Top 10 UK Railway Cycling Routes

11 June 2021

Top 10 UK railway line gravel biking routes

Have you ever considered old railway lines for your gravel biking route? They really do make for a scenic ride! From the abandoned lines that meander through the beautiful countryside to the dismantled tracks that offer industrial heritage. These cycle paths provide mostly flat, off-road, traffic-free routes that are ideal for whole family bike adventures.

In 1963, the Beeching Cuts, a plan to increase the efficiency of the National Railway system in Great Britain, devised a report to outline the underutilised stations and railway lines, with the end result being the closure of thousands of stations and their associated lines. However, over the coming decades, local authorities began to repurpose much of this land, with many of the lines being transformed into walking and cycling routes.

We take a look at the top 10 railway line gravel cycle routes in the UK:


Start/Finish: Bodmin / Padstow
Distance: 18.9km
Ordnance Survey:OS map link >>

Image: Credit

This former railway line takes you from Bodmin to Padstow on the Coast. This gravel route follows the path of the River Camel and is mostly off-road, although a section through Wadebridge is now part of the road network.

The Trail offers spectacular views of moorland, woodland and estuary and is accessible to walkers, cyclists, horse riders, wheelchair users and pushchairs, and is flat.

For a longer route, link this to the Camel Trail North to go from Padstow all the way to Wenfordbridge.


Start/Finish: Maghull / Southport
Distance: 18.1km
Ordnance Survey:OS map link >>

Image: Credit Visit Southport

Part of the much longer Trans Pennine Trail, the Cheshire Lines Path was created from the closed railway line operated by the Cheshire Lines Railway Company across the Lancashire Mossland between Liverpool and Southport. The old station frontage and clock tower still survived.

Reopened in 1988 as a dual-use cycle and footpath, the route takes you from the outskirts of Maghull to the coast at Southport. While flat and easily accessible, some parts of the route near Ainsdale are on public roads.


Start/Finish: Swindon / Marlborough
Distance: 12km
Ordnance Survey:OS map link >>

Image: Credit Sustrans UK

Following the closed railway, the Chiseldon and Marlborough Railway Path was developed in the 1980s as an off-road walking and cycling route.

Despite the steep hills surrounding it, the route itself follows the valley, so is flat and suitable even for novice riders, as well as pushchairs and wheelchairs.

The village of Chiseldon still has visible signs of its ancient roots. It is overlooked by the Iron Age earthwork that is all that remains of Liddington Castle, and it is linked to the Ridgeway, possibly Britain's earliest road.


Start/Finish: Oakamoor / Denstone
Distance: 7.1km
Ordnance Survey:OS map link >>

Image: Credit All Trails

This gravel route follows the path of a dismantled railway line running from Oakamoor to Denstone, following the route of the River Churnet. As a former railway line, it is off-road and traffic-free. It's a fairly flat path, running for just over 4 miles with nice views of the surrounding Staffordshire Moorlands countryside.

The railway part of the way passes the village of Alton and the Alton Towers Theme Park. The route continues past a series of woods and the Hawksmoor Nature Reserve before finishing at the village of Oakamoor.


Start/Finish: Swalwell / Consett
Distance: 15.9km
Ordnance Survey:OS map link >>

Image: Credit

The Derwent Valley Walk is the trackbed of the old Derwent Valley Railway, which opened in 1867 and carried passengers and goods between Newcastle and Consett until the line finally closed in 1962. It follows the Derwent Valley between Swalwell in the north and Consett in the south, with much of the route now forming The Derwent Walk Country Park, a mixture of woodlands, meadows, wetlands, riverside and reclaimed industrial sites.

You will pass the villages of Rowlands Gill, Hamsterley and Ebchester on the way. At the park, you could cross to the western side of the river and visit Thornley Woods where there's a sculpture trail and a visitor centre with lots of information about the area. Also of interest is the National Trust owned Gibside near Rowlands Gill. This is well worth a visit with its 18th-century landscape park and nature reserve.


Start/Finish: Guildford / Brighton (Surrey to East Sussex)
Distance: 52km
Ordnance Survey:OS map link >>

Image: Credit Visit Surrey

The Downs Link follows the course of two dismantled railways. The Cranleigh Line and the Steyning Line were both closed in the 1960s. In 1984, the local councils established the route, which is open for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. While most of the route is off-road, there are some sections where modern developments have forced the path to be diverted onto other local roads. However, most of the route is traffic-free and ideal for younger cyclists.

For relatively easy half-day sections the recommended sections are :

  • 🟢 St Martha's Hill -Run Common

  • 🟢 Run Common - Rudgwick

  • 🟢 Rudgwick - Southwater

  • 🟢 Southwater - Henfield

  • 🟢 Henfield - Bramber

  • 🟢 Bramber - Shoreham-by-Sea


Start/Finish: Gorseinon / Swansea University
Distance: 14.4km
Ordnance Survey:OS map link >>

Image: Credit

The Gower Way is a longer 56km route, with this central section running on the disused railway from Gorseinon to Swansea University.

The route is open to walkers, cyclists and horse riders and is mostly traffic-free although there is a small section where it diverted onto a road at Gowerton. The route passes through Killay Marsh Nature Reserve, Clyne Valley Country Park, and is a great way to make a quick escape from the city.


Start/Finish: Waterhouses / Hulme End
Distance: 13.7km
Ordnance Survey:OS map link >>

Image: Credit Let's Go Peak District

One of the oldest converted railway routes, the Manifold Way follows the route of the Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway which closed in 1934 after a short life and re-opened in 1937 as a mixed-use path for walkers and cyclists.

Tarmacked for the complete length and with only slight slopes, it's an ideal route for young cyclists, pushchairs and wheelchair users. Most of the path is traffic-free, except a section near Wetton Mill. Care should be taken in the Swainsley tunnel.


Start/Finish: Aylsham / Norwich
Distance: 14.3km
Ordnance Survey:OS map link >>

Image: Credit Holiday Property Bond

Part of the Marriots Way uses the trackbeds of a former railway line built in 1893 by the Great Eastern Railway. After its closure in 1985, it was converted to a mixed-use walking, cycling and horse-riding route, and named after the former Chief Engineer, William Marriot.

This section of the gravel route is level and traffic-free with a good surface, making it ideal for families, younger cyclists, pushchairs and wheelchair users.


Start/Finish: Dolgellau / Barmouth
Distance: 10.7km
Ordnance Survey:OS map link >>

Image: Credit Wikimedia

This trail is located in the south of Snowdonia National Park and is considered to be one of the best trails in Britain, for cyclists as well as walkers.

The Mawddach Trail follows the 11km route of the old Great Western Railway line from Dolgellau to Barmouth which operated from 1865 to 1965 and was subsequently reopened as a mixed-use walking, cycling and horse riding route.

The Walk is traffic-free and level, so is ideal for younger riders, pushchair and wheelchair users. You can do smaller sections from several points, or complete the whole trail. Much of the trail runs along the Mawddach Estuary, a wide sandy estuary known for the variety of birds it attracts.

Looking for a new kids gravel bike?

The Frog road bikes range double-up as gravel bikes by simply switching to the secondary tyres (that come with the bike when purchased new). The lightweight, sturdy frame handles well off-road and can cope with the demands of mixed-terrain adventures.
Take a look at Frog Road Bikes >>

Frog Bikes are available through local stockists.
Click here to find your local bike store >>

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