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Cycling holidays and tours in Wessex

biking on the canal towpathDevon, Dorset, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Wiltshire and Somerset; six beautiful counties of South West England that form historic and contemporary Wessex. Miles and miles of off-road and on-road cycle routes, pathways, highways and byways beckon the cyclist. Explore these bike friendly routes for special weekend breaks or stunning cycling holidays. Travel Wessex author Mary Temple provides an introduction to the cycling opportunities Wessex offers two wheeled travellers.

Cycling holiday options in Wessex
Holidays, days out, weekend breaks, serious cycling or casual rides with like-minded friends – whatever you're looking for the options for cycling in Wessex are endless. Wend your way through pretty villages, rural farmland, over far flung plains, the ups and the downs of downland, enchanting woodland, or mystic, ever fascinating moorland. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Scientific Interest mingle with habitats that have stood the test of time for thousands of years.

Hampshire stream in summerDiscover wildlife by bike in Hampshire
Hampshire is full of enchantment. Cycle past chuckling streams with ducks, moorhens and swans. Stop on the bridge and peer down, watch the fish as they dart among the reeds of the crystal clear waters of the River Test. Willows weep among water meadows, narrow country lanes wind their magical way through gentle valleys. Ride through the New Forest and catch sight of the ponies and perhaps deer. A circular ride starting and finishing in Petersfield runs though a wonderful Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Or go into Sussex from Winchester along the rolling South Downs Way.

Cycle the the Tarka Trail and Ruby Country in Devon
Ride through Devon’s rural farmland, along winding country lanes and stop for delicious cream teas or a glass of traditional cider. Follow the Tarka Trail and spot ‘descendants’ of that dearly loved otter from Henry Wiliamson’s moving novel, Tarka the Otter. The trail forms part of Devon's Coast to Coast cycling route which runs from Ilfracombe to Plymouth. The section from Barnstaple to Petrockstowe is also part of the West Country Way Cycle Route running between Bristol and Padstow. Then, in mid Devon, there is Ruby Country – the land between the moors – and the cycle routes of Cookworthy Forest.

Isle of Wight cycling
Try National Cycle Network Route 23, starting in Reading in Berkshire, passing though Hampshire, crossing via the ferry at Southampton and on to Sandown on the Isle of Wight. Then tackle some of the pleasant routes on the island for a most agreeable cycling holiday. Discover miles of quiet country lanes that meander all over the island, or try the off-road routes, with steep climbs for those who love a challenge. The Sustrans Round the Island Cycle Route (Regional Route 67) circles the Isle of Wight and is a great way to see the island on quiet roads.

Wiltshire lanesOff-road and road cycling in Wiltshire
Large parts of Wiltshire are designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a comprehensive network of cycle routes make possible myriads of rides, many of them off-road. Wiltshire offers rolling open countryside, little villages that grew from the ground they stand on and ancient sites with standing stones erected by prehistoric peoples. The 160 mile Wiltshire Cycleway connects many Wiltshire towns making it practical to use as a touring route for a multi-day break. Cyclist should also consider the Wessex Ridgway than runs from Marlborough to the coastal town of Lyme Regis.

Relaxed riding in Dorset
Charmouth, near Lyme Regis in Dorset, makes a good weekend cycle break destination with opportunities to ride the National Cycle Network Route 2 through Thomas Hardy country to the ancient town of Dorchester. Another option is Lyme Regis and on to Plymouth in Devon. Dorset is a charming and attractive county with a small population away from the coast. Winding lanes abound in green wooded country, very relaxing.

Somerset cycling tours
Somerset with the Mendips, Quantocks and Exmoor provides cycling of all kinds in a diversity of magnificent countryside, Forty shades of green in springtime, with blue lakes at Blagdon and the Chew Valley; see them from the top of one of the green hills of the Somerset Mendips. The Quantock Hills are for the mountain biker, while the Somerset Levels give a more relaxing ride. The National Cycleway No 3 runs from Bristol to Lands End and is the West Country Way through Somerset and then the Cornish Way when it gets over the county border.

Wherever you cycle in Wessex, enjoy your holiday!

This article has been provided by Travel Wessex, a small information website providing details of cycling and walking opportunities in Wessex, an area of Southern England comprising Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Wiltshire and the Isle of Wight. The site provides a nice general summary for each county as well as specific pages about walking and cycling, giving details of the main routes and trails.

Visit our Cycling Directory for a full listing of holidays by bike, including cycle breaks and mountain bike tours in England, throughout Europe and Worldwide.