10 Iconic Motorcycle Riding Routes In The UK

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I still maintain that we Brits are a flawed nation when it comes to riding motorcycles.

If you’re British, it’s drummed into you from birth that the grass is always greener elsewhere.

And we carry that notion with us into adulthood and our riding preferences.

Now, I’ll admit that I enjoy riding abroad just as much as the next person. I look forward to it for months, and my planning for potential quests is never-ending.

But I learned to ride on some of the best motorcycle riding routes in the UK. I cut my teeth on the winding roads of the Lakes District. I earned my stripes in the Scottish Highlands and worked on my craft in Wales.

Yes, the weather will usually shit on your parade. And the seagulls will steal your chips. Or a chav will try and nick your bike when you’re trying to enjoy a cake in a cafe.

But the motorcycle routes in the UK are actually pretty damn good – if you know where to look.

So in this post, I’ve put together 10 iconic routes that you can’t miss! So grab your waterproofs and your flask. Because whilst these roads make for the best touring in the UK, you’re probably going to get wet!

bmw in yorkshire motorcycle riding routes uk
Image: Sopwithxiii

Motorcycle Riding Routes In The UK: Peak District

The Peak District is one of my favourite places because it’s excellent for so many things.

Of course, the riding is excellent (if the traffic is kind to you.) But it doesn’t stop there.

The Peaks are also fantastic for photography and hiking. In fact, I even included some photography within the route. So if you fancy yourself as a have-a-go tog, bring your camera!

Starting near Holmfirth in the northeast of the region, you’ll start your journey on the lovely (but easy) Woodhead Pass, heading towards Woodhead Reservoir and Glossop.

From here, you’re onto the legendary Snakes Pass (A57.) Listed as Britain’s most dangerous road, the safety precautions make it much less fun to ride than it used to be. But it’s still pretty awesome.

As you approach Derwent Reservoir, you’re into hiking territory. And if you fancy a short walk into the hills, the Salt Cellar isn’t too far from the reservoir.

Heading south, you’ll follow the shoreline of Ladybower Reservoir and on to Hope Valley. Swinging right towards Castleton, you’ll ride through the natural wonder of Winnats Pass. A must-see place if you have a camera or a drone.

Again, if you fancy a hike, you can explore around Winnats Pass. Or even park up and make the short (but steep) ascent up Mam Tor.

Heading east, next on the list is Eyam, before heading back into the Hills towards Hathersage. Try the short walk up to Owler Tor for more photography or hiking. 

the salt cellar peak district

Cat & Fiddle

Next, continue south towards Baslow, where you’ll pass through the grounds of Chatsworth House. This beautiful estate is rich with wildlife (and usually, tourists!) But get there on a quiet day when it’s sunny and it’s like no other place in the UK.

For the last section of the ride, head northwest towards Buxton. Here you can take in the sights of the once-legendary Cat & Fiddle (until they littered it with average-speed cameras.)

That said, it’s still a good ride. But you need to be careful of that throttle hand if you want to avoid three points and a fine.

Once you finish the Cat & Fiddle, you’re not far from the M6 and the M56 for your journey back home.

Related: How To Take Amazing Photos On Your Motorcycle Tour!


Yorkshire Dales

bikers in hawes - motorcycle riding routes uk
Image: Jonny Gios

Yorkshire. God’s own country!

It’s a funny place, Yorkshire. It isn’t spectacular like the Lake District. But it’s rugged, green, and vast – more like Scotland.

But because it is so huge, there are plenty of places to visit. And you can easily plan a trip that will last one day or four days.

In this case, we’ve planned a route that’s just over 200 miles. It’s manageable in a day but probably worth splitting into two if you’re travelling to get there.

Settle is a good place to start, and its abundance of independent cafes makes for a great meeting spot. Head east towards Malham, and within half an hour, you’ll be surrounded by natural beauty.

The roads are inviting, and the scenery stunning. If you fancy getting off the bike, park up and cross into the fields for a lovely shot of the Malham’s lone tree. Or, take the short walk past Janet’s Foss and onto Gordale scar. It’s breathtaking and well worth the easy hike.

Next, you’re on to Cove road – a tiny road considering it’s surrounded by such vast greenery. And continuing the theme of small roads, the B-roads of Henside Lane and Brootes lane take you towards Arncliffe.

Dropping down into Grassingham, this is a lovely place to stop for lunch (or ice cream if the weather is nice). From here, heading towards Pateley Bridge and Gouthwaite Reservoir.

Excellent riding awaits as you make the loop around Masham, onto the fast roads of Blubberhouses, before ending the day back in Settle.

If you want to extend the trip for another day, head north on the quiet, winding roads towards Milnthorpe (beautiful if the sun is out) before enjoying the biker’s paradise of Hawes and Kirkby Stephen.

yorkshire road and scenery
Image: Illiya Vjestica

Motorcycle Riding Routes In The UK: Brecon Beacons, South Wales

You can’t beat a bit of Wales for some excellent riding! And quite often, you’ll find you have it to yourself – providing you don’t come across the SAS on manoeuvres!

This route can be ridden all in one go. But you might be better off splitting it into two days if travelling there and back.

Starting in the village of Llanvihangel Gobion, Monmouthshire, take the A465 to Pandy before exiting onto the tiny single-track lanes towards Longtown.

The luscious greenery continues as you meander through farmland and woodlands before reaching Hay On Wye and then Bronllys for a spot of lunch.

For some superb, free-flowing riding, head south onto the B4560 towards Llangorse, past Llangorse Lake, and onto Llangynidr.

Heading west, the Brecon Beacons open up to you as you travel through this glorious national park towards Ystradfellte. Tracking northeast (either through the tiny roads towards Cray or on the bigger A4068), bunker down for the evening in the Llandeilo.

Be sure to take in the A4069 – AKA the Black Mountain Pass, on the way. It’s a great route – but it has a tendency to get busy!

At the start of day two, head for the B4518 towards Rhayader. Then turn right at the signpost for ‘Mountain Road.’

Follow this road for stunning views over the Elan Valley and onto Devils Bridge Falls. A narrow road, it’s a beautiful road to ride, with equally beautiful views over the Welsh valleys and copper mines.

brecon beacons, wales - motorcycle riding routes uk
Image: Samuel Thompson

Devon & Cornwall

If you’re miles away from Devon & Cornwall, these are the best places to go if you want that holiday feel to your ride.

Of course, you’re still in the UK. But when the weather is on your side (and you can avoid the holiday traffic!), Devon & Cornwall is the closest thing to abroad you can get.

From the rugged Devonshire coastline to the luscious Cornish oceanfronts, the southwest corner of the UK has a lot to offer.

Cheap, it isn’t. Nor is it quiet. And that’s understandable – because it’s glorious. For tourists, Devon & Cornwall provide every cliche imaginable – from chocolate-box villages to picture-postcard settings and moody fishermen on trawlers!

But you definitely need to get there if you can.

For most people, Devon & Cornwall aren’t just around the corner. The majority need to travel. And if you’re going to travel, you may as well explore it properly when you get there.

So with that said, this ride is over two days. But don’t forget you may need a day on either side to get there and get back home.

Minehead provides a good place to start this route. With a Premier Inn around the corner and all the amenities you need, it makes for a good meeting point.

From here, you essentially follow the coastline to Lynmouth before jumping on the A39 for some delightfully twisty riding in Bude.

beach sunset, cornwall

Fish & Chips

Continuing southwest, Newquay offers a nice place to get lunch or hang out on the beach watching the surfers. If you like fish, Padstow isn’t too far off the route. And the fish and chips are well worth stopping for.

Next, you’re following the coastline again to St Ives, St Just, and onto the southerly village of Porthcurno for your overnight stay.

The next day, it’s back on the bike and onto the second leg heading north. Following the coastline, you’ll enjoy the easy roads that wind you through Penzance and onto Lizard. These then lead to the Goonhilly Downs and St Austell via Truro.

The last part of your ride takes you into the wonderful riding area of Princetown in the Dartmoor National Park. From here, it’s a relaxing ride through Dunsford and onto your finish in Exeter.

st ives beach - motorcycle riding routes uk
Image: Angela Pham

Motorcycle Riding Routes In The UK: The New Forest

As with the Peak District, the New Forest offers a wide array of things to do – from motorcycling, mountain biking, walking, hiking, horse riding, and a whole host of other activities.

And as with a few other locations on this list, you probably don’t want to be riding this route in the middle of July when people are off work, and the kids are off school.

That said, it makes for a perfect ride out in May or September when the weather is ambient, and the roads are quiet.

Starting your ride in the small riverside town of Fordingbridge – the gateway to the New Forest and synonymous with plenty of UFO sightings (if you’re interested in that sort of thing!)

Follow the road south to Ringwood, and then swing east towards Burley and Holmsley as you enter the New Forest proper. Hugging the shoreline through Lymington, you’ll then head northeast via the B3054 – surrounded by grazing sheep and cattle as you pass through Beaulieu Heath.

Whilst in the area, take some time to get off the bike and explore the local area. Beaulieu Palace House is a nice way to spend an afternoon, as is the medieval Beaulieu Abbey.

For a stunning coastal stop (ideal for a picnic), continue south through Exbury until you reach the small settlement of Lepe on the Solent coastline. Located at the mouth of the Dark Water, it is also the sight of Lepe Country Park.

On your return from the coast, head towards Southampton before heading west into the New Forest again to end your trip back at Fordingbridge.

wild horses, the new forest
Image: Neil Cooper

The Cotswolds

For a little piece of Britishness, head to the Cotswolds! Centrally located, it’s accessible for most people in England and Wales.

And situated between regions such as Worcestershire and Oxfordshire, the area is steeped with history and has a lovely villagey vibe to it.

I’m a fan of Stratford-upon-Avon, so I usually like to base myself here. Although Warwick is also a lovely place to base yourself. If you stop in Warwick, I highly recommend dining at Piccolino’s Scillian restaurant. The food is simply fabulous.

On your first day, head south on the A429 before taking a right onto quieter roads towards Chipping Campden (B4035.) This will take you on the pleasant roads towards Evesham before circling back on the A44.

Using the bigger A-roads heading towards Cheltenham, you’ll turn off onto the smaller roads that take you through the much quieter areas of Withington, Chedworth and Bibury. Shortly afterwards, the route will take you through the beautiful town of Chipping Norton.

After exploring the area of Chipping Norton, head towards Banbury and then head northeast via the quieter roads back towards Stratford-upon-Avon or Warwick.

the cotswolds, motorcycle riding routes uk
Image: Morgan

Motorcycle Riding Routes In The UK: Snowdonia

Oh Lord, where to start with Snowdonia? As with the Lake District, Snowdonia is such a large area that it makes it enjoyable for many people.

I love riding in Snowdonia. Although not as much as I enjoy off-roading or adventure touring in Snowdonia! Hiking is also fantastic if you like the harsh, rugged environment – which also lends itself perfectly to photography.

As with the Lake District, however, it can be expensive (I have a thing about the price of car parks in north Wales!) It can also get busy on the weekends – especially when the weather is nice.

This is certainly a place where you would benefit from visiting off-season. On a Tuesday.

The other good thing about Snowdonia is the ride getting there! If you live a way away and have to ride into Snowdonia, the ride itself can be superb. Especially if you’re coming in from Chester. 

For me, the ideal place to base yourself is Bala. Head south into the Berwyn National Nature Reserve and then slightly west on the single-track roads. The views are spectacular as the mountains of Snowdonia dwarf you on all sides.

Continuing on the B4404, you’ll pass through various small towns before following the coast road to Aberdyfi.

Heading north, the route continues on the coastal road to the fabulous riding area of Dolgellau – a region you can happily lose yourself in for the entire day.

As you enjoy the twisty B4410, the road will bring you out to the lovely area of Llanberris – where you might (if you’re lucky) stumble across the truly beautiful wild horses of the Carneddau mountains.

Following the glorious roads back to Caernarfon, you’ll get to enjoy the legendary roads around Betws-y-Coed before heading back through the range to Bala.

tryffan and waterfall in wales

Related: Off-Bike Gems: On-Road & Off-Road Motorcycling In Snowdonia


The NC500

It’s impossible to know where to start with the NC500! And considering it’s only (officially) been around for a few years, people have become highly opinionated on the correct way to do it.

But you know what? Ignore them. It doesn’t matter if you do it clockwise or anticlockwise. And it doesn’t matter where you start or end the route. As long as you ride it before you die, that’s the main thing.

And with such stunning roads, awe-inspiring scenery, and truly wonderful sights, you’ll wonder why you never came earlier.

For me, Scotland feels like home. My ancestry goes back to Scotland – and innately, I still feel its pull. It’s expensive and busy. But if you love riding, scenery, photography, the feeling of the great outdoors, you simply MUST ride the NC500. It really is one of the (if not the) most iconic motorcycle riding routes in the UK.

We unofficially extended our route and took in a tour of the Lake District on the way there and back. So our trip ended up being around 1,300 miles. But the NC500 is (as you would expect) around 500 miles when you exclude travel there and back.

There are, however, a few things to watch out for.

riders on nc500, scotland - motorcycle riding routes uk

Midgies

The first time I rode the NC500 in 2015/16, we rode it at the beginning of April. And this was fine – until we got into the mountains where we were hit by snow. 

But if you leave it much later, you’ll be swamped by tourists and/or eaten by midges! Probably both.

I recommend riding it in May – where it’s less likely you’ll be hit by impossible weather, crushed by tourists, or eaten by bugs.

Most people ride the NC500 clockwise, but I really enjoy riding it anticlockwise. But as mentioned above, it hardly matters.

Starting just outside Inverness, the route takes you into the eastern Highlands through Brora, Wick, and John o’Groats. From here, you’re heading west across the top of Scotland towards Lairg.

From here, you start your ‘descent’ down the western coast of Scotland – where things become less rugged and more pretty.

Oddly enough, I prefer the rugged side on the east over the pretty side on the west. But maybe that’s just me.

Heading south towards Ullapool, you’ll also take in the wonderful sights of Torridon before (officially) heading east through Scotland and back towards Inverness for the finish.

In my view, continuing south towards Mallaig and Fort William is a nicer way to end the tour, but it’s totally up to you!

glencoe coast

Motorcycle Riding Routes In The UK: Forest of Bowland & Quernmore, Lancashire

As a Lancashire lad, I’m lucky that I can call the Lake District, the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales and North Wales ‘local.’

But none of them are quite as local as this ride in Lancashire itself – an area often ignored by outsiders drawn to the beauty of the Lakes, the Peaks, and the Dales.

And that’s fair enough.

But if you want somewhere to test your mettle and your riding ability, this route that takes in the Forest of Bowland and Quernmore is a fabulous (and somewhat testing) route!

In fact, I feel so strongly about this route that I wrote a dedicated post here where you can view the trip and ride it yourself.

But it really is a game of two halves. The first half being in beautiful scenery with flowing roads, and the second half being stark and rugged, with fast, inviting roads.

I’m proud to have these roads on my doorstep. And if you want a ride that has 99% fewer people to avoid than the Lakes, it might well be the ride for you!

forest-of-bowland-intro

Lake & Mountains – Lake District Weekender

I’ll just say it. The Lakes are fantastic. But tourism makes it a challenge to ride in peace!

As a hiker and photographer, I can go all day in the Lakes and not see a single person. Which is heavenly.

But on a bike, you won’t be quite so lucky. No matter where you go (or what time of year you go), it will be packed with people.

Accommodation is expensive, parking is pitiful (and pricey), and it’s become a tourism conveyor belt.

Spring or autumn is the best time to go. But be warned. Even at a time of year when you would expect ‘okay’ weather, you might still be hit with torrential wind or rain.

I actually put together a route of the Lakes for the first instalment of our digital magazine. You can view the full version here.

One thing to remember with the Lakes is to take all your kit. It’s not uncommon to spend a day in the Lakes and witness weather from all four seasons!

motorcycling-in-the-lake-district-waterhead

Related: Get our two-day Lake District route from our January magazine


Most Iconic Motorcycle Riding Routes: Conclusion

It just goes to show the rich and abundant locations we have in the UK. And sometimes, when you look at the cost, hassle, and faff of travelling abroad, the grass isn’t always greener after all!

With locations from the northerly tip of the north to the southerly tip of the south, we’re spoiled for choice for excellent motorcycle riding routes in the UK.

So take your pick. And let me know which ones you ended up riding!

Oh, I’ll be re-riding these routes over the coming months. If you have any recommendations of roads to add or areas to visit, feel free to let me know in the comments.

They will be added to the route so other people can enjoy motorcycle touring holidays in the UK, thanks to your knowledge, wisdom, and experience!

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