Published: 2nd APRIL 2021

8 of the best day rides to try this spring

With the longer evenings and the weather drying up, there’s no better time to get out and explore the National Cycle Network. These day rides will help you enjoy the best of spring, with many short options for families and cyclists of all abilities.

Cyclists crossing Mawddach Estuary on the Mawddach Trail

The trail takes you across the mouth of the spectacular Mawddach Estuary

1. Mawddach Trail, Gwynedd

The Mawddach Trail is one of the most scenic railway routes in the country.

At nine miles long, it’s suitable for all types of cyclists.

The route begins in Dolgellau, a historic market town near the foothills of Cadair Idris.

You’ll also pass along the picturesque Mawddach Estuary, a stretch of trail giving you beautiful views across the water.  

The trail ends in Barmouth after crossing a spectacular Grade II-listed bridge over the mouth of the estuary.

Take a break to enjoy the seaside charm of this town before heading back towards Dolgellau.


2. Marriott’s Way, Norfolk

Part of National Route 1, the Marriott’s Way is a family-friendly route into green surroundings.

The route starts in the centre of Norwich and follows an old disused railway north after crossing the River Wensum.

Your trip will take you through farmland, woodland and meadows, so keep an eye out for springtime flora and fauna.

You’ll also spot public art along the way, with a different sculpture or plaque on the theme of "movements" every mile of the route.


3. London Docklands and Lea Valley, London

This 26-mile route is the perfect escape from the bustle of the city. 

Starting at Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, you’ll pass Regent’s Canal towpath, a peaceful waterway through the heart of London.

The route continues past parks and nature reserves, as well as Hackney Marshes.

This green space is made up of over 80 grass football, rugby and cricket pitches, the largest of its kind in Europe.

This ride finishes at Lea Valley and the 10,000-acre Lee Valley Regional Park.

Here, you can experience the magic of spring as plants and wildlife begin to wake after winter.

Aslan sculpture and cyclist on CS Lewis Square

Along the Comber Greenway you'll find CS Lewis Square, with steel sculptures of the author's most famous characters

4. Comber Greenway, County Antrim/County Down

At seven miles long and 99% traffic-free, the Comber Greenway is perfect for families.

The walking and cycling path is a peaceful green corridor, and is used by commuters and leisure-seekers alike. 

The route follows a disused railway line connecting Belfast to Comber.

Along the path, you’ll enjoy views of Stormont, Scrabo Tower, the Harland & Wolff cranes and the Belfast Hills.

On the way back into Belfast, you’ll pass CS Lewis Square.

This outdoor art installation commemorates the Belfast-born author and his literary world of Narnia, with spectacular sculptures of the lion Aslan and more. 

Discover other literary destinations on the National Cycle Network.


5. Barnsley to Old Moor RSPB Reserve, South Yorkshire

Another nice short one for families, this route is a perfect spring day ride.

The trail begins at Barnsley train station before following a traffic-free portion of National Route 67.

This takes you all the way into RSPB Old Moor, an award-winning nature reserve where you may spot oystercatchers and bitterns. 

Make the most of your visit and pop to the cafe there for takeaway food and drink.

There’s even a play area to keep the kids entertained.


6. Lochwinnoch Loop Line, Renfrewshire

This traffic-free stretch of National Route 7 begins at Paisley Canal before skirting Castle Semple Loch.

The full route takes you to Kilbirnie and is 14 miles long, but families may choose to turn back earlier at Lochwinnoch.

This is a great place for a break and a cup of tea at Castle Semple Visitor Centre.

Whatever distance you take on, you’ll enjoy spectacular artworks and stunning loch-side views. 

There’s also RSPB Lochwinnoch nature reserve to spot on the south side of the water.

You may even catch a glimpse of the elaborate courting rituals of great crested grebes during spring.

Two cyclists with touring gear on cycle path by river in valley with trees

The reservoirs of the Elan Valley offer a great chance to spot wildlife and enjoy the outdoors

7. Elan Valley Trail, Powys

This ride takes you through the heart of Wales and along the placid waters of the Elan Valley’s reservoirs.

The trail starts at the village of Cwmdauddwr, just outside of Rhayader.

You’ll pass over the rich grassland of the Radnorshire Wildlife Trust’s Rhayader Tunnel Nature Reserve, an important haven for bats and other species.

Find out more about the stunning area around you at Elan Valley Visitor Centre then continue on to the reservoirs.

There are many sights to see here during spring, not least of all the magnificent red kite with its unmistakable forked tail. 

Families of otters hunt the waters of the four reservoirs for amphibians and brown trout.

From May onwards, you may also spot poplar hawk-moths, a distinctive species with impressive wings. 


8. Chew Valley Lake Loop, Somerset

This 24-mile loop takes you out of Bristol and into the countryside of Somerset.

The ride follows country lanes for the most part, with a section of traffic-free path on National Route 3.

It’ll take you south through the suburbs of Arnos Vale and Knowle, with the route eventually reaching the charming village of Chew Magna.

The route turns back at Chew Valley Lake, where you can take a chance to rest and enjoy your surroundings.

The lake is a great place for spotting wildlife, with 270 species of bird recorded.


Looking for more rides on the National Cycle Network? Find a route near you.


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