1. The Camel Trail, Cornwall
Cornwall’s Camel Trail is very popular, with an estimated 400,000 users each year. Consequently, the trail, which takes in Padstow, Wadebridge, Bodmin and Wenford Bridge, generates up to £3 million a year. Although not all of it is tarmacked, it is suitable for wheelchair users and almost completely flat. Bike hire is available at points throughout the route.
Photo: Education Images/ Getty
2. Scarborough & Whitby Rail Trail, North Yorkshire
With some fantastic sea views and intriguing historical sites, the Scarborough & Whitby trail (also known as the Cinder Track) is possibly one of the most beautiful rail trails in this gallery. Sustrans advise that many sections aren’t suitable for road bikes, although it is relatively flat, despite the steep gradients that the railway locomotives reportedly struggled for traction on. Most of the trail avoids traffic, too.
Photo: SMJ, via Wikimedia Commons
3. The Ystwyth Trail, Ceredigion
The Ystwyth Trail links Aberystwyth and Tregaron in the Ceredigion region of west Wales. It is broken in places due to objections from farmers and landowners, but the sections are joined up by short stints on public roads. Some are quite narrow and dangerous. The trail links up with the Lon Cambria and Lon Teifi long distance routes, providing excellent unbroken cycling opportunities. Horse riding is only permitted on some sections of the Ystwyth Trail.
Photo: Nigel Brown, via Wikimedia Commons
4. Marriott's Way, Norfolk
Named after William Marriott, the former manager of the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway who held the position for over forty years, Marriott’s Way takes users between the centre of Norwich and the historic market town of Aylsham. The trail is part-tarmacked and part-gravel, but again it is susceptible to mud after a period of rain. It encompasses two former railway lines, neither of which was profitable and both were closed by 1985.
Photo: Evelyn Simak, via Wikimedia Commons
5. Hornsea Rail Trail, East Riding of Yorkshire
Starting in the busy city of Kingston upon Hull, the Hornsea trail is perfect for those that want to escape the hustle and bustle of the urban sprawl to the seaside at Hornsea. Add to this a trail that’s mostly flat, and one that takes in some beautiful agricultural landscapes, and it’s no wonder this trail is popular. It has also got easy access from Hull Paragon train station and is traffic free.
Photo: J Thomas, via Wikimedia Commons
6. Downs Link, Surrey/ West Sussex
Perhaps the longest almost-unbroken stretch of bridleway on this list, the Downs Link is over 36 miles long, and runs between St. Martha’s Hill, near Guildford, to the coast at Shoreham-by-Sea. The route largely follows the course of the Cranleigh and Steyning Lines, which, like many others on this list, were closed due to the infamous Beeching cuts of the 1960s. A small part of the route includes a main road.
Photo: Peter Holmes, via Wikimedia Commons
7. Deeside Way, Aberdeenshire
The Deeside Way starts from Aberdeen, heading west to the town of Ballater, nestled in the Cairngorms. There are four sections of between seven and thirteen miles long, following the route of the Old Royal Deeside Railway. Along the trail are reminders of the trail’s past, and of the infrastructure that used to be so important to this area, while many parts also follow the river and can give some stunning views.
Photo: Colin Hunter/ Getty
8. Formantine & Buchan, Aberdeenshire
Like the Deeside Way, The Formartine & Buchan Way starts from Aberdeen. It connects Dyce, in the north of the city, to the coastal fishing ports of Fraserburgh and Peterhead, the latter via a branch line from the village of Maud. The trail was opened in the early 1990s after the railway closed in 1979, and takes in a patchwork of farmland and countryside. It’s very easy to follow, but isn’t completely tarmacked so some sections tend to get very muddy. Horse riders may need a permit for some parts of the trail.
Photo: John Allan, via Wikimedia Commons
9. Devon Coast to Coast
At just over half the length of the Tarka Trail, the Devon Coast to Coast route sounds like a breeze, right? It’s still nigh on 100 miles long, and squiggles across Devon from Ilfracombe in the north, to Plymouth in the south. 70% of the route is traffic free, and the trail includes the 31-mile section of the Tarka Trail mentioned on the next page. The Coast-to-Coast trail takes in the beautiful beaches and estuaries of the north of the county, and passes through luscious green valleys and the western edge of Dartmoor.
Photo: Will Gray/ Getty
10. Tarka Trail, Devon
At nearly two hundred miles long, the Tarka Trail is by far and away the longest rail-to-trail path in the UK. It’s made up of quite a few sections of dismantled railway, and winds its way around Barnstaple and North Devon. One of the sections is an unbroken stretch of 31 miles between Braunton and Meeth, which is free of vehicles, mostly tarmacked and a lovely smooth, flat ride. The trail name comes from the route taken in the ‘Tarka the Otter’ book, and there are a number of audio posts along the trail giving information.
Photo: Universal Images/ Getty
Subscribe to BBC Countryfile Magazine today and you can enjoy generous savings from the shop price plus, free UK delivery and discounts off special editions and back issues.