The Top 7 UK Bikepacking Routes
With its countryside trails, deserted gravel paths, riverside walkways and vast stretches of quaint village roads, the UK is a bikepackers paradise.
For those looking to explore the best UK routes for bikepacking, we have handpicked the most scenic and stimulating locations for you to steer through. For everything you need to bring on your journey, make sure to read through our handpicked bikepacking gear guide.
West Highland Way
Location: Milngavie north of Glasgow to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands
Avg cycle duration: 3-4 days
With a range of rocky terrains and vertical slopes, the West Highland Way cycle route is not for the faint of heart. The route, which starts at Milngavie north of Glasgow and ends in Fort William in the Scottish Highlands, is recognised as a challenging yet rewarding bikepacking quest.
Experienced bikepackers will need a reliable, full-suspension mountain bike, ultralight camping equipment and a thorough plan in order to tackle this worthwhile challenge. Tips on what you should bring on this venture can be found in A Guide to Ultralight Backpacking.
The beauty of this route, however, is its array of stunning sights, including Loch Lomond: the largest area of freshwater in the UK, the Craigrostan Woods and the grand Ben Nevis. The Sea to Summit team would recommend visiting the official West Highland Way site, which caters to hikers, but offers invaluable insight into terrain information and nearby accommodation. To see potential places to camp en-route visit our Top 5 Loch Lomond Campsites guide.
The Pennine Bridleway
Location: Derbyshire to Cumbria
Distance: 330 km
Avg cycle duration: 5-6 days
Starting in the Derbyshire hills, The Pennine Bridleway is a popular 330km cycle trail crossing through the heart of the Pennine moors and ceases its trail on the Howgill fells in Cumbria.
The average bikepacker can expect to finish this route in 5-6 days and still have time to explore the natural landscapes in the north of England.
Dubbed the UK’s longest continuous off-road cycling route, this is expectedly popular among bikepackers. Although not as strenuous as the West Highland Way, the open moors and the rugged paths of the Pennine Bridleway shouldn’t be underestimated as it still offers a challenging yet breathtaking expedition.
The Northern Irish Coast Route
Location: Belfast to Ballyshannon
Distance: 391 km
Avg cycle duration: 4-6 days
If it’s magnificent views you’re on the hunt for, this bikepacking route is perfect. Although the duration of the route is vast, as the linear track takes place predominantly on public roads the terrain is not as challenging to cross.
Despite this urban turf, you can still expect to see spectacular views of the Antrim coastline.
This linear coast-to-coast route begins in Belfast and runs through the unspoilt landscape of the Sperrin Mountains, the Fermanagh lakes and ends in Ireland’s oldest town of Ballyshannon. The official route can be found on Outmore NI.
Bikepackers will need to plan ahead on where they should stay, however, as Northern Ireland’s wild camping rules differ from that of the rest of the UK. You have to be granted permission by landowners in order to wild camp on Northern Ireland’s landscapes.
The King Alfred’s Way
Location: Winchester through four of England’s National Trails: North Downs Way, South Downs Way, Ridgeway, and Thames Path
Distance: 350km loop
Days: 3 - 6 days
Named after its starting position, the King Alfred's Way begins its route under the King Alfred statue in Winchester and was created officially by Cycling UK.
The well-signposted route is comprised of and connects four of England’s popular national cycle trails, including the North Downs Way, South Downs Way, The Ridgeway, and Thames Path.
Bikepackers riding on King Alfred’s Way can expect to see a treasure trove of historical and natural landmarks, including the World Heritage Sites at Stonehenge and Avebury, and Iron Age hill forts at Old Sarum and Barbury Castle, as well as the beautiful rolling hills of southern England.
West Country Way
Location: Plymouth to Minehead
Days: 2- 4 days
The West Country Way is a beloved cycle route favoured by bikepackers across the UK. Starting off in the port city of Plymouth, the linear route delves into the heart of Devon through the picturesque Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks, finishing in the Somerset coastal town of Minehead.
Depending on how quickly you want to travel through the route, bikepackers can expect to complete the trail in 2 - 4 days, with 3 days being the average duration to ride and see the sights.
Lôn Las Cymru
Location: Holyhead to Cardiff
Days: 5 - 7 days
Also named the National Cycle Route 8, the Lôn Las Cymru is an official route from the National Cycle Network. Starting in the port town of Holyhead, this route provides an end-to-end crossing of Wales.
Despite the duration of the trail and although there are some challenging hills en-route, the Lôn Las Cymru trail primarily takes place on paved roads, making the terrain easier to ride on. That being said, it is still widely-regarded as one of the toughest of all the long-distance routes in the UK, because of its distance and ascent.
Well-signposted throughout the duration, the Lôn Las Cymru route runs through three mountain ranges: Snowdonia, The Cambrian Mountains and The Brecon Beacons. The route also takes riders through the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia national parks right from the North to the South of Wales. Bikepackers can anticipate some of the UK’s most incredible views when cycling through the stretches of woodland, extraordinary mountains and tree-lined river valleys.
The Great Tour
Location: Ryde on the Isle of Wight loop
Days: 64 days (minimum)
If a weeklong bikepack is not enough to heal the cycling bug, then bikepackers can experience an extended and epic expedition around the whole of the UK.
Months of planning and prep is needed for the formidable challenge, dubbed ‘The Great Tour’ and even the most experienced riders should block out their diary for at least two months. The 6,900km bike journey takes place circumnavigating around the coastline of Great Britain and is expected to take a minimum of 64 days when travelling at least 60 miles/96km a day. This mileage is at the top end of what is recommended for cyclists, as 40-120 km or 24 to 74 miles is generally what you should bikepack a day. The Great Tour is the UK’s ultimate fundraising cycling challenge and sees a high number of participants each year. You can find out more about bikepacking this incredible expedition on The Great Tour’s official site.
How do you plan a bikepacking route?
The UK is home to transcendent trails for cyclists and bikepackers alike, but those looking to find the best bikepacking routes should plan accordingly.
For shorter UK bikepacking routes, consider the location where you want to ride and talk to locals there or other bikepackers that have cycled and camped in these spots prior. This is a great way of finding out the most popular route suggestions and uncovering any potential hurdles.
For more information or for longer UK routes, budding bikepackers should go online and visit sources for original bikepacking routes, guides, and dirt touring itineraries. Bikepacking.com is one of the most popular for this trusted information. Need a cycling companion for your bikepacking routes? You can find people to go bikepacking with on CycleTouring.org which is a cycle social networking site helping cyclists find bicycle touring friends. Alternatively, you can visit local Facebook groups, use Strava, Komoot or dedicated cycle companion sites on Google.
Your bikepacking essentials…
Whether you’re hoping to see the sights or improve your cycling endurance, it’s important to have the right equipment on your bikepacking trip. Sea to Summit offers a wide range of high-quality camping and bikepacking equipment including storage sacks and water bottles and even has the Telos TR2 Bikepack Tent which is tailored for bikepacking. Browse the full product range and make sure you have everything you need.
Don’t forget to tag #seatosummituk in your social media posts when you’re exploring so we can share your experience and see how your trip went.