Green Cycle Holidays and Short Breaks from London

If you are in London and looking for ‘green’, low-carbon-footprint and low-cost holidays and/or short breaks, cutting out flying and a long car journey, what might you do?

Here’s a thought: a self-guided cycle tour escaping the capital, with the option of catching the train back. It’s hard to think of a better way to have a low-carbon-footprint holiday or short break. But where to go, and how to find your route?

Here are some ideas for cycle routes where you can start in London and finish at a train station with a direct connection back, and so with no worrying changes of train – unless of course you choose to cycle back again.

The following ideas all use the National Cycle Network and are therefore signposted along the way, and have maps or guide books available to plan your route, to work out where to stay and to keep you on the straight and narrow.

Many of the routes involve a good amount of cycle lanes away from roads and if not are usually on country lanes outside of the city or towns along the way.

There is no charge for taking your bike on a train, but you will almost always have to reserve the space. Read The Trainline’s notes on Bike Transport By Train. National Rail’s PlusBike service allows you to book direct.

Simple! And green.

See below for cycling:

  • London to Brighton
  • London to Bath or Bristol
  • London to Norwich
  • London to Berwick-upon-Tweed
  • London to Paris
  • Around London

And there are circular cycling routes around London itself, all described in two excellent guide books.

Green Cycle Holidays and Short Breaks from London

London to Brighton

The iconic 68-mile route. NCN cycle route 21 starts in Greenwich but you can also pick it up in Lewisham and Beckenham. Just south of London, Woldingham station is on the London-to-Brighton train line as well.

Take your time, maybe staying over on the way so that you can call off at High Beeches Gardens and/or at the National Trust’s Nymans Garden. And of course, take some time on the front at Brighton.

Green Cycle Holidays and Short Breaks such as London to Brighton

If you catch the train back, the return journey takes about an hour to either London Victoria or Blackfriars. Don’t forget to book your bike on to the train beforehand.

Or cycle back?

The Sustrans London to Brighton map shows the whole route, and to get to the start you can use the Sustrans pocket-sized London Cycle Map.

London to Bath or Bristol on the Great Western Way

The Great Western Way cycle route between London and Bristol is 168 miles of huge interest with potential stops in Bath, Bradford on Avon, Devizes, Hungerford, Newbury and Windsor, just to pick some of the favourites!

The official Sustrans map for the Great Western Way suggests starting in Bristol and finishing in London. Either direction works.

National Cycle Network route 4 begins in the centre of Bristol, a short distance from Temple Meads Station. It runs into London past Barnes and Fulham, then into central London, close to Victoria Station. It passes Waterloo to arrive at the official end of the Great Western Way at the Brunel Museum, before heading on along the South Bank to Greenwich.

You can also pick a number of side routes if you have more time. Have a look at the UK Cycle Route Planner for ideas.

London to Norwich on NCN Route 1

At just over 160 miles, this is a flatter route than many, taking in the countryside of Hertfordshire, Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk.

There is no single map that covers this route, but it is Route 1 of the National Cycle Network and is signposted. You will, however, need different maps to get you there.

The start is in central London at the Thames, heading north and instantly on cycleways away from the road: all the way into Hertfordshire.

At Hoddesdon Route 1 swings east to Harlow and then on quiet country lanes to Chelmsford. You’re then heading towards Colchester, Ipswich, Beccles and finally the cathedral city of Norwich and a well-earned day or two to recharge your batteries.

The train heads direct back to Liverpool Street Station.

London to Berwick-upon-Tweed on NCN Route 1

It’s just a thought, but the same route (NCN Route 1) continues on up the east of the country…

Right on the Scottish border, Berwick-upon-Tweed has a direct train line back to London, taking (amazingly) just under four hours.

And so does Edinburgh (this via the fabulous Coast and Castles cycle route). The UK Cycle Route Planner might be useful! And the Sustrans maps you would need to carry on from Norwich are as follows (though if you use the Coast and Castles map, you won’t need the North Northumberland or the Edinburgh Sustrans maps):

How long do you have?

London to Paris

There are two main cycle routes to Paris, both epic rides.

The classic Dover-Calais route is well shown in the Cicerone guide book, which also has the Avenue Verte, via Newhaven and Dieppe.

Sustrans also have their own guide book to the Avenue Verte.

Both are excellent guide books with great maps.

Cycling London to Paris - the routes

You could, of course, cycle one way on one route, and back on the other. Now, there’s a thought.

Around London

You don’t have to leave the capital to have a virtually carbon-free holiday of course. There are cycle routes around London that mean you can explore different aspects of the capital.

Low-carbon-footprint, green cycle holidays and short breaks in and around London.

The London Cycling Guide has 40 leisure routes, including routes such as:

  • London Landmarks
  • West London Waterways
  • Royal Docks and the Greenway
  • Epping Forest
  • South London Commons
  • Cycling Parks for Children

While the Cycle London guide book has 20 routes, including:

  • The Royal Ride
  • The Museums Ride
  • The Great Parks Ride
  • The Art Galleries Ride
  • The Architecture Ride
  • and The Romantic Ride

The Sustrans map for London will also help with direction-finding.

If you don’t have your own bike, hire one. For short trips there is https://www.santandercycles.co.uk/, and for longer trips, there are bike hire centres who will be only too happy to help.

Plenty of ways to have low-carbon-footprint, green cycle holidays and short breaks in and around London!