Spectacular traffic-free riding through the North – Three Rivers

Bike Touring Collection by Amy

Industrial heritage backdropped by the North Sea, vibrant coastal towns with historic piers and holiday vibe a-plenty, winding green valleys with colourful meadows and magnificent country estates – the Three Rivers cycle route takes you on a varied adventure through the North of England.

This Collection maps out a loop around the North East coast of England, showcasing the area’s vibrant cities, history and landscapes. You’ll ride 135 miles (218 km) across five stages that are between 15.8 miles (25.5 km) and 34.7 miles (56 km) long.

The route takes you to fantastic cities and towns in the North. Along the way, you'll visit the UNESCO World Heritage cathedral and castle in Durham, explore the rich industry of Sunderland, marvel at the bridges spanning the Tyne in Newcastle upon Tyne, and wander along the historic marina in Hartlepool.

Aside from exploring this wonderful region, the real joy of this route is that it follows traffic-free ways the majority of the time. This, combined with the fact that you don’t climb more than 1,115 feet (340 m) in one stage, makes it the perfect option for first-time tourers, families, and those warming up their legs after a winter slumber.

On this adventure, you’ll follow the Lanchester Valley Way former railway line through what was the industrial heartland of county Durham, ride along river bends as you trace the Derwent Walk through green nature, and discover interesting sculptures along the Wansbeck Estuary Art Trail. As these ways are shared with walkers and horse riders, make sure you stick to a sensible speed.

You should bear in mind that many of these ways are not paved, so come prepared for some gravel and mud. A solid touring bike, hybrid, cyclo-cross or gravel bike would be a good option. Although it’s sometimes hard to find consecutive sunny days, the paths are much more pleasant to ride after a spell of dry weather.

You can also easily ride the routes as individual day rides, especially if you live in the area. Every stage begins or ends in a city with a train station, with the exception of Consett (stages 2 and 3). If you’re riding the Three Rivers in one go, you’ll also easily find accommodation and food in all end stages.

The route is named after three of the major rivers in the area – the Tyne, Tees, and Wear. These rivers have a far-reaching industrial and maritime history which is still visible today. However, rivers are not the only water you’ll meet along the way. Stages 4 and 5 take you from the rivers’ mouths to the sea, where you can enjoy plenty of golden sandy beaches, historic lighthouses and ice cream shops.

You can reach Middlesbrough, where this Collection begins, by train, although you can start the circular wherever is most convenient for you. From here, you choose which direction of the loop to follow. Either way, you’re sure to have a great few days exploring the North.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

    34.8 mi
    9.5 mph
    1,125 ft
    925 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Stage 1 takes you through lovely corners of the North East, covering 34.7 miles (56 km) from Middlesbrough to Durham. As with every ride in this Collection, you follow cycle paths and traffic-free trails almost the whole way. You'll start off on the flat, following a path along the River Tees and crossing the Newport Bridge. Next, a cycleway winds through suburban Middlesbrough, skirting around Stockton-on-Tees. On Harrowgate Lane, you join a track through fields – the countryside begins here. Following the trail, ride through Wynyard Woodland Park, a lovely patch of forest popular with mountain bikers and cyclists alike. If your bike can handle it, this is a great place to stray from the route to discover the trails. At the entrance to the woods, there’s a cafe to stop for coffee and cake, too. Next, climb gently up wooded slopes and grassy landscapes, arriving at Hurworth Burn Reservoir, an ideal picnic spot. You'll find civilization again in Station Town, a small village with a shop and takeaway to refuel, which roughly marks the halfway point.The Castle Eden Walkway continues from the village, merging into the Hart to Haswell Walkway as it winds through Shotton Colliery town. Here, the route switches onto the busier B1280 for a short while before veering off into farmland. Wind turbines spin to your left, you'll ride through green-patchwork countryside. With long descents and flat stretches, it’s easy riding from here. After Sherburn village, take the cycle path around the edge of Carrville before joining quiet residential roads and riding along the River Wear into the centre of Durham. Durham’s rich history and spectacular cathedral and castle have earned it the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll find no-end of quaint little cobbled streets to explore before settling into your accommodation for the night. If you’re camping, there’s a good campsite on the edge of the city next to the River Browney.

    15.9 mi
    7.4 mph
    950 ft
    400 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    At 15.8 miles (25.5 km), stage 2 is the shortest section of this Collection, giving you plenty of time to explore Durham before setting off.Today is defined by the Lanchester Valley Path which you’ll follow for almost the entire day as you ride to Consett. If you want to push your legs a bit harder, combine stage 3 to finish in Newcastle instead. First, head to Durham’s outskirts and cross the River Browney, passing Baxter Wood Farm Campsite. This is where you’ll join the Lanchester Valley Path, an extensive network of railway paths that once carried iron ore and coal through the valley. Leading through wonderful, peaceful countryside with no traffic in sight, this is a lovely section of the Three Rivers route. On the way, you can stop off at Beaurepaire and Bearpark to explore the mining ruins in the area. As with all paths, be considerate of other cyclists and walkers – there’s no rush after all. You’ll meet the River Browney on the edge of Langley Park village which has a few shops and cafes. You can also swap your bike for a digger or construction machinery here at Diggerland – an adventure theme park based around, you guessed it, diggers.Continue along the cycle path, heading slightly uphill along the River Browney. Look out for otters and fish which have thrived here since the closure of local industry.The path carves through Lanchester and curves to the west through rolling valley scenery. You can’t miss Hownsgill Viaduct, a striking bridge that towers above the treeline, as you ride into Consett. This small town boomed during the 19th century, when the Derwent Valley became the epicentre of British industry. Although it is now a sleepy residential town, it has everything you need here for a comfortable stay.

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  • Easy
    19.0 mi
    9.6 mph
    475 ft
    1,275 ft
    Easy bike ride. Great for any fitness level. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    If riding along a cycle path through a luscious valley, listening to birds singing and watching ducks bobbing along in the river sounds like your cup of tea, then you’ll love stage 3. Today, you’ll cover 19 miles (30.6 km) from Consett to Newcastle Upon Tyne, following a traffic-free path almost the entire way. And if that isn’t enough to get you jumping on your saddle, there is just 492 feet (150 m) of climbing and 1,280 feet (390 m) of downhill – that’s the kind of ratio I like the most! The route heads downhill from the get-go as it winds through the outskirts of Consett to join Derwent Walk, a traffic-free path that'll take you through the picturesque Derwent Valley. You’ll ride through a green tunnel of trees, enjoying expansive views over the pretty valley slopes. Make sure you give way to any walkers or horses who have right of way on the bridleway. The trail crosses the road on a few occasions. There’s normally a barrier marking the road, but keep an eye out, especially if you’re riding with kids. Whilst the majority of stage 3 leads through quiet nature, it runs parallel to the main road so pubs and cafes are never far away. Ebchester and Hamsterley villages lie within easy reach. Next, loosely follow the River Derwent into Rowlands Gill, a large village with a good selection of shops. This former mining village lies between the Gateshead greenbelt and the Gibside Estate, your next stop. Continuing on the Derwent Walk, you’ll ride along the river through the picturesque valley, passing sleepy farms and colourful meadows and cutting through Derwenthaugh Country Park. In Swalwell, you can take a small detour to stop off at Pedalling Squares, a great little cycling cafe. The final leg into Newcastle is busier, but you can navigate to the city centre on cycle paths. Newcastle is a buzzing city with loads going on, from lively nightlife to historic castles. The city has a huge selection of places to replenish your calories and rest your legs for the night.

    31.0 mi
    9.5 mph
    1,025 ft
    950 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    Stage 4 takes you to the sea for the first time on your journey as you ride 30.9 miles (49.8 km) from Newcastle to Seaham. Expect salty sea air, candy-coloured sunsets, iconic piers, and ice cream stops-a-plenty on today’s ride. Once again, you’ll be cycling on traffic-free ways for the majority of the day – hurrah! Although you won’t find many secluded nature spots among the region’s industrial landscapes, you’ll visit some wonderful towns and cities that are alive with history.From Newcastle, ride along the River Tyne as it completes its journey into the North Sea at North Shields. Here, catch the Shields Ferry that runs every 30 minutes across to South Shields. More info: nexus.org.uk/ferry/timetableSouth Shields is a coastal town that has experienced a lot over the centuries, from Roman invasion to Viking raids, and industrial boom to World War bombings. It’s worth checking out the Arbeia Roman Fort during your visit. Along South Shields’ seafront, golden beaches hug the shoreline, providing a wonderful backdrop to your ride out of the town. You’ll pass by the iconic red and white tower of Souter Lighthouse before arriving in Whitburn, a quaint seaside village with a beautiful sandy beach. Continue to follow the sea, passing Seaburn Beach and arriving in Roker, a popular seaside retreat with a vibrant seafront with plenty of attractions. The pier here also marks the end of the C2C (komoot.com/collection/888204/cycling-the-c2c-spectacular-wilderness-from-coast-to-coast). Next, ride up the mouth of the River Wear into Sunderland, a historic port city that is a commercial centre for the car industry and science and technology sectors. Following cycle paths, you’ll ride through the city centre, past University train station and Tunstall Hills Nature Reserve on the outskirts. The route heads back towards the sea, arriving at the coast in Ryhope. Here, you’ll join Seaton Bank trail for a short stretch before turning into Seaham, your final stop. This pleasant little town is home to St Mary the Virgin, one of the oldest surviving churches in the UK. You’ll find plenty of accommodation options and places for dinner too.

    34.5 mi
    9.5 mph
    700 ft
    750 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    Your final day adventure is filled with coastal scenes as you ride the last 34.4 miles (55.5 km) from Seaham back to the start in Middlesbrough. From Seaham, climb inland along the Hart to Haswell Walkway. The trail will take you through peaceful countryside scenes and into Shotton Colliery that you will recognise from stage 1. On the outskirts of Wingate, veer left and enjoy open skies and fields as you descend back to the sea at Hartlepool. Dating back to the 7th century, Hartlepool is a town with a lot of history. It’s worth visiting the Museum of Hartlepool to learn more about its past. The marina is a lovely place to stop for a coffee or lunch before continuing your journey along the coast. Follow the glistening sea as Hartlepool merges into Seaton Carew, a village with a wonderful beach attached to the Teesmouth National Nature Reserve. With the call of gulls above, you can explore secluded sand dunes and wildlife habitats. In summer, you may even spot seals who come to the sands to have their pups. The final leg is a flat ride up the mouth of the Tees, passing through Saltholme RSPB reserve and heading into Middlesbrough, completing the loop of the Three Rivers. Middlesbrough has a range of shops, cafes, pubs, and parks where you can celebrate the completion of your adventure. To return home, you can hop on a train to Newcastle which has direct links to loads of cities across the UK. Middlesbrough also has direct connections to York, Nunthorpe, and Bishop Auckland.


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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    135 mi
  • Duration
    14:43 h
  • Elevation
    4,275 ft

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