Cycling in Northumberland and Tyneside

Cycling in Northumberland and Tyneside

Holy Island - photo by Littlerich on Pixabay
The castle on Holy Island

Northumberland and Tyneside must have some of the best cycling in the country.

The area is blessed with flat family rides, longer routes into the hills and mountain biking routes.

You can always find quiet roads. There is coastal riding as well as the northern section of the Pennines and even the classic ride out to Holy Island.

The county is also home to some of the best waymarked cycle routes in the country, including sections of the C2C, the Reivers Route, Hadrian’s Cycleway and Coast & Castles South. Plus, there is the off-road waymarked Sandstone Way.

Below you will find sections on:

  • Suggested cycle touring and cycling holiday hubs
  • Gentle / family bike rides
  • Circular cycle tours
  • Guide books and maps for cycle touring
  • Waymarked long-distance cycle routes
  • Mountain biking / off-road cycle routes
  • Cycle-friendly holiday accommodation
  • Cycling maps and guide books, of which there is great range:

Suggested cycle touring and cycling holiday hubs in Northumberland

  • Alnwick is a really interesting town, full of shops and eating places, and is quite central to some very good riding. The castle is iconic, and the beach and village of Alnmouth just down the road.
  • Bamburgh is much smaller, but is a glorious village right on the coast and under the walls of the castle. It is on the Coast and Castles waymarked cycle route.
  • Rothbury makes a great place to stay to explore the quiet roads and off-road trails away from the coast. Rothbury lies on the off-road Sandstone Way trail. It is also not far from Kielder Forest with its off-road trails.

Gentle / family bike rides in Northumberland

The harbour at Amble

In the very south of the area, old railway lines and waggonways have often been converted into fabulous family-friendly cycle routes.

The guide book, ‘33 Cycle Rides in Northumberland and Tyneside‘ has one such: the Wylam and Newburn Rail Path Loop, 11.9 ‘easy’ miles on either side of the River Tyne.

Or you can use the C2C Footprint map to follow the river Derwent on cycle / walking tracks between Rowlands Gill and Hamsterley, within the Derwent Walk Country Park. There are two visitor centres with cafés and toilets.

Further north in Northumberland there are not generally the same off-road family-friendly trails, but the roads are generally reasonably quiet.

The Walkworth and Alnmouth Loop in ‘33 Cycle Rides‘ is 9 miles. It joins two fabulous villages. Walkworth has a fascinating castle, while Alnmouth has a wide and often quite empty beach.

The same guide book has a number of other rides, a bit longer, and on roads, but quite flat. An example is the Seahouses, Bamburgh and Lucker Loop at 18 miles. Perhaps not a route for small children, but older ones should enjoy it. Take care on the roads though.

Berwick-upon-Tweed to Holy Island is 10.6 iconic miles each way. It is a mix of roads and off-road trails by the sea, leading to the tidal causeway across to Holy Island. Don’t get caught out by the tides! Safe crossing times can be found at https://holyislandcrossingtimes.northumberland.gov.uk/. Again, this might not be a route for small children, but for older children, an amazing and memorable route.

Above the beach at Alnmouth

Circular cycle tours in Northumberland

You are spoilt for choice with circular cycle tours in Northumberland. Here are some examples:

  • The Alnmouth Loop (from the Sustrans North Northumberland map), following the Coast and Castles route northwards along the coast past Boulmer and Dunstan. Then returning on an inland route not far from Alnwick. 22 miles.
  • The Amble Loop (from the Sustrans Tyne and Wear map), including some loveley inland countryside followed by a coastal route back to the start. 22 miles.
  • Warkworth and Shilbottle Loop (from 33 Cycle rides). 15.5 miles of country lanes and easy off-road.
  • More of a challenge would be one of the cycle routes described in Lost Lanes North, a lovely well-photographed book. For example, Into The Wild, ‘a gravel road adventure from the pleasant pastures of the North Tyne into the rugged expanses of the Kielder Forest‘. The book has four routes within Northumberland (and one – Roof of England – including parts of Northumberland, Durham and Cumbria).

Creating your own tour in Northumberland

It couldn’t be easier to create your own cycle tour using the ‘Ultimate Planning Map for Cycle Touring in Northumberland‘. The map shows all the waymarked trails plus recommended routes to join the together.

Waymarked long-distance cycle routes in Northumberland

Northumberland is the start or finish point for several iconic long-distance cycle routes.

  • The C2C from the Cumbrian coast to the North Sea is the most well-known and well-cycled of the coast to coast cycle routes. Tynemouth and Sunderland are the end points.
  • The Reivers Route starts in Tynemouth and loops northwards before finishing back on the Cumbrian coast.
  • Hadrian’s Cycleway also starts in Tynemouth and runs not far from Hadrian’s Wall across to, again, Cumbria.
  • The Coast and Castles South route heads north from Tynemouth, passing Alnwick, Berwick-upon-Tweed and the Northumbrian coast to finish in Edinburgh.
  • The Pennine Cycleway comes all the way up from the Peak District through the Pennines to finish in Berwick.

All of the above are signposted and have specific maps to follow, though their Northumbrian sections can also be found on the map Cycle Touring in Northumberland. That would allow you to join parts of each together to make a circular route within the county.

Berwick-upon-Tweed

Mountain biking / off-road cycle routes in Northumberland

Northumberland has a wide range of off-road and mountain-biking routes.

There are two guide books which would help for day rides.

33 Cycle rides has ten specifically mountain-bike routes (in addition to its Waggonways and Bridleways routes). They include:

  • The circuit of Kielder Water, 24.5 miles, graded ‘moderate’
  • Hexham, Acomb and St Oswald’s Loop, 7.5 miles, graded ‘moderate’
  • Seahouses and Bamburgh, 12.7 miles, graded ‘easy’

The Northumberland Mountain Bike Guide has no fewer than 40 rides. They range from ‘sporting’, through ‘energetic’ and ‘strenuous’ to ‘expert’. Examples include:

  • Boulmer, 11 ‘sporting’ miles
  • Rothbury Carriage Drive, 7.8 ‘energetic’ miles
  • Alnwick – Coast and Country, 26.68 ‘energetic’ miles

The ‘Sandstone Way’ is a waymarked off-road 120-mile route between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Hexham. While it is a fantastic route to do in its entirety, the Sandstone Way map also lends itself to day routes. These include:

  • Berwick-upon-Tweed to Belford, much of it coastal riding and with just short stretches on road. A linear route, so 20 miles each way.
  • Two routes from Wooler, one a challenging one into the hills, and not waymarked.
  • Rothbury Loop through the Coquetdale valley and up into the Simonside Hills and Harwood Forest.
Hadrian’s Wall

Cycle-friendly Holiday Accommodation in Northumberland

This section is still to be completed.

The maps and guide books for cycling in Northumberland and Tyneside

The ‘Cycle Touring in Northumberland’ map and ’33 Cycle Rides’ give great coverage of the area.

For the Sustrans routes, the Sustrans Tyne and Wear and the North Northumberland pocket-sized maps between them cover the whole area and beyond. Or order the National Cycle Network route-specific maps, such as the Coast and Castles South map or the Pennine Cycleway North map, for more detailed maps.

Lost Lanes North is a lovely book, of coffee table quality, with great photography and description. A great gift (either for someone else or for yourself…)

For mountain biking, again 33 Cycle Rides is very good, and then there is the Northumberland Mountain Bike Guide with its 40 routes. While the Sandstone Way will give a wonderful challenge.

Whatever sort of cycling you are looking for, something below will help! Either pop your map or guide into the basket, or click on the link for more detail.

Cycling in Northumberland and Tyneside