Cycling in the Lake District


2 cyclists in the lake district

The English Lake District is a top destination for cyclists of all abilities. Whether you fancy a gentle tour on two wheels, a winding road route up hill and down dale or a dedicated mountain bike track, you’ll find plenty of options here.

While all of the UK’s national parks have great cycling opportunities, the Lake District’s variety is hard to beat. Carry on reading to find out more about the Lakes’ best bike routes and how you can combine Cumbria cycling holidays with camping or glamping. 

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Best short cycling routes in the Lake District

The Lake District has plenty of car-free cycle paths that are just right for beginner cyclists, families, bike trailers or wheelchair bikes. We’ve listed a small selection of our favourite easy cycling routes below.

The boathouse at Wray Castle

Windermere West Shore

Distance: Up to 8 miles/13 km
Start point: Windermere car ferry

This gentle and scenic out-and-back route runs along bridleways by the peaceful western shores of Lake Windermere for four miles, at which point you’ll reach Wray Castle, a Victorian stately home managed by the National Trust. If you want a break before you turn around and head home, entry to the castle is free, and there’s also a great adventure playground for the kids. This side of the lake is less busy than the eastern shore, but there are still plenty of cafés, restaurants and other stopping places along the way. On your return, for a bit of variety, you may wish to follow the network of quiet lanes that run alongside the main bridleway. 

The Torver Trail

Distance: Up to 6 miles/10 km
Start Point: 
Coniston car park

The Torver Trail is a family-friendly out-and-back cycle trail with fantastic views over Coniston Water. Taking in scenery including the lake and the majestic Old Man of Coniston, you’ll make your way down off-road trails past cosy cottages and fields full of sheep. Refreshments are available at either end of the ride in both Coniston and Torver.

Keswick Railway Path

Distance: Up to 6 miles/10 km
Start Point: Keswick Leisure Centre
Tunnel on the Keswick Railway Path

This route runs entirely along the route of the old Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith railway, so the cycling is flat and easy all the way. Passing over handsome Victorian railway bridges, you’ll glide between steep hills while barely breaking a sweat. This route’s smooth tarmac surfaces mean that this is a particularly good option for wheelchair bikes, families and others who prefer to avoid uneven surfaces. Toilets, cafés and shops are available at both ends of the trail. 

Mountain biking in the Lake District

Mountain biking in the Lake District involves some serious climbs – after all, this is a hilly part of the world – but all that incline means you can expect some exhilarating downhill sections as your reward.

Whinlatter Forest

Whinlatter Forest, renowned for its MTB trails

If you only go to one mountain biking location in the Lake District, make it Whinlatter Forest. With views over both Bassenthwaite Lake and Derwentwater, Whinlatter has the most extensive network of purpose-built mountain biking trails in Cumbria, with a variety of easy, intermediate and difficult routes featuring narrow sections, rock features, corkscrews and tabletops. Bike hire is available on site, and there’s also a Go Ape high ropes course for further adventure.  

Grizedale Forest

Grizedale has plenty of one-way mountain bike trails and general-use gravel paths, with various levels of difficulty available. Pedal over boardwalks, through dense oak and conifer woodlands, past forest sculptures and down steep slopes before stopping at the café for a snack or heading to the bike shop to check out the latest MTB accessories.

Road cycling in the Lake District

If you’re a confident cyclist who knows the rules of the road and enjoys speeding along smooth surfaces, there are plenty of road cycling opportunities in the Lake District. The combination of twisty roads, far-reaching views and exciting terrain attracts road cyclists from far and wide, especially in May, when over 2,500 of the hardiest pedallers participate in the annual Fred Whitton Challenge, a 100-mile road race that starts in Grasmere. 

The Lakes are also great for road cycling

Less extreme routes are also easy to come by, and include the Kentmere Valley, Honister Pass, Hawkshead Hill and Borrowdale. Check out apps like Strava or Komoot for more tips, great routes and further inspiration. 

Preparing for a bike ride in the Lakes  

When cycling in the Lake District, you’ll need to pack a few essentials in addition to what you’d usually bring on holiday. We would recommend always bringing:

  • A helmet, even if you’re cycling in a quiet or traffic-free area

  • High-visibility clothing, especially if you’re cycling on the road

  • Several lightweight layers of clothing, ideally including one that is windproof

  • A solid bike lock (preferably a D-lock) for pit stops at pubs and cafés along the way

  • A puncture repair kit for when the unexpected occurs 

Bike hire is very popular in the Lake District, with electric bikes, mountain bikes and kids’ bikes all available. The National Park Authority publishes a list of cycle hire providers, but you should also check out these Lake District campsites with bike hire too – they offer the most hassle-free way of enjoying a cycling break in the Lakes. 

Ready to go and keen to start searching for more routes? Great resources for finding more Lake District bike trails include Sustrans, who produce and sell high-quality cycling maps for the local area. For routes that have been tried and tested by other cyclists, apps like Komoot may be the way to go – or alternatively, you can build your own custom map using Cycling UK’s free journey planner.

Published April 2024