New 800-mile trail improves cyclists’ access to the countryside

The new long-distance trail — the Great North Trail — takes in some of the country’s most iconic natural beauty spots, connecting the Peak District with Scotland’s most northerly mainland points

Max Darkins riding part of Cycling UK's Great North Trail in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Scotland. © Cycling UK

National charity Cycling UK has launched the Great North Trail to respond to the need for cyclists to have greater access to the countryside on routes that largely keep them away from traffic.

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“We’ve created the Great North Trail because we recognised very little has been done to promote national off-road trails,” explains Duncan Dollimore, Head of Campaigns at Cycling UK.

“For example, plans to extend the Pennine Bridleway to Scotland were published 20 years ago, but still haven’t been implemented.

“And yet we know there is an appetite for more cycling access to the countryside. Off-road trails can be ideal for families to ride safely, away from traffic and city pollution.”

Families can enjoy off-road cycling safely away from traffic on much of the Great North Trail route, including easy-terrain canal paths.
Families can enjoy off-road cycling safely away from traffic on much of the Great North Trail route, including easy-terrain canal paths. ©Cycling UK

An impressive 98 per cent of the new trail is on bridleways, byways, pre-existing cycle routes, paved roads and low-traffic minor roads.

Established trails — such as the Pennine Bridleway and Cross Borders Drove Road — have been used to connect the extensive route, which runs through the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales, Kielder Forest, Corrieyairack Pass, Loch Ness, John o’ Groats and Cape Wrath.

The Great North Trail exists as part of the charity’s wider ambition to connect the National and Great Trails of England, Scotland and Wales, improving cyclists’ access to the countryside across Great Britain.

The charity believes that in doing so, cyclists will enjoy health benefits (a survey conducted by Cycling UK in 2015 revealed that 91 per cent of respondents view riding as important to their mental health), while rural communities will see greater economic benefits, as the average total spend of off-roader cycling visits to the countryside was found to be higher than that of visitors walking.

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The Great North Trail route is available to view or download online on Cycling UK’s website, and also via Ordnance Survey.