Lockdown rules permitting!
These are our pick of the top tive routes to take social distancing to new heights. Go big, it’s worth it.
Blanchland, Northumberland,27.61km (17miles)
If you’re looking for your first taste of true isolation on two wheels now is the perfect time to start. Riding away from civilization can feel intimidating though and just because you want to get away from it all doesn’t mean you want to cover huge miles. Not to worry, isolation is closer than you think.
Northumberland is famed for its huge skies and expansive topography and while the town of Blanchland only just squeaks into the county it offers these in spades. On a grey day the moors might veer towards the bleak, but on a sunny day it feels like the hills roll on forever – if you want to feel very small in a big landscape this is the ride for you.
Arran, Scotland, 21.34km (13miles)
Arran is Scotland’s seventh biggest island, which means unless you already live on Arran you’re going to need to get a ferry for this route – currently travel to the island is for essential travel only. This is one to keep in your back pocket then, and plan for a trip later in the year or 2021.
The Isle of Arran has been dubbed ‘Scotland in Miniature’ and this ride is very much a mini-Scottish adventure. The first half of the loop might not be the most thrilling but it does take you perilously near to Lochranza Distillery. Try to avoid overindulging though as the return leg is worthy of your full concentration and brings you back along coastal singletrack with fine sea views over the Sound of Bute (weather permitting) where you’ll likely be sharing the trail with no one else but a few curious gulls.
Ingleborough, Yorkshire Dales, 46.74km (29miles)
The Yorkshire Dales is hugely popular but thanks to the sheer size of the national park it’s quite possible to devise a ride that will see next to no one all day. This ride takes you round one of Yorkshire’s three peaks, Pen-y-Ghent. While you might expect it to be busy it rarely is – apart from on high days, holidays, dodge these. And of course the 3 Peaks Cyclo-Cross race in September, althouth this year’s race is sadly cancelled.
Navigating this route is straightforward and even in low visibility there’s little chance of getting lost, it holds up well in poor weather too – in fact it’s possibly best done in grotty conditions for getting the fell to yourself.
Braemar, Cairngorms, 48.86km (30miles)
When the Queen wants to get away from it all she retires to her Scottish Highland retreat – Balmoral Castle. Replete with stunning mountain vistas, quiet forests and golden eagles she might be on to something.
With the royal seal of approval the area can get quite busy, but most of the traffic is coach parties more interested in tea and tartan than the incredible riding to be had by leaving sides of the River Dee. The reward for taking the high road is a properly stunning mountain high atop Cac Càrn Beag – the Gaelic translation ‘Little pile of sh*t’ seems a bit harsh considering its grandeur. Care should be taken when venturing this far and high, weather can change in an instant, visibility can drop to nothing and with screes and cliffs around good navigation skills are a must.
Berwyn, Mid Wales, 64.77km (40miles)
Wales has an abundance of empty areas. It’s so empty in fact that sometimes there aren’t even any trails to get to the emptiness – official ones, at any rate – and with Snowdonia to the north drawing most of the attention the oft-overlooked Berwyns have always been the place to go for those looking for a bit of peace and quiet. These hills also have a history of off-road riding longer than most and a memorial to one of one of the pioneers of ‘rough stuff cycling’, Walter MacGregor Robinson aka ‘Wayfarer’, sits at the summit of the first climb.
This is a bit of a monster of a ride but can be shortened by cutting out the loop down to Llangynog – although you will miss out on some rather nice singletrack.