, white and purple blossoms each spring – then on to the nearby Hare and Hounds Hotel, which serves the best lemon drizzle cake in the world (fact!). It’s now just an easy three miles back to Tetbury…

Stop and See:

Westonbirt Arboretum (01666 880297; forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt) is awash with scenic walks that thread their way through one of the biggest collections of trees in the world.

Eat, drink, sleep:

Delicious local food, lip-smacking beers and well-kept, comfy rooms await at The Priory Inn (01666 502251; theprioryinn.co.uk).

Rent:

Go-By-Cycle (07970 419208; go-by-cycle.co.uk).

Aldbury to Frithsden

15 miles approx

Two idyllic pubs, scenic parkland and a quiet towpath along the canal… This scenic cycle ride just a stone’s throw from London has a bit of everything – including a small vineyard tucked away in a valley. Setting off from The Greyhound Inn, in Aldbury, you gently climb out of the village and cruise through the rather scenic Ashridge Estate, before gliding downhill to arrive at the Alford Arms (+44 1442 864480; alfordarmsfrithsden.co.uk). A sumptuous plate of slow-roasted garlic and rosemary lamb will have you refueled and raring to go; the post-lunch route takes you through Berkhamsted and onto the canal, where you pedal past brightly coloured narrowboats for a couple of miles before peeling off and looping back to the Greyhound. By that point you’ll be ready for another delicious meal…

Stop and See:

The Bridgewater Monument in the Ashridge Estate. Climb to the top for a cracking view out over the Chilterns (nationaltrust.org.uk).

Eat, drink, sleep:

The cosy Greyhound Inn has eight rooms to choose from and a fab menu including pea and mint risotto (+44 1442 851228; greyhoundaldbury.co.uk).

Rent:

Mountain Mania Cycles (+44 1442 822 458; mountainmaniacycles.co.uk).

Old Wives Lees to Faversham

16.5 miles approx

Five minutes after leaving the luxurious Pond Cottage you find yourself cycling through an enchanting wood, like something straight out of a Lewis Carroll story. Bluebells carpet the floor, blackbirds scratch about in the leaf-litter and squirrels leap across the road in front of you. With all this magical scenery around, you might think it couldn’t get much better – but trust me, it does. There’s a pub!

Aside from serving delicious local ales and lip smacking vino, the Rose & Crown (roseandcrownperrywood.co.uk; 01227 752214) is surrounded by woodland walks, so if you fancy a quick stroll get the owners Vanessa and Tim to recommend a route. Once back in the saddle, you cruise past yellow rape flower fields that lead through Sheldwich and on to Painters Forstall – where you could call in for a quick tour of the cider orchard at Pawley Farm.

From here it’s on to Faversham – a foodie’s dream come true where the medieval marketplace is lined with teashops, restaurants and olde worlde pubs – before cruising the last few miles back to Pond Cottage. Time for a soak in the hot tub, surely?

Stop and See:

At Pawley Farm (01795 532043) the Macey family have been making traditional cider for decades. Stop for a tour or a tasting – or simply admire the apple blossom.

Eat, drink, sleep:

The Purple Peach (01795 537927). This colourful corner café in Faversham serves cream teas, homemade pies, yummy sandwiches and more.

Rent:

Downland Cycles (01227 479643. downlandcycles.co.uk)

Butley Priory to Orford

18.5 miles approx

Gazing up at the grand Gothic windows of Butley Priory, you half expect an East Anglian Rapunzel to appear at one of them, unfurling her golden locks. With its ornately carved stonework – all coats of arms, elegant archways, and gargoyles – this place marks the start of a fairytale weekend.

The ride to Orford begins on a smooth road bordered by pines, sunlight strobing through the branches as you pedal effortlessly along Mill Lane – the verges awash with red poppies every July. Eventually you reach Orford, home to one of my favourite restaurants – the Butley Orford Oysterage (01394 450277; butleyorfordoysterage.co.uk) – where the seafood is caught just a few hundred metres away in the estuary.

From here it’s on through Iken – past fields where cereal crops stand up like fur, gently ruffled by the wind’s unseen hand – and Tunstall Forest (laced with good walks), before you arrive back at the Priory where the sun is casting long shadows on the lawn.

This time of day is often referred to as the ‘magic hour’, which, here of all places seems especially appropriate.

Stop and See:

The views out over the Suffolk countryside from the battlements of Orford Castle (01394 450472; english-heritage.org.uk) are particularly stirring. Is that the wind causing your eyes to water?

Eat and Drink:

Tucked away just off Orford market square, the Crown and Castle (01394 450205; crownandcastle.co.uk) serves lobster, sea bass and other locally caught treats.

Sleep:

Book into Butley Priory (01394 450 046; butleypriory.co.uk), where enormous French doors are thrown open on to the garden and the scent of lavender wafts in as you help yourself to another pot of tea.

Rent:

Friends Garage (01394 450239).

Shottle to Carsington Water

20.5 miles approx

Cruising along the lane from Dannah Farm, with fields cascading down into the Ecclesbourne Valley on your left, you’ll be tempted to whip out the camera immediately. But don’t. Instead, wait until you reach Alport Height just a mile or so later, where you can see for 60 miles on a clear day. The views keep on coming as you glide downhill, joining the cycle path that leads you towards Brassington, where your reward is a slice of ‘fidget pie’ – a lively combination of ham, cheese and potato – at Ye Olde Gate Inn.

From here you cycle on down to Carsington Water, surrounded by sheep-speckled hillsides, before climbing up onto the opposite side of the valley. Why not pause for a moment to take it all in; look closely and you’ll see the lanes you rode along on the way to lunch. It’s a bit of a climb to get back to Dannah, but your reward is a lazy afternoon in the spa cabin…

Stop and See:

At Carsington Water (01629 540478; carsingtonwater.com) you can sail, kayak, windsurf, climb…or simply sit back with a coffee and admire the green hills of the Peaks rising up on all sides. When was the last time you got to do that?

Eat, Sleep and Drink:

At Dannah Farm (01773 550273; dannah.co.uk), Joan, the owner, brings you tea and cake the moment you arrive – setting the tone for an indulgent weekend. There are 10 uniquely designed ‘suites’ to choose from – many with spa baths or hot tubs.

Rent:

Carsington Sports & Leisure Cycle Hire (01629 540478; see www.carsingtonwater.com).

Arnside to Leighton Hall

11 miles approx

You don’t even need to step outside the B&B to get a breathtaking view in this part of the world. Sitting in the lounge at Number 43 in Arnside, glass of white in hand, you’ve got Morecambe Bay stretched out before you – and the Old Man of Coniston visible, over 40 miles away.

The landscape around Arnside was made for cycling; one minute you’re on the waterfront, the next, you’re riding along deserted lanes. A few miles after leaving the B&B, you come to the New Inn at Yealand Conyers, where a dish of pan-fried crevettes with citrus salad sets you up for the cheeky post-lunch climb.

Halfway up there’s a clearing in the old oak trees, where you can see the valley floor laid out below, tiled in various shades of green. Then it’s on through the gates of Leighton Hall, stopping for a quick cuppa, before the run back to Arnside. Hopefully you’ll be in time to watch the sun set over the bay…

Stop and See:

Forget those stuffy old country houses where you daren’t breathe for fear of being told off. At Leighton Hall (01524 734474; leightonhall.co.uk) you can stretch out on the lawn and even play a tune on the piano. There’s a great teashop here, too.

Eat and Drink:

Fill up those empty legs with a good home-cooked meal at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks (01524 761203; fighting-cocks.co.uk), before curling up by the fire with a drink.

Sleep:

Number 43 (01524 762761; no43.org.uk) is one of those swanky B&Bs with all the trimmings of a five-star hotel. Owner Lesley has a platter of cold meats, pâtés and cheeses waiting when you arrive, which can be washed down with organic wines (no hangover!).

Rent:

Leisure Lakes Bikes (01524 844 389; leisurelakesbikes.com).

East Witton to Jervaulx Abbey

11 miles approx

Walking into the Blue Lion at East Witton is like rewinding the clock back 200 years. The old stone floors are worn from centuries of shuffling feet and the fireplace stained from countless roaring blazes. In fact, the atmosphere is so olde worlde that you wouldn’t bat an eyelid if a top-hatted coachman walked through the door – having lost his way somewhere between here and 1789.

The countryside surrounding East Witton has hardly changed since then either. Within minutes you’re pootling over an old stone bridge that’s barely wide enough to fit a car, then on past freshly ploughed fields the colour of cocoa. It’s enough to get you thinking about food – chocolate ice cream in particular – and a few easy miles later you’ll arrive at High Jervaulx Farm, where 35 flavours are on offer in the café. It’s all made fresh, the cream coming from cows chewing away matter-of-factly in the nearby fields.

On the way back to East Witton, why not stop off at Jervaulx Abbey ruins. They date back to 1156 – making the Blue Lion look positively new-build…

Stop and See:

Family-run High Jervaulx Farm (01677 460337; abmoore.co.uk) is a dream come true for ice cream junkies. Try the raspberry cheesecake…

Eat, drink, sleep:

The Blue Lion (01969 624273; thebluelion.co.uk) has 12 uniquely styled rooms and excellent food in its atmospheric bar. What more do you need?

Rent:

Dales Mountain Biking (01748 884908; dalesmountainbiking.co.uk).

Lakeside to Near Sawrey

15 miles approx

After jumping on your bike outside The Knoll – a smart bed and breakfast with all the trimmings of a boutique hotel, but not the prices – head left, along the edge of Lake Windermere. Within minutes you pass by Stott Park, an old bobbin mill that did a roaring trade in the golden years of the Industrial Revolution, spitting out cotton reels for the Lancashire cloth factories. The mill’s red-brick chimney pokes above the trees, an incongruous totem pole to mass production, something to think about as you continue pedalling, onto a secret little lane that hugs the lake shore.

It’s little more than a narrow strip of tarmac through the woods, but eventually it brings you out at the hamlet of Far Sawrey. You’ve now got two choices: A: instant gratification in the Sawrey Hotel, opposite – or B: turn left and cruise downhill to the Tower Bank Arms (01539 436334; towerbankarms.co.uk) in Near Sawrey. I tend to opt for the latter: the shoulder of lamb they have on the menu just melts in your mouth…

Stop and See:

Hill Top (01539 436269; see www.nationaltrust.org.uk) is the farm that Beatrix Potter bought with the royalties from her first books. In many of the rooms it looks as though she’s just nipped out for a walk – leaving sketches of her most famous characters lying around.

Eat, drink, sleep:

At The Knoll (01539 531347; theknoll-lakeside.co.uk) you’ll find smart rooms, sumptuous sofas, and delicious food on tap. After a pre-dinner G&T, enjoy treats like spiced parsnip and apple soup.

Rent:

Country Lanes (07748 512286; countrylaneslakedistrict.co.uk).

Craster to Alnmouth

16 miles approx

You may find it slow going along the coastal path from Craster to Alnmouth. Not because it’s particularly difficult cycling; it’s just that every few minutes or so you find yourself reaching for the camera, as yet another craggy cove reveals itself.

The ride begins in the fishing village of Craster, where lobster pots are stacked up on the quayside, and the aroma of smoked fish hangs in the air. Heading up the hill from this sleepy settlement, through the castellated entrance arch that spans the lane (no passport necessary), you make a left on to the coast road and set off towards Alnmouth.

It’s easy pedalling all the way, until you peel off on to the cliff-top path and that camera starts burning a hole in your pocket. Off to your left it seems like you’ve got the entire North Sea pooled out for your viewing pleasure, hundreds of whitecaps breaking in the distance, like flashing smiles.

Before long you’re sweeping downhill to arrive at Alnmouth, where you’ve got the whole afternoon to spend on the beach. Fingers crossed you’ve got some space left on that camera…

Stop and See:

At Alnmouth Beach you’ve got three expanses of golden sand to choose from – my favourite being the stretch south of the river, which is wilder and a tad quieter.

Eat and Drink:

Pull up at The Sun Inn (01665 830983; sun-inn-alnmouth.co.uk) and order the Craster salmon in white wine sauce. If it leaves you feeling full, then why not check in to one of the four upstairs rooms?

Sleep:

At Sea Breeze Cottage (07599 423718; seabreezeholiday.co.uk) in Craster you’ll have three bedrooms and an upstairs ‘viewing room’, with sweeping 180-degree views along the coast to Dunstanburgh Castle. Wait till you see the sunsets…

Rent:

Pedal Power (01665 713448; pedal-power.co.uk).

These routes and 50 others feature in a book entitled Matt Carroll’s Escape Routes, a hand-picked selection of stunning cycle rides around England. Published by Punk, priced £16.95. For more information on Cycletta's cycling events, visit cycletta.co.uk.

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