Leading through lush countryside scenes and patchwork farmland, over gentle hills where the Romans built historic cities and valleys where the Industrial Revolution spurred world-first engineering, the Mercian Way, aka Route 45, combines the very best of England’s history, landscapes, and culture as you ride from north to south.
This adventure guides you between the historic cities of Chester and Salisbury via miles of wonderful countryside. In this Collection, I’ve split the 302-mile (486 km) route into 9 stages, but you can choose to lengthen or shorten each stage as you wish. There are lots of train stations en route so you can be flexible and even skip out some hills if you want. Although with 11,090 feet (3,380 m) of climbing spread across the 9 stages, the Mercian Way is relatively easy on your legs.
Following rural lanes, quiet backroads, and traffic-free paths where possible, you explore the counties of Cheshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, each with its own charm, identity, and lovely towns and villages. You can fall in love with the honey-coloured cottages in Cotswold towns like Cirencester and wander the Medieval streets of Shrewsbury on your way.
There are few Sustrans Cycle Routes that offer more diverse historical highlights than the Mercian Way. You will ride by the ancient ruins of Roman cities, explore magnificent country estates, crumbling Cheshire castles, Iron Age hill forts, 12th-century abbeys, spectacular cathedrals, the heartlands of the Industrial Revolution and two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Stonehenge and Ironbridge.
Even if they slow you down a bit on the road sections, tyres with at least 32mm tread will be the most comfortable on this ride as you follow canal towpaths, gravel trails and farm tracks through the countryside. Your hybrid, adventure, or mountain bike are ideal for the sometimes off-road bumpy roads.
Traffic-free sections make up around 12% of the terrain, however, bear in mind that some busier stretches are unavoidable, especially when entering and leaving cities so it may not be the best option for young families or inexperienced riders.
You can ride this route any time of the year, although riding in the summer increases your chance of sunny days and drier trails. If you get caught in a downpour, there’s plenty of towns, villages and cities dotted along the route where you can dry off, grab a bite to eat, and explore a museum or two.
You can also enjoy spectacular nature as you follow the Mercian Way. The Mid Cheshire Range hills, wild nature reserves, the unusual rocky Hawkstone Park Follies, verdant parklands, the enchanting Wyre Forest, Cotswold Waterpark, the banks of the gushing River Severn and quintessentially English countryside scenes from your saddle.
Chester and Salisbury are great locations to begin and end your adventure as both cities are well-connected by rail. Both cities were once Roman strongholds and boast beautiful historic buildings which paint a picture of their bygone days.
The Mercian Way crosses paths with lots of other great long-distance cycle routes. You can pick up the Severn and Thames Way from Gloucester (komoot.com/collection/889552/cycle-along-historic-waterways-the-severn-and-thames-way), or extend your adventure in either direction on the Cheshire Cycleway from Chester (komoot.com/collection/897566/a-lush-adventure-through-rural-britain-riding-the-cheshire-cycleway) or the Wiltshire Cycleway from Salisbury (komoot.com/collection/910262/cycle-through-5-000-years-of-history-wiltshire-cycleway)
Ready to get going? Create and customize your own version of this adventure using the full Tour below as a template.
Last updated: December 20, 2021
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
This first stage guides you from the historic city of Chester to Whitchurch via quiet countryside and burbling streams.
Chester is a dynamic city that was a major Roman stronghold and one of the last places to succumb to Norman invasion. Take time to explore its rich history and heritage before taking…
On your second day of adventure, you ride 39 miles (62.9 km) from Whitchurch to Shrewsbury through the wonderful county of Shropshire. Known for its patchwork countryside and rich history, Shropshire is full of surprises.
Follow a cycle path to leave Whitchurch and return to the countryside. The route…
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.
Stage 3 is a wonderful ride through thousands of years of history from Roman rule to the Industrial Revolution. Today you ride 22.1 miles (35.6 km) from Shrewsbury to Ironbridge.
Leave Shrewsbury via the Old Shrewsbury Canal Path which loosely follows the River Severn as it flows through Uffington.
Today you clock up 31.5 miles (50.8 km) as you cross the county boundaries of Shropshire into Worcestershire.
With 1,900 feet (580 m) of climbing, stage 4 is the hilliest of the Mercian Way. But, you loosely follow a railway line for the majority of the way, so you are never far from a train if your…
Stage 5 takes you through the county of Worcestershire from Bewdley to Worcester. Known as the birthplace of Elgar, for its sauce, and morris dancing, this county has a lot to offer. J.R.R. Tolkein even found inspiration for his Lord of the Rings Trilogy here, saying Worcester is “'home' to me, as no…
Continuing your journey through Worcestershire, stage 6 brings you into a second of the Three Counties, Gloucester, loosely following the River Severn as it flows through verdant countryside.
Quiet countryside scenes soon envelop you as you leave Worcester. Expect bushy hedge-lined lanes, commons blanketed…
Honey-coloured stone cottages, rolling hills and farmland, and abundant history – stage 7 is a 37.2 mile (60 km) ride from Gloucester to Cirencester, through the beautiful Cotswolds.
Water is never far away today. You meet the River Severn multiple times as you leave Gloucester and ride through the countryside…
Today you ride 35.4 (57 km) from Cirencester to West Overton, entering the diverse county of Wiltshire.
The route starts off fairly flat, with a fair bit of climbing in the second half of the day, gaining 1,150 feet (350 m) in total.
A few miles outside of Circencester, you reach the Cotswold Water Park…
Your final day following Route 45 takes you through the North Wessex Downs to Salisbury, taking in more of Wiltshire’s finest sites.
With 1,115 feet (340 m) of climbing and 1,500 feet (450 m) of downhill, it’s freewheeling (well, almost) the whole way.
Setting off from West Overton, you are immediately…
Bike Touring Collection by Amy
Bike Touring Collection by Amy
Bike Touring Collection by komoot
Road Cycling Collection by komoot