Riding in the cold can be drab and wet, but there are plenty of great options for cycling within just a short haul journey from the UK. Exploring a destination by bike can open up a wealth of peaceful and leisurely sightseeing opportunities, as well as providing an opportunity to keep fit and stay active whilst away. You can take your own bike if driving, or easily hire one once you’ve reached your destination and then enjoy the freedom to appreciate your surroundings at your own pace. Whether you prefer immersing yourself in nature, soaking up the culture or enjoying the local delicacies, there’s a cycle route for you somewhere.
Here’s a selection of top cycling destinations across Europe, each with their own special qualities…
For hills and history - soaking up the past in The Dordogne, France
To follow in the footsteps of Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, where better to start than France? The Dordogne region offers hundreds of miles of beautiful roads to explore. Located in the south west of the country, it offers a wealth of pretty medieval villages and towns, long stretches of vineyards and farmland and majestic châteaux, making this a delightful destination for history and wildlife lovers alike.
There are roads for cyclists of all skill levels here, which are often quiet and rural with very little traffic. To avoid cars altogether, you can cycle on the completely car-free ‘Piste Cyclable’, a disused railway line which has since been converted into a smooth cycle way. There are also many options for mountain biking in the region, with a range of tracks through hillsides and rocky off-roads.
Cyclists can expect to face some challenging hills to reach some of the key sights, such as the famous cave of Lascaux with its prehistoric paintings or the beautifully preserved medieval town of Sarlat, but these incredible spots are well worth the climbs.
Where to stay
Pommarede: This traditional Dordogne house is located close to wonderful woodlands and many of the picturesque sights and rivers of the area. The property sleeps six and offers a maid service, large swimming pool and beautiful gardens.
For flora and fauna - following the nature trail in Corfu, Greece
The charming Mediterranean island of Corfu offers a fantastic minor road system and an extensive network of paths and tracks through the green countryside. This means that Corfu is easy to negotiate by bike and, as a tourist destination, is filled with excellent opportunities for enjoying the beautiful surroundings. Here you can explore untouched villages, coastal roads and deserted monasteries, as well as discovering picturesque lakes, azure seas and delightful olive groves.
Central Corfu is ideal for a gentle cycle trip that can even take in the island’s capital, Corfu Town, while the low lands of the Ropa Valley offer hidden lakes and agricultural meadows. For a more challenging cycle ride, you can explore the Pantokrator mountain range and forest tracks of the north east. The south offers rolling hills and the beautiful Korission Lake, as well as long stretches of sandy beaches.
The varied landscape of Corfu offers a diverse abundance of flora and fauna, and exploring by bike provides a fantastic opportunity to view it in a quiet and eco-friendly way. The scenery is rich with shady olive trees, colourful wild flowers, fiery yellow shrubs and even banana flowers. Between the refreshing tavernas you may even be able to treat yourself to ripe figs, oranges and berries from the many fruit trees.
Where to stay
The Courtyard: This six person Corfu villa is set in a beautiful, natural olive grove, with easy cycling access to the glistening bay of Avlaki, as well as local tavernas and shops. With a private plunge pool and entertainment facilities, this property is ideal for relaxing after a full day of exploring the island.
For wine and wonderful views – visiting vineyards in Tuscany, Italy
After a hard day of cycling you’ll require some well-earned refreshments and Tuscany offers a wealth of impressive vineyards to help. Cycling in this popular Italian region rewards visitors with smooth roads, charming country lanes, ancient olive groves, stone farmhouses and picturesque castles. The stunning landscapes here are a favourite with road cyclists and mountain bikers from all over the world.
One particularly popular cycle route is from the historic city of Florence through to the charming town of Siena, which takes in many of the fantastic vineyards of Chianti. Here you can soak up the inspiring Tuscan scenery as you cycle along quiet back roads past castles and farmland and then enjoy post-ride wine tastings. You can also enjoy a relaxing bite to eat at some of the local markets and trattorie along the way.
If you decide to take part in some wine tasting throughout the day, make sure to carry plenty of water with you and don’t let yourself get tipsy while in control of your bike.
As with most wine areas, the landscape of Tuscany can be fairly hilly, so be prepared for some challenging climbs. However, rest stops are regularly available, especially when taking in a few tours at local wineries, where you can pick up some supplies for later. Flatter ground and plains can also be found along the charming rivers and the Tuscan coastline, should you wish to enjoy a more leisurely cycle holiday.
Where to stay
La Vigna: Located centrally, near Siena, this charming four person cottage offers traditional accommodation amongst the towns, villages and vineyards of Chianti. The owners cultivate their own vines on their land, making this an ideal spot for wine lovers.
CV Travel: A specialist in luxury villas and holiday houses worldwide, CV Travel, celebrating ‘40 Fabulous Years’ in 2012, proudly presents an award-winning collection of villas in some of the most sought-after locations in the world.