Published: 7th JUNE 2024

Our favourite low-traffic walking and cycling routes for summer

Escape into nature this summer and take in fresh air with some of our favourite low-traffic and traffic-free walking and cycling routes along the National Cycle Network.

Four cyclists on gravel track through forest

Escape into nature this summer with the National Cycle Network. Credit: Sustrans

The reality of air pollution

Traffic fumes contain nitrogen dioxide.

These small particles, chemicals and gases are released into the air and can have a harmful impact on the environment and our health if they are breathed in.

The health impacts of exposure to air pollution are long-term, as microscopic particles worsen respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.


of roadside nitrogen dioxide air pollution comes from road transport.

28,000 to 36,000

early deaths each year caused by air pollution in the UK.

Get close to nature on the Network

As custodians of the National Cycle Network, we look after over 5,220 miles of traffic-free routes, with many others being low-traffic.

Many of our routes are in beautiful settings, crossing National Parks and nature reserves around the UK. 

Meaning there are lots of paths to discover to get closer to nature, the environment and to explore biodiversity.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of our top traffic-free and low-traffic routes across the UK for everyone to explore.

These routes are great not only for people who cycle, but for walkers and wheelers too.

Snipe bird with long, straight bill sitting on tree stump

Curlew on a tree stump. Credit: Brian Cairns

Sustrans' Traffic-Free Cycle Rides Guidebook

Our bestselling guidebook brings together 150 of the UK’s finest traffic-free walking and cycling routes from across the country. This new edition (revised 2021) features a fantastic range of new traffic-free routes across the regions, offering a unique glimpse into the UK’s remarkable landscapes, history, culture and architecture.

Our top routes

Two people on a tandem bicycle on cycle track past stone walls and fields with cows and trees

High Peak Trail. Credit: Paul Kirkwood

High Peak Trail

With dramatic views of the stunning Derbyshire Dales countryside, the High Peak Trail follows old railway lines and is fully traffic-free, suitable for walkers and cyclists alike. And it’s rich in wildlife - there’s an abundance of wildflowers all around from late spring to summer.

Cyclists on cycle path going past abandoned boat in estuary

Tarka Trail. Credit: Jonathan Bewley

Tarka Trail

The Tarka Trail is the perfect day ride.

Making use of disused railway tracks, The Tarka Trail takes you into the beautiful North Devon countryside.

It’s one of the country's longest continuous traffic-free walking and cycling paths and is ideal for families or people who have less experience when it comes to cycling.

RSPB Dearne Valley Old Moor. Credit: John Haig / CC BY-SA 2.0

Barnsley to Old Moor RSPB Reserve

A former colliery and coking works, RSPB Dearne Valley Old Moor is now an award-winning reserve where you can spot kingfishers, lapwings and bitterns, and at dusk, you can listen out for the shrill calls of little owls.

This route follows old railway lines from Barnsley and is mostly traffic-free.

Roker North Pier Lighthouse. Credit: Steve F / CC BY-SA 2.0

Roker Beach to Beamish

Beginning on the seafront at Roker in Sunderland, this route travels inland to the pretty village of Beamish.

Sights along the way include the mouth of the River Wear, the National Glass Centre, Wearmouth Bridge, Washington Wetlands Centre and Beamish Museum.

Liverpool Loop Line. Credit: Livia Lazar

Liverpool Loop Line

The Liverpool Loop Line is perfect for families and for people with less experience in cycling as it’s flat, easy and almost entirely traffic-free.

This wonderful green corridor is managed like a linear woodland park, running through rocky cuttings and high on embankments with wide views across the city.

Canal in Birmingham. Credit: Jonathan Bewely

Birmingham to Wolverhampton

Take time to enjoy the slower pace of life along this green corridor through the city.

Keep your eyes open, as there have been sightings of otters on Birmingham's canal network, and this route is shared with many plants, mammals, birds and insects.

Forest Way. Credit: Sustrans

Forest Way

The Forest Way takes you through the heart of the East Sussex countryside where you might spot dragonflies, newts, swallows, badger tracks, deer or foxes.

This 10-mile route is flat and traffic-free, with seats and picnic benches along the entire route, making it the perfect day out for families.

Great spotted woodpecker at RSPB reserve in Sandy. Credit: Tim Felce / CC BY-SA 2.0

University Way

Starting in the centre of Bedford, this route takes you along the elegant Ouse embankment and through quiet villages and gentle countryside to Sandy, with its RSPB nature reserve.

Along the way, you'll pass Priory Country Park, a 16th-century dovecote at Willington, and a Danish Camp which was believed to have been used as a boatyard by the Vikings.

Lee Navigation towpath. Credit: Sustrans

London Docklands and Lea Valley

This 20-mile route runs from the heart of historical maritime London, through places shaped by industry, war, commerce and water, to the countryside beyond the M25.

Look out for kingfishers and other water birds along the Lea navigation towpath and explore the Walthamstow Wetlands nature reserve.

Afan Valley. Credit: Sustrans

Afan Valley

This route travels between Port Talbot and the gorgeous Afan Forest.

The area is a haven for all sorts of wonderful wildlife and has world-class mountain bike trails.

At the Afan Forest Park Visitor Centre you can rent mountain bikes, visit the mining museum, or simply relax at the cafe and soak up the panoramic forest views.

The Giant's Ring. Credit: Robert Paul Young / CC BY-SA 2.0

Belfast to Lisburn, Lagan Towpath

Following the River Lagan towpath south-west from Belfast to Lisburn, the Lagan towpath is ideal for families and beginners.

This traffic-free route has plenty to explore including the Lagan Valley Regional Park and the Giant's Ring megalithic tomb.

Roslin Glen Country Park on Route 196. Credit: Sustrans

Route 196, south of Edinburgh

A mostly traffic-free route along leafy railway paths and quiet roads, Route 196 connects the market town of Haddington in East Lothian to Penicuik in Midlothian.

Winding past the Glenkinchie Whisky Distillery and the famous Rosslyn Chapel, the route also links to Route 1 south of Edinburgh.

Help us protect these routes

These quiet routes are part of the National Cycle Network, cared for by Sustrans. Your donation today will help keep the Network safe and open for everyone to enjoy.

National Cycle Network route sign with two school children walking in background

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10 things you can do to help reduce air pollution today

Air pollution is damaging our planet.

It’s important we all do our part in helping to improve the air we breathe.

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