Cycling in the Lake District is one of the best ways you can spend your time in this little slice of Cumbrian heaven. The Lake District National Park has dozens of different routes suitable for all kind of two-wheeled vehicles, from mountain bikes to sportier frames and road bikes. The difficulty of Lake District cycle routes varies greatly, with some tracks being flat and easy, and some a lot more dangerous, suitable only for the real hobbyists and cycle-obsessives. If you’re keen for a cycling holiday in the National Park, then you should probably bring your own, but if you don’t have the right equipment or only want to spend a couple of days of your holiday on two wheels, bike hire in the Lake District is incredibly easy. If you’re keen to pedal through Girzedale Forest or around South Lake, read ahead for our guide on the best of cycling in the Lake District.
Where to Rent Your Bike
If you haven’t brought your own cycles, then the first thing you’ll need to do is rent some. There are numerous bike hire businesses in The Lake District, and they usually have all sorts of bike for the various cycle paths and routes, whether you’re just wanting something easy to glide through Windermere on, or if you’re looking for a specialised bike so you can ride to some spectacular scenery.
Country Lanes Cycle Centre is one of the premier bike hire places in the Lake District. They have a wide range of cycle types, and their staff are all incredibly knowledgeable about all things Lake District cycling. The cycle centre is located on Windermere Railway Station, so is easily accessible, and they have a number of pre-determined routes for you to try if you’re looking for guidance. To rent a premium mountain bike costs GBP 29/day, and the standard hybrid road bike is GBP 27/day. For keen cyclists, there are higher-end models, as well as electric bikes. Children’s bikes are also available from GBP 17/day. These costs all include helmet and spare inner-tube rental.
If you’re looking for a shorter rental period for your bike hire in the Lake District, then Coniston Boating Centre on the edge of Coniston Water is a good bet. Adult mountain bike hire is GBP 15 for two hours, GBP 20 for four, and GBP 25 for the entire day. For children it’s GBP 5 for two hours, GBP 10 for 4, and GBP 15 for the full day. Electric bikes are also available at GBP 30 for 2 hours and GBP 50 for 6. As usual, this includes helmets and a spare inner-tube. However, bear in mind bikes are first come, first served, so it might be wise to book ahead.
What Are the Best Cycling Routes in the Lake District?
There are tonnes of great little cycling routes in the Lake District, so it’s which ones are worth the leg work. The routes are roughly split into four colour categories. In order of difficulty, these are Green, Blue, Red, and Black. Black routes can be pretty risky for the untrained, whereas the Green routes are much more friendly for the everyday cyclists among us. Below Green are forest road paths, which are great for the family.
Whinlatter Forest is home to several gorgeous, winding Lake District cycle routes.
One of the best-known trails here is also one of the most popular for Lake District cycling in general, the challenging Altura Trail, which is split into a North and South loop. This Red route cycle ride offers spectacular views of Derwentwater, rises almost 500m above Keswick, and is 12 miles long, so isn’t for the faint-hearted, but is well worth it for the views.
The Gorse Cycle Trail is another gorgeous route, and as far as Lake District cycling routes go, is very ridable for people of all types of fitness. At just over six miles, the cycle path is mostly well-paved, and the route itself doesn’t have too many elevation changes. It’s a Blue route and is suitable for most children over the age of ten, so ideal for many families.
Grizedale Forest is a World Heritage site that has some of the most spectacular scenery in the entire area, making it ideal for Lake District cycling.
It’s home to The Goosey Foot Tarn Trail, the perfect Lake District cycle route for the family. Running for just two miles it goes past Goosey Foot and Juniper Tarns, which are both manmade. It’s all on paved forest roads too, so you don’t need any special bikes, and there is little elevation change, meaning the little ones can enjoy without you having to worry about them getting too tired.
Black MTB Trail
The serious mountain bikers who have made their way up to Cumbria for a cycling holiday should give the Black MTB Trail a go. There are a tonne of jumps and sharp bends to keep even the most active and alert cyclist on their toes, and although it only lasts for under a mile, the rush from it will stay with you for a long time.
If you are looking for a longer Lake District cycle route that doesn’t just go through a forest, the Eskdale Trail is 8 and a half miles long but is quite easy as it is mostly downhill, although after rain it can get a bit boggy. You need to get the train from Ravenglass with your bike, which takes about 40 minutes, but the actual biking should only be for around an hour. Highlights include beautiful wildlife, and a whole host of great pubs and restaurants along the way.
Keswick to Threlkeld Trail
If you’re keen to get the legs really pumping with your Lake District cycling, then the recently reopened Keswick to Threlkeld Trail is a must-ride. At just over six miles, the route follows the old railway, threading through and around the River Greta where you can spot some local wildlife. The gradient is mostly flat, although there are a few tougher parts that will require an extra exertion of effort. However, you will be rewarded, because there are plenty of places to stop along the way and at the end of the route is a pub to relax with a hard-earned pint in.
Looking for more thrill-seeking activities to enjoy in the lakes? Our water sports guide has got you covered.