Cycling holidays in the UK are unequivocally brilliant yet there are so many people that are learning the love of the bicycle that haven’t treated themselves to a little local exploration on two wheels. I hope that my harpings about why they’re so great will encourage more to give it a go.
These little islands are absolutely jammed packed with spectacular countryside, natural wonders, charming towns and villages, and cities brimming with culture and heritage. Despite our obsession with the sun and sand of Spain and many other European destinations most Brits would agree that the UK is a unique and diverse tourist destination with a huge amount to offer. To site just a few highlights, the Lake District and the Brecon Beacons boast beautiful mountains, lush verdant valleys and crisp cold lakes, rivers and streams that attract thousands of tourists every year. Natural wonders like Northern Islands’ Giants Causeway and Dorset’s Jurassic Coast rival those of more exotic tides and our cities aren’t bad either. York, Edinburgh and Bristol are culturally vibrant, diverse cities that are easy on the eye and whilst not rivalling some cities on the continent in cycle friendly credentials, they are pretty easy to explore on two wheels and improving. Now let me stop waving my Union Jack and bring the bicycle in to the picture.
All of these places are accessible by bike but it’s not the destinations that make cycling holidays memorable, it’s the journey. The experience of travelling to and through such places by bike offers you a whole new perspective unachievable by other means of transport. Moving slowly through a place you notice so much more of it. In the countryside you notice the flowers by the road side, the ancient looming trees, the sounds and scents of wildlife that surrounds you. A clearer picture of the topography of an area can be physically manifested through the aching legs of climbs and wide grins of descents. The head space and tranquillity cycling gives you also allows your thoughts to drift to dusty corners of your mind that get neglected in the rush of modern life. By using all of your heightened senses, you truly appreciate the whole essence of a place. You feel a greater sense of excitement and mystery when rolling in to a new town or village. You look around quizzically and take it all in. Quite often you get curious gazes back from locals as you ride in red faced and wide eyed. When do you ever get that attention when driving in to a town or village?
Now I’m sure many of you are thinking, isn’t it convenient someone trying to promote British cycling holidays hasn’t mentioned the ubiquitous wet and cold weather cyclists in the UK have to endure? Well here it is. I have to concede it can be seriously bloody miserable cycling in the rain and cold, to the degree that you strongly question why in the hell are you Choosing to do it. This is where the hero factor comes in. Everyone likes to feel like a bit of a hero, be it introspectively or smugly lapping up the plaudits from those around you. When you’ve cycled a long distance you cannot help but feel pretty pleased with yourself, like a bit of a hero. However, when you’ve cycled a long way in the best of British weather this sense of achievement is amplified by the hardship you’ve endured and your Herometer (official hero factor measuring tool), can reach unchartered territory. This sense of achievement and exploration coupled with the buzzing endorphins released after the days’ exercise leaves you with a unique and deep sense of satisfaction. Thankfully it’s not always totally miserable in the UK so you will often experience the more obvious pleasures of riding in good weather too.
Regardless of what shade the sky is the peace of mind of knowing you will have a comfortable, warm and clean place to stay that can cater for your cycling kit, at the end of your days’ riding is paramount. Only when you reach this destination can you fully reflect on the days’ journey and wallow in deep satisfaction. After a long days’ riding the home comforts we take for granted in day to day life( a hot shower, clean dry clothes, a cup of tea,) all suddenly become heavenly luxuries you appreciate and deserve more than ever. Perhaps more than anything though, sitting down with a dull ache in your legs and cavernous void in your stomach to a hot, wholesome meal and a good pint in a cosy warm country pub is a joyous experience you will not forget. At this point you can un-crease your flag and reflect again on why Britain is great. Our proper pubs are wonderful establishments that make you never want to leave and if they are proper, they’ll serve real ale. Having visited a lot of real pubs across the UK you get a feel for the love and care put in to brewing real ale and also how good we are at it. Especially when it’s been a cold day the atmosphere of a country pub with low ceilings, stone walls and a roaring fire really make you appreciate the great indoors as well. The simple things become oh so pleasurable after a day in the saddle.
This new found adoration of simple pleasures is a really important aspect of cycling holidays which I think so many people would feel enlightened after experiencing. The primitive simplicity of travelling from A to B, out in the elements and by your own steam puts in to perspective the indulgent extravagance synonymous with modern day holidays. When cycling long distances you can put your body out of its normal comfort zone and make you really respect the elements of the great outdoors. As a result you experience a heightened appreciation of the simple things in life and feel a purity and wholesomeness in the satisfaction from the indulgences you enjoy so much at the end of the day.
So what are you waiting for? See the splendours of Britain from a different perspective, different angle, different speed. Unleash all your senses to the sights, sounds and scents of the country and relish the elemental satisfaction. Discover a whole new ocean of appreciation for the fuels of your body and life’s simple pleasures. Ride your bike and go to the pub and pat yourself on the back for going on one of the most environmentally friendly holidays possible. Your cycle holiday will not simply be a discovering these great lands but a journey of self discovery you won’t forget.