Gravel riding really changed cycling. We got a new discipline and new bikes and riders to enjoy the dusty road with. It brought road cyclists and mountain bikers together with a common ground where they could challenge themselves.
It gave us lots of new route options and sportives to enjoy. The best thing was the gravel bikes. They were the perfect choice for adventure riding and bikepacking, meaning you could have a bike that could go anywhere and still perform.
In this article, we worked with cyclists in our community and our own experiences to provide you with 9 unforgetable rides that you must add to your bucket list. All of the routes have Kamoot links so you can easily fire them up on your smartphone or computer of choice and get going!
Gravel Riding in the UK
Gravel riding, although on the surface you might think it is all on gravel, for many cyclists, is a bit of everything. It takes light off-road forest trails, roads, and even bridleways. It is often a mix of more terrain than just dusty paths.
In the UK, we typically don’t get the long fire roads that the US or Australia have. To ensure we get a long enough route, UK gravel is a mix of multiple terrains. When we were selecting these routes, we had a few things in mind we wanted:
We want the routes to be long enough for multi-day riding but also can be ridden in smaller chunks if you don’t have as much time as you need. Our routes range from 90km to 680km.
When we recommend routes, we look for adventures that can be ridden by anyone, no matter what your fitness level may be. We want gravel trails that will be challenging but not so technical that you would need a mountain bike.
When looking at routes, it’s important to find routes that are easily accessible for not just cars but public transport. Unlike Lands End and John O Groats, we look for routes with easy access to start and finish points.
Lots to see
Routes that pass through interesting places are great. It keeps you excited about everything around the corner. They generally have many places to eat and drink and give you something to remember.
These are our favorite UK gravel routes and one cheeky route just across the water if you want a special adventure.
Highest Point: 460m
Lowest Point: 180m
If you're looking for the best UK gravel riding, you might find it in the Kielder Forest in Northumberland National Park. Home to the famous Dirty Reiver, it is well known as a UK gravel hotspot.
Starting in Falstone and finishing in the same place makes it very accessible. The route is 87km long, and what makes it special is that it is 99% unpaved. It’s fast-going gravel, and there’s nothing too technical you will find yourself struggling with. Finding UK routes that don’t involve too many connecting roads is difficult.
It’s one for good climbers with 1500m elevation. It is worth allowing some extra time for the undulating terrain, and although nothing is ridiculously steep, it is still going to offer gradients of up to 10%. It’s a great ride that can be done easily in a day, or you might enjoy taking a few days and adding other local routes.
The route itself is beautiful, and although it doesn’t pass through much civilization, it offers incredible views and a very peaceful ride. As far as places to stop, there’s not a huge amount. You have Kielder halfway around, which is pretty much your only stop, so make it count.
Highest Point: 90m
Lowest Point: 0m
The Peddars away is an excellent way to challenge yourself on multiple terrains and is perfectly suited to a gravel bike. It is situated in Norfolk and is well known as one of the best short bikepacking routes in the UK.
It follows an old Roman road from Hunstanton in North Norfolk to the Thetford Forest. The best way to follow the route is to go from Thetford to Hunstanton and then cycle back to King’s Lynn for more transport, such as the train.
It’s a beautiful route that takes you on forest trails, gravel paths, roads, and even the odd bit of sand. It’s 146km, but it’s fast-rolling terrain and can be done in a day or two, depending on your ability level. You will lose count of how many small beautiful churches you will pass, and the constantly changing terrain makes the ride very interesting.
With only 890m of climbing, it still offers a challenge, but it won’t take you across mountain ranges. It makes for fun fast riding. The beauty of this route is that you pass through small villages, often with coffee shops and many resupply options. It’s a fun route that is perfect for beginners and links right onto the Icknield Way, which we will speak about next.
Highest Point: 270m
Lowest Point: 10m
The Icknield Way is one of the oldest ancient trackways in the UK. It is believed to have been used for over 5000 years. It was a major trade route connecting the coast of East Anglia and the Thames Valley in older times.
Starting in Knettishall Heath in Suffolk and heading to the Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire, it covers a vast range of different landscapes, making this gravel trail one of the most diverse possible. It mixes forest trails, sandy roads, gravel, and some tarmac. It gives you the feeling of being completely off track while still passing through lots of civilization.
The full route comes in at 238km. It's a long ride, and we recommend covering this route in 2-3 days at a leisurely pace and taking in the beautiful surroundings. The best way to go is to start in Suffolk and head southwest, as we feel it builds up to better terrain and epic views while you close in on the finish.
Covering 238km, it’s not a short route, and with 2120m of climbing, it does offer a bit of elevation to challenge the legs. There are plenty of places to stop, and you will constantly pass through places with lots of resupply.
If you want to make a real challenge of it, linking it with the Peddars Way is going to give you a few days of epic gravel and some amazing historical sites such as Barbury Castle and the Roman Villa at Chedworth.
Highest Point: 270m
Lowest Point: 30m
The King Alfreds way is one of the most popular routes in the UK. The route was only released in 2020, so it’s new to many people. It was named after King Alfred the Great, who ruled the region in the late 9th century. It’s not the easiest of routes but incredibly rewarding as it takes you through four counties.
On this route, you get a mix of many different terrains, from gravel roads, bridleways, forest paths, and a mix of tarmac roads. It starts just north of Southampton and finishes in the same spot. You get to pass through some incredible places, such as Winchester and the Market town of Marlborough.
This route is special because it passes through the North and South downs of Southern England. They are incredibly beautiful places and showcase what a special island the UK is. The route is roughly 55% off-road but still passes through plenty of places to cover resupply.
Coming in at 354km, it’s a long route, and you can make a good few days of riding. The elevation isn’t shy either. With 3580m, you have plenty of hills to test yourself on. We highly recommend the King Alfreds way as it showcases the UK's beauty and is a challenging route for any rider.
Highest Point: 450m
Lowest Point: 110m
If you're looking for an epic gravel adventure full of hills to tackle, you might find it on the Pennine Bridleway. Going further north from our other routes and heading just east of Manchester, you will find this route.
Passing ancient ruins, market towns, and lots of traditional stone buildings, there’s something new at the end of every hill, and let me tell you, there are a lot of hills. This route is over 50% unpaved, so you spend most of your time tackling challenging undulating terrain in the wilderness.
Starting at Wirksworth and heading into the Peak District National Park, you are never far from a great view. The route is 196km long and has a whopping 3740m of elevation, so it is one for climbers. It even features the iconic Kinder Scout, the tallest point in the Peak District.
You pass through many small towns and villages, and if you're tackling the whole route, there are plenty of places to stay across the route. We recommend 2-5 days with this ride as it is incredibly hilly, and also, you are off-road most of the time.
Highest Point: 770m
Lowest Point: 10m
Let’s take you up North with the next route, and Scotland doesn’t fail at providing you with some of the best UK gravel you will find. The Badger Divide is one of the most famous routes for UK bikepacking, and it’s a great challenge no matter your fitness level.
The Badger Divide is an off-road route that links Inverness to Glasgow. It’s a beautiful route showcasing some amazing sites Scotland has to offer. The majority of the time, about 65%, you will be on off-road terrain, taking a mix of different terrain but a lot of gravel.
If you plan to take on this 342km route, we recommend doing it over a few days at least. It’s not an easy route, and enjoying it slowly and steadily is best. With over 5000m of climbing, you are going to want to have some low gearing and practice lots of climbing beforehand.
Although challenging, it's well worth it. In Scotland, you can currently wild camp and have many options for bothies and hostels. With the incredible roads and views as you pass the lochs, it will fly by. The high of this ride is definitely going past Loch Ness. Not many riders have seen the beast themselves, but you never know. It could be you chasing it down.
Highest Point: 110m
Lowest Point: 0m
We’re heading back to Norfolk for the Rebellion Way. This gravel cycling route was released in 2022 and has been labeled one of the best beginner mixed-terrain cycling routes the UK has to offer already. It starts in the city of Norwich and heads south down to Thetford before returning up to King’s Lynn and around the coast.
Norfolk is a hidden gem for cycling in the UK, and although fairly flat, it offers some excellent sights to see and iconic UK landmarks such as Sandringham, the Royal's summer home. You even get to enjoy some of Thetford forest.
You constantly pass through small towns and villages with lovely little coffee stops and plenty of shops. There are plenty of places to stop, and King’s Lynn being so close to halfway is ideal. A lot of people start this ride at King’s Lynn due to the train connections being much better compared to Norwich.
The distance is high at 374km, but it’s very fast rolling terrain. With only 1940m of elevation, you are not going to feel challenged by too many hills, but they are there to get you out of the saddle. It sometimes feels like a tour of churches, but the terrain changes so much from forests to coastal riding you never feel in the same place.
The Rebellion way is a relatively easy route as far as this list goes, but it is excellent. You get to experience bikepacking without the extremes. We highly recommend the Rebellion way as a great beginner's route or as a cycling holiday.
Highest Point: 110m
Lowest Point: 0m
Hiding up in Scotland, we have the Wild About Argyll trail. This collection of routes making up a large overall trail comes from the legendary Markus Stitz, founder of Bikepacking Scotland. Exploring the coastline of Scotland is something that every cyclist should do.
It offers a bit of everything with a mixture of roads, gravel paths, and some singletrack. This is great gravel bike riding with some ferries in between, giving you a well-earned rest. You will explore the Trossachs National Park, Kintyre Peninsulas, and the beautiful Arrochar Alps.
There are plenty of places where you can camp, as wild camping is currently permitted in Scotland. If you don’t fancy roughing it, there are plenty of guest house options. We highly recommend booking when in peak season, as places to stay are limited, and staying out all night without camping equipment isn’t an ideal way to go.
The route starts and finishes in Helensburgh, making transport to the route pretty easy. The route itself is 677km, and you have 9090m of climbing. With everything being quite close together, you don’t need to complete the full route. You can pick and choose the highlights for yourself.
Highest Point: 530m
Lowest Point: 0m
As we mentioned before, we also want to recommend a ride that is outside the UK. Let’s take you to Italy and get off the mainland to Isola d’Elba. It’s a beautiful island and not where you typically might go. It offers some amazing cycling, and our route here can show you that.
Starting in the Port of Portoferrio, you start where the boat lands. In this ride, you make your way around the whole island passing through small towns and taking in all the best coastal cycling routes possible.
If you plan to do this ride in a day, you will require a huge level of fitness. It’s 165km with 3530m of climbing, and being off-road terrain, it will be tough. You can even see some gradients of up to 13%, which you need to be ready for. We recommend taking this route in over two days with a stop around Capoliveri.
Although you are going to need to do some traveling to get to this gravel ride, it will be a once in a lifetime experience. You might find the drivers on the road a little different from other countries, but when you get to the island itself and off the roads, it’s plain sailing.
A Final Thought
We hope you enjoyed our article on the best UK gravel routes and one from beyond. We hope you found the perfect ride for you and are on your way to getting your gravel bike and bikepacking bag packed.