Smack bang on the National Cycle Route 1, Ivy Grange Farm Yurts is the perfect place to start your cycling season off by exploring the bike-friendly Suffolk countryside. You can take your own bike or borrow one from the owners, select your Sustrans map and choose your route - the popular Brewery Tour, including St Peter's; the beaches at Southwold and Walberswick; or the market town of Beccles, the self-styled Gateway to the Broads. It's perfect for families, novice or expert cyclists. And when you get back to base, you can relax at your beautifully finished yurt, refresh yourself in the solar-thermal woodland shower and watch the sun go down by your campfire.
Cycle away the winter cobwebs in the Brecon Beacons!
Park in the village of Talybont on Usk, where you can start and finish at the White Hart or Star pubs. One has a bunkhouse and the other a B&B and restaurant open through the winter; both have great beers and good food.
Cross the canal by the footbridge then cycle north on the Taff trail which begins with a long climb alongside the Talybont reservoir. you will see the high peaks ahead of you to the left. You then pass through Talybont on Usk and Taf Fechan forests, before crossing a B-road leading to a fantastic climb up stone tracks to the Cwm Cynwyn pass as the base of Cribyn at an altitude of nearly 2000ft. On a clear day the views are stupendous and you may surprise a few walkers, fell-runners and sheep.
The descent is very technical with huge boulders and terrifying drops coming down the other side before the surface improves to a fast tarmac descent into LLanfrynach, where there's a pub for a well-earned pint, before following the roads back to Talybont.
Talybont on Usk village:
White Hart Inn:
Talybont-on-Usk, Brecon, Powys LD3 7JD
Talybont-on-Usk, Brecon, Powys LD3 7YX
Google map: bit.ly/UILn0F
Amazing day out for the family with zip wires, wobbly bridges, den building and lots of slides and activities for all ages.
Cycle hire for the area on site. Horning itself is a lovely marina town with lovely pubs and restaurants for a great lunch or evening meal.
A long weekend in spring is the perfect excuse to take off along the Coast & Castles cycle route. 200 miles from Newcastle to Edinburgh (the direction for more favourable winds), the route uses sections of National Routes 1 and 76 and cyclists can expect a mixture of traffic free tracks and quiet minor roads, all well marked and at gradients accessible to most abilities.
True to its name the route certainly doesn’t disappoint, skimming the impressive North East coastline and offering beautiful beaches alongside lush countryside. Views to savour from the saddle include Holy Island, Tynemouth Priory, Chathill Station and Alnmouth with its colourful houses hugging the shoreline. Keep an eye out for The Ducket, the explanation of such an interesting building is worth stopping to read.
The route isn’t short of castles and spotting them keeps the ride interesting. The most impressive being Bamburgh, standing proud on the beach. A personal favourite is Warkworth, best experienced when the Daffodils are in full bloom.
To kick start the holiday feeling begin with lunch on Newbiggin beach while examining the Sean Henry statue of a couple in the sea. Make sure that feeling lasts until the final afternoon with lunch on the village green at East Linton.
Start and finish accessible by train (book cycle spaces to avoid disappointment).
Cheap and unique accommodation along the route at the Hideaway Hostel, Berwick and Bells Bothy Bunkhouse.
You don't need a car to get to this lovely Chilterns walk as it follows the old drovers trails as they moved livestock along ancient sunken lanes that criss-cross the area.
Starting from Tring station, you have a choice of a four or six mile circular route through an area that supports an amazing diversity of birdlife; red kites, goldcrest and the lesser-spotted woodpecker. Wild fallow deer are a common sight too, badgers and the rarely found dormouse. But spring brings out the beautiful bluebells that can be enjoyed in the Ashridge Woodland, a National Trust estate.
Refreshments aplenty along the route at Ashridge and Aldbury.
Tring station on the London Midland line from Birmingham and London Euston.
The Chilterns nr Ivinghoe Beacon
Google map: bit.ly/11b7JNX
A good leisurely cycle using the chain ferry from Sandbanks to Studland and then pushing on into the hills of the Purbecks - Corfe, Swanage, all at your beck and call - country pubs, cream teas and campsites abound when the views get too much. Great for a weekend or even longer when the weather is perfect - very Nuts in May!
Poole or Bournemouth train station and then pedal to Sandbanks for the ferry.
Google map: bit.ly/UxQtLG
For a great break away from everything, I would recommend the Kennels cottage in Invertrossachs. It is situated beside beautiful Loch Venacher and is well appointed inside. The log burner was particularly welcome after a long day's cycling. Right at the front door are several cycling or walking routes, which you can explore and many of them are off road. To make things easier, there is also an excellent cycle hire shop, which among other things, sells guides of the cycling routes which mark facilities on the cycle route, such as toilets and pubs, making planning each day much easier. The scenery on the cycle routes is stunning, as most of it is alongside the lochs, past waterfalls, or through forests, in the boundary of the Trossachs National Park. There is also a good mixture of terrain. If in the evenings you have any energy left to go out, there are several cosy pubs close by serving food.
A short ferry ride from Southampton, Portsmouth or Lymington will take you to one of the sunniest places in Britain. With over 500 miles of footpaths you can walk the Tennyson Way for an exhilarating view of The Needles or stroll along uncrowded coastal paths on the south east of the island. Explore ancient woodlands and get up close to red squirrels at the Alverstone Marsh hide. Follow the network of flat cycle paths suitable for all abilities and more challenging bridleways with barely 100m of flatness. Just remember that for every up there is a great view and a glorious down just ahead.
Lying between Bolton, Bury and Blackburn, the West Pennine Moors are easy to get to and have loads to offer everyone: towers and ruins to explore, short walks that can be done in trainers, longer walks 'over the tops', or around the many reservoirs, great wildlife, challenging road and off-road cycling (The Rake in Ramsbottom is used in national bicycle hill-climbs) horse-riding, sailing ...
Young families might try Rivington where you can choose one of three cafes, walking up to Rivington Pike, exploring the ruins at Lever Park and looking over Manchester. Children will love the hike to the top - it'll feel like an adventure, without tiring them out too much. A lovely walk setting off from Jumbles reservoir takes in Grade 1 listed Turton Tower, moorland, riverside walk and can include a lunch stop at the Strawberry Duck pub.
As well as looking over Manchester, about 15 miles away, you can see the Irish Sea and more. For a fairly small area, there is a great variety and it feels less 'touristy' than either the Lake or Peak District.
It is a stunning country house, in the heart of the Lakes, next to Wordsworth's home Rydal Mount. Owned by the Diocese it is fully open to the public. It has beautiful gardens, waterfall walks,or follow the "coffin" trail round Rydal and Grasmere. Also an excellent base for longer walks like the Fairfeld Horse Shoe. Sleep in the grand house, yurt, eco-pod or camp. Until March you can stay in a pod for only £20 a night! Don't miss cakes at the excellent cafe and visit the community garden, where you can help yourself and leave a donation. You won't be disappointed!
Cycling the northern section of the Pennine bridleway.
This mostly off road route starts in Derbyshire and currently finishes at Ravenstondale in Cumbria.
The latest section of the bridleway was opened last year and now takes the route through the northern parts of Lancashire through the magnificent Yorkshire Dales and into Cumbria. I’m privileged to live nearby in Appleby in Westmorland and I’ve been exploring the newer parts of this route. I’ve been using the Settle to -Carlisle line to link a number of ‘day’ rides together. Ideal for the spring when one might not want to commit to a long multi-day epic. Although I have been traveling via the Settle Carlisle railway south from Appleby to ride sections of the route the same could be done based in Settle. Catch the train to Long Preston and ride to Settle, do the Settle loop, a circular route finishing back in Settle. Further sections can be done from Settle returning via the train, or if based in Settle, it may be safer to use the train to get to Horton in Ribblesdale, Riblehead with it’s fine viaduct, Dent, Garsdale or finally Kirkby Stephen doing the Bridleway in reverse that way avoiding train table restrictions/deadlines. Imaginative use of the bridleway and the brilliant Settle-Carlisle line gives you access to the most wonderful cycling with the options of long days, short days whatever makes your ideal spring cycling holiday. There is now a great guide book which would give one all the information one needs to plan your holiday: Cycling the Pennine Bridleway, Lancashire and the Yorkshire Dales by Keith Bradbury and published by Cicerone. There is also the the Pennine bridleway web site.
By journeying as far north-west as you can on the British mainland you will arrive at the village of Durness and on its western edge is the magnificent beach of Balnakeil Bay – which itself is but part of the fascinating promontory of Farhaid Head. Facing westward towards Cape Wrath and the towering sea-cliffs of Clo Mor, the beach and extensive sand dunes are wonderfully devoid of any detracting 'tourist infrastructure'; so this will appeal to the more active/outdoor visitor. The nearby rocky shoreline abounds with a great diversity of sea-birds - Puffins, Terns, Razorbills, Fulmars, Kittiwakes and Gannets. The underwater scenery is equally mesmerising and the clarity of the water compares with the Caribbean. For good measure, don't miss a visit to the massive Smoo Cave on the eastern seashore of Durness. Accommodation in Durness includes the Youth Hostel (SYHA) and the Lazy Crofter Bunkhouse.
I had my wedding here this Christmas and it was the best experience I could have wished for. They made the day run so smoothly and were so helpful and friendly. Robyn helped us plan our wedding and made it seem so easy and stress free. it was a dream! It is a quirky venue and does the ceremony as well as the reception which we thought was perfect. A real find! (It is also attached to a hotel so we did a wedding package with them which made everything sooo much simpler not having to think about travelling constantly on the day!)
p.s. the food and cocktails were gorgeous!
A 16km cycle path that weaves its way out of Bangor and into the dramatic Ogwen valley in Snowdonia. The journey starts through gentle woodland on a dedicated cycle path before taking you through the dramatic slate quarries of Bethesda.
After this a breathtaking panorama of the Ogwen valley is yours to enjoy. You follow a small, tarmac trail with little traffic. Finally get ready for a short but very steep climb to finish the trip. (You could walk it if you wanted. It's short, but steep.)
At the end of your journey you'll find the Idwal cottage youth hostel which is perfect for an overnight stay. There is also the Cwm Idwal nature reserve for a beautiful walk or a wild swim!
Nant Ffrancon, Bethesda, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 3LZ
+44(0)845 371 9744
Google map: bit.ly/Zcx0BS
What it lacks in creature comforts, this small, friendly campsite makes up for in stunning scenery and a warm welcome. Practically on the Pembrokeshire coastal path, it is a short walk to the nearest beach and there is a gorgeous, reasonable but not overlong family walk round Dinas Island from one beach to the next. Why not order fresh bread and Welsh cakes from the farmhouse for your picnic? Delicious. This is our top tip for a budget beach holiday: camping in a farm field, five minute walk to some sand and bathing quality sea, national park coastline walks, short drives to larger beaches with more amenities and much quieter than Cornwall or Devon: plenty of sand space even in school hols.
For a budget beach holiday with great scenery and atmosphere, try YHA Treyarnon in Cornwall. Accommodation suitable for families, individuals or groups, and great value meals to be had in the bar-style dining room – or you can self-cater. Youth hostel rates, even for ensuite rooms, compare favourably with those for B&B. The youth hostel is situated right on the cliff above the beach, a classic surfing beach with life guard, but also good for bucket and spade stuff, and there are rock pools for paddling/swimming in when the tide is out. The afternoon light is amazing. Other beaches nearby.
Widemouth Bay is quintessential English seaside. A huge expanse of sea and sand welcomes you as you drive into the bay. The Bay View Inn is a great, friendly pub/restaurant and has good reasonably priced rooms, including family rooms with DVD players, comfy beds and terraces overlooking the ocean. It's a popular place for the locals and gets busy but at 11PM all goes quiet and a good night's sleep can be had with just the sound of waves to help you drop off. The Bay has a surf school, local shop selling fresh seafood, good cafe on the beach and a charming old-fashioned 50's fresh fish and chip van for cheap and cheerful evening suppers.
A 6 - any age activity so great for a family including a mix of teenagers, children and young adults. Explore the coastline - rock climbing, making different jumps from the rocks, learn about the fauna, caving, great views - a totally new 'shared' experience.
Google map: bit.ly/WkaQMr
I rediscovered this spot throughout my summer. I moved into Sandy Lane on Gower and inherited a dog named Sput, which needed walking every day. His favourite spot was the ten minute stretch from the Lane to the castle overlooking Three Cliffs Bay or 'Tub' as it's known to the locals. Every sunny evening we'd walk the stretch so Sput could chase rabbits and bounce around in the sand below the castle. It has the most beautiful views and rekindled my love with my country. There are very few places in the world that can make me feel so peaceful and perfectly happy. Even in the pouring rain, there is something mystical about this point that will stay with me forever.
2 Southgate Road Swansea, Southgate, Swansea, West Glamorgan SA3 2BT
Google map: bit.ly/W17ihO
Anglesey Abbey Winter Garden is part of a National Trust property located near Lode, Cambridgeshire. The Winter Garden is one part of a much larger garden but is at its peak in the dead of winter. The colors, textures, and shapes are only visible in winter and provide a surreal and beautiful experience in the low winter light. This winter, they are opening the garden at night as part of the Winter Lights at Anglesey Abbey program (December 8,9,15 and 16). Otherwise, the garden is open daily 10:30 to 4:30.
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