Bicycle touring in the east of England suits cyclists of all abilities. East Anglia, as the region is also known, is ideal for exploring on the kinds of relaxed cycling vacations and short breaks that don't involve high performance racing and hill climbing or adrenalin charged mountain biking.
If your ideal bicycle tour is going along at your own pace, discovering countryside, rural villages and small historic cities, then cycling through the counties of East Anglia - Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, along with Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, and London's near neighbor, Essex - are tailor-made.
Bicycle Touring in the East of England's Cycling Country
East of England, the official tourist organization for the region, makes planning a cycling holiday easy by mapping and describing at least 50 cycle tours. These include:
- Long distance bicycle tours along stretches of the national trails that cross the east of England.
- Short breaks over regional cycle routes
- Day trips to scenic corners and historic villages
- Easy loop routes for short cycling excursions
- Traffic-free routes for safe family outings.
The East of England Cycling website includes route search and information about bicycle rentals, cycling package holidays to book, accommodations in cycling country and a calendar of cycling related events. I was particularly impressed with website's the interactive cycle route map.
Bicycle Touring on the National and Regional Cycle Routes
The UK's National cycle routes, regional cycling itineraries and one of Europe's more unusual, multi-national routes crisscross East Anglia. So cyclists can plan short breaks or longer cycle touring vacations.
- National Route 1, follows the east coast and joins with National Route 51 for a further coastal stretch from Colchester to the Harwich foot ferry, or coastal route 517 for the east coast resorts of Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth. Cyclists taking this route can visit the Norfolk Broads, Fen country and some of East Anglia's best Cathedral cities and towns. Parts of this route are traffic-free. Look for white numbers on a red background marking this route.
Find out more about this route and free maps
- North Sea Cycle Route is a 4,000 mile cycle route that includes all of the countries circling the North Sea - Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Scotland and England. Connections are cross-border and include ferries and bridges. In 2003, this route was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's longest cycle route. Sections of this route through East Anglia include parts of National Routes 1 and 51. The route is known formally as Eurovelo Route 12
Find out more about the North Sea Cycle Route
- The Suffolk Coastal Cycle Route - an 88-mile, circular route through gently rolling countryside, along quiet beaches and cliffs.
- The Chilterns Cycleway - a circular route of 170 miles through a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This route is mostly on roads and is marked with brown signs, lettered in white and featuring a picture of a bicycle.
- The Norfolk Coast Cycleway 103 miles of cycle trail linking King's Lynn and Great Yarmouth. The route, just inland from the coast, passes through some of Norfolk's prettiest villages, with sea views and wetlands. It takes in quiet back roads, lanes and bridleways.
Cycle Touring Day Rides in the East of England
East Anglia and the east of England have some of the quietest and gentlest back roads and lanes in England. This largely rural area is dotted with historic cathedral cities, scenic ports, seaside towns and picture-book pretty villages.
Even if a whole cycling vacation seems a bit full on, a day of gentle cycling here could make a convert of you. With that in mind, the East of England tourism folks have compiled a list of easy day rides, ranging from 13 to 30 miles. Even better, they are fully mapped and described - for free - with good directions, short cuts, sightseeing suggestions and refreshment stops. Follow the links below for Day Ride descriptions and to download free route maps and leaflets:
- The Thatcher's Way 24-mile circular route from Priory Country Park in Bedford
- The Apples and Ale Ride 13-mile circular route from the Cambridgeshire market town of Wisbech.
- The Witchfinder's Way 26-mile circular route from the seaport of Harwich, with a visit to Mistley, famous for the goings on of Matthew Hopkins, the 17th century Witchfinder General
- Literary Landscapes 25 miles in the Chilterns, with visits to George Bernard Shaw's country retreat and the gardens of the late Queen Mother's childhood home.
- Lords of the Manor 30 miles in Norfolk, from Aylsham, passing important country houses such as Felbrigg and Blicking Halls.
- The Miller's Trail 23 miles through traditional Suffolk landscapes, dotted with windmills
- The Great Ouse 25 miles along the River Great Ouse, with a stop in the Market town of Bedford
- Katherine's Wheels 15 miles from Grafham Water, one of Britain's largest man-made reservoirs and passing the final homes of Katherine of Aragon.
- The Cutler's Way 29 miles along the Essex-Hertfordshire borders, passing a reconstructed motte and bailey castle.
- Flint and Forge 30 miles, from Stansted Mountfichet, through farmland and countryside, visiting the former country seat of the Bishops of London and the home of sculptor Henry Moore.
- The Bishop's Chapel 23 miles, from the market town of Dereham, the route passes Saxon and Norman ruins and the ancestral home of Abraham Lincoln.
- Churches, Copses and Country Lanes A mixture of churches, ancient woodlands and coastal ride, over 24 miles from Carlton Colville.
- Two Rivers Way 25 miles on the Dengie Peninsula, between the Rivers Blackwater and Crouch.
- Romans and Royalty This 16-mile circular route includes Hatfield, the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth I
- Roisia's Path 28 miles, from Therfield and the tomb of the dragon slayer Piers Shonks. The Devil vowed to take his soul whether buried inside the church or out. So the 11th century tomb is in neither. Shonks is buried within the wall of the church.
- Malt and Forge an easy 16 miles, from Ware, once a maltings center.
- The View Finder Trail 18 mile circuit includes views of Colchester, Britain's oldest recorded town.
- The Brecks 20 miles, from the Georgian town of Swaffham through a landscape of heath and pine forests, plus several shorter leisure rides.
- The Lost Villages of Breckland 23 miles of old Norfolk.
- Nelson's Norfolk 23 miles around Fakenham and Admiral Nelson's birthplace.
- The Jockey's Trail 28 miles around the horse racing capital, Newmarket.
Family-Friendly, Traffic-Free Cycling
Family groups and cycling beginners will enjoy the traffic-free cycle paths, put together by the East of England tourism team. They range from 10-mile circuits around reservoirs to one or two mile cycle paths in parks and on country estates. Cycle rentals are available at some sites and extra treats - like rides on antique steam railways - are part of other family-friendly cycling suggestions. Follow this link to find out more about family-friendly, traffic-free cycling.