There are people who love to slag off the UK, pointing at miserable weather, bland food, and numerous sea-side resorts that are well past their sell-by date. Don’t listen to them!
Sure, the UK does get a lot of rain, but that’s why it’s so lush, green and filled with rivers. If you think British food is bland, then you’ve not tried any of the many exotic fast food outlets and restaurants available practically on every high street. Also, if the food you eat is bland, don’t blame the country. Instead, learn to be a better cook, even when camping!
Perfect for cycle touring
With the exception of deserts, the UK pretty much has it all. Honestly, it is a stunningly beautiful place that I doubt I’ll ever tire of.
The UK has several well-stablished cycle touring routes, for those who want to do some iconic rides. Additionally, there’s the classic Land’s End to John O’Groats (LEJOG) ride, which to so many cyclists has become a must-do route.
LEJOG isn’t a set route though, and you’re free to create your own route between the two points at opposite sides of the island of Great Britain.
A land of choices
From the flatlands of Norfolk, (most of) Lincolnshire or even the Somerset Levels, to the hills of Devon and Cornwall, as well as Sussex (where hills are known as Downs) to the mountains of Wales and Scotland, as well as Northern Ireland, you can choose what topography you want to cycle through.
From bronze-age settlements on Dartmoor, which pre-date the start of the Roman empire, Iron-Age buildings that still survive intact in Cornish fields, to 1000 year old buildings, like Wells cathedral, the UK is absolutely covered in history.
For history-buffs, the UK is heaven-sent! As the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, there remains still a jaw-dropping amount of relics from that era, with the canal network being a stunning example.
Almost every village has a pub, and while most pubs these days are increasingly operating as restaurants, you should still get a warm welcome in most village and small-town pubs.
A growing network of traffic-free cycle routes
Many traffic-free cycle routes in the UK are built on disused railways, offering (mostly) gentle gradients, along tree-lined paths. Many of these, such as the Monsal Trail, are iconic in their own right, but even lesser-known traffic-free routes are well worth slowly exploring by bike.
Cycling is undoubtedly booming in the UK. Having said that, some drivers can be reckless, and generally it’s best to avoid any road with A-road classification. While it’s often perfectly fine to cycle on some A-roads, it’s undoubtedly far more enjoyable to stick to traffic-free paths, or rural lanes (where available).
If you’re a visitor to the UK
Don’t be put off by some people’s opinions of the UK, which are often very far from reality! For starters, there simply are no supposed “no-go areas” in the UK! None at all. There’s almost no gun crime, and even in (by UK-standards) “high crime” areas, crime levels are often far lower than that of many international cities elsewhere in the world.
In any country in the world, if you really want to experience the country, escape from the cities (you can cycle out from the heart of London, to the coast, mostly traffic-free!)
Just be warned: everything in the UK will probably seem far smaller than what you’re used to. Also, in the UK, we drive (and cycle) on the left. If you’re from anywhere that drives on the right, this will catch you out!
If you’re an American, you can cycle (traffic-free!) right up to the touristy Mayflower Steps. If you’re a savvy American, you can even get to within touching distance of the actual Mayflower Steps, down which the people walked down to board the Mayflower. How many other places in the world allow you that?
If you’re from the UK
As an immigrant, please allow me to point out the beauty and wonder of the UK to you. It is so easy to become jaded to what is on our own doorstep, but I have some challenges for you.
The first is to get an Ordnance Survey map of your local area (yes, get a paper map!), then to go and cycle each map tile on that map, even if only briefly. For most people, this would lead to them discovering new places, and new cycle paths, that they never knew about.
Do use the excellent CycleStreets to plan these rides, as that will increase the likelihood of you ending up on cycle paths you didn’t know existed. Back when I spent my weekends as a Ride Leader, I often heard participants say “I lived in Plymouth my whole life and I never knew all this was here!”
Forget about glitzy tourist brochures. Don’t listen to the nay-sayers. Remember that news channels only thrive by selling bad news and outrage. Cycle touring doesn’t fit in with that, so you’ll never find a news channel encouraging you to go cycle touring in the UK.
Instead, listen to this immigrant, who came to the UK in the year 2000, and made a home here. See the UK through my eyes, and you too will fall in love with it.
Get on your bike and go explore!