Sustrans’ favourite running routes on the Network

Couple jogging on the National Cycle Network

There are plenty of places to run on the National Cycle Network

A man jogging in the woods

Some routes are rural and go through woods

Man jogging along paved canal towpath with grass verge and bushes, trees and canal boats off to the left bank

There are multiple running routes on canal towpaths across the country

Whether you’re after a quick jog or looking to hit those personal fitness goals, the National Cycle Network has plenty of routes where you can get up and running.

To get you inspired, we asked our teams around the UK to give us their top spots for running on the Network.  

Bristol

Flat and with a soft surface, the Pill Path on National Route 41 has been called an ideal running track, great for both short runs and extending for marathon training. What’s more, the views will help take your mind off the tiredness, as you run along the Avon Gorge with the river to your side and Clifton Suspension Bridge above you.

From Bristol it’s around five miles one way to Pill, but you can extend your run to a 16-mile loop by crossing the Avonmouth Bridge and coming back along the Portway. If you really want to test yourself, you can switch to National Route 26 and follow it along to Portishead – over 11 miles one-way. 

Swansea

National Route 43 cuts a largely traffic-free course through the city. For a varied, quiet and nature-rich workout, we recommend joining the path by Blawd Road and making the four-mile run to Trebanos. The abundance of connecting pathways allows you to make interesting detours, checking out the wildlife as you go (kingfishers have been sighted near this route). Passing through wetland, woodland and farmland, you’ll never get bored of the scenery.

Kenilworth

There are some great traffic-free links connecting Kenilworth to the surrounding countryside. For a 3.5-mile run to the village of Burton Green, start in Abbey Fields and follow National Route 52 to Kenilworth Common (there are plenty of trails here if you want to detour). You’ll then come to National Route 523 – the “Kenilworth Greenway” which runs along an old railway line.

There’s the option to run off into Crackley Woods to take advantage of the circular running trail, otherwise keep following the route to Cromwell Lane. Alternatively, you can keep to National Route 52 and follow it to the University of Warwick campus, making for a 3-mile one-way run.  

Edinburgh

The Roseburn Path on National Route 1 presents a tree-lined, traffic-free setting for running in the heart of Edinburgh. It’s around two miles from Haymarket to where the path ends, but you can keep going on the Blackhall Path to stay on National Route 1.

Elsewhere in the city, National Route 75 is a green, tranquil path following the Union Canal and Water of Leith, with old bridges and the Slateford Aqueduct giving great views. Starting from Viewforth Bridge it’s around seven miles straight out to Balerno, but there are plenty of opportunities to loop round – by following the river off-route through Saughton Rose Gardens, for example.

Southampton

National Route 23 runs north from Southampton on a mixture of on-road and traffic-free sections. One car-free portion runs through the city’s Riverside Park. For a roughly five-mile run, start at Bitterne Park Triangle, follow the route up to the White Swan pub and come back. Younger runners take note: the park is also the site of a weekly junior parkrun.

London

With canal towpath, plentiful green spaces and a parallel train line allowing for one-way runs of your choosing, National Route 1 is a great amenity for joggers in London (in fact, a number of parkruns use the route, including Mile End, Hackney Marshes and Gunpowder). The Lea Valley portion is particularly notable, passing through the Olympic Park, Walthamstow Marshes and other places of interest.

For a six-mile out-and-back run, start by White Post Lane near Hackney Wick Station, splitting from the riverside path through the marshes, and continue on Route 1 until you hit Springfield Marina.

Northampton

The Brampton Valley Way on National Route 6 is a 14-mile, traffic-free route connecting Northampton with Market Harborough. For a 3-mile one-way run, start are the beginning of the path in Kingsthorpe and run to the pretty village of Chapel Brampton, going through pleasant rural areas as you go. If you’re feeling really tough, you can split from the route and follow another traffic-free path to Brixworth Country Park and around Pitsford Water.

Newcastle

National Route 72 forms a largely traffic-free artery through Newcastle, providing a useful path for flat, out-and-back runs along the north bank of the River Tyne. Starting at the Millennium Bridge, you can run the five miles westward to Lemington and back, though the eastward route toward Percy Main (seven miles along the route) is slightly more scenic.

Holkham

Passing through a National Nature Reserve and along a beach, this run on National Route 1 has to be one of the prettiest routes in the East. Start at Lady Ann’s Road, a private road by Holkham village, and you’ll come to the Norfolk Coast Path. When you get to the lifeboat station, follow Beach Road down to the seaside town of Wells-next-the-Sea – returning along the same route, this makes for a seven-mile run.

Belfast

A largely traffic-free path passing through the heart of Belfast, the Lagan Towpath on National Route 9 is perfect for the city runner seeking some green space. For a 3.5-mile loop, start your run at the Lock Keeper’s Inn, following the route along the western bank of the river until you reach the footbridge at Edenderry, then return on the eastern bank. To extend your run along some interesting forest trails, you can detour at Minnowburn park. 

Alternatively, you can try running the two miles from the Lock Keeper’s Inn to Stranmillis, passing through Lagan Meadows as you go. To get some muddy trails in, cross the river and head into Belvoir Park Forest.

Harrogate

The Nidderdale Greenway is a scenic, traffic-free path, providing a four-mile one-way running route between the outskirts of Harrogate and the village of Ripley. Crossing the River Nidd on the aqueduct, you’ll have great views of the Nidd Gorge woodland, and there’s a gentle climb on the path into Ripley.

Maesteg

Located on the eastern side of the Upper Llynfi Valley, the Llynfi Valley Trail on National Route 885 combines stunning views with challenging gradients and varied terrain. It also passes through the Spirit of Llynfi Community Woodland, a woodland park with artworks celebrating the history of industry in the area. From Maesteg train station, the traffic-free trail to nearby Caerau is three miles one-way, though you can also do circular routes by joining any one of the waymarked running paths.

Long Itchington

Connecting Rugby, Leamington Spa and Warwick, The Lias Line on National Route 41 is a largely traffic-free and as such has plenty of spots for runners. For a 3-mile out-and-back run on wide, surfaced canal towpath, start at the Boat Inn near Birdingbury, follow the route to the village of Long Itchington and return.

Wherever you run, remember to share the space and take care if using headphones.

Love a challenge? Check out our top 10 challenging rides on the National Cycle Network 

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