The guidebook contains routes from both Dover and Harwich ferry ports to London. This makes it possible to cycle around the English Channel, when also using the Plymouth link. The Dover to London route takes you though the fruit orchards of Kent, historic Canterbury and the Medway estuary with its impressive castles. The Harwich to London route provides pleasant countryside cycling in Essex and takes you through Roman Colchester.
Cycling through the heart of London, our route manages to stay away from busy roads, the occasional busy junction crossing excepted. Most of the cycling takes place on towpaths along the River Thames with spectacular views to enjoy. You will cycle under the Tower Bridge and you’ll pass the London Eye, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace on the way. Greenwich Park, Hyde Park and Richmond Park all provide superb green traffic-free routes.
Heading west you’ll cycle by Windsor Park and Windsor Castle before making your way to the Avon & Kennet Canal, with the pleasant towns of Newbury, Hungerford and Marlborough to take in. In Sting’s “Fields of gold” of Wiltshire you have the choice to cycle either by famous Stonehenge or that other beautiful ancient stone circle, Avebury. Extraordinary engineering awaits you at the twenty-nine canal locks of Caen Hill and the canal aqueducts near Bradford on Avon. You’ll cycle through the hilly Cotswolds here, with a canal path providing a majestic flat route to magnificent Bath with its Roman Baths, Jane Austen Museum and Royal Crescent.
Via the Bristol & Bath Railway Path you’ll make your way to bustling Bristol and its spectacular Avon Gorge. If you only wish to cycle “Coast to Coast” from the North Sea or English Channel, you could stop at seaside Clevedon with its striking views over the British Channel. The route continues via the charming Strawberry Line to famous Cheddar with its cheese museum and gorge.
The Somerset Levels provide the last section of truly flat cycling, because from Taunton the big climb starts into Exmoor National Park. From here, the route is for determined cyclists only, as there is serious climbing to take in. To get to the ancient Tarr Steps you’ll have to take on two major climbs of about a mile long!
Fortunately, from Barnstaple the splendid Tarka Trail provides easy cycling on another former railway. You can choose to cycle to Plymouth from where you can cross the English Channel to France. This Devon Coast to Coast route takes you on high viaducts with fantastic views over Dartmoor National Park. The spectacular Plym Valley Way from historic Tavistock down into Plymouth could be a worthy climax to your journey!
Of course, you can also continue into Cornwall, but you have to be ready for more serious climbing here. The section between Bude and Tintagel Castle is particularly rugged. Atlantic Ocean views are the ultimate reward for all the climbing efforts made, as is cycling on the flat and beautiful Camel Trail. This trail leads you to Padstow with its exclusive fish restaurants and the famous surf beaches of Newquay.
The striking mining area of Redruth allows you to cycle briefly through “lunar landscapes”, before arriving at beautiful Penzance Bay with its striking St. Michael’s Mount. The grand finale of the route is a circular route via the spectacular headlands of Land’s End and Cape Cornwall. From Penzance, you can take your bike on the fast train service back to London.
What you’ll see
Traffic-free cycle trails: Crab & Winkle Way, Thames Cycle Route, Avon & Kennet Canal towpath, Bristol & Bath Railway Path, Strawberry Line, Taunton and Bridgwater Canal towpath, Tarka Trail, Granite Way, Drake’s Trail, Plym Valley Cycle Way, Camel Trail, Mining Trail. The route also features the Devon Coast to Coast Cycle Route between Barnstaple and Plymouth.
National Parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty: Salisbury Plains, Mendip Hills, Somerset Levels, Exmoor National Park, North Devon Coast, Dartmoor National Park, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall Coast, Penwith Peninsula.
Scenic towns and cities: Canterbury, Faversham, Rochester, Colchester, Central London, Kensington, Kingston Upon Thames, Windsor, Marlborough, Bradford on Avon, Bath World Heritage, Bristol, Bridgwater, Taunton, Barnstaple, Bideford, Tavistock, Plymouth, Newquay, Truro, Penzance.
Beaches and coastal features: Langdon Cliffs, White Cliffs of Dover, Maldon Promenade Park, Clevedon Cliffs and Promenade, Westward Ho! Beach, Plymouth Hoe, Bude Beach, Widemouth Bay Beach, Crackington Haven, Trebarwith Strand, Padstow Harbour, Harlyn Bay Beach, Constantine Bay Beach, Treyarnon Bay Beach, Lusty Glaze Beach Nequay, Fistral Beach Newquay, Towans Beach Hayle, St Michaels Mount, Marazion Beach, Penzance Promenade, Newlyn Harbour, Mousehole Harbour, Sennen Cove, Cape Cornwall, Land’s End.
Castles, cathedrals, abbeys and ancient monuments:
Dover Castle, Walmer Castle, Deal Castle, Richborough Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, Rochester Cathedral, Rochester Castle, Upnor Castle, Colchester Castle, Westminister Abbey, Hampton Court, Windsor Castle, Avebury stone circle World Heritage, Stonehenge stone circle World Heritage, Bath Abbey, Bristol Cathedral, Tarr Steps, Okehampton Castle, Lydford Castle, Brent Tor, Tintagel Castle, St. Michael’s Mount Castle.
Nature reserves, noticable parks and beauty spots: Lowes Wood, Medway Riverside Country Park, Gravesend Promenade, Colchester Castle Park, Hainault Forest, Greenwich Park, Hyde Park, Richmond Park, The London Wetland Centre, Windsor Park, Sonning Lock, Savernake Forest, Fyfield Down, Avon Gorge, Gordano Valley, Cheddar Gorge, Abbeyford Woods, Meldon Reservoir, Crowdy Reservoir, Idless Wood.
Country houses and gardens: RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Cothay Manor Gardens, Saltram House, Prideaux Place, Trerice House.
Attractions: Canterbury canal boat tours, Discover Greenwich, Cutty Sark Greenwich, HMS Belfast London, London Dungeons, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London Eye, Earls Court Exhibition Centre, Weybridge-Shepperton ferry, Legoland, Avon Valley Railway, SS Great Britain Bristol, Clevedon Pier, Original Cheddar Cheese Company, Cheddar caves, Exmoor National Park Centre, Bideford Kayak Hire, Dartington Crystal Torrington, National Marine Aquarium Plymouth, Smeaton’s Tower Plymouth, Citadel Plymouth, Bodmin & Wenford Steam Railway, Padstow Surf School.
Museums: Canterbury Heritage Museum, Roman Museum Canterbury, Westgate Towers Museum Canterbury, Chatham Historic Dockyard, Hollytrees Museum Colchester, Royal Observatory Greenwich, National Maritime Museum Greenwich, Queen’s House Greenwich, Brunel Museum, Tower of London, Tate Modern, Churchill War Rooms, Merchant’s House Marlborough, Keiller Museum Avebury, Roman Baths Bath, Jane Austen Museum Bath, No 1 Museum Bath, M Shed Bristol, Somerset Brick and Tile Museum Bridgwater, Museum of Somerset Taunton, John Betjeman Centre Wadebridge, Royal Cornwall Museum Truro, Cornish Mines and Engines Museum.
Special landmarks and infrastructure: Barbican Toll Gate Sandwich, Chatham Great Lines Heritage Park, Wivenhoe Quay, Balkerne Gate Colchester, Stock Windmill, Thames ferry and tunnel Woolwich, Thames Barrier, Thames Cable Car, O2 Arena/Millennium Dome, Greenwich Meridian, St. Saviour’s Dock, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Wellington Arch, Kensington Palace, Royal Albert Hall, Putney Bridge, Runnymede, Eton College Rowing Centre, Avon & Kennet Canal, Alton Barnes White Horse, Devizes White Horse, Caen Hill Locks, Avoncliff and Dundas Aqueducts, Pulteney Bridge Bath, Royal Crescent Bath, Staple Hill Tunnel, Bristol Floating Harbour, Aardman Studios Bristol, Clifton Suspension Bridge, Royal Portbury Docks, Shute Shelve Tunnel, Taunton and Bridgwater Canal, Fremington Quay, Meldon Viaduct, Lake Viaduct, Wallabrook Viaduct, Grenofen Tunnel, Gem Bridge, Gwennap Pit.
How you could do it
Here you can read an example itinerary, showing how you could cycle the full route in two to three weeks. Remember, any itinerary is possible, as the accommodation listings cover the full route! Note the routes Harwich-London and Dover-London are not included it this example itinerary. From either Harwich or Dover, count two extra days to get to London Woolwich. Both routes are fully included in the guidebook.
Day 1: London Woolwich-London Rotherhite (17 km/10.5 miles)
Whether you fly, train or drive to the British Capital, make your way to London Bridge Station, so you can utilise the only long-term quality bike rental in London directly on our route. What makes our London route so special is that you can take in the transformation of the River Thames across the city, from a wide sea estuary to a tranquil stream. To be able to experience this fully, take the bikes on a train to Woolwich station (well before the evening rush hour). Cut there from the station to the Thames Path and start to follow it westbound. A pleasant afternoon ride, you’ll be able to enjoy the scenery of the Thames Barrier, the 02 Arena and Greenwich Park on the Greenwich Meridian. For a budget stay, ensure to make reservations for YHA Thameside.
Day 2: London Rotherhite-Chertsey (50 km/31 miles):
Cycling across Central London, you take in a great deal of famous landmarks, all just by staying on quiet roads and cycle paths. You’ll only cross busy main roads occasionally. You’ll cycle under the Tower Bridge, enjoy the views over Westminster and the Big Ben, could see the change of the guards at Buckingham Palace, have lunch in Hyde Park and browse through luxurious Kensington. You’ll then cycle out of city into fabulous Richmond Park and further on the idyllic Thames towpath, also passing Hampton Court to Chertsey. If you like camping, pitch your tent at one of the two campsites here or enjoy a night of sleep in a local B&B. You can choose to do this spectacular stage over two days, for example by staying in a B&B in Kingston upon Thames or YHA Earls Court.
Day 3: Chertsey-Newbury (100 km/62 miles):
This first serious stage route is flat on the towpaths of the Thames and the Avon and Kennet Canal. Via stunning Windsor Park and views over Windsor Castle and the famous Eton River Bridge, you’ll set sail for Reading across the commuter belt of Berkshire. The scenery can be remarkable green here, especially around Knowl Hill, the only serious climb on today’s ride. The towpath of the Avon and Kennet Canal is a heaven of peace and quiet, popular with walkers, cyclists, anglers and boaters. Most importantly, it keeps you away from any rushing traffic of all nearby commuters towns. In Newbury you have once again the choice between camping or B&B accommodation.
Day 4: Newbury-Devizes (70 or 100 km/43 or 62 miles)
Wiltshire is famous for its ancient stone circles of Stonehenge and Avebury. With our route book, you can make a balanced choice on which you’d prefer to visit by bike. The shorter Avebury route takes you through ancient Savernake Forest and beautiful Marlborough. The longer Stonehenge route makes you travel across the empty Salisbury Plains, which are actually pretty hilly. If you’d like to visit Stonehenge, we recommend to split this stage into two stages, allowing you plenty of time for your Stonehenge visit. Both routes rejoin towards Devizes, where you will see two white chalk horses on the hill sides and where you’ll see the amazing 29 canal locks of Caen Hill, bridging a height difference of 72m! Around Devizes, you have once again the choice between camping and staying in a B&B.
Day 5: Devizes-Clevedon (100 km/62 miles):
There is so much to see and to do on this flat stage, that you might prefer to split it into two. An extra budget stay is easy available in either the YHAs in Bath and Bristol or the YMC in Bath. Cycling on the towpath of the Avon and Kennet Canal is at its very best in the scenic Cotswolds, but you may want to opt for the spectacular ride through a one mile long (!) railway tunnel. It is well lit and calm music from speakers helps you with this unique cycling experience. Either way, Bath is famous for its Roman Baths and many impressive buildings, one of the very first cities to appear on the UNESCO World Heritage listings.
From Bath, another unique cycling experience awaits you on the Bristol and Bath railway path, Britain’s first long-distance cycle path, built by volunteers of the Sustrans charity. It takes you indeed traffic-free to Bristol’s bustling city centre with its vibrant docks area. It is worth to spend some time here, before heading on into the spectacular Avon Gorge, which will take you via the Gordano Valley to Clevedon. Campers love the Bullock Farm campsite, of which the owners are dedicated fans of our route.
Day 6: Clevedon-Taunton (105 km/65 miles):
This last truly flat stage across the Somerset Levels takes you on the Strawberry Line to Cheddar, famous for its cheese and gorge. Abseiling, caving or just a walk/bike ride in/on top of the gorge is recommended. The next stretch to Bridgwater is very rural and heights such as the Mendip Hills keep the flat horizons of this area interesting. Another canal towpath with its pleasant Maunsel Locks takes you to Taunton. In Taunton, you’ll have the choice to take the train back to London or to continue further west, but the journey through reasonably flat areas now definitely comes to an end.
Day 7: Taunton-Barnstaple 90 km/55 miles):
This stage takes you across Exmoor National Park and you’ll be cycling on the highest “pass” of the route, 480m above sea level. This might not sound very high, but as this ride goes up and down, up and down and up and down, your total climbing distance will tally up to at least one serious Alps climb of the Tour de France. Splendid views and stunning countryside are the rewards of your climbing efforts. Travelling over the ancient Tarr Steps should make this journey truly special. Know yourself and split this stage into two as needed, for example by staying in pleasant Dulverton or at the Halse Farm campsite, Blindwell Bunkhouse or Sportsman Inn pub and B&B.
Day 8: Barnstaple-Bude (85 km/52 miles):
The splendid Tarka Trail on the course of a former railway sets the pace for this stage. Without too much climbing, you can take in the tranquil hilly Devon countryside, also enjoying pleasant riverside towns such as Barnstaple and Bideford or even the spectacular Atlantic Ocean beach of Westward Ho! More serious climbing is ahead in Cornwall and if you are not up for that, consider to cycle the Devon Coast to Coast Cycle Route to Plymouth. With various cycle paths on former railways, such as the Granite Way, Drake’s Trail and Plym Valley Way, this could be a worthy finish of your ride from London. The route is described in fiull in our route book. Allow two or three days for the 160 km/99 miles ride between Barnstaple and Plymouth. When continuing into Cornwall, you could split this stage easily into two by staying at a rural accommodation halfway.
Day 9: Bude-Tintagel (35 km/21 miles):
No kidding. This stretch is the hilliest and hardest on our route. Stunning coastal ocean views will make you forget about the fact that you are climbing the heights of two serious cols in the Alps. Just take your time. 9 km/6 miles is uphill with gradients over 15%. Tintagel Castle, surrounded by the myths of King Arthur is the mysterious finish of this ride. If this is all too much, be aware our book also features an alternative route via Bodmin Moor. Although higher up and more remote, this route is less up and down and therefor easier to accomplish.
Day 10: Tintagel-Newquay (70 km/43 miles):
The journey across hilly Cornwall continues. Fortunately, the lovely Camel Trail provides a flat break from all the hard climbing work. Between Wadebridge and Padstow you may even find yourself cycling in a cycling traffic jam! Via Padstow Harbour, the beaches of Harlyn Bay and Treyarnon Bay you’ll arrive in Newquay. England’s most legendary sea side resort is famous for its many surfing beaches. There is plenty of choice of accommodation here, with all levels of luxery. Those wanting to split this stage into two and on a budget, may want to consider the Dennis Cove Campsite in Padstow or the Treyarnon Bay YHA.
Day 11: Newquay-Penzance (80 km/49 miles):
This ride provides plenty of contrast, thanks to the Heritage Mining area around Redruth and Camborne. The Mining Trail takes you across a truly special landscape. Truro is a surprisingly pleasant urban valley, providing another “touch of Cornwall”. Near Hayle we return to the coast. Here you cycle one of the shortest “coast-to-coast” adventures of the UK. It is only 8 km (5 miles) from north to south coast, where you’ll have splendid views over St Michaels Mount in the stunning bay of Penzance. Book in at a local campsite, hostel or B&B for two nights to be able to cycle our circular ride to Land’s End luggage free!
Day 12: Penzance – Land’s End – Penzance (50 km/31 miles)
What a final! The extremely scenic harbours of Newlyn and Mousehole take you into the heart of the rural Penwith Peninsula. A cycle path on the cliffs make the last mile to Land’s End truly special. On arrival, you may mix with other heroic cyclists who cycled from John O’ Groats in Scotland. It is not over yet, because we take you to Cape Cornwall, a truly unspoilt landmark, which was thought to be England’s western tip for centuries. A pleasant ride will take you back to Penzance; mission accomplished!
Day 13: Transfer Penzance-London and beyond
Catch the train reasonably early in the morning for the 5 hours and 30 min journey back to London. Make reservations for your bike well in advance. From London Paddington our guidebook takes you once more via traffic-calmed routes across Central London to any main London railway station. These routes also allow you to cycle rented bikes back to the rental at London Bridge station. You could also catch a train to Dover or Harwich for a late-night ferry back to the continent. Note that if you have split stages on the way as suggested and also cycled Dover-London or Harwich-London, the total number of days would add up to 19 tot 20 days.
Route updates and more
Travelling from abroad: If you are visiting from the European continent, use either the ferry crossing between Hook of Holland and Harwich (www.stenaline.com) or the ferry crossing Dunkerque-Dover (www.dfdsseaways.co.uk) or Calais-Dover (multiple operators). If you choose for ending the route in Plymouth you can use various ferry connections to France for your onward journey (www.brittany-ferries.co.uk). Those flying to the UK can best travel to London Bridge station and start the route from there.
Travelling within the United Kingdom: The Great Western Railway service from Penzance to London Paddington allows you to take the bike on the train back to London at various points en-route. The shortest travel time between Penzance and London is 5 hrs and 30 mins, allowing you to travel back from Penzance to Dover/Harwich in one day. In London you can cycle with our London connection routes to stations heading for Dover and Harwich. Expect such long-distance connections to run about 10 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.gwr.com.
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 London-Land’s End in combination with our ‘England North-South 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.
Facility Listings: 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!
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.