Attracting explorers to the ancient Forest of Dean, Forestry England runs several visitor sites in the area, with activities to suit all ages. From following the spellbinding Sculpture Trail at Beechenhurst to whizzing down the biking trails at the Forest of Dean Cycle Centre, there’s something for thrill-seekers, dog walkers, nature lovers and families alike.
From family-friendly rides along gentler cycling routes to tackling more challenging terrain, you’ll find plenty of places to get pedalling in the Forest of Dean, the Cotswolds and across Gloucestershire.
While the cycling opportunities are literally endless in the county – and blessed with everything from ease of access to stunning beauty – SoGlos has handpicked 11 of the best biking spots in Gloucestershire to get your started on your own two-wheeled adventures.
A fantastic way to explore the Forest of Dean, the Family Cycle Trail spans nine miles along the area’s historic railway lines, with access points at the Forest of Dean Cycle Centre, Beechenhurst and Mallards Pike.
It’s super child-friendly, benefiting from specially surfaced paths, gentle slopes and only two road crossings – plus, a series of ‘fun zones’ and picnic spots to discover along the way. For littler legs, the Hicksters Way loop cuts the route short, offering a five-mile option from the Forest of Dean Cycle Centre or Beechenhurst.
Bike hire is available from Pedalabikeaway at the Forest of Dean Cycle Centre, where there’s also a café for those all-important pit stops.
With glorious waterside views, the promise of wildlife spotting and plenty of history, the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal towpath is a great place to get on your bike.
Boasting 16 miles of well-kept pathways and relatively flat routes, cyclists can whizz through Gloucester Docks, the Severn Estuary and parts of the Cotswolds; passing by Slimbridge Wetland Centre and the Purton Ships’ Graveyard, too.
Soaking up wrap-around views of the lakes at South Cerney, cyclists can choose from plenty of routes for a flat bike ride around Cotswold Water Park. There’s on-site bike hire available from several locations, too.
Leading from the lakes down picture-perfect country lanes, it’s a great place to explore the Cotswold countryside on two wheels, with opportunities to spot water-loving wildlife like voles and beavers along the way.
For a safe family ride, look no further than Cheltenham’s picturesque Pittville Park – offering generous green space to explore and plenty of paths to pedal along, with grown-ups and kids able to take a leisurely and largely flat bike ride around the lakes.
There’s even a skatepark at Pittville Park suitable for scooters and BMXs, for those feeling a bit more adventurous.
Featuring an uphill climb through the forest with some obstacles and trickier challenges along the way, the Verderers Trail is a seven-mile circular route that more experienced riders can access from the Forest of Dean Cycle Centre.
Voted the Best Blue Trail in England by Mountain Biking UK in 2021, it’s described as suitable for healthy riders with moderate off-road riding skills, who are comfortable with single-track sections and rockier ground.
Free from traffic for stress-free riding, the Stroud Valley Trail follows an old railway line from Stonehouse to Nailsworth, taking cyclists past the River Frome, Stroudwater Canal and Nailsworth Stream; with wonderful views of the Cotswold countryside on the way.
As a bonus, Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons are accessible from the trail and, while the uphill ride is pretty gnarly, the views from the top are well worth the challenge for more experienced cyclists.
If family trails and flat roads are too tame for you, then head to Flyup 417 Bike Park on Crickley Hill for the ultimate thrill.
With downhill trails for all levels of ability, bikers can take on devilishly deep drops and impressive jumps; while smaller riders can test their nerve on the dedicated kids’ track, which has a relatively flat surface to practice on before hitting the blue trails.
With a handful of rolling hills but mostly flat terrain, Tewkesbury is a popular destination for road cyclists. Bikers can also pedal alongside the River Severn, where they’ll spot Tewkesbury Abbey towering over the market town, with plenty of places to stop for a rest to admire the views.
Wild Carrot is all about exploring the Cotswold countryside on wheels, with both bike and Onewheel hire available from its base on the Chavenage House Estate. Linking up to some of the best cycling routes in the southwest, take to the local lanes on an electric bike, tandem or hybrid; or join a guided tour to squeeze the most out of the area.
There’s also the opportunity to make a night of it by staying over at one of its luxury tipis or shepherd’s huts; or at the very least, stopping by the Old Barn for coffee and cake.
Starting off in the Cotswold hot spot of Bourton-on-the-Water, take in the chocolate-box cottages and explore quaint villages along the way on a stunning, self-guided cycle ride that also passes through the nearby villages of Upper Slaughter and Guiting Power.
Take in the stunning lake, woodland and farm with a bike ride through the impressive Miserden Estate near Stroud, which welcomes cyclists on its public bridleways. Boasting glorious views of the Golden Valley, bike riders can even enjoy a well-earned break at The Garden Café when it reopens in June 2022.
By Annabel Lammas
Friday 11 March 2022
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