Whether you are cycling south from Scotland or took the train up from Newcastle, the coast of Northumberland between Berwick upon Tweed and Newcastle will take your breath away. Lindisfarne Holy Island with its unique causeway and five historic remote castles are the main attractions. One of them is Alnwick Castle, famous for the Harry Potter film appearances.
Newcastle is the largest city on the route. With the estuary of the River Tyne, things never feel crowded. You cycle via the famous Angel of the North, Millennium Bridge and historic Grainger Town to remains of the Roman Hadrian’s Wall.
Derwent Walk Country Park features a worldclass cycle path in a wooded valley, heading for World Heritage site Durham, with its historic city square, cathedral and castle. Returning to the North Sea Coast, Hartlepool Headland and the famous River Tees Transporter Bridge take you via industrial Middlesbrough into North York Moors National Park.
After a demanding ride in beautiful countryside with moors and valleys, Whitby town and abbey are at the start of the coastal Cinder Track to seaside resort Scarborough. Cycle to York via the Yorkshire Wolds or head for the Hull ferry.
From the Hull ferry, you can also join our route south via York. York is England’s most populair tourist destination after London, famous for its cathedral, city walls and National Railway and Jorvik Museums. Via the low lying Humberhead Levels, Selby Abbey and Doncaster, the Trans Pennines Trail takes you to higher grounds. The Don Valley Trail via the Wharncliffe Woods take you to Peak District National Park.
At remote Stanage Edge you’ll find yourself on the top of the world. This spectacular vaultline of rock continues to Castleton, famous for its caves and castle. The Monsal Trail features spectacular tunnels and high bridges and takes you to bustling Bakewell. The scenic Tissington Trail will finally take you out of the hilly Pennines.
Via the pretty Derbyshire Dales, Burton on Trent with its brewery museum and the National Forest you’ll arrive in Leicester. The National Space Centre and King Richard III Museum can keep you occupied before heading deeper south to the orginal rugby grounds of Rugby, stylish Royal Leamington Spa, grand Warwick Castle and the hustle and bustle of Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon.
The Cotswolds are remarkably quiet, featuring hilly countryside hardly affectted by modern times. Its marble is Blenheim Palace World Heritage just before arriving in famous Oxford. Then you make your way into the Wessex Downs via the Ridgeway, taking you via Uffington White Horse to the World Heritage stone circles of Avebury and Stonehenge. Salisbury is famous for its beautiful cathedral.
Deep south, forest tracks in the New Forest National Park take you to Isle of Wight ferry. The cliffs of The Needles are your ultimate ‘end of the land’-finale of the ride. Via the spectacular Tennyson Trail you’ll arrive at Sandown Beach before hovercrafting to bustling Portsmouth with its numerous railway and ferry connections.
What you’ll see
Traffic-free cycle trails: Hadrian’s Cycle Way, Derwent Walk Country Park, Lanchester Way, Cinder Track, Trans Pennine Trail, Upper Don Trail, Monsal Trail, Tissington Trail, Ivanhoe Trail, Great Central Way, Ridgeway, forest tracks New Forest National Park, Tennyson Trail, Newport-Sandown Cycle Way. The route also features the North Sea Cycle Route between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Hull.
National Parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty: Lindisfarne Holy Island, Cleveland Hills, North Yorkshire Moors National Park, Yorkshire Wolds, Humberhead Levels, Peak District National Park (The Pennines), Derbyshire Dales, National Forest, The Cotswolds, North Wessex Downs, Vale of White Horse, Salisbury Plains, New Forest National Park, Isle of Wight.
Scenic towns and cities: Berwick-upon-Tweed, Alnwick, Newcastle (Grainger Town), Durham, Whitby, Scarborough, Hull Old Town, York, Castleton, Bakewell, Ashbourne, Royal Leamington Spa, Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford, Abingdon, Salisbury.
Beaches and coastal features: Spittal Promenade, North Sunderland Harbour, Embleton Beach, Druridge Bay Beach, Newbiggin by the Sea, Blyth South Beach, Whitley Bay, Steetley Beach, Hartlepool Headland, Seaton Carew Beach, Whitby Harbour, Robin Hood’s Bay, Blea Wyke Point, Hayburn Wyke Waterfall, Scarborough Beaches, Cayton Bay Beach, Bempton Cliffs, Flamborough Head, Bridlington Beach, Hornsea Beach, The Needles Isle of Wight, Alum Bay, Freshwater Bay Beach, Sandown Beach, Portsmouth Harbour.
Castles, cathedrals, abbeys and ancient monuments: Lindisfarne Castle, Bamburgh Castle, Dunstanburgh Castle, Alnwick Castle, Warkworth Castle, Tynemouth Priory & Castle, Newcastle – The Castle, Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage, Durham Castle World Heritage, Durham Cathedral World Heritage, Whitby Abbey, Scarborough Castle, York Minster, Selby Abbey, Conisbrough Castle, Peveril Castle, Arbor Low stone circle, Leicester Cathedral, Abbey Park Leicester, Warwick Castle, North Leigh Roman Villa, Oxford Christ Church Cathedral, Uffington White Horse, Barbury Castle, Avebury stone circle World Heritage, Stonehenge stone circle World Heritage, Old Sarum, Salisbury Cathedral.
Nature reserves, noticable parks and beauty spots: Ladyburn Lake, Peasholm Park Scarborough, Sprotbrough Falls, Old Moor Wetland Reserve, Worsbrough Country Park, Wharncliffe Woods, Stanage Edge, Beehive Woodlands Lakes, Thornton Reservoir, Draycote Water Country Park, Jephson Gardens Royal Leamington Spa, Bolderwood and Rhinefield Ornamental Drive.
Country houses and gardens: Howick Hall Gardens, Old Durham Gardens, Sledmere House, Sewerby Hall, Wentworth Castle Gardens (Stainborough Castle), Charlecote Park, Kiftsgate Court Gardens, Hidcot Manor Gardens, Blenheim Palace World Heritage, Mottistone Gardens.
Attractions: CBK Kayak Hire Whitley Bay, Blue Reef Aquarium Whitley Bay, Diggerland Langley Park, The Moors National Park Centre, North Yorkshire Moors Steam Railway, Dracula Experience Whitby, North Yorkshire Off Road Centre, Scarborough North Bay Railway, Scarborough Spa Cliff Lift, Wharram Percy deserted village, The Deep Hull, Derwent Valley Light Railway, York Minster, Castleton Caves, Alton Towers (via short bus/taxi ride), National Space Center Leicester, Tudor World Stratford-upon-Avon, Royal Shakespeare Theatre Stratford-upon-Avon, The Bodleian Library Oxford, Blackwell’s Oxford, Isle of Wight steam railway, Spinnaker Tower Portsmouth.
Museums: Barracks and Main Guard Museum Berwick-upon-Tweed, Berwick Museum and Art Gallery, Alnwick Bailiffgate Museum, Woodhorn Museum Northumberland, Northshields Heritage Center, Bowes Railway Museum, Durham Museum, Heugh Battery Museum Hartlepool, Royal Navy Museum Hartlepool, Hartlepool Museum, Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum Great Ayton, Museum of Victorian Science, Captain Cook Memorial Museum Whitby, Rotunda Museum Scarborough, Museum Quarter Hull, Yorkshire Museum of Farming, National Railway Museum York, Jorvik Museum York, York Castle Museum, Yorkshire Museum York, Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery, South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum, National Brewery Centre Burton-on-Trent, Jewry Wall Museum Leicester, King Richard III Museum Leicester, Guildhall Museum Leicester, Leamington Spa Museum, Wellesbourne Wartime Museum, Shakespeare’s Birthplace Home Museum Stratford-upon-Avon, Mechanical Art Museum Stratford-upon-Avon, Combe Mill Museum, Oxford Bus Museum, University Museum of Natural History Oxford, Pitt Rivers Museum Oxford, History of Science Museum Oxford, Ashmoleum Museum Oxford, Museum of Oxford, Modern Art Museum Oxford, Story Museum Oxford, Didcot Railway Centre, Vale and Downland Museum Wantage, Keiller Museum Avebury, Salisbury Museum, Wardrobe Museum Salisbury, Old Battery Museum Isle of Wight, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
Special landmarks and infrastructure: Berwick Old Bridge, Tyne Cycle Tunnel, Angel of the North, Willington Viaduct, Millennium Bridge Newcastle, Tyne Bridge Newcastle, Grainger Market Newcastle, Grey’s monument Newcastle, Nine Arches Viaduct, Hownsgill Viaduct, River Tees Transporter Bridge, Captain Cook’s Monument, Larpool Viaduct, 99 Steps Whitby, York City Walls & The Shambles, Thurgoland Tunnel, Ladybower Dam, Mam Tor, Litton Tunnel, Cressbrook Tunnel, Headstone Bridge/Tunnel, Ashbourne Tunnel, Ferry Bridge/Staplehill Viaduct Burton-on-Trent, Clock Tower Leicester, The Close rugbygroud Rugby, Stockton Locks Grand Union Canal, Gower Memorial Stratford-upon-Avon, Radcliffe Camera Oxford, Bridge of Sighs Oxford, Alton Barnes White Horse, Lymington-Yarmouth ferry, The Needles Isle of Wight, Hovertravel Ryde-Portsmouth.
How you could do it
Here you can read an example itinerary, showing how you could cycle the full route in three to four weeks. Remember, any itinerary is possible, as the accommodation listings cover the full route!
Day 1: Berwick-West Mains (35 km/22 miles): Whether you opted to rent bikes from York bike rental, arrived by ferry in Newcastle or did any other ‘bikes on the train’-scenarios, disembark in Berwick around lunch time. Have a browse around town, possibly with a visit to the local museums. Via Spittal Promenade you cycle the coast to the tidal causeway of Lindisfarne. Check you still have three hours for a safe crossing, so you can visit the Abbey and Castle on the island, making your way back to the mainland before high tide. The cosy bunkhouse, small campsite and B&B in West Mains and Fenwick are then nearby.
Day 2: West Mains-Alnwick (70 km/43 miles): This is the ultimate day ride for castle fans, as the castles of Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh, dramatically located on the Northumberland coast, are both worth a visit in their own right. Mind you, Alnwick Castle, at the end of today’s ride, has the boldest appearance, famous for the Harry Potter films. If you wish to visit all castles, consider to split this stage into two days, for example with a stay at coastal Seahouses. If you limit yourself to one day, visit Alwick Castle in the afternoon, followed by a stay in town. Campers can stay in Embleton or Creswell.
Day 3: Alnwick-Newcastle (111 km/69 miles): This is an exploring stage from the countryside into the ‘big city’, making a long, rewarding day. A first serious climb takes you via Warkworth Castle back to Northumberland’s coast. Its scenery up to Lynemouth is remote, but then large industrial sites push us inland. The industrial heritage Woodhorn Museum could provide for an extended lunch. From Blyth the coastal route is once again at its best, all the way into Newcastle. Take our route via the Tyne Cycle Tunnel and Angel of the North statue before checking in at the central YHA or a hotel.
Day 4: Newcastle-Durham (73 km/45 miles): Today’s cycling distance allows you to browse Newcastle’s Grainger Town in the morning, possibly with a visit to The Castle. Late morning, make your way to Heddon on the Wall to have a picnic in the field next to the remains of Hadrian’s Wall. After lunch, there is plenty of time to ride the scenic Derwent Walk Country Park route via ’high-up’ Consett. Don’t miss the views at Hownsgill Viaduct just before joining Lanchester Way, which takes you all the way to historic Durham. Enjoy a B&B stay, with Haswell providing the first campsite since Creswell.
Day 5: Durham-Kildale (97 km/60 miles): Durham with its World Heritage cathedral,castle and bridges is a lovely place, worth a two-night stay. You would be full of energy for this next stage, taking you to the Hartlepool Headland and Hartlepool Harbour and Seaton Carew Beach, all having their own distinctive identities. Industrial Middlesbrough brings the unique Transporter Bridge, crossing the River Tees for you. Keep on the move and climb to Cook’s monument with its great views. Near Kildale, bunkhouse, campsite and B&B accommodation are all available in the North Yorkshire Moors.
Day 6: Kildale-Scarborough (78 km/48 miles): Take the morning to get through the senic dales of The Moors National Park, making your way to tourists’ magnet Whitby. With its harbour, iconic 99 Steps, Abbey ruins and links with the famous Dracula story you may want to spend an extra day in this area. The YHA has two unique hostels here, right next to the abbey and at Boggle Hole, a unique coastal remote location. The scenery is truly king on the Cinder Track, taking you to the famous coastal resort of Scarborough; all accommodations are available here, just as beaches, a harbour and a castle.
Day 7: Scarborough-York (94 km/58 miles): This rural stage takes you via Cayton Bay Beach into the hills of the Yorkshire Wolds. Small attractions on the way are Sledmere House, the deserted village of Wharram Percy, the Stamford Bridge battlefield and the Yorkshire Museum of Farming. Those who make use of the Hull ferry have their own day stages to/from Hull. Routes merge in York where all types of accommodation are available once again.
Day 8: York-Wombwell (96 km/59 miles): Let’s state first that York is well-worth a two-night stay. You shouldn’t miss out on the epic walks via The Shambles and the medieval city walls, the cathedral and topclass museums. If there were a day to be added to your itinerary, it should be here. The following stage is as flat as a pancake across the Humberhead Levels, with Selby Abbey, Doncaster and Conisbrough Castle all worth a break on the way. Although accommodation is limited (no hostel or campsite options), Wombwell makes a good stage town. More B&Bs can be found in Penistone.
Day 9: Wombwell-Castleton (64 km/40 miles): This is the stage of the big rise, taking you up to a height of 445m above sea level in Peak District National Park. Via the Trans Pennines Trail, Upper Don Trail and Wharncliffe Woods you make your way to Stanage Edge, the most remote location on our route. This an exposed cliff face where the hard rock from the north touches the softer rock from the south. This all becomes clear in Castleton where you can see an old main road crumblling away under the forces of nature. Various caves are in reach from the hostel and numerous B&B, a great afternoon!
Day 10: Castleton-Ashbourne (65 km/40 miles): A serious climb takes you via the high-up Peak Forest to the worldclass Monsal Trail. Spectacular tunnels and bridges lead you to Bakewell. Located in a beautiful valley, this old scenic town is a tourists’ favourite, ideal for a lunch break. Another climb takes you to ancient Arbor Low, the ‘Stonehenge of the peaks’. The scenic Tissington Trail with numerous campsites descents gradually to Ashbourne.
Day 11: Ashbourne-Leicester (92 km/57 miles): The Derbyshire Dales make a pleasant morning ride to Burton-on-Trent, famous for its beer brewing. The National Brewery Centre makes good lunch time entertainment. The afternoon brings a ride across the rural National Forest area. The Ivanhoe Trail takes you into the city of Leicester. Pick the National Space Center, King Richard III Museum, Abbey ruins or the Roman Wall remains, depending on your personal interests. Hostel accommodation is lacking in the area. Nice campsites can be found in Rosliston, Ibstock and Ashby Magna.
Day 12: Leicester-Stratford (95 km/59 miles): A rural flat ride takes you via the Rugby area (alternative route to the world’s first rugby ground available) to the ‘triple tourist towns’ of Leamington Spa, Warwick and Stratford-upon-Avon. The towns feature elegant buildings, a worldclass castle and Shakespeare’s heritage retrospectively. It makes sense to split this stage into two, with a stay in Warwick to see it all. Stratford features all types of accommodation.
Day 13: Stratford-Oxford (94 km/58 miles): The Stratford-on-Avon Greenway is the last flat stretch before experiencing some climbing into the Cotswolds. This rural hilly area features various country gardens, a Roman villa and Blenheim Palace World Heritage. Except for Moreton-in-March midway, there is not much accommodation out there if you want to split this ride into two (recommended for a visit to Blenheim). There are no campsites in the area, except for in Oxford. This historic university city with its many attractions and museums is on par with York, naturally well-worth a two night stay.
Day 14: Oxford-Letcombe (35 km/22 miles): This itinerary caters for exploring Oxford, with the cycling starting from 2pm or so. Don’t miss the Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library, Bridge of Sighs and Christ Church Cathedral. Alternatively, if you like trains, you could spend some serious time at the Didcot Railway Centre. Today’s short ride leads via pretty Wantage to the start of the Ridgeway at Letcombe Regis, with a rural bunkhouse, B&B or campsite stay.
Day 15: Letcombe-Salisbury (88 km/54 miles): Start early today, as progress on the unsurfaced, historic high-land passage of the Ridgeway will be slow. The majestic Uffington White Horse, Barbury Castle and the stone circle of Avebury are all on this route. Only from Avebury, your journey on tarmac resumes. Via Wiltshire’s highest hill Milk Hill and the evenly impressive Alton Barnes White Horse you’ll arrive at world famous Stonehenge. From here it is a short ride to Salisbury. Old Sarum and England’s highest cathedral spire are eye-catching attractions Salisbury features a campsite and various B&Bs.
Day 16: Salisbury-Yarmouth (70 km/43 miles): The New Forest National Park takes central stage on today’s ride. In this area of woods and heaths, wild ponies do roam free, even in villages. Bolderwood makes the perfect spot for a picnic lunch. The Ornamental Drive is a scenic forest road. From Brockenhurst with its bustling bike rental, you cycle traffic-free on great gravel tracks. From Lymington Pier, a ferry brings you to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight.
Day 17: Yarmouth-Portsmouth (71 km/44 miles): The stage starts with a ride via the iconic Needles. There are a few places in the world where the land ends so dramatically into the sea as here. The high -up Tennyson Trail provides more breathtaking views. Sandown has a great beach. You may want to spend the night here before taking the hovercraft to Portsmouth. Plan an 18th day for your journey home. This would be the 24th day when using all ‘extra day’-options.
Route updates and more
Travelling from abroad: If you are visiting from the European continent, the North Sea ferry crossings between The Netherlands and the United Kingdom are the obvious connections to get started on the route. Both Newcastle and Hull ferry ports are directly on the route, connecting retrospectively to Amsterdam IJmuiden (www.dfdsseaways.co.uk) and Rotterdam Europoort (www.poferries.com). At the southern end of the route, there are various options to return to the continent, depending on your final destination. From Portsmouth, various ferries head for France; Cherbourg, Caen, Le Havre and St Malo (www.britanny-ferries.co.uk). Dutch, Belgian and German riders could take the train to Dover, with only one required change in Brighton. Dutch author Kees Swart has a guidebook featuring Portsmouth-Dover (‘Fietsen rond het Kanaal’, ISBN 978-90-77056-33-2). From Dover, various ferry operators can take you to Calais or Dunkerque.
Travelling within the United Kingdom: Important for travelling within the UK are the Cross Country Trains services between Edinburgh and Bournemouth with a compulsory change at station Birmingham New Street. Travel between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Birmingham will take just over four hours, Birmingham-Portsmouth with a change at Southampton takes about three hours. Expect such long-distance connections to run about 4-5 times per day. Buy tickets in advance to keep the price acceptable and ensure to have a reserved space for your bike. Book online via www.crosscountrytrains.co.uk.
John ‘o Groats-Land’s End: For mileage-makers who are cycling from John ‘o Groats in Scotland to Land’s End in Cornwall, it is possible to use England North-South in combination with our ‘London-Land’s End Cycle Route’. By using both books you would be served with a fully described route for the English section of the journey between Berwick-on-Tweed and Land’s End in Cornwall. Change books at Alton Barnes, where the routes cross each other.
For your choice of accommodation on the way, please use our facility listings featuring hotels, B&Bs, guesthouses, hostels, bunkhouses, campsites and bike repair shops. We did a lot of research to provide you with the best choices relevant for the route. Only local businesses with professional standards are listed. All facilities are either directly on or close to the route. We have omitted venues that require membership (YHA excepted) or a stay of minimum two nights. Also, campsites not allowing tents are naturally not listed!
To avoid disappointments, we recommend making reservations at least 24 hours in advance for all accommodation, even for campsites! For some campsites, this is now compulsory. Please refer to the terms and conditions of the provider in advance and adhere to the rules of the provider!
Route updates: Things do change; routes do get improved or are shut down! Venues come and go as well and our eyes can’t be anywhere. When cycling the route, have your eyes out for changes and report these to us. We keep a PDF available for you to download prior to cycling the route. You can here download the updates for this route: Download Route Updates England North-South Cycle Route.