Bike tours

A bike tour through Cornwall, England (Photo by Geraint Rowland)
A bike tour through Cornwall, England

Biking the U.K. and cycling tours of England, Scotland, and Wales

Seeing the British countryside at the pace of pedal power is one of the best ways to appreciate the pace of life in the Olde World, and to see the kind of small villages and hamlets that feel straight out of a storybook.

D.I.Y. Britain by bike: Transporting and renting bicycles in the U.K.

You can rent bikes at private agencies in just about any city or town.

Avid cyclists who plan to tour a whole region by bike, however, will probably want to bring their own bicycle. 

Some airlines charge extra to bring a bike; many count it as one of your pieces of checked luggage. Either way, your bicycle must be properly boxed—remove the pedals and front wheel; buy the box at a bike shop or the airport for around $10 (here's a good article on the best way to pack a bike for the plane ride).

You can bring your bike onto most British trains, sometimes for free, sometimes with a supplement. Some trains require advance reservations for your bike. (Sorry I cannot be more specific, but with around 30 different companies running the British rails, there is no single policy; you can investigate the details at the National Rail site.)

Neophytes might want to try a short trip at home first to learn the basics and figure out the essential gear. Perhaps the best way to do it the first time is to hook up with a cycling tour:

Cycling tours of the U.K.

There are two basic types of bike tours:

  • Escorted tours - The company provides everything: Bikes, accommodations, sag wagon, guide, and usually meals. You provide the pedaling and the enjoyment.
  • Self-guided/Supported tours - You pedal yourself from B&B to B&B, but a host provides the bikes, daily itineraries, and accommodation reservations (usually), as well as a sag wagon takes care of luggage transfers. Sometimes it's just you and your friends/family; other times there are others following the same itinerary in a sort of loose group. 

The links below can hook you up with dozens of tour outfitters—as well as provide general useful intel—whether you are interested in a one-day bike trip or a multi-day cycling tour.