10 of the best family autumn walks along cycle routes

Autumn is the perfect time of year to wrap up warm and head out for a walk. Cycling charity Sustrans shares their top picks for easy autumn walks along cycle routes that are great for the whole family.

Neptunes Staircase NCN78 credit Sustrans

Strathyre to Mhor 84 Motel or Lochearnhead (NCN7)

Distance: 2.5 miles (45 minutes one-way) or Lochearnhead 6 miles (2 hours one-way)

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Start: Strathyre

Finish: Lochearnhead Hotel

This stunning, traffic-free section of National Cycle Network Route 7 begins at the Broch Café in the village of Strathyre and meanders through the vivid seasonal colours of Strathyre Forest and the rugged surrounding landscape of Rob Roy Country. Stop at the walker and cyclist-friendly Mhor 84 for fresh farm food, or continue along the route towards Lochearnhead, where spectacular autumnal views across Loch Earn await after a brisk climb. This route also incorporates part of the BLiSS Art Trail, a unique selection of sculptures by local artists, so keep an eye out for some very Scottish characters along the way, including Drover’s Bho the Highland Cow and Ewen the West Highland Terrier.

For seasoned pros looking for a more challenging day out, head back via the quiet on-road link to Route 7 and visit the grave of Rob Roy at Balquhiddir Old Kirk, before returning to Strathyre on the opposite bank of the river Balvaig.

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A cyclist takes part in the 'Snowdonia Mountain Bike Challenge' near Llanberis, north Wales on March 26, 2017. 
The Challenge is the only mountain bike event to incorporate a section of path up Mount Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales. Riders are able to choose between four route lengths from 22 kilometres to 75 kilometres featuring long steep climbs, fast grass tracks, technical single-tracks and forest roads.  / AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF        (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

 The Caledonia Way Corpach to Gairlochy (NCN 78)

Distance: 8 miles (2.75 hours one-way)

Start: Corpach train station

Finish: Gairlochy

Follow the gentle, off-road path alongside the Caledonia Canal from Corpach towards Gairlochy to experience some of the Great Glen’s most majestic autumnal scenery. Setting off from the northernmost banks of Loch Linnhe, this route runs alongside Neptune’s Staircase, a stunning feat of engineering and masonry which raises the Caledonian Canal by 67 feet over a quarter of a mile stretch. Continuing in the formidable shadow of Ben Nevis, this traffic-free section of the Caledonia Way provides stunning vistas towards the Grampian Mountains before arriving at the southern bank of Loch Lochy. Here you can enjoy a tranquil picnic or packed lunch beside the “Pepperpot” light house at the water’s edge.

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The Peregrine Path in the Wye valley

Distance: 12 miles (5 hours to complete)

Start and finish: Monmouth

This unique traffic-free route, straddles the England and Wales border and follows some of the finest scenery in the UK within the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It follows the River Wye through the upper Wye Gorge and connects Monmouth to Symonds Yat, where there are a variety of cafes and pubs right by the river to refuel and enjoy a well-earned rest.

For the more adventurous, there is the option at Symonds Yat to climb the steep and winding path (500ft) up to the Symonds Yat Rock. Here you can see panoramic views of the gorge and the possibility of nesting peregrine falcons hunting on the nearby cliffs.

On the return leg it’s possible to cross the river via the ‘ancient hand ferry’ opposite the Saracens Head pub. From here, follow the river back down stream before re-crossing via the ‘Indiana Jones’ style suspension bridge at the Biblins, and returning to Monmouth.

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Maerdy Mountain to Rhigos (Route 47)

Distance: 9.3 miles (4 hours)

Start: Llanwonno

Finish: Craig Y Llyn

With fantastic views over the Brecon Beacons, walking on Route 47 of the National Cycle Network is a day out not to be missed. Begin at the car park in Llanwonno, where there is a lovely pub, The Brynffynon, providing the perfect opportunity to fuel up for the day ahead. From here, follow signs for Route 47 for a short distance uphill before heading north-west on a wide trail leading into Gwynno Forest where remains of old Roman Camps can be found. The path is clearly marked and passes through beautiful coniferous forest, with occasional views of the Cynon and Rhondda valleys.

At the half-way point, you will come to a car park at the top of Maerdy Mountain. From here, cross the A4233 and continue towards Lluest-wen Reservoir and Rhondda Fach Windfarm. Stop for a moment to take in the stunning but slightly surreal setting of wind turbines towering over the forest like a scene from ‘War of the Worlds’. After this, continue on the wide forestry trail until you cross the A4061 and make a short detour off Route 47 on a track along the edge of the forest. Here, the path heads north-west, until you reach Craig Y Llyn (Rhigos Mountain) where can see see fantastic views across Llyn Fawr towards the Brecon Beacons.

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Coate Water Park to Hodson (Route 45)

Coate Water Park
Coate Water Park/Credit: Sustrans

Distance: 6 miles (3 hours)

Start and finish: Coate Water Park

Start in Coate Water Park where there is a delightful café in which you can stock up on food and drinks for the journey ahead. From the car park, walk around the east side of Coate Water lake and nature reserve until you meet the track signed Route 45. Follow the signs over the motorway to the edge of Chiseldon where you’ll see views back over Swindon.

At the top of the hill turn right onto a tarmac bridleway to Hodson Road, then turn immediately right again onto a private track. From here you can follow footpaths to Hodson where there is a pretty chalk valley and the Calley Arms pub if you’re feeling peckish. After Hodson, return along the footpath to Route 45, just north of the motorway. Follow the path back to Coate Water Park and return to the car park around the west side of the lake.

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 The Crab and Winkle Way between Canterbury and Whitstable 

Summer walk through the woodland of the Crab and Winkle Way
Summer walk through the woodland of the Crab and Winkle Way/Credit: Sustrans

Distance: 7.5 miles (3 hours)

Start: Canterbury West Train Station

Finish: Whitstable

Harbour views, varied landscape, great food and plenty of local history feature at either end of this beautiful 7.5 mile walk. Starting at Canterbury West station, turn left and then cross the railway line, following signs to the university. This will take you along the edge of Beverley Meadow, across Beaconsfield Road and St Michaels Road and will bring you into mature parkland. The path then rises steeply, heading up out of the city to the University of Kent.

Go down Parkwood Road which will take you along the rear of the campus, past beautiful woodland and to the main National Cycle Route 1. From here, the path mostly levels out and will take you past fields, orchards and woodlands, offering spectacular views of the Kent countryside as it meanders northwards.

After around 5 miles, you’ll enter the outskirts of Whitstable, where the traffic free path will take you to the town’s railway station. Steps in the corner of the car park will take you to Stream Walk footpath, which will bring you out by the harbour, where you can try Whitstable’s famous oysters and enjoy views across the estuary.

The ‘Triangle’ bus route from the harbour will bring you back to Canterbury, or you can retrace your steps to the station and hop on a train.

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Terry Avenue in York by Rowntree Park (NCN 65)

Distance: 2.6 miles (between 1 to 2 hours to walk depending how often you stop for a break)

Start and finish: York Railway station

Exit York station and take a right by the toilets and then a left through the short stay car park where you will see a ramp down to a path at the end of the car park. Turn left here, towards the riverside and then right at the riverside path by Scarborough Bridge. Continue along the route and onto quiet roads through York following signs for National Cycle Network Route 65 to Selby. Follow the route along the River Ouse until you reach the 20-acre Rowntree Park. Don’t forget to stop off at the lovely Reading Café for refreshments and views of the lake – which makes the perfect picnic spot. Return along Route 65 on Terry Avenue which was closed to traffic in 1991 to create a pleasant walk and cycle route. Once you reach Skeldergate bridge, follow the route back along the river to the station.

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Transpennine Trail – Penistone to Dunford Bridge

Distance: 13 miles return journey (around 4 hours to walk there and back).

Start and finish: Penistone Train Station

This beautiful walk takes you from the busy market town of Penistone to the rolling moors of the Peak District at Dunford Bridge. This is ideal for families as the path is traffic-free and follows the route of the old Great Central Railway, winding through glorious countryside, with stunning views across the valley and a wealth of wild flowers. Join the route directly from the station through a wooden gate at the east end of the platform (sign posted); turn right, and continue. Don’t forget to visit the Magic Wood just beyond Hazlehead Bridge Station and Wogden Foot Nature Reserve, an important habitat for wildlife alongside the route as it approaches Dunford Bridge.

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The Flitch Way – Braintree to Rayne (NCN16)

Distance: 5 miles (1.5 hours)

Start and finish: Braintree Railway Station

This easy five-mile route takes you through Flitch Way Country Park from Braintree to Rayne and back again. Starting at Braintree Station, turn west and pass through the car park, carrying on until you see a sign for Essex County Council Flitch Way Country Park. From here, you’ll walk through a variety of settings including, deep cuttings, open vistas over farmland, delightful mature oak trees and habitats managed by rangers and volunteers. It’s worth noting that the route climbs gently from the Pods Brook Road Bridge up to the Victorian Rayne Booking Hall Café, situated in the former Station Masters House. Make sure you stop off here for an enjoyable coffee and light snack before retracing your steps.

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Holkham Beach – North Norfolk NCN1

Distance: 8 miles return trip (3.5 hours)

Start: Holkham

Finish: Wells-next-the-Sea

 This is a wonderful walk from Holkham Hall & Estate, which travels north along Lady Anne’s Drive to Holkham Beach, one of the most beautiful stretches of sand in the country, which featured in the final scene of ‘Shakespeare in Love’. Follow the path through the pinewoods or along the beach, past the gaily painted beach huts to the Lifeboat station and Beach Café. From here, walk back along the sea wall to Wells-next-the-Sea and stop off to explore the streets of this delightful seaside town. Make sure you visit French’s Fish and Chips Shop for the best meal in town! From here, you can either retrace your steps or catch a Coastal Hopper bus from Wells to Holkham.

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