IF, LIKE ME, YOU’RE THE SORT OF CYCLIST WHO LIKES TO EXPLORE THE COUNTRYSIDE, TAKING YOUR TIME ALONG THE WAY AND END UP IN A GOOD CAFF…

 

Northeast England ticks all the right boxes. Having just written a Cycling in Northumbria guide for Bradt, I can look back now and appreciate how privileged I was to pedal around this very special region. From Durham City, past the Angel of the North to Newcastle upon Tyne and along the sandy coastline all the way up to the River Tweed on the Scottish border, the ancient kingdom of Northumbria comprises some of the most stunning landscapes in the country. The Pennines; the Cheviots; the wild moors and fells of Northumberland National Park; the vast forests at Kielder, Kidland and Harwood; the 100-km long Northumberland Coastal Path, lined with sandy beaches and a string of the 70+ castles in the Northeast; the offshore Coquet and Farne islands with their seals and rare birdlife; the inky waters of the North Tyne with its abundant salmon … I could go on.

Angel of the North - cycling with Huw Hennessey

The Angel of the North, Newcastle upon Tyne Photo Credit: Huw Hennessy

With its quiet back lanes, myriad cycle paths and adrenalin-pumping mountain-biking trails, Northumbria is probably unmatched anywhere for its superb cycling routes. If I could shuffle all the 21 rides and suggest some personal favourites – plus a nod to those that didn’t make the cut – here’s the pick of the bunch:

Best for cross-country adventure: Bellingham to Rothbury – 47km through moor and fell, North Tyne Valley, Harwood Forest and the Simonside Hills. With a mix of country roads and off-road trails, this is a great adventure best tackled on a gravel bike (or of course, the increasingly popular e-bikes)

Huw Hennessey Top Cycle Routes in Northumberland - Rothbury

The road bridge over the River Coquet leading into the town of Rothbury

Best for castles: 48km northwards up the coast, from Amble to Bamburgh, via Warkworth, Dunstanburgh and Bamburgh castles; huge bastions built in medieval times and fought over forcenturies.

Dunstanburgh Castle - cycling with Huw Hennessey

Dunstanburgh Castle - Photo Credit: Huw Hennessy

Best for history and scenery: 33km from Wooler, gateway to the Cheviot Hills, to Lindisfarne, Holy Island and site of the majestic Lindisfarne Castle and Lindisfarne Abbey, via the magical St Cuthbert’s Cave.

Lindisfarne Abbey - Cycling with Hugh Hennessey

Lindisfarne Priory, Holy Island, Northumberland

Best for families: Kielder Water and Forest Park: choose between challenging mountain-bike trails through the trees or a circuit around England’s largest manmade lake. It’s nearly 42km around the shore and with more ups and downs, ins and outs than you might expect. But there’s a collection of modern art installations dotted around its perimeter, as well as cafes and excellent accommodation at Landale Waterside Lodge (plus, a cosy little campsite at Kielder – handy for Overland Adventures’ Land Rovers).

Kielder Water nr Leaplish - Cycling with Huw Hennessey

Kielder Water near Leaplish - Photo Credit: Huw Hennessy

Best for Beaches: there are numerous contenders here, but the two favourites in my book are the 19-km Craster to Howick loop, a gentle circular ride from Craster’s picturesque harbour, past Sugarsands and Howdiemont Sands, gorgeous little coves where oystercatchers pick their way along the shore. And the 24-km Lindisfarne to Berwick route, which winds up the coast to the mouth of the Tweed; with wild windswept dunes on Holy Island, truly one of the most awesome sites in the UK.

Cycling the Northumbria Coastline toward Bamburgh with Huw Hennessey

Northumberland Coastline toward Bamburgh - Photo Credit: Huw Hennessy

Best for Historic Cityscapes: Newcastle upon Tyne to Derwent Valley, a 38-km loop – passing the seven bridges over the Tyne in the city centre and out to the lush green Derwent Valley, with its historic NT Gibside Hall. Derwent Walk Country Park is an impressive green restoration project in this former coke works and the huge wooden pier at Dunston Staiths is now home to a yacht marina and bird reserve.

Seven Bridges over the Tyne - Newcastle upon Tyne to Derwent Valley

7 Bridges Newcastle upon Tyne - Cycling with Huw Hennessey

There are maps to the above routes in my Northumbria collection of 21 rides on Komoot; or my Cycling in Northumbria book, published by Bradt at the end of April, has more details, including places to eat and stay; feature boxes about history, culture and wildlife; and much more.

Inevitably, for such a large region and with a limit of 21 routes in my book, there were numerous rides I’d love to discover the next time I’m in the Northeast. Such as mountain biking in Kidland and Harwood forests, when hopefully the damage from recent winter storms has been cleared up. Offroad trails near Wooler, into the Cheviots and Otterburn look similarly fun; more coastal rambles southwards from Amble through Blyth to North Shields. And I’d love to try out the new Destination Tweed project, a 100-km trail up the river from Moffat in Scotland downstream to the mouth of the Tweed at Berwick, due for completion in 2025.

In short, you’re spoilt for choice; all you need to do is get cycling!

Cycling Dunstanburgh Castle with our Land Rover Defender Camper pitched up at Newton Bay

© Huw Hennessy 2023.

Don’t forget every Overland luxury Land Rover Defender camper can be fit with a bike rack for up to three bikes! Check out full kit lists here

Cycling Break with our Land Rover Defender

ABOUT HUW

Writer, editor and updater for more than 30 years, specialising in Latin America, plus worldwide wandering. Huw first visited South America as a tour leader for London-based tour operator Journey Latin America; up the Andes and down the Amazon during the mid-80s and early 90s. Since then has travelled the globe, from New Zealand to Australia, St Petersburg to Reykjavik, New York to California.

Huw has written for many publishers, including: Bradt Guides, Footprint Travel Guides, Dorling Kindersley, Michelin Green Guides, Rough Guides, and Insight Guides. He was a managing editor for Insight Guides, relaunching their Latin America series and redesigning their website.

His work has included writing the AA Rio de Janeiro CityPack, updating the AA Las Vegas CityPack, and updating Rough Guides’ Central America on a Budget, and Footprint Handbooks’ Central America and Colombia guides.  He has also written for magazines, including Wanderlustnews stories on Ecuador and Honduras for The Independent; and blogs, features and updates for websites, including TES – The Times Educational Supplement, World Travel Guide, Dorling Kindersley Travel and Footprint Travel Guides.

You can find Huw’s Cycling in Northumbria Guide here

Hadrian's Wall
Simonside Hills Coquetdale
Dunstanburgh Castle from Newton by the Sea
Cragside House Northumberland