Getting out on your bicycle is not only a great way to reconnect with nature and the great outdoors, but it’s also a good way to stay fit and healthy and disconnect from our busy daily lives. Discovering a destination by bike has never been easier, with more traffic-free routes and cycle paths available than ever and cycle routes to suit all abilities. We’ve put together a list of our top picks for cycle routes accessible via ferry.
Tilburg, Trappe Koningshoeven ©Visit Brabant
Sample the 5 Trappists
This cross-border cycle route takes you to Trappist breweries in Brabant and Flanders in The Netherlands and Belgium.
What could be better than a mix of exploring the mainly flat countryside of The Netherlands and Belgium by bicycle with the reward of an artisan Trappist beer to keep you motivated? Based on an existing cross-border cycle route, this 334km route is split into six sections, the shortest being 30km (18 miles) and the longest 76km (47 miles). Each section features a mix of rural landscape, villages, and cities and, as the name suggests, a Trappist brewery to sample some of Flanders’ and Brabant’s famous artisan beers. There is a detailed guide for the route, including suggestions of where to eat and where to stay en route on the Visit Brabant website
Getting to Brechte – P&O Ferries sail to Rotterdam from Hull and Stena Line sail from Harwich to Hook of Holland. If travelling by bicycle sail to Rotterdam or Hook of Holland and catch the train to Brechte. If travelling by car the journey time is 1h15 from Rotterdam/ Hook of Holland. It’s also possible to sail to Calais or Dunkirk from Dover with Irish Ferries, P&O Ferries or DFDS, then the journey time by car to Brechte is between 2-3 hours.
Traffic-free Trail Rides on the Isle of Wight
Red-Squirrel Trail – this 32-mile scenic trial takes you through woodland, wetlands, countryside, and of course along part of the Island’s stunning coastline. Though the trail is mainly flat, it is off-road, so you will need an appropriate bicycle for varied terrain and gradients. It is suitable for all abilities and can be broken down into smaller sections.
For those of you who are looking for more of a challenge, Chalk Ridge Extreme has been described in The Guardian as ‘superlative off-road cycling’, with challenging gradients, mud and slippery chalk surfaces. Though not all traffic-free (there are some road sections that link you to bridleways), this 53-mile route takes in some of the islands most important landmarks such as The Needles and Carisbrooke Castle.
Getting to the Isle of Wight: Hovertravel sails from Southsea to Ryde. Bicycles are stored in the hold. Red Funnel sails from Southampton to Cowes. Wightlink sails from Portsmouth to Fishguard and Lymington to Yarmouth. Bicycles are free of charge on all routes.
Jersey – from East to West: Gorey to St Ouen’s Bay
Jersey boasts beautiful sea views, plenty of hills and lush countryside and with 96 miles of official signposted cycle routes it has plenty to offer all levels of cyclists from short routes between bays and a re-invented railway path, to the 40-mile Around the island coastal route circumnavigating the island.
Although most of Jersey’s 10 official cycle routes do visit a beach at some point, cycling through Jersey’s fields and countryside offers a more relaxed cycling experience. Surrounded by beautiful fields and flowers the Gorey to St Ouen’s Bay route is 14.5 miles and takes in sights such as Gorey Castle, Mont Orgueil Castle, La Hougue Bie and St Ouen’s Church.
To see all Jersey’s official cycle routes click here.
Getting to Jersey: Condor Ferries sail from Poole and Portsmouth to Jersey. There’s no extra charge for bringing a bike as a foot passenger, though you will need to book it in as space is limited. Bicycles can also be carried on bike racks on the back or roof of your vehicle.
The Vélo Francette Cycle route, France
For those who want a multi-day cycle experience, the Vélo Francette cycle route starts in Ouistreham in Normandy and heads south, on signposted track, through Normandy, the Loire to La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast, meandering along waterways, through peaceful countryside, picturesque villages and regional natural parks.
However, as not everyone wants to cycle 600km you can also do sections of the route for some outstanding cycling experiences. The Normandy part of the route covers 140k and goes through historic D-Day landing beaches, Normandie-Maine Regional Natural Park, the hilly Suisse Normande (Norman Switzerland) and the fortified medieval town of Domfront.
The La Velo Francette website includes great information such as bike trip ideas and unmissable sights: https://cycling.lavelofrancette.com/bike-trips-ideas
Getting to Ouistreham: Brittany Ferries sails directly to Caen, or nearby, Le Havre from Portsmouth. DFDS sails to Dieppe from Newhaven. Ouistreham is a 2-hour drive from Dieppe. DFDS, Irish Ferries, and P&O Ferries sail to Calais from Dover. Ouistreham is a 3.5-hour drive from Calais.
Isle of Mull, Scotland – Circular Route
Starting at the ferry terminal at Craignure the circular route around the Isle of Mull offers spectacular scenery that’s hard to beat – rugged mountains, coastline, villages and wildlife. The Isle of Mull is the perfect island getaway for those who enjoy challenging cycling. The whole circular route is 85 miles but luckily there are several convenient short cuts, and different sections if you want to cycle over different days.
For more details on the route and other stunning cycle routes click here.
Getting to Mull: Caledonian MacBrayne sails to Craignure from Oban, bicycles can be brought on the ferry at no additional charge.
London: Thames Path – London Bridge to Greenwich
Linking famous tourist attractions Tower Bridge and the Tower of London to the Cutty Sark and the Royal Naval College in Greenwich, National Route 4 heads east along the Thames from London Bridge through Bermondsey, Rotherhithe and Deptford. The narrow streets of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe, that used to house dock-side warehouses, have now been converted into stylish apartments. Don’t miss two Rotherhithe gems, The Brunel Museum and Thames Tunnel, the oldest tunnel in the oldest Underground in the world, and The Mayflower pub, where the Pilgrim Father’s ship, the Mayflower, moored in 1620 before it departed for the New World. The route is 4.7 miles.
Getting from Greenwich to London Bridge with bikes: Uber Boat by Thames Clippers operates regular westbound services from Greenwich to London Bridge City pier, the journey takes approximately 30 mins and up to 14 bicycles can be accommodated on the vessels.
Isle of Man – Island of Champions
As you would expect from the birthplace of Mark Cavendish and Peter Kennaugh, the Isle of Man offers a lot of fantastic cycling routes for keen cyclists and leisure cyclists, whether you are looking for a family afternoon activity or a challenging hill cycle to get the adrenaline pumping, there’s a route for you.
The 10-mile Heritage Trail follows the old steam railway line from Douglas to Peel and is ideal for families as its flat and traffic free. The route goes past the Union Mills, through woodland and along countryside trails.
The ultimate road bike route is the 91-mile round the island Raad Daawheeyl tour, which you can do either do in sections, or if you’re really fit, then in a day. This circular route sticks to the coastal road and takes in many of the Isle of Man’s sights including Castle Rushen, the Sound and Calf of Man, Peel Castle, Kirk Maughold Church and Laxey Wheel.
For more cycling inspiration on the Isle of Man: https://www.visitisleofman.com/experience/see-and-do/active-and-adventure/cycling
Getting to the Isle of Man: Isle of Man Steam Packet Company sail from Heysham, year-round and from Belfast, Liverpool and Dublin in the summer season. Bicycles can be taken on board at no extra cost.
Ireland’s Ancient East & the North’s Causeway Coastal Route
Waterford Greenway Trail is a beautiful 28-mile trail runs along an old railway line from Waterford to Dungarvan, past ancient aqueducts, Viking settlement and medieval ruins, with scenery ranging from the Comeragh Mountains to the coves and rocky headlands of the Copper Coast. The Greenway opened in 2017, exactly 50 years after the last train serviced the route, for use by walkers and cyclists. It is mainly flat so suitable for all levels and is divided into six sections, if you don’t want to tackle it in one go.
Getting to Waterford – Irish Ferries and Stena Line sail to Rosslare from Pembroke and Fishguard. Waterford is just over an hour drive from Rosslare.
Causeway Coast and Glens, Co Derry & Antrim. This 100-mile coastal road running from Larne to Derry passes by some of the most spectacular coastline in Europe, the Nine Glens of Antrim, the river valleys of the Bann and the Roe and natural wonders such as the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-o-Rede, not to mention the famous Bushmills Whiskey Distillery. Note that this is a public road and some sections can be very busy with traffic.
Click here for shorter cycling options in the Causeway Coast and Glens.
Getting to Larne: Stena Line and P&O Ferries sail from Cairnryan in Scotland to Belfast and Larne. Isle of Man Steam Packet Company sails to Belfast from Douglas seasonally.
Find out more about how to take your bike on the ferry.