Early experiences are really key, so we’ve brought together the best family-friendly cycle routes for the whole family to enjoy, using traffic-free tracks that also take in glorious countryside, great cafe stops and intriguing sites to explore along the way.
Here’s a selection of routes for all abilities, from shorter, paved loops to beginner mountain biking trails and epic family days out. Many of these take in disused railway lines, which not only offer traffic-free riding, but tend to be flat too. Perfect for little legs!
Some of these routes feature bike hire centres for getting you kitted out, or you can check out our guide to buying the best kids’ bikes here.
Don’t be put off by the distances: these can all be shortened based on your family’s ability, and similarly, there are also options to extend the routes for most options. To help you get the most from your day out, check out our guide to cycling with kids.
Bristol to Bath Railway Path
- 25.7km / 16mi
- Predominantly traffic-free, paved, flat
- Start: Bristol Temple Meads railway station, BS1 6QF
This former railway line has been turned into a shared cycling and walking path linking two of the South West’s most vibrant cities. This was the first major project from cycling charity Sustrans, which takes care of the National Cycle Network. The 21km route is incredibly popular with commuters and leisure cyclists alike.
A few kilometres at either end link the track to Bristol Temple Meads and Bath Spa railway stations. Ride between the two cities and take the train home, or challenge yourselves with a return journey, should the legs allow!
You can enjoy plentiful opportunities for stopping along the way, too, with cafes at the former stations of Warmley and Bitton, plus plenty of choice when you reach the charming limestone city of Bath.
Brechfa Derwen MTB trail, Carmarthenshire
- 8.9km / 5.5mi
- Traffic-free, green-rated MTB trail and fire roads
- Start: Byrgwm car park, Brechfa Forest, Carmarthen SA32 7RD
Close to Carmarthenshire’s county capital, Brechfa Forest boasts a brilliant network of mountain biking trails, suitable for a wide range of abilities.
The beginners’ green-rated trail is an excellent choice for riding with budding mountain bikers. With the 5km blue loop extension as an option, there’s plenty of room for progression too.
Parking is easy and free in the Byrgwm car park. The Derwen green trail is fully signposted with a green oak leaf, starting with the gentle fire-road climb.
There are no scary features on the green trail, so it’s the perfect way for your little ones to give mountain biking a go without biting off more than they can chew.
The Camel Trail, Padstow
- 28km / 17.4mi
- Mostly traffic-free, mixed surfaces, flat
- Start: Wenfordbridge, Bodmin, Wadebridge or Padstow
A real family favourite, Cornwall’s Camel Trail delivers oodles of flat and traffic-free riding alongside the river on this former railway line, linking the quaint harbour town of Padstow to Wadebridge and Bodmin.
Don’t be put off by the full length of the trail, because it’s easy to cut down into more manageable chunks for smaller children.
You can also find cycle hire along the route in these towns, not to mention wonderful ice-cream stops and delectable fish and chips!
The Caledonian Way, Fort Augustus
- 24.5km / 15.2mi
- Traffic-free, flat canal towpath
- Start: Fort Augustus
Enjoy a taste of the Caledonian Way, a long-distance cycleway spanning Scotland from Inverness to Campbeltown.
A (mostly) flat canal towpath awaits for this section from Fort Augustus, before tracing the shores of Loch Oich as far as the spectacular ruin of Invergarry Castle.
Take a picnic with you, or enjoy lunch at the Caledonian Canal Centre and Cafe with a haggis croque monsieur on your return!
Ballycarton Wood trail, Northern Ireland
- 11km / 6.8mi
- Traffic-free, off-road forestry tracks
- Start: Ballycarton Wood forestry car park, Aghanloo Road, Limavady BT49 0HY
For a gloriously serene pedal through the woods with a magnificent view to reward you after the climb, head to Ballycarton Woods in Limavady, part of the Binevenagh Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There, you can enjoy a totally traffic-free experience, with the entirety of this 11km route on quiet forestry tracks.
Saddle up and ease into the gentle uphill slopes as the forestry track wiggles through the woods. You’ll know when to turn around on this out-and-back route when you find the blue Sustrans sculpture marking the Ballycarton viewpoint.
After enjoying the far-reaching views to the Atlantic Coast, sail back down the hillside around the edge of Binevenagh Mountain and back to the car park.
Spen Valley Greenway, Bradford
- 12.5km / 7.7mi
- Traffic-free, paved, gently downhill
- Start: Low Moor railway station, Oakenshaw, Bradford BD12 7DF
Green corridor meets sculpture trail on this easy, traffic-free cycleway that’s guaranteed to keep your little ones entertained.
Starting from Low Moor station, it’s a very gentle descent all the way to the River Calder, where you can either turn around and ride back, or take the Calder Valley Greenway and a few roads to Dewsbury Station.
The Spen Valley Greenway may not stray far from the urban sprawl, but you’ll be surprised by how close to nature you feel here.
Comber Greenway, Belfast
- 25.5km / 15.8mi
- Mostly traffic-free, paved, flat
- Start: Dee Street, Belfast
Measuring 12.75km each way, this out-and-back route along the Comber Greenway takes you from the hustle and bustle of Belfast out into the countryside along a converted railway line.
Smooth tarmac and a flat gradient mean easy pedalling for children of all ages and abilities.
For a little extra exploration, why not take a detour to the Billy Neill playing fields and lake?
Nutbrook Trail, Derbyshire
- 32km / 20mi
- Traffic-free towpaths and former railway line, flat
- Start: Shipley Country Park Visitor Centre, DE75 7DZ
Easily accessible from both Derby and Nottingham, the Nutbrook Trail provides many miles of peaceful canal towpath and converted railway line tracks.
With an almost flat gradient throughout and interesting stop-off points along the way, including Shipley Lake, the Pewit Carr nature reserve, Dockholme Lock and Fox Covert nature reserve, there’s plenty to keep the whole family entertained for a grand day out.
For an extension, consider linking to the cycleway through the Attenborough nature reserve, between the River Trent and the wetlands.
Cinder Track, Scarborough
- 34km / 21mi
- Predominantly off-road, mixed surface, some hills
- Start: Scarborough railway station, YO11 1TN
A fantastic coastal challenge for competent riders with some hill-climbing experience, the Cinder Track is a mixed-terrain route through the North York Moors National Park linking the seaside towns of Scarborough and Whitby.
The trail follows the footprint of the former railway, but in this case it’s not flat! You’ll need to make use of the towns along the way to keep fuelled for this big ride.
Robin Hood’s Bay comes highly recommended for a quick detour for lunch!
The Mawddach Trail, Dolgellau
- 30km / 18.6mi
- Traffic-free to Barmouth, generally flat, paved
- Start: Dolgellau car park, LL40 1DL
From Snowdonia National Park’s towering mountains to ice-creams at the seaside, the Mawddach Trail links the towns of Dolgellau and Barmouth with a paved, traffic-free route along a former railway line.
Although there are no major climbs along the way, there are frequent undulations, but the incredible views across the Mawddach Estuary should help keep your mind busy.
The highlight of the route is the wooden-boarded Barmouth Bridge, open to pedestrians, cyclists and trains only, spanning the width of the river.
The Cuckoo Trail, East Sussex
- 25km / 15.5mi
- Traffic-free, mixed terrain, very gentle gradient
- Start: Newnham Way car park, Heathfield, TN21 8DA
Part of National Cycle Network Route 21, the Cuckoo Trail is a popular choice for local families, and it’s easy to see why.
This totally traffic-free route mixes verdant countryside and the landmarks of a time gone by, with platforms and bridges marking the history of this former railway line.
There’s a convenient car park in central Heathfield, where the Cuckoo Trail starts, and you can follow it as far as Polegate. Here, we recommend a shorter route to Hailsham and back, totalling 25km.
Helix Around Town Trail, Falkirk
- 27.6km / 17mi
- Predominantly traffic-free cycleways, paved
- Start: Falkirk Stadium, FK2 9EE
Designed specifically as a family-friendly cycling route encircling the town of Falkirk, the Helix Around Town Trail takes in all the best sights while navigating predominantly on traffic-free paths through parks, along the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal towpaths.
There are only a few very short linking road sections, and plenty of opportunities to shorten the route too.
With magnificent sculptures such as the Falkirk Kelpies and the fascinating rotating boatlift known as the Falkirk Wheel, there’s certainly plenty to marvel at along the way.
Kielder Water, Northumberland
- 20km / 16mi
- Traffic-free, woodland gravel tracks, gentle hills
- Start: The Bike Place, Kielder Water, NE48 1BT
For a wonderfully scenic lakeside cycle through the woods, Kielder Water is hard to beat.
Start from the resort on the reservoir’s western edge, where there’s parking, bike hire at The Bike Place, a shop and a cafe.
The well signed off-road cycleway isn’t technical, but there are some small hills as you trace the edge of the water around the southern shores as far as the dam.
Make sure you stop to take in the views at Freya’s Cabin and the other sculptures you’ll find along the way.
Marriott’s Way, Norfolk
- 23.4km / 14.5mi
- Mostly traffic-free, paved and unpaved surfaces, flat
- Start: Norwich NR3 3RU
A working railway until 1985, Marriott’s Way now offers countless hours of serene, traffic-free riding through woodland and quiet countryside, a blissful escape from central Norwich.
Check out the old railway platform at Hellesdon and quaint old bridges along the way, as well as spotting the planes taking off from Felthorpe Airfield.
Marriott’s Way extends far beyond this route, should more confident riders prefer a bigger challenge.
This route is best saved for the summer because it can get quite muddy when wet.