James Oxley challenges you to ride 12 sensational UK biking routes over the next 12 months. Do them all and you’ll be featured in the pages of ABR magazine
Life can get busy, right? Work duties, family commitments, DIY, and keeping in touch with non-biking friends can all make finding time for motorcycle adventures seem like a futile task. But don’t give up just yet.
Over the years, I’ve found that with some careful diary planning and sweet-talking of my wife, it’s possible to incorporate plenty of biking adventures into everyday life, right here at home in the UK.
And while you’ll find plenty of inspiration for overseas journeys in our World of Adventure feature on page 72, this calendar of ABR routes is designed to help you get your motorcycle touring kicks closer to home.
So, over the following pages, you’ll find 12 of the greatest UK routes to have graced the pages of ABR magazine from the past decade. That’s an adventure for every month of the year, and my challenge to you is to ride them all to make 2022 your ultimate year of adventure.
Each route can be ridden in a weekend or on a cheeky day off work, so if you can’t ride them all, even the busiest among us can squeeze in at least one or two, And, I’ve purposefully chosen routes from across the whole of the UK. So if you do manage to ride all 12, you’ll end the year content in the knowledge that you’ve thoroughly explored this island nation we call home and enjoyed plenty of adventures along the way.
As an added incentive to complete the challenge, if you ride the 12 routes, I’ll tell the world about your achievement in the pages of ABR at the end of the year. Just make sure you take a photo of yourself (and any mates who take up the challenge with you) enjoying each ride.
And don’t worry too much about completing them in the date order I’ve suggested. If it’s easier to ride one that’s closer to home, say in January because of work or family commitments, then go ahead. All that matters is that you get out there and enjoy the ride.
Don’t forget to let me know how you’re getting on by sending your photos and updates to [email protected]. We’ll even share some of the photos on our social media channels to encourage others to take up the challenge. Good luck!
EXPLORE SNOWDONIA, WALES | Duration 1-day
If you’ve overindulged during the festive season, this ride is the perfect way to blow away the cobwebs and hit the ground running with your challenge. It also happens to take you through one of the most spectacular areas of Britain, Snowdonia.
And by riding it in January, you’ll have one of the UK’s tourist hotspots all to yourself. From awe-inspiring mountain passes to glorious balcony roads, this route has it all.
At 230 miles, it’s a big day so you may want to ride it over two days depending on how much time you have. Either way, I’d recommend booking somewhere to stay locally. We rode it over one day and indulged in a little luxury in the evening at the four-star Lake Vyrnwy Hotel, which is located just a few minutes ride from the route.
THE TWO MOORS WAY, DEVON | Duration 1-day
This route begins on Devon’s north coast and takes you along a spectacular stretch of the A39 coastal road to Lynmouth where you turn south and cross Exmoor.
After enjoying the panoramic views of the moors (and keeping an eye out for wild ponies), you’ll ride a network of country lanes and forgotten B-roads before crossing Dartmoor’s harsh, untamed, and thoroughly mesmerising landscape.
There’s something magical about riding through desolate moorland on a clear, crisp winter’s day, which is why I’ve chosen February to do this route.
Just be aware that the moors are very exposed, so make sure you check the forecast before you leave home and take care on roads that might be slippery in places.
WALES COAST TO COAST | Duration 1-day
We return to Wales for this sensational one-day route that ranks as one of the best rides I’ve enjoyed in the UK. You’ll begin in Goldcliff on the south coast (just a few miles from the M4), and by the end of the day, find yourself on the seafront at Aberystwyth some 189 miles later.
You’ll explore the valleys of South Wales and ride the mountain roads of the Brecon Beacons and Mid Wales. Highlights include enjoying the twisting tarmac of the Black Mountain Road and the Devil’s Staircase, as well as cruising the remote shores of Llyn Brianne.
You can also ride some big bike friendly green lanes along the way, including the picturesque Claerwen Reservoir. But don’t worry, if you prefer to stick to paved roads you can simply skip the green lane sections.
SCOTLAND’S SOUTHERN UPLANDS | Duration 1-day
One of the joys of creating the UK routes in ABR is getting to explore areas of Britain we wouldn’t otherwise have ridden.
The Southern Uplands is a prime example of this. In the past, we’d simply motored through the area on the A74 (M) on our way to the Highlands, but in doing so we were missing out on a sensational biking destination in its own right.
So, to right this wrong, we crafted a coast-to-coast route through Scotland’s least populous region, from Eyemouth in the east to the Mull of Galloway in the west.
The roads are often empty and the landscapes remote as you journey for 246 miles across Scotland.
It’s a long day, but achievable as this route is about enjoying the ride, rather than making too many stops along the way.
THE THREE KINGDOMS WAY | Duration: 2 days
We often explore the history of the UK in the routes we ride, including during The Three Kingdoms Way. This two-day ride takes on you on a fascinating journey through the three ancient kingdoms of Britain; Northumbria, Mercia, and Wessex.
If you remember your Viking history, you’ll know these kingdoms did battle with the invading Danes for many years before finally uniting as one England.
And, by plotting a route through the three Kingdoms, we came up with a ride that includes some of the best biking roads in the land.
The route takes you from Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland all the way to Winchester in Hampshire.
Along the way you’ll explore superb biking areas including Kielder Forest, the North Pennines, and the Peak District.
THE THREE PUBS CHALLENGE | Duration: 1 day
What better way to enjoy the longest day of the year on June 21 than by taking on the Three Pubs Challenge. This adventure sees you ride to the highest pubs in Scotland, England, and Wales in just 24 hours.
So, that’s breakfast at the Wanlockhead Inn, in the Scottish Southern Uplands, lunch at the Tan Hill Inn, in the Yorkshire Dales, followed by dinner and a well-earned pint at the Sportsman’s Arms on Wales’ Denbigh Moors.
In between these inviting hostelries are 334 miles of superb roads and stunning views through some of the UK’s finest landscapes. It’s a big day but this is a challenge after all. And once you complete it, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you took on The Three Pubs Challenge and won.
RIDE THE YORKSHIRE DALES | Duration: 1-2 days
It can be difficult to avoid the crowds during the summer tourist seasons, but when we rode this route in August, traffic on many of the roads was scarce.
This was a blessing because the Yorkshire Dales is one of the most beautiful parts of England and it’s packed with brilliant biking roads, including, the famous Buttertubs Pass.
You can choose to make this a one or two-day ride, depending on how much time you have. The two-day route is effectively an extension of the first day and takes in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
If you fancy riding through wide expanses of moorland, twisting country lanes, and tucking into a delicious burger at the highest pub in England, the Tan Hill Inn, then this is the route for you.
THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS | Duration 2-3 days
Scotland boasts plenty of world-class biking roads but the weather is often unpredictable. So, I’ve chosen the height of summer for this sensational route which loops the Highlands.
You’ll ride from Fort William across to the spectacular landscapes of the Isle of Skye, before travelling up the remote west coast of Scotland.
You’ll then turn east across country, ride through the Cairngorms National Park, and finish up back at For William in the shadow of Britain’s highest peak, Ben Nevis.
This route is an absolute blockbuster when it comes to scenery, so factor in plenty of time to stop and marvel at your surroundings.
I’ve plotted the route over three days, but if time is short you could realistically squeeze it into two, especially if you don’t have far to travel home.
EXPLORE CORNWALL | Duration: 1-2 days
I used to live in Cornwall, so I jumped at the chance to create a route that explored beyond the usual tourist spots but also took in some of the iconic locations that shouldn’t be missed by first-time visitors.
The result is a 208-mile tour that starts at the supposedly haunted Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor.
It then takes you on a loop of the picturesque county, exploring inland as well along Cornwall’s rugged coastline, enjoying the likes of St Michael’s Mount, Land’s End, and one of the UK’s best coastal roads, the B3306, along the way.
I recommend doing this ride in September if you can. This time of year the tourist crowds and traffic have thinned but the weather is often good, so you can relax and enjoy the laid back Cornish lifestyle.
EXPLORE THE LAKE DISTRICT | Duration: 1 day
It’s easy to imagine you’re riding through Tolkien’s Middle Earth as you explore the Lake District because the national park does rugged, remote landscapes on an epic scale.
And while I would have loved to have suggested you bask in its glory on a glorious summer’s day, the reality is the area becomes so congested with traffic during peak tourist season that you’re better off waiting for the quieter months to enjoy it.
Highlights include the gloriously steep Hardknott Pass which is swiftly followed by the equally fun Wrynose Pass.
After the village of Buttermere, the route follows Newlands Pass instead of the better known Honister Pass.
If I was to do the route again, I’d ride them both on a loop that takes you back to Buttermere.
RIDE THE SOUTH-EAST OF ENGLAND | Duration: 1 day
This route takes you on a journey of British extravagance, eccentricity and innovation. And, while the region may not boast the rugged landscapes or mountain passes of other parts of Britain, it’s still a fascinating ride with some great biking roads.
You’ll explore the coronation stone of the first king of England, ride in the tyre tracks of Brighton’s mods and rockers, visit Henry VIII’s favourite palace, and discover the community of Dungeness which has a distinctively post-apocalyptic feel.
I planned this route to end a stone’s throw from the Channel Tunnel at Folkstone and Dover’s ferry port, giving you the option of starting your next continental tour a day early. But the route is also well worth riding in its own right. It’s a fascinating ride packed with interesting stops.
EXPLORE THE COTSWOLDS | Duration: 1 day
OK, so the Cotswolds may not conjure up images of rugged adventures, but it’s far more than a destination for coach trips and dirty weekends away.
In fact, the Cotswolds is the UK’s largest area of outstanding natural beauty. It’s a charming place packed with chocolate-box villages, twisting roads, and rolling green hills.
The route starts in the picturesque Burton Dassett Hills and loops for 142-miles taking in the likes of Bourton-on-the-Water, also known at the Venice of the Cotswolds, Cheltenham, the UK’s most complete Regency town, and Cirencester, the Roman capital of Britain.
But it’s the leafy lanes and snaking B-roads you’ll explore that make this such a pleasurable end to a year spent exploring the UK by motorcycle.