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English Channel to North Sea — cycle the Greater Ridgeway Trail

Michael Drummond

English Channel to North Sea — cycle the Greater Ridgeway Trail

Mountain Biking Collection by Katherine Moore

11

Tours

53:43 h

395 mi

23,700 ft

The Greater Ridgeway Trail is made up of four separate cycling trail routes across Southern England, spanning from Lyme Regis on the English Channel to Hunstanton on the North Sea.

Starting with the Wessex Ridgeway, the long-distance trail leaves the spectacular Jurassic Coastline behind to head over endless hills on deserted gravel roads across Dorset and Wiltshire, passing ancient monuments and impressive white chalk horses. Follow the chalk ridgeline to ride through the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Cranborne Chase AONB and the Wessex Downs AONB, encountering abundant wildlife and far-reaching views along the way. The route has many historical sites as well, ending at the Avebury Stone Circle.

From here you pick up the Ridgeway, a popular route with walkers, cyclists and horse riders alike, and part of Britain’s oldest road dating back over 5,000 years. This National Trail spans 87 miles (140 km) from Overton Hill in Wiltshire to Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire but only half of this is accessible by bike, as the more Easterly section is a footpath for walkers only. Follow the first 43 miles (69 km) of ridgetop bridleway along this prehistoric road with many archeological treasures lining its path.

When you reach Goring-on-Thames, a linking stage is proposed here to connect the Ridgeway to the next long distance trail, the Icknield Way, which starts in Chinnor. This is more than just a transit stage though, as it takes in the delights of the Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Up next, the Icknield Way Trail: the cycling-friendly version of the hiker’s Icknield Way Path. This passes through no less than six counties of Central and Eastern England; Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, taking in idyllic rural villages, rolling agricultural landscapes and hidden woodlands. Plus, there are sandy trails over grassy commons, plantations and heathland, all yielding magnificent views. What this area might lack in mountains it certainly makes up for in charm and a few steep ascents!

At its northern extremity, the Icknield Way Trail meets the Peddars Way at Knettishall. The Peddars Way is a long-distance hiking and cycling trail starting near the Norfolk/Suffolk border town of Thetford, and travelling to the North Norfolk coast at Hunstanton. Following an ancient Roman route, the trail has the characteristic straight trajectory that’s associated with this era. Explore ancient castles and ruins, look out for wildlife among glacial wetlands and coastal marshes, and enjoy the expansive arable landscape that’s so typical of this county. All are remarkably different to the landscapes that you’ll have encountered on your trip across England so far.

Totalling 395 miles (636 km) with some 23,720 feet (7,230m) of climbing, it’s certainly no walk in the park! If you’re a novice bikepacker you might prefer to do one of these four routes in isolation before attempting the whole Greater Ridgeway Trail. Or, of course, you can do any of the individual stages as a day ride, thanks to the plentiful transport connections along the route, especially around the Icknield Way and Ridgeway.

Whether you choose to camp or stay in hostels, guesthouses or hotels along the route is up to you, but as these are popular trails, especially in the summer months, I’d certainly recommend booking in advance.

The best bike for the Greater Ridgeway will depend largely on what you feel comfortable with, but a mountain bike or gravel bike with a wide range of gearing for the sometimes steep hills and wider tyres (40mm+) will be best for the more technical trails along the way. The best time of year is undoubtedly the drier summer months, as the chalky terrain becomes very slippery when wet and can be almost impossible to ride on!

Access at either end is a little less straightforward, as neither Lyme Regis nor Hunstanton have train stations. At the southern end, the closest station is at Axminster, a 5.3 mile ride away (8.5 km), and from Hunstanton you can ride to the station at King’s Lynn which is an extra 18 miles (29 km).

For more information on the four linking long-distance trails, visit my Collections on the Wessex Ridgeway (komoot.com/collection/960938), the Ridgeway (komoot.com/collection/899679), the Icknield Way Trail (komoot.com/collection/959316), and the Peddars Way (komoot.com/collection/900448).

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Greater Ridgeway Trail

391 mi

23,625 ft

23,625 ft

Last updated: November 10, 2021

Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Lyme Regis to Up Cerne — Greater Ridgeway Trail

    Difficult
    05:11
    36.3 mi
    7.0 mph
    3,850 ft
    3,400 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    Why not start your Wessex Ridgeway stage with a cuppa on the Marine Parade, looking out to the English Channel beyond the sandy beach of Lyme Regis? You might get the chance to do some fossil hunting now, but from here on in you’ll be heading inland, up onto the chalky ridge deep into rural Dorset and

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    07:20
    52.6 mi
    7.2 mph
    5,025 ft
    5,125 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    The second stage is equally hilly, where you’ll cross from Dorset into Wiltshire with many opportunities to take in marvellous landscape views as you climb along the chalk hilltops of the Wessex Ridgeway.

    

    The route takes you to the north-east to start, climbing steeply from Up Cerne and passing through

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    05:09
    40.0 mi
    7.8 mph
    2,675 ft
    2,575 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    The third and final stage of the Wessex Ridgeway, you’ll ride from the town of Warminster to Avebury, home to many prehistoric features, and the start of the Ridgeway route.

    

    A little shorter and much less hilly than the previous stages, that might come as a relief for tired legs! You’ll spend the first

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    03:33
    22.9 mi
    6.5 mph
    1,500 ft
    1,575 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    Leaving Avebury, you’ll soon warm up as the route climbs up Overton Hill on the well marked, traffic-free Ridgeway National Trail. Head north towards the second historic site of the day after only eight miles: Barbury Castle Fort. Witness the scale of this Iron Age Fort’s footprint, just one of several

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    03:09
    21.8 mi
    6.9 mph
    1,025 ft
    1,300 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    The second part of the Ridgeway is slightly shorter at just over 21 miles (34 km), leaving the Vale of the White Horse behind and heading further east towards Goring-on-Thames. Although the full National Trail continues towards Aylesbury, this is where the cyclable section ends.

    

    You’ll quickly get back

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Intermediate
    02:18
    19.3 mi
    8.4 mph
    1,075 ft
    800 ft
    Intermediate gravel ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The sixth stage on the Greater Ridgeway Trail is a linking section between the Ridgeway and the Icknield Trail, but don’t be fooled: this 19 mile (31 km) section is just as beautiful as the rest. As it’s rather short, you can either enjoy it as a gentle day mid-way through your trip, or tag it onto the

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    06:03
    41.0 mi
    6.8 mph
    3,125 ft
    3,000 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    Start the Icknield Way Trail section of your Greater Ridgeway Trail adventure from the village of Chinnor in South Oxfordshire. From the village, you’re straight up into the hills as you climb a trail around the lower slopes of Chinnor Hill on singletrack. A short stretch of quiet lane later and you

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    07:21
    54.1 mi
    7.4 mph
    2,025 ft
    2,450 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    From Dunstable to Great Chesterford is bridleways galore. Sandy ones, rocky ones, woodlands, field margins and mud; this is a big day in the saddle with some of central England’s finest traffic-free trails.

    

    Start the stage by leaving Dunstable and crossing both the Sewell Valley Path and then carefully

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    06:57
    53.5 mi
    7.7 mph
    1,800 ft
    1,850 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    The third stage on the Icknield Way Trail delivers you to the junction with the Peddars Way from your start point of Great Chesterford. Most of the climbing is in the first half of the stage, although it is a very moderate amount, and the latter half will be a relief for your legs!

    

    Climb up through the

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Intermediate
    03:09
    25.4 mi
    8.0 mph
    775 ft
    625 ft
    Intermediate gravel ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    Join the start of the Peddars Way at Knettishall Heath near Rushford, seeing the distinctive and well marked signs which will guide you along this very straight route. The Way starts out on small lanes and soon joins the National Cycle Route 13 which links Tower Bridge in London to Fakenham in Norfolk

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Intermediate
    03:33
    28.5 mi
    8.0 mph
    850 ft
    1,025 ft
    Intermediate gravel ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    The final stage on the Greater Ridgeway Trail completes the Peddars Way, from the centre of the county to the North Sea at Hunstanton. Retrace your steps, or rather tyre tracks, out of Swaffham back to the Peddars Way to the east.

    

    Back onto tracks and lanes, your first stop of the day should be at Castle

    by Katherine Moore

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    11
  • Distance
    395 mi
  • Duration
    53:43 h
  • Elevation
    23,700 ft

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