Best places to ride MTB in the UK
The UK might be a small island but it offers a bounty of amazing mountain bike riding with great riding spots everywhere, and in this article, we’re going to list some of the best places for you to add to your must-ride list this year.
Trails vary from dedicated trail centres with man-made and carefully graded routes, from green to black, so you can pick the trails to suit your skill level and ambition, to natural trail riding spots and all way to bike parks that provide uplift services allowing you to focus on descending fun.
Cannock Chase is a very popular trail centre due to its location and easy access. It provides a number of routes and different grades to suit your taste, culminating in the 14-mile Monkey Trail. It’s also suitable for family and children with easier trails through the forest. The trails are regularly maintained by a group of volunteers to keep them in tippity top condition. There’s an ample car park, cafe and bike shop on-site to look after all your mechanical and refreshment needs.
Sheffield has become popular with mountain bikers in recent years, and with the Peak District on its doorstep, it’s easy to see why. You can plot a route over the heat of the Peak District taking in the famous Cut Gate Path and Jacobs Ladder, both of which are definitely worth riding for the fantastic singletrack, savage climbs and remote views.
Closer to Sheffield and on the edge of Houndkork Moors is Land Cannings, which was recently established as a trail centre with a choice of two blue graded trails. They are full of twisting singletrack and focused on fun with berms and rollers ensuring they are accessible trails to a wide range of mountain bikers.
Swinley Forest is one of the most popular trail centres in the south and its close proximity to London and large surrounding towns ensures it’s a must-ride. Hidden in the dense forest is over 24km of purpose-built trails that whoop and carve through the trees with green, blue and red trails to suit all abilities, and it’s easy to link them up as you progress. The trails ride well all year round and the lack of serious climbs makes it an accessible trail centre for novices and more experienced mountain bikes will revel in the high speeds the fast-flowing trails allow. A large car park, cafe and bike shop are on-site, and there are lots of activities for all the family so you can make a day of it.
Bristol is well-positioned with close proximity to lots of good riding but you don’t have to jump in the car as Ashton Court is a few miles outside of town. This trail centre packs a lot of quality singletrack into a small area and it’s all accessible to a wide range of abilities, there’s nothing too extreme here, all fast and fun trails.
Exmoor in Somerset offers some of the best riding in the South West with tough climbs, exposed moorland trails and rocky bridleways and other permitted tracks. The trails are hard earnt with some extremely steep climbs, especially the one to Dunkery Beacon, the highest peak on Exmoor, but the reward is both beautiful views for miles and the challenging rocky descents that characterise the area. And if you want to make a really long day of it, head over to the woods near Minehead around Wootton Common for some fine singletrack. Most of the riding is on shared bridleways so it’s relatively easy to plot a route, or you can someone’s route. There is plenty of parking and facilities in local town Minehead for food and fuel.
The Surrey Hills to the south of London has become a mecca for mountain bikers over the last 10-20 years and offers some extraordinarily good trails with arguably some of the best singletrack in the country thanks to the hard work by some dedicated trail builders and the open access to the woods. There are only a few official trails – Barry Knows Best and Summer Lightning – but no official trail routes graded by ability, which means finding the best routes can be challenging. The most popular starting point is the village of Peaslake with ample parking, village shop for refreshments and a pub, and head into the surrounding hills with a map or route downloaded from the internet. Local bike shop Pedal and Spoke run shop rides which is a good way to discover the trails, or you can follow the many tyre tracks!
Dalby Forest, once the host of the World Cup XC series, is one of the bigger and better trail centres in England. There’s the aforementioned XC course, a 6.4km black graded route that is ideal for testing your fitness and skills with tough features including Worry Gill and Medusa’s Drop – check out YouTube videos of them to see what we mean. At the other end of the scales is a 4.7km green trail ideal for family cycling, a skills area to get your eye in before you progress to a 12.8km blue and then a 34.3km red trail. Excellent parking, bike shop, cafe, bike wash and bike hire on-site.
Wales is home to many trail centres, too many to mention here so Mountain Bike Wales is worth a visit for information on all the trail centres, helping you to find one that is close by.
Coed y Brenin was one of the very first official trail centres way back in 1997 and is still highly regarded today, located as it is in the Snowdonia National Park it offers challenging trails for all abilities. There are a plethora of trails from an 11km green suitable for beginners right up to the intimidatingly named Beast of Brenin, a 38km black graded trail that combines two shorter routes into one extremity challenging trail that will leave you exhausted and elated. There are very good facilities with a bike shop, cafe, visitor centre, parking, showers and bike hire.
In South Wales Afan Forest Park is regularly voted as one of the best trail centres for its choice of trails that will cater for all abilities. It has expanded and evolved over the years, there’s a good cafe and easy parking on-site, and it’s easy to access from the M4 motorway. There are six trails to choose from and they are some of the best in the world, and combined cover well over 100km of mountain biking! You can enjoy a 15km blast around the rocky White’s Level or test your endurance on the mammoth 44km W2 trail, or brush up your handling skills on a bike park.
Bike Park Wales is a mecca for mountain bikers wanting to use a well-organised uplift service to take the strain and letting you get on with enjoying the downhills, of which there are many trails to choose form. BPW has been an instant success story and caters to all levels of riders from novices with green trails up to downhill warriors with black graded downhill tracks that are only for the fearless. If you like to earn your descents there’s even a nice singletrack climb to the summit. A slick uplift service minimises wasted time waiting for your next adrenalin fix, there is a great cafe and bike shop and they even hire out bikes if you don’t have one or want to try something different.
The 7Stanes project in Scotland gets its name from the seven trail centres that have been established for many years, stretching from Glentrool to Glentress. You can view all the trails and more info on this dedicated website
Glentress near Peebles is a very popular trail centre with trails ranging from accessible green routes through more challenging blue all the way to red and black. There’s also a handy skills area to sharpen your riding ability before you embark on the first of your trails, and if you’re ready for it there’s a freeride park too. There’s ample parking, a cafe and bike shop on site.
Head on over to Dalbeattie if you want to ride one of the most fun and challenging trails, renowned as it is for huge granite features that will test your riding skills to the limit, all set against stunning views. It’s highly recommended. There’s also a more relaxed blue trail that is equally fun to ride with rocks and views aplenty. There’s easy parking but you’ll need to head into Dalbeattie for refreshments.
Fort William is one of the most famous mountain bike destinations in the UK on account of hosting multiple World Cup DH and XC races over the years and makes an excellent ion destination for some of the best mountain biking in the world. Whether you’re into downhill or cross-country, there’s something for everyone here. For downhillers the 2.8km world cup downhill track is the only UCI track in the country and with fast singletrack and natural root features and jumps, will require lots of skill and bravery. For XC riders the 8.5km Witch’s World Champs route was built for the 2007 XC World Championships and will require huge reserves of fitness to match the fast times of the world’s best. Altogether easier on the legs are the shorter and friendlier green and blue trails ensuring it’s suitable for all ability levels. There is parking, uplift, bike hire, bike wash and a cafe on-site.
Northern Ireland shouldn’t be overlooked when looking for mountain bike destinations and with eight trail centres (sponsored by Chain Reaction Cycles) there’s plenty of choice for everyone. Rostrevor on the shores of the Carlingford Lough offers a choice of trails to suit all abilities but the jewel in the crown is a 27km red trail that will test your skills and stamina and if that’s not challenging enough, a 19km black trail will push your handling skills to the limit. There’s also an uplift service if you want to ride the two dedicated downhill tracks, and bike hire available as well as a cafe, bike wash and ample parking.
Further north is Davagh Forest surrounded by spectacular countryside and offering a 16km red graded trail peppered by challenging rock slabs. If you want something gentler there’s a 7.5km blue and a 3km green loop ideal for families with children making a good place for the whole family to enjoy a day out.