It’s great seeing your kids have a whale of a time in the saddle, but if you live in a built-up area and are nervy about letting them cycle next to roads then that fun can be limited to the few car-free areas near you. A great way to let them roam free is to hit some of the excellent bike trails in Britain’s forests.
Forest Holidays, which rents out cabins on Forest Commission land around the country, is obviously a big advocate of enjoying these woodlands and it has highlighted routes near its locations. Of course, you don’t need to book a break to hit the trails – just throw a picnic and the bikes in the boot.
1. Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire
Situated on the edge of the North York Moors, Dalby Forest has 55 miles (89km) of bike trails and two places where you can rent bikes. The Ellerburn Family Cycle Route is the most welcoming for all levels and ages, including those just learning how to ride a bike. The route has two options, with the shorter lasting just 1.7 miles (2.7km) and running past the Ellerburn pond and bat hibernaculum (essentially a cave). The longer trail goes for 2.8 miles (4.5km), part of which follows Ellerburn Beck. Both are on easily accessible paths designed for disabled riders and wheelchair users.
This is also a fine pick for families in which the parents are MTB enthusiasts because it also has the World Cup Cycle Trail, an expert route with technically designed, steep descents – one to sneak in while the kids have lunch.
2. Thetford Forest, Norfolk
The Shepard Trail offers a pleasant five miles (8km) of wide and relatively flat forest roads, tracks and trails, making it ideal for novices. The only word of caution is that the route gets muddy during winter.
3. Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire
The Family Cycle Trail is, you guessed it, family-friendly, with the 9½-mile (15.3km) circular route mostly following an old railway line. If you need to, you can rent bikes from Pedal A Bike Away and cycle a couple of extra traffic-free miles to the circuit. Pack refreshments because you can branch off to picnic sites and there’s a lake next to which you can cool off and refuel. It’s also worth downloading the Hidden Heritage app, which will use your location to trigger historic images of the mines and other points of interest that you pass.
4. Alice Holt Forest, Hampshire
With some steep inclines and downhill sections, this three-mile (4.8km) route is best left to more experienced – in terms of both age and time in the saddle – cycling clans. However, if your family’s ready and able, you’re in for a treat. The route passes by mighty ancient oaks and a picnic meadow midway round.
5. Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, Scotland
You want scenery? You want the Trossachs National Park. This option is more suitable for families with older kids, because you may come across other vehicles – and also because the longest route is eight miles (12.9km), a challenge for young legs even if the slopes are described as moderate.