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Adventure & Travel Blog Lake District Lovers

The Ultimate Guide to Cycling in the Lake District

Whinlatter mountain biking trail

With so many picturesque routes to choose from, cycling in the Lake District is one of the best ways to explore the national park. You’ll enjoy epic views and have the chance to enjoy a variety of flora and fauna en route. The region is home to country paths and designated cycle paths, as well as trickier mountain biking routes. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced cyclist looking for new landscapes, discover the ultimate Lake District cycling routes.

1. Chalet Tearooms loop from Underskiddaw

Start & finish: Applethwaite Road End Bus Station

Length: 16.8 miles

Terrain: flat – paved and asphalt

Difficulty level: easy

Refreshment stops: yes

Map: Chalet Tearooms loop from Underskiddaw

Enjoy a leisurely ride around Derwentwater on this easy cycling route in the Lakes. Suitable for most fitness levels, this trail includes one of the most popular lakes in the region. Follow the road, rather than rocky trails, for a smooth cycle which will appeal to less experienced cyclists. As the name of this route suggests, you’ll pass the Chalet Tearooms & Restaurant overlooking the lake. After 10 miles of cycling, this is a pretty spot to relax and take in the views. Refuel with homemade scones and the perfect pot of tea before completing the last leg of the loop.

2. Derwentwater and Borrowdale

Start & finish: Swinside

Length: 10.2 miles

Terrain: flat with some inclines

Difficulty level: easy

Refreshment stops: yes

Map: Derwentwater and Borrowdale

This is a fabulous route for cycling in the Lake District as it provides stunning views of Derwentwater and the fells that the whole family can enjoy. Beginning at Swinside, you’ll follow the lane towards Grange. Here you’ll encounter a slight meander uphill before the route evens out beside Brandlehow Park. Prepare for beautiful views over the lake as you cycle beneath the fells. Continue the route below Black Crag before reaching Grange.

After crossing the bridge, cycle along Borrowdale Road which leads to Keswick. You’ll shortly reach a fantastic place to stop as you journey towards High Lodore farm tearooms. Here you can enjoy sweet treats and snacks while taking in views of Catbells. Hop on your bike once more and set off towards Keswick following signs for Whinlatter and Cockermouth. The next part of the route will need you to keep your wits about you. Leaving Keswick on the A5271 look out for a “blink and you’ll miss it” junction on the left. It is signed as a dead end but is in fact accessible to cyclists. Once on this junction turn right to join the National Cycle Network route 71. Cycle along this picturesque route to Portinscale and, eventually, back to Swinside.

3. Rusland Valley

Start & finish: Spire Wood

Length: 20.5 miles

Terrain: flat with several inclines

Difficulty level: medium

Refreshment stops: yes

Map: Rusland Valley

A great route for experienced cyclists who love mountain biking in the Lake District. Begin to the east of Spire Wood and to the west of the curiously named, Shive of Cheese. Follow signs for Satterthwaite, then, Grizedale. You’ll pass the Adventure Centre before setting off north for Hawkshead. Take a rest stop at the Sun Cottage Café which is renowned for its tasty soups and larger meals. Continuing you’ll pass Coniston Water and the historic, Brantwood. The final part of your journey sees you cycling Tottlebank and Booth before traversing the causeway towards the end of the loop.

4. Whinlatter mountain biking – Altura Trail North Loop

Start & finish: Near Cyclewise

Length:  12 miles

Terrain: Rocky with steep inclines

Difficulty level: Difficult

Refreshment stops: yes

Map: Whinlatter mountain biking trail – Altura trail

Experienced cyclists will love tackling the longest purpose-built MTB trail in the Lake District. There are two loop options and the North Loop is considered the least difficult of the two. However, you must be extremely experienced to attempt this trail. This route will treat you to breathtaking views of Derwentwater, Bassenthwaite, Helvellyn and Skiddaw. Test your skills as you jump over mounds and speed down epic slopes before ascending once again. Enjoy the rewards of climbing heights of up to 200 metres, via twists and turns over rocky terrains. After all this exhilaration, rehydrate at the Visitor Centre café which is located at an intersection between trails.

whinlatter mountain biking trail
Whinlatter Forest

5. Hardknott Pass cycling route

Start: Grasmere

Finish: Eskdale Green

Length: 19 miles

Terrain:  Very steep predominantly paved roads

Difficulty level: Difficult

Refreshment stops: yes

Map: Hardknott Pass cycling route

Not for the faint hearted, this is an awesome route for experienced thrill seekers. The Hardknott Pass is known for sharing the accolade of the steepest road in England with one other road. If this doesn’t put you off and you’re an experienced cyclist, you’ll be rewarded well. During this route you’ll cycle past Grasmere towards Elterwater and into Great Langdale. The journey continues past Lingmoor Fell and Blea Tarn where you can appreciate the heather covered landscapes. The hard work really begins as you climb through Wrynose Pass towards Hardknott Pass. Relax during the final descent into Eskdale and past the River Esk to finish at Eskdale Green. Enjoy a well-earned drink at The Woolpack Inn which you’ll find at the bottom of Hardknott Pass. This cosy pub boasts roaring fires, local ales and a hearty menu to boot.

Blea tarn
Blea Tarn

6. Lake District Loop West

Start & finish: Elterwater

Length: 65 miles

Terrain: varied – paved/rocky/steep

Difficulty level: Difficult

Refreshment stops: yes

Map: Lake District Loop West

Put your biking skills to the test as you embark on a whopping 65-mile loop around the Lakes. During this route you’ll be greeted by delicious sights such as Wrynose Pass, Hardknott Pass, and Gable. Encounter many different zig-zag routes including the cycle towards Wrynose and climb to Hardknott. The most spectacular views can be found during the ascent towards Lamplugh. The emerging moorland casts an impressive portrait alongside the views towards Isle of Man.

Beauty arrives in the most unexpected places during this journey – via a tiny country lane towards Hopebeck. Other highlights of the loop include Fangs Brow, Loweswater, and Thirlmere Forest. There’ll be plenty of opportunities to stop for refreshments during this thirst-inducing route. We recommend popping into The Barn Tearoom at New House Farm during the latter stretch of the route. Here, enjoy an energy boost with an old-fashioned tea service or homemade soup and a sandwich.

7. Low Wray and Tarn Hows

Start & finish: Wray Castle

Length: 11 miles

Terrain: Many ascents on paved paths and roads/some gravel

Difficulty level: medium

Refreshment stops: yes

Map: Low Wray and Tarn Hows

Short yet challenging, this route provides ample exercise for families who love to cycle together. Begin at Wray castle before heading towards Ambleside. Take the junction marked Coniston/Tarn Hows and prepare for the steep climb among beautiful countryside vistas. Continuing towards the crossroads, stop for refreshments at the Drunken Duck pub before heading to Tarn Hows. You’ll be grateful for the chance to prepare for the steep climb among wooded fells that follows. Before the climax of your journey, you’ll experience a winding descent to the B5285. This could prove a little too much for younger or inexperienced cyclists. Reaching the junction, turn left to continue to Hawkshead Hill, taking a moment to enjoy the views. Get in gear for the steep drop to the right heading to Low Wray. Cycle on to Ambleside where you’ll find an abundance of rest stops.

It’s not always possible to take your dog along with you when you’re cycling in the Lake District so for those times when you want to go on foot, discover a few favourite dog friendly walks.

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