Riding along gravel trails through peaceful countryside, admiring thatched villages and crumbling hay barns from quiet lanes, wildlife-spotting along idyllic canal towpaths, getting technical in mature woodlands and exploring some of Britain’s most cherished historical sites — Wiltshire is truly a slice of bike touring paradise.
When planning this route, I was searching for the perfect mix of physical challenge, beautiful landscapes and interesting places to visit. I wanted to escape into spellbinding scenery along back lanes and gravel tracks to enjoy a sumptuous sense of serenity. Did it live up to expectations? Nope. It far surpassed them.
This two-day route, which I have christened the Wiltshire Round, starts in Bradford on Avon and takes you on a 108-mile (174 km) loop through the heart and south of the county. I have divided it equally into two 54-mile (87 km) rides, with a stopover in the historic and charming town of Amesbury. Check out the full route here: komoot.com/tour/551662754.
Stage 1 is characterised by wonderful gravel sections along picturesque canals and through peaceful countryside. It visits two of England’s most treasured Neolithic sites, Avebury and Stonehenge (the latter coming right at the end of the Tour), and explores the utterly atmospheric Salisbury Plain.
Stage 2 takes you through a more pastoral landscape of thatched villages, crop fields and wildflower hedgerows, for the most part along gentle country lanes. There are still a couple of gravel and off-road sections. Historical sites come in the form of Salisbury Cathedral, Old Sarum hillfort and Farleigh Hungerford Castle.
A gravel or cyclo-cross bike is perfect for this terrain. Ideally, you want something light enough to set a good pace on asphalt but strong enough to tackle rough tracks with unexpected potholes and woodland sections with rocks and roots. You’ll be grateful for thicker tyres on these sections too, 700c x 38-42 mm. While the terrain is not overly technical (and is predominantly asphalt) there are a few moments when a robust bike and some trail skills will come in handy.
While I would definitely recommend bringing a couple of litres of water and a few energy-rich snacks on each ride, there is no need to go mad loading yourself up with food as there are plenty of places to stop and resupply en route.
As the Wiltshire Round is a loop, you can start it at any point and complete it in any direction. However, this itinerary works so well because it is a perfect split in terms of distance and Stonehenge is a magical place to end day one. As there are plenty of villages along the way, it is easy enough to divide into as many days as you feel comfortable with. And, for the super-fit riders, it would make for a very decent day challenge.
The route follows official cycleways or traffic-free bridleways and farm tracks for the vast majority. Personally, I felt the section along NCN 45 after Avebury felt a little fast and busy, but there are plenty of farm tracks on the map which you could look at for an alternative if you are not comfortable around busier traffic. That aside, you are exclusively on traffic-free trails or lanes with few other vehicles. As such, this is a good choice for riders of all abilities.
As Bradford on Avon has a train station, getting to the start/finish of the route by public transport is easy. Extending the ride from nearby Bath, or even Bristol, is also possible along cycle routes.
If you are looking for a varied ride with lots of interest and beauty, as well as a great physical challenge, this really is a fabulous loop. Let me know if you give it a try, I would love to hear any feedback.
Ready to get going? Create and customize your own version of this adventure using the full Tour below as a template.
Last updated: November 5, 2021
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
Stage 1 follows canal towpaths, lanes and gravel trails through idyllic Wiltshire countryside. It visits two of England's most cherished Neolithic sites, Avebury and Stonehenge, on a journey through atmospheric landscapes alive with ancient spiritual energy.
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The sound of crickets in wildflower hedgerows. Wind in the leaves of ancient trees. Wheat fields, sweetcorn crops, ripening berry bushes, thatched cottages, grandiose churches and crumbling hay barns. Stage 2 truly celebrates the enchanting beauty of Wiltshire.
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