Top tips and hints for cycling in the Cotswolds
The Cotswolds is a fantastic area for cycling, whether you’re an off-road cyclist or a roadie. Lucy, Bolthole Retreats’ resident road and off-road cycling enthusiast, has written this week’s blog post, which includes lots of handy information for visitors hoping to head out into the Cotswold Hills on two wheels.
“I’ve been lucky to ride my bikes all over the place, including in Spain, France and the USA, but I can honestly say that the Cotswolds offers some of the most challenging riding that I’ve experienced, with its undulating roads, sharp climbs and challenging descents.
“You can ride for leisure around the beautiful Cotswold lanes, compete in sportives, enter endurance events – like Hots and Honc – or really challenge your off-road cycling skills on FlyUp417, the biggest privately-owned mountain bike facility in England.
“And if the friends or family you come with don’t cycle, there’s plenty for them to do while you’re putting in the mile. From walking to shopping, sightseeing, visiting spas and enjoying the great pubs and restaurants of the region, it’s quite likely they’ll be just as tired as you by the end of the day! But if you want to see them during the day, the best way to include them is to set a course with pubs on the route so that they can meet you there for a tasty lunch or cream tea. (See our blog post ‘‘Favourite Cotswold Pubs…’.)
“The really impressive thing about cycling in the Cotswolds is the variety of scenery you pass through, and the incredible number of historical sights. For example, on a recent 26-mile road trip on my lovely Principa, I started in the Windrush Valley at Burford, then headed across the stunning Coln Valley and followed quiet country lanes to Cirencester. Over the route I passed the Cotswold Wildlife Park, Arlington Row Cottages at Bibury (fitting in time for a cuppa) and ended up in the open-air pool in Cirencester!
“On days when you want to avoid climbing (it can happen!), head to the Severn Vale and the Severn Estuary at Frampton on Severn and Sharpness. But fuel up along the way, perhaps at Slimbridge Wetland Sanctuary or at the pub in Frampton, because you’re going to have to get back up on the Cotswold scarp somewhere and somehow!
“When I swap my road bike for my trusty Scott MTB here some of the things I like to do (or dream of doing!):
- Piece routes together, connecting off-road sections via small country lanes. The Cotswold AONB website is great for this, with 6 routes to chose from. I’ve done 3 of them, they’re great, but I do advise taking an OS map with you or using the OS app, which is brilliant.
- Head to the woods above Wotton-under-Edge where there are lots of tracks, byways and bridle paths.
- Take a day trip to the Forest of Dean where there is a massive cycling community centred around the Cannop Valley, with a range of routes for all abilities from the Family Trail to the advanced Enduro Trail.
- And then there’s FlyUp417 Bike Park… I haven’t tried it (and probably never will as my days of daring-do are over), but it’s said to be a haven for ultra-keen and even pro mountain bikers. This 100-acre bike park just outside the centre of Gloucester is the biggest privately-owned mountain bike facility in England. It features downhill trails, an indoor pumptrack, a dirt jump barn and field, as well as the unique ‘uplift’ feature, with transport for you and your bike back to the top of the hill after a descent. If you can’t bring your own bike, bikes are available for hire.”
Information, links and contacts
Bike routes: check out Cotswold AONB
Fellow cyclists: Cotswold Cycling Club
More leisurely than competitive this cycling club is for all abilities. With the motto: “Any age. Any ability. Any attire. Any bike!” The club usually meets at The Old Lodge on Minchinhampton Common every Wednesday and Sunday.
Flyup 417 Bike Park: Flyup 417 Bike Park is a 100-acre bike park just outside the centre of Gloucester. It’s the biggest privately-owned mountain bike facility in England, featuring downhill trails, an indoor pumptrack, a dirt jump barn and field, as well as the unique ‘uplift’ feature, with transport for you and your bike back to the top of the hill after a descent. If you can’t bring your own bike, bikes are available for hire.
Heaven of the South (Hots): An annual charity mountain bike event with two demanding off-road courses – a 75km with about 5000 feet of climbing, and a 50km with about 3000 feet of climbing. An incredible opportunity to explore the South Cotswolds area and tracks that aren’t usually open to the public. I’ve done the 50KM course and vouch that it’s an incredible experience. Sold out this year (though worth checking the Facebook page as there have been last-minute tickets available in the past).
Hell of the North (Honc): An annual event taking place in April, now in its 35th year, Honc is one of the country’s first off-road endurance cycle events, with 50k, 75k, 100k, and 150k routes all starting from Winchcombe (home to Sudeley Castle). Promoted & organised by Winchcombe Cycling Club and Cheltenham & County Cycling Club.
Cycling in the Forest of Dean:
Important safety note: The small roads around the Cotswolds are wonderful for cycling but you must be ready at all times for possible oncoming traffic around lanes that are only one car wide in many places.
We have holiday rental properties close to all cycle routes mentioned. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, give us a call on 01242 851 208 and we’ll steer you in the right direction.