Gravel riding has soared in popularity in recent years, with cycling enthusiasts seeking adventure beyond the limitations of paved roads. Gravel biking is known for its versatility across rugged terrains, opening a world of exploration for adventure loving cyclists.

Whether you’re an experienced rider or a newcomer in the world of adventure cycling, there are many destinations and gravel events across the UK that await you. Keep reading as we cover the essentials of gravel riding and some of the best places to ride a gravel bike.

What is gravel riding?

Gravel riding combines elements of both road and mountain biking, with cyclists travelling across a mix of terrains. A gravel bike, sometimes referred to as an adventure bike, features wider tyres than road bikes but narrower than mountain bikes and wider ratio gearing to help you tackle challenges more easily.

For more information on gravel bikes, check out our gravel bike buyer’s guide.

Where can I go gravel riding?

The beauty of gravel riding is that you can go almost anywhere! There are a variety of exciting gravel trails and events across the UK that may include a mixture of off-road trails, mountains, and even beaches!

How to find gravel biking routes

In addition to guides like this one, it’s also a good idea to use cycle route planning apps like Komoot or Strava to discover more routes in your local area. You could also join a cycling Facebook group for further route recommendations.

If you fancy a challenge, there is also a wide range of gravel events that take place throughout the year across the UK and abroad. Some of the most popular UK gravel events include:

  • Dirty Reiver – Kielder Castle Forest Park, Northumberland
  • Gritfest – Upper Towy Valley, Mid Wales
  • The Muck N Mac Fest – Traquair House, Tweed Valley
  • Cotswolds Cross – Cotswold Hills, Cotswolds
  • Raiders Gravel – Galloway Forest Park, Scotland

Where are the best gravel bike routes?

There is a vast range of locations across the UK that are perfect for gravel riding and can help push your limits. Here are our top gravel riding locations that are sure to provide a thrilling experience:

Kielder Forest

Kielder Forest, nestled in Northumberland, is a renowned spot for cyclists, playing host to the famous Dirty Reiver gravel event. It’s one of the UK’s most popular gravel events, full of remote trails that also provide spectacular scenery. In addition to cycling, it’s also a much-loved spot for hikers and outdoor adventurers. Kielder is the largest forest in England, so there are plenty of twists and turns to get your heart rate pumping, and is often hailed as the best place to go gravel riding. You could even turn it into a bikepacking trip with plenty of nearby camping options available.

New Forest

The New Forest is a go-to destination for cyclists, offering a variety of cycle routes suitable for all skill levels. The beauty of the new forest is that it caters to families looking for gentle leisurely rides, as well as adventure cyclists looking for challenging off-road trails, such as the New Forest Gravel Taster. Take in the stunning scenery with expansive ancient woodlands, where you may even see some free-reigning ponies along the way!

Yorkshire Dales

The Yorkshire Dales offers gravel riding enthusiasts a mix of rugged terrain including remote tracks, winding country roads, and picturesque valleys. It’s sure to provide an immersive cycling experience for those brave enough to tackle the challenge of the Dales’ steep climbs and exhilarating descents. The location plays host to the Yorkshire Dales Gravel Epic, where you can expect long sweeping gravel routes that cover the famous Pennine Way as well as remote off-road trails.

Snowdonia/Eryri National Park

Snowdonia National Park, now known as Eryri National Park, is a gravel rider’s dream, boasting a diverse landscape including rugged mountains, cascading waterfalls, and serene lakes, making it a must for adventure cyclists. It’s Wales’ largest National Park, covering 823 square miles. Gravel roads wind through remote valleys and ancient woodlands, providing access to hidden gems and panoramic viewpoints that showcase the park’s stunning views. Challenge yourself to the Eryri Gravel Epic where cyclists can tackle the park’s exhilarating climbs and thrilling descents all while admiring the cultural heritage.

South Downs Way

The South Downs Way boasts iconic trails stretching across the rolling chalk downs of southern England, providing gravel riding enthusiasts with an exhilarating cycling experience. The route’s well-maintained trails and breathtaking scenery make it ideal for both day trips and bikepacking adventures, with opportunities to explore local villages, historical sites, and cosy pubs along the way. Challenge yourself to South Downs Century with routes for both mountain bikes and gravel bikes to push your limits. Whether tackling challenging ascents or enjoying leisurely rides through tranquil countryside, the South Downs Way promises an unforgettable gravel riding experience filled with natural beauty, cultural richness, and endless adventure.

There are many amazing locations across the UK where you can get your gravel riding fix. With some simple research, you can cover local areas as well as destinations that are further afield to help you get your adrenaline pumping and enjoy all that gravel riding has to offer.

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