By Rhonda Carrier
There can be few better ways of spending quality time with the kids and getting them off their gadgets and into the great outdoors – the countryside, the coast, and even cities – than by hopping on two wheels. Mountain-biking with kids is particularly great fun: we've enjoyed it everywhere from our local facility, the National Cycle Centre in Manchester, to the French Alps.
With many of us looking at the possibility of holidays in lodges, cabins and other self-catering properties in the UK this summer, and more generally of UK breaks in fairly remote locations, we’ve rounded up our favourite places in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to explore by bike with kids.
South Barrule Plantation, Isle of Man (pictured)
A pristine coast, spellbinding glens and masses of unspoilt countryside to explore far from the crowds make this tiny island about a three-hour ferry ride from the British mainland a worthy contender for your summer holidays this year (ferries are set to be back in operation from 4th July).
A great place for mountain-biking, the Isle of Man is home to the South Barrule Plantation, where you'll find dedicated trails plus a free mountain-biking skills zone with brilliant wooden features including a wall-ride and a skinny, and different grades of jumps and drops. High-quality bikes hire is available from Simpsons & Pedal Power Cycle (01624 842472) in nearby Peel. See our feature on a family break on the Isle of Man.
Davagh Forest Mountain Bike Trails, Northern Ireland
Ferries to Cairnryan or Liverpool to Belfast are operating as usual. West of Lough Neagh, Davagh Forest is a stunning, off-the-beaten-track spot for gentle mountain-biking, with trails, a skills area with a pump track, bike hire, picnic areas and a play park.
Just outside the pretty town of Peebles, south of Edinburgh, 7stanes Glentress has some of the best mountain-biking trails in the UK, plus a skills area, a great bike shop with bike hire, a modern café, showers and bike wash. On-site there are camping pods, while nearby hotels offer bike storage and hire.
There are miles and miles of trails to explore, graded from green (easy and great for families) to black (challenging). If you'd like some tips, book private or group tuition with one of the local bike schools – their kids' bike camps are also really popular, attracting folk from all over the country. In addition to biking, there are hiking trails and a Go Ape! treetop course.
Llandegla Forest, Wales
In Denbighshire in north-east Wales, only 20 minutes from Chester, one of the nation's biggest and best mountain-bike centres includes a fantastic family route combining all the thrills of off-road, including loose or uneven sections, with fun and safety – and no major climbs. You can also sign up for skills courses.
Bikes are the ideal way to explore the spectacular countryside of this region with its tranquil lanes and traffic-free trails and bridleways: the Tissington Trail along part of the trackbed of the former railway line connecting Ashbourne to Buxton is one of our favourite routes (see our feature on a family break in the Peak District enjoying the Tissington Trail and a youth hostel stay).
Other amazing cycling spots in Derbyshire are Carsington Water, Derwent Reservoirs, the High Peak Trail, the Longdendale Trail, the Manifold Track, the Monsal Trail and the Sett Valley Trail.
This 'forest in the making' in northern Leicestershire, southern Derbyshire and Staffordshire is home to both the Rosliston Forestry Centre, with bike hire, and the eco-friendly National Forest Cycling Centre, which includes 13km of off-road trails, a bike-hire and repair shop, a café, and a play area. Accommodation options include secluded forest lodges, a family-friendly youth hostel and a lakeside campsite, while activities aside cycling embrace archery, falconry and astronomy walks. See our feature on a family break in the National Forest.
Holkham National Nature Reserve, Norfolk
On Route 1 of the Sustrans National Cycle Network as well on the route of the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path (a National Trail), this reserve embraces tidal creeks, saltings, dunes, sand spits, pinewoods, pastures and marshes harbouring a wide variety of wildlife. Check maps beforehand for pedestrian-only routes and for information on tidal safety.
Hythe and the Royal Military Canal, Kent
This 21km circular route is an easy and also the best way to experience this unique military monument, especially the corridor between Seabrook and West Hythe Dam, with picnic tables and benches for refreshment stops. Don't miss the quirky Cinque Port town of Hythe, or the Romney Hythe and Dimchurch Railway (the smallest public railway in the world).
Jurassic Coast Cycle Trails, Dorset
These three family-friendly routes allow you to absorb the magnification Weymouth and Portland coastline and the history history, geology and wildlife of this part of the UNESCO World Heritage site stretching 152km from Devon to Dorset. Best for those with very young kids is Route 1 around Lodmoor Country Park and Nature Reserve. Route 2 takes you on into Weymouth town centre with its award-winning beach and 17th-century working harbour, and Route 3 continues from Weymouth to join the Rodwell Trail then head over to the Isle of Portland with its windsurfing, sailing and kite-surfers.
Taking you 29km along a former railway line through glorious Cornish countryside, this largely traffic-free, surfaced and level trail can be split into more manageable chunks: Padstow to Wadebridge (8km), Wadebridge to Bodmin (9km) and Bodmin to Wenfordbridge (10km), and you can even catch a steam train along part of the route.
Scroll down for our hand-picked accommodation options in popular family mountain-biking destinations. See also our recommendations and tips for active family holidays in the UK.