Published: 7th NOVEMBER 2023

12 awe-inspiring routes on the National Cycle Network

Research suggests that experiencing feelings of awe can make you happier, healthier, and more connected to the people around you. So get out there on foot or by cycle and invite nature to take your breath away.

Two women wearing waterproof coats and cycling helmets on National Route 7 in the Scottish Highlands.

Spend time in the Scottish Highlands for awe-inspiring landscapes. Credit: Sustrans

A great way to experience awe or wonder is by getting out in nature to experience something bigger than yourself. Tapping into this feeling can lower stress and quieten mental chatter. 

Placing yourself in a vast, awe-inspiring landscape can shrink the sense of self, replacing it with a sense of connection, euphoria, or a deep calm.

The National Cycle Network is a gateway for many of us in cities or towns to access those vast landscapes.



Rainham Marshes, London - National Route 13, Rainham to Purfleet

On the eastern outskirts of London lies Rainham Marshes – a wetland paradise for wildlife. Escape from the city to enjoy the flora and fauna all year round.

The route follows along the Thames riverside with views over the marshes and the expanse of the estuary.


St Austell to Mevagissey, Cornwall - National Route 3, Pentewan Trail

Between the Cornish town of St Austell and the fishing village of Mevagissey, Pentewan Trail will transport you through wooded countryside towards the coast.

The route is flat and easy to access - the perfect place to go and reap the benefits of spending time in nature. 

Brown and white horse galloping across green field.

Look out for the Dartmoor ponies who call the moorland home, Credit: Emily Wilson

The Hardy Monument, Dorchester, Dorset - National Route 2 

For a 360-degree panorama of Dorset and beyond, Hardy Monument is a great place to stop and soak in your surroundings.

Views over woods, rolling hills and purple heathland give way to the ocean. If you’re good with heights, you can climb the Monument for even more spectacular views.  


Dartmoor National Park, Devon - National Route 27, Devon Coast to Coast

Dartmoor National Park in Devon is a vast moorland of wooded valleys, heather-speckled hills and granite tors.

Travel across Dartmoor on Route 27 and you might find some solitude for a spot of soul-searching, or see some of the beautiful creatures that call Dartmoor home.  


Peak District, Derbyshire - National Route 680, The Monsal Trail

The traffic-free Monsal Trail is in the Peak District National Park and takes you alongside the River Wye on a former railway route.

The path meanders through four former railway tunnels and provides breathtaking views of the Monsal Dales.

Stop at the Headstone Viaduct to look down at the river running beneath and enjoy the surrounding woodland.

Landscape view of the ocean.

Horizon gazing can bring a great sense of calm. Credit: Emily Wilson

Northern Ireland

View over Belfast Lough, Whiteabbey - National Route 93, Lagan and Lough Cycle Way

The Lagan and Lough Cycle Way hugs the coast just north of Belfast, giving you spectacular views over Belfast Lough. Stop at Newtownabbey Bay Beach for a blast of sea air.

Studies show that negative ions may be beneficial to our health. These ions are are abundant by the ocean.

Exposure to these molecules can stabilise your mood, enhance immune function and promote better sleep. So stop by the coast for a sense of awe and a boost to your health.



The view of Craig y Deryn (Bird Rock) from Pont y Garth, Snowdonia - National Route 82

This section of the National Cycle Network winds through the south west part of Snowdonia, and offers awe-inspiring views of Craig yr Aderyn, or Bird’s Rock.

If you enjoy a spot of bird-watching, take a trip here to see the choughs and other birds that breed there.


The Valley of Afon Cegin, Snowdonia - National Route 82, Lon Las Agwen

This trail is mainly along the valley floor, entering Snowdonia National Park from the north.

Views of towering peaks through the rugged mountain range will definitely make you feel small, quietening the mental chatter as you journey through this incredible landscape.

Country-lane winding through a valley, surrounded by steep hills and mountains.

The trail winds along the valley floor, entering Snowdonia National Park from the north. Credit: Anthony Jones

Carmarthenshire - National Route 4, Millennium Coastal Path Llanelli

This traffic-free route follows the Carmarthenshire coast. The tranquil green corridor travels past beautiful coastline and Pembrey Forest - one of Britain’s rare sand dune forests.

It's home to rare botanical wildlife, including 35 species of butterfly, migrant songbirds and birds of prey.



Loch Lochy, Lochaber - National Route 78, The Caledonia Way

For truly breathtaking views, travel along the traffic-free stretch of Route 78 that runs beside Loch Lochy.

The forests, mountains, open waters and vast skies are enough to stop anyone in their tracks.

Landscape image of loch with tree-covered hillsides.

The magnificent scenery of Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. Credit: Fiona McBain

Port Glasgow and Greenock, Inverclyde - National Route 75

This route has stunning views down the Clyde Estuary and over the water towards Bishop’s Seat.

Pause for a while and enjoy some mindfulness in the form of horizon gazing.

Horizon gazing is said to have a calming effect - probably a hangover from our ancestors.

By looking out across the landscape you can scan the area for threats, and if there are none your body naturally relaxes.  


Glen Ogle Railway Path, Stirling - The Lochs and Glens Way, National Route 7

Travel through the magnificent landscape of Queen Elizabeth Forest Park in the Scottish Highlands.

You’ll be surrounded by incredible natural beauty as you pass by lochs, forests and mountains.

Wildlife lovers will delight in the abundance of creatures who call the park home. Come and get a dose of peace and tranquility. 


Find more routes to explore on the National Cycle Network.

Find out more on the benefits of awe.


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