In 2015 to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta and the 20th anniversary of the National Cycle Network we created a special edition national Magna Carta Cycle Trail map (pdf).
Our overview map shows how the various Magna Carta sites can be linked together using the National Cycle Network, visiting most of the Magna Carta battlefields and all of the Barons’ seats.
Explore the ten Magna Carta Towns
City of Canterbury
Canterbury, lay in the eye of the storm which began with the accession of Stephen Langton as Archbishop in 1207. He became implacably opposed to King John and in 1213, Archbishop Langton revived the ancient charter of Henry I. This pressure, combined with the military power of the Barons, led directly to the showdown at Runnymede.
City of London
Events that took place in the City of London on Sunday 17 May 1215 became the tipping point in the long-running battle between King John and the Barons. While everyone was at mass, the Barons simply installed their own Mayor, took over the city and then used this as leverage to compel King John to meet them at Runnymede.
Some believe that King Alfred held meetings at Runnymede in ancient times. Travel by boat along the Thames was the standard means of safe transport and the choice of venue would have added additional gravitas to the unfolding drama of the Magna Carta, not lost on the recalcitrant King John.
St. Albans earns its place as a Charter Town as on 4 August 1213, Barons and Clergy met at St. Albans Abbey. It was here that the King’s Justiciar agreed to pay compensation for past grievances. These concessions triggered a demand for general rights and privileges, based on the Charter of Liberties of Henry I, which by now had become the template for the Magna Carta.
- The Alban Way is a lovely traffic-free link between the historic towns of St Albans and Hatfield.
- Buy our South Cambridgeshire, Beds & Herts Cycle Map.
Bury St Edmunds
Bury St Edmunds has a pivotal role in the history of the Magna Carta. One chronicler relates that in 1214 a group of Barons met in St. Edmunds Abbey Church and swore an oath to compel King John to accept The Charter of Liberties, a proclamation of Henry I. It was the direct precursor to the Magna Carta a year later.
- Route 51 takes you through Bury St Edmund's town centre.
- Buy our Suffolk cycle map to explore the area further.
Durham Cathedral in Durham City holds three editions of Magna Carta dated 1216, 1225 and 1300. The Durham Magna Cartas show the evolution of the original. After the death of King John in 1216 Magna Carta was reissued at Bristol by the counsellors of King John’s son Henry, then aged nine. The Durham copy is the only one that survives.
- Take a ride along the almost all traffic-free Route 14.
- Buy our North York Moors, Tees Valley & Durham Coast cycle map.
Hereford Cathedral boasts a modified version, a third edition of the 1215 Magna Carta, dating from 1217. It was issued by the boy king Henry III who was 8 years old when his father, King John, had a particularly bad day at work two years before. 1217 saw most of England occupied by the French under the usurper Prince Louis, this edition forming part of the subsequent peace treaty.
- Use Route 46 and take in some of the area's most beautiful countryside including the River Wye.
- Buy our Herefordshire, Worcestershire & North Gloucestershire cycle map.
Lincoln Cathedral has been home to its 1215 Magna Carta, marked twice on the reverse with the word ‘Lincolnia’, for the whole of the last eight centuries, surviving the ravages of the English Civil War. This is appropriate since Hugh of Wells, Bishop of the large and powerful Diocese of Lincoln, was present at Runneymede.
- Follow the Harby to Lincoln traffic-free route, which takes you from the Nottinghamshire village of Harby into the ancient city of Lincoln.
- Buy our East Midlands cycle map.
Oxford’s Bodleian, one of the oldest libraries in Europe, holds three of the surviving manuscripts of the 1217 Charters, the new and improved versions of the original Magna Carta.
The Salisbury Magna Carta is the best preserved of the surviving four examples and is on public view in the Chapter House of the Cathedral of St. Mary - the more correct title of Salisbury Cathedral. This magnificent building, featuring the tallest spire in England, was not the original home of the Magna Carta, but rather the original cathedral built at Old Sarum which was demolished in 1219.