Winding through the historic border territory of England and Scotland, the Reivers Cycle Route takes you on an exhilarating ride through untouched nature and fascinating history.
This epic adventure heads 192 miles (309 km) through rolling fells and crags, hidden lakes, and traditional farmland in one of the wildest areas of Britain.
In this Collection, you will follow the Reivers Cycle Route in seven stages between 21.3 miles (34.4 km) and 39 miles (62.9 km) long. If you want to complete the adventure in fewer days, you can easily combine the stages. However, they cannot easily be shortened as the area is often very remote and poorly connected by public transport.
If you are looking for an alternative coast to coast challenge, this route could be perfect. Starting in the coastal town of Whitehaven on the Irish Sea, you will ride across the north of England to Tyneside on the North Sea. Don’t forget the C2C tradition to dip your wheel in the Irish Sea and the North Sea at the start and finish.
To fully enjoy this wild ride, you need a good level of fitness and the ability to climb up to 2,099 feet (640 m) in one day. Although you don't need to be an expert rider, you may want to reconsider taking on this route with a young family.
Following isolated lanes through spectacular landscapes, the remoteness of the Reivers Cycle Route is also its beauty. Wild places like these are hard to find in the UK today. As such, you should come prepared for any scenario: pack appropriate clothing for all weather conditions, bring a first aid kit, a map, compass, and power bank, and carry enough food for a few days in the saddle. As some of the route follows forest tracks, your bike should be able to handle mud.
Come prepared and you can fully relax in the stunning surroundings. On the way, you will ride along coastal plains, before heading through the Northern Lake District National Park and through desolate hills and evergreen forests to Kielder Waters.
This area was not always the peaceful idyll it is today. During the 15th and 16th centuries, it was teeming with criminals. Robbery, murder, kidnap, and rustling were commonplace, hence the route’s name – reivers. You can learn more about its turbulent past as you explore crumbling castle walls, ancient carvings, and historic bridges en route.
Despite the remoteness of this Collection, each stage finishes at a place offering food and accommodation. Guesthouses, cosy pubs and hotels will welcome you in from the elements with a hot meal.
Cyclists have been enjoying the Reivers Cycle Route since its opening in 1998. Managed by Sustrans, it follows route 10, 7, 71, and 72 of the National Cycle Network. The route is well-maintained, but only the section between Kielder and Tyneside is signed-posted.
You can ride this route in either direction, with east to west having slightly kinder gradients. For the purpose of this Collection, I’ve started in Whitehaven.
Built on the wealth of the shipping and mining industries, Whitehaven is a pretty Georgian town on the west coast. You’ll find plenty of shops, restaurants and places to stay to prepare for your adventure. To get to Whitehaven, you can travel by train from Carlisle or Lancaster.
For train tickets and timetables, visit: thetrainline.com/live/departures/whitehaven
Your first stage following the Reivers Cycle Route takes you 21.3 miles (34.4 km) from Whitehaven to Cockermouth. Today, you will ride mostly along cycleways as they guide you to …
Winding rivers, layered hills and lakes glistening on the horizon – stage 2 is a fantastic ride through the north of the Lake District National Park from Cockermouth to Carlisle. …
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Stage 3 is a spectacular journey through wild landscapes as you ride from Carlisle towards the Scottish border, visiting ancient landmarks along the way. Before getting started, be sure to pick up some supplies as today is a relatively remote ride. You leave Carlisle, cross the river and pass Kingmoor South Nature Reserve, a pretty woodland which was once a horse racing track. On the edge of the city, pass over the railway tracks and enter quiet countryside. The first 14.2 miles (22.9 km) of stage 3 are relatively flat as you ride through rural landscapes, loosely following the River Lyne. Small villages en route have a few shops and pubs to keep your energy levels up such as The Crown and Thistle in Rockcliffe and The Black Lion in Hethersgill. Thanks to its location between Hadrian’s Wall and the Scottish border, this area has lived through various historical dramas in its time from Roman invasion to border disputes.
Thick evergreen forests surround a deep blue lake, a mountain bothy hides away amongst the trees and open hillsides – stage 4 is a wild journey through spectacular landscapes. This stage of the Reivers Cycle Route is remote, so make sure you take plenty of provisions with you. For around 10 miles (16 km), the route rises and falls through farmland, passing the occasional cottage, stacked hay bales and animals grazing in paddocks. Next, veer right and continue along stunning forested roads. Here, you will take on the toughest climb of your adventure as you ride up to 1,181 feet (360 m) over 5.5 miles (9 km). Don’t worry though, the gradients are very manageable and you will be distracted by the magnificent panoramas as you ride. The route then drops gradually down towards Kielder Waters, the biggest man-made lake in the UK, surrounded by emerald forests. The lake is a beautiful location to end stage 4.
Your journey through the wilds of Northern England continues today as you ride an easy 22.3 miles (36 km) from Kielder Waters to Bellingham. Stage 5 begins with a traffic-free trail around the edge of the lake for 8.8 miles (14.2 km). Along the way, you can stop off at the Tower Knowe Visitor Centre to learn more about the area. Next, turn eastwards and follow a quiet road running parallel to the River North Tyne as it flows through Falstone. This pleasant village has a tea room, pub, and post office and marks a welcome return to civilisation. Following farm lanes, you will now ride through agricultural landscapes, rolling fells and forested slopes. Cycling doesn’t get much better than this, as purple and crimson heather and ferns line your way. You won’t find many shops along this stretch, just the occasional farm where you can ask to refill your water bottles.
Jacobean mansions set amongst luscious parkland, peaceful reservoirs and hills as far as the eye can see – your penultimate day of adventure is a wonderful ride. Stage 6 is …
Your final day adventuring along the Reivers Cycle Route is the longest of all the stages. Today you will clock up 39 miles (62.9 km) from Matfen to Newcastle. The …