Feeling something close to home, the road stretches out ahead before plummeting down once more. It’s an endless meander through narrow lanes and high edges, almost as though you’re following the path of a local farmer staggering his way home after a heavy night in the pub. This isn’t Roman efficiency; these are local roads, walking tracks that evolved into lanes for practical purposes. These are what make Dorset what it is today – and it immediately seems conducive to road riding with each twist and turn revealing a new horizon, a hidden manor house, or even higher hedges.
Dorset is a county that is often overlooked by many, but for those that have got the hang of its tiny, winding lanes and high hedges, they’ll argue that it’s a true pearl. The open portions of hillside offers views that stretch for miles, and regardless of the season you can expect Dorset’s scenery to put on a show.
Bringing both joy and despair to a road rider, Dorset is the only county in England without a motorway, and many drivers struggle to look past its burdened role as a bottleneck for summer traffic. Fortunately, once you know exactly which roads to avoid (especially during the high season), the county’s widely diverse terrain is brilliantly accessible through its rich network of tiny lanes, which thread their way over its numerous steep and leg-burning hills.
These nine routes throw back the plush, velvety curtains on this rich county’s best secrets, literary heritage, and slightly wacky customs. It encompasses a spider’s web of scrawny roads that traverse the county, leading you on a wonder-filled journey of its villages, right through to the more well-known sights that are found on its unique, rugged coastline. Here's where the weather whips across the landscape before heading inland and often battering the rest of the county.
Dorset’s rhythm is unashamedly provincial with a heartbeat that’s significantly slower than the rest of the UK, but once you’re out on its quiet roads you’ll realize that two wheels are the ultimate way to inject life into the county.
This ride is particularly interesting because it involves a ferry, so expect a bit of an adventure and a tale to retell when you're back in the office! Nip past …
A fairly long ride that cuts across the county, this great route starts in Poundbury, a new development of the outskirts of Dorchester, Dorset’s county town. Poundbury was designed by …
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Public schools are like the apples of the famous Dorset Apple Cake – the county just wouldn't be the same without them. So grand and beautiful, they are likely to …
It has been said that the Blackmore Vale could be classed as the Ardennes of Dorset by its local cyclists, and once you’re here you’re likely to agree. This route is the epitome of the Dorset Ardennes, and it really packs a punch thanks to its back-to-back climbs. Starting and finishing in the beautiful hilltop town of Shaftesbury, you’ll take a clockwise route that includes the iconic zig-zag climb up to Ashmore.
Don’t be deceived by the altitude profile, it’s up and down the whole way. On route you can grab some refreshments at Gold Hill Organic Farm (the shelves are stocked with such goodness that we won't be surprised when you're back here to fill your bags rather than just your jersey pockets). From here the routes continues onto the low-lying lanes of Blackmore Vale before hitting the final 'mountain' top finish in Shaftesbury with the notorious Gold Hill.
The significance of the ride name here is all about Weymouth, which is steeped in history thanks to King George III. It became the seat of government during his reign …
From Sherborne – known for its Abbey – you'll do a loop in the Northern territory of Dorset, taking you out through the narrow lanes around Yetminster and Chetnole. This is a route that will continually throw in a few major surprises around each tight turn and it packs a lot of diversity and two major climbs into its 45 miles (73 kilometres).
The climbs naturally don’t compete with Alpine passes, but you’ll still need some extra teeth to get up them. So a compact is definitely recommended for this ride!
You’ll then wiggle back through the much faster, rolling lanes of Fifehead Neville to Sherborne, where you can take a well-deserved sit down in one of its many cafés and boutiques.
This super diverse 52 miles (84 kilometer) route starts and finishes in the village of Cranborne, seen as the gateway to the Cranborne Chase. It's another hilly area of Dorset with rolling chalk downs, numerous small villages, and plenty of steep climbs to keep you interested.
From the top of the long Tollard Royal climb, you’ll drop down with a loop around Shaftesbury and the notorious Gold Hill before heading back to Ashmore, Dorset’s highest village. Midway through the final push home you should make time for a quick refuel at the Hedgehog Bakery, which makes such great bread from local flour.
Green fields, high hedges, wiggly lanes, a few horse riders, the sea, the sea, the sea... The list of what you'll observe on this Dorset route is virtually endless!
This route starts from Bridport and if you want to sell it to your riding buddies then you can call it a loop of SW Dorset’s secret lanes. Tucked away from the Jurassic Coast, there is a veritable hidden treasure trove of lanes, villages and sights that only true explorers will find on their bikes.
At just a touch over 55 miles (90 kilometers) this route goes right up to the north of the county. It has two café options: either the Trading Post in Bearminster or the Old School Gallery Cafe in Yetminster. You'll hit Yetminster after a good chunk of the ride, so it's a well-timed stop. From Yetminster to the Blackcomb climb you'll pedal along dreamy, narrow roads that really sum up the area. Then there’s a blast down to Catistock, home of the Dorset knob – a bit of a local delicacy – before a string of short climbs bring you back to Bridport.