Here at Paul’s, we know only too well the thrill of getting out on your bike, exploring the sights and stumbling across a true hidden gem.

While safety is a big concern for cyclists and the UK’s infrastructure is generally tailored more towards motorists, cycling holidays are still consistently popular with Glimpse data showing thousands of monthly searches for “cycling holidays” each year in the UK.

Some of the UK’s most scenic spots are places you can’t reach unless you’re cycling or on foot, so we’re shining a light on some of the hidden gems you can enjoy on a 100% car-free trip. Keep reading to find out more about each destination, and how to reach it using only public transport and your own two wheels.

Jump to sections:


The Major Oak

The Best Car-Free Adventures in the UK | The Major Oak, Sherwood Forest | Pauls Cycles

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Standing proudly in the hugely popular Sherwood Forest is one of the biggest oak trees in England – the Major Oak.

Legend has it that Robin Hood and his merry men, who are synonymous with Sherwood Forest, often used the massive trunk of the Major Oak to shelter themselves.

It is estimated to have been standing for between 800 and 1,100 years and has a whopping 11-metre trunk circumference and a canopy span of 28 metres. 

The tree is a mere 15-minute walk or cycle from the visitor centre via the Major Oak Trail, and to reach here you can easily hop on the train or bus. The nearest train stations are at Shirebrook (6 miles), Mansfield Woodhouse (6.5 miles), and Mansfield (7 miles) and are all served by the Robin Hood line, operated by East Midlands Railway. Timetables can be found here. For buses, the Stagecoach Sherwood Arrow bus service runs hourly from Victoria bus station in Nottingham and stops outside the visitor centre. 

Rendlesham Forest UFO Trail

The Best Car-Free Adventures in the UK | The Rendlesham Forest UFO Trail | Pauls Cycles

Image credit: Flickr

The heart of Suffolk is somewhere you might not expect to see a UFO gliding across the sky.

However, according to the history books, in 1980 many UFO sightings occurred in Rendlesham Forest – making it arguably the most significant sighting incident to have occurred in the UK.

These mystical moments can be explored on the UFO Trail in the forest, which can be easily reached by public transport. The 64/64/65 First Bus service connects Aldeburgh to Ipswich via Rendlesham.

Faringdon Folly

The Best Car-Free Adventures in the UK | Faringdon Folly, Cotswolds | Pauls Cycles

Image credit: Cotswolds

This unique 100ft tower was the last major folly (an ornamental building) to be built in the UK and is a sight to behold.

Situated in Faringdon, the tower sits on Folly Hill within an expansive 4-acre woodland and offers spectacular views over five counties. 

The woodland itself is also home to an array of sculptures including Mavka the Ukrainian woodland spirit, new for 2024.

To reach Faringdon Folly you just need to hop on the S6 bus which runs roughly every 30 minutes between Swindon and Oxford. And both Oxford and Swindon have well-serviced train stations. 

Wiltshire White Horses

Image shows a green hillside where a white chalk carving of a large horse is visible, with real horses grazing in a field in the foreground

Image credit: Flickr

You might have heard about a collection of curious white horses etched into various places in the British countryside. 

These are chalk hill carvings that are dotted around the country. The UK used to have 24 of them, with 13 of them being in Wiltshire alone – making it the “county for white horses”.

They also make the perfect attraction for cyclists because six of these majestic white horses can be best seen on a 117-mile circular cycle route around Wiltshire.

The aptly named White Horse Route, which can be started at places including Swindon, Bath and Kemble, takes you on byways and back roads, and with 5,500ft of climbing to do, you are sure to see some fantastic views.

Another horse not on the cycling route above can also be seen only on foot or bike is in Broad Town, which is on the outskirts of Swindon.

Unfortunately, most of these horses have since disappeared under the turf or lost completely, and only eight remain. And while most are only from the last 300 years, there is one in Uffington that is of certain prehistoric origin dating back some 3000 years!

To reach these wonderful horses, there are regular long-distance coaches from many parts of England to Wiltshire towns such as Chippenham, Marlborough, Salisbury and Swindon.

There are also faster and more regular inter-city services as follows:

  • London (Paddington) serves Swindon (55 mins) and Chippenham (70 mins) in the north of Wiltshire and Great Bedwyn (90 mins).
  • From London (Waterloo) the West Country trains stop at Salisbury (90 mins) and Tisbury (103 mins).
  • The Bristol to Weymouth and Southampton lines call at Bradford on Avon, Trowbridge, Westbury, Warminster and Salisbury for visitors from the Midlands and the North.

And the TransWilts line with trains every two hours connects Swindon, Chippenham, Melksham, Trowbridge, Warminster and Westbury.

Huddersfield Narrow Cycle Ride

The Best Car-Free Adventures in the UK | Huddersfield Narrow Canal, West Yorkshire | Pauls Cycles

Image credit: Canal River Trust

There are many beautiful cycle routes in England, but this one truly has an interesting story behind it!

So the story goes, a group of rum smugglers from the quaint West Yorkshire village of Slaithwaite were retrieving their liquor from beneath the Huddersfield Narrow Canal on the night of a full moon and they were caught. Thinking quickly they insisted they were simply raking the fallen moon out of the water and were left alone.

This route in the West Yorkshire countryside is 6.6 miles long and can be reached via train or bus into Huddersfield.

For more canal adventures, see here

Northern Ireland

Mourne Mountains

The Best Car-Free Adventures in the UK | Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland | Pauls Cycles

Image credit: Visit Mourne Mountains

Feast your eyes on the mountains that inspired Narnia, Game of Thrones and many more poets, filmmakers and songwriters. 

The Mourne Mountains are part of the Ice Age Range in southeast Northern Ireland in County Down. And it’s here you can find the highest mountain, Slieve Donard, which stands at a mighty 2790ft.

This brilliant area can be explored on foot or by bike and can be reached easily by public transport. From Belfast, you can get the train or bus to Newcastle, and then from there is a bus straight to the mountains


Corryvreckan Whirlpool

The Best Car-Free Adventures in the UK | Corryvreckan Whirlpool, Scotland | Pauls Cycles

Image credit: ©Copyright Walter Baxter 

This absolute must-see is truly nature at its finest, and perhaps a tad scary. The Corryvreckan Whirlpool, situated between the Scottish islands of Jura and Scarba, is said to have been conjured by a witch to save Scotland from a nasty pirate.

The whirlpool is the third largest in the world and actually occurs when the dangerous currents and standing waves between the two islands begin to swirl around the changing of the tides. The effect of the whirlpool then takes place as the in and outgoing tides enter the narrow strait of the two islands and it is pushed up and down forming a pinnacle in the middle.

Other than a few limited boat services that take you out on the treacherous waters, the whirlpool is best seen by land and can only be reached by foot or bike

You are able to take a bus to the end of “Long Road”, the only road on Jura, and then walk or cycle for seven miles. 

The view from Criffel Hill

The Best Car-Free Adventures in the UK | Criffel Hill, Scotland | Pauls Cycles

Image credit: Flickr

Did you know there’s a place where you can see England, Scotland, the Isle of Man and Ireland all in one go?

Nestled in the northwest of the UK, just over the border into Scotland, you’ll find Criffel Hill, a mountain with stunning views spreading far and wide. 

To reach the towering 1,870ft Scottish peak, you can get the bus which stops on the A710 near New Abbey Corn Mill. It is then a 2-hour hike to the summit, which can get boggy at times, so precautions should be taken. The hike is also noted as intermediate so sure-footedness is required and if you are hopping on two wheels, experienced mountain bikers would be the preference. 

Balloch Park Fairy Trail

The Best Car-Free Adventures in the UK | Balloch Park Fairy Trail, Scotland | Pauls Cycles

Image credit: ©Copyright Lairich Rig

At the Balloch Park Fairy Trail, you will find a whimsical walk of carved tree stumps near Loch Lomond. 

Local tree surgeon Patrick Muir carved these and they include a variety of carvings such as fairy houses and majestic dragons, all of which can be found within Balloch Country Park, just near the castle.

Some of these can be visible from the road, but most of them require some off-road exploration and adventure through the woods, making this a great cycling day out. It is cited that 1-3 hours is the ideal time to complete the trail on foot, so on 2 wheels, this could easily be achieved in 2 hours.


Lon Eifion Cycleway

The Best Car-Free Adventures in the UK | Lon Eifion Cycleway, Wales | Pauls Cycles

Image credit: Visit Snowdonia

For a dream cycle route, look no further than the Lon Eifion Cycleway running from Y Felinheli to Bryncir in North Wales.

This 12.5-mile route runs along a steam railway line when it reaches Caernarfon and then continues to offer stunning views of the surroundings such as rich woodlands and beautiful mountains – you can even see Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon).

To access this beautiful route, you can get the train to Bangor and then a bus to Y Felinheli before cycling or walking the route itself.

Finding your own hidden gems

The Best Car-Free Adventures in the UK | Find hidden Cycling Gems | Pauls Cycles

Image credit: Canal River Trust

There are many hidden gems across the UK that can be reached with some old-fashioned carless adventure, so it’s well worth factoring them in when planning your trips.

Cycling and hiking routes are plentiful, so here are some places where you can get some inspiration:

To help with finding cycle routes elsewhere, try searching for points of interest such as art trails, fairy trails or canal paths – lots of these will offer up some great places to get on two wheels and see the sights. 

Google Maps is also ideal when looking for things to do. Simply locate the area you are planning to visit and a quick browse and some zooming in will bring up some great suggestions. Then after you’ve created a list, use an app like Komoot or OutdoorActive to navigate those off-road adventures with ease.

And remember, always be prepared when going on a bike ride. Here at Paul’s Cycles, we have a variety of top-rated safety equipment such as helmets, bike locks and pumps.

We also have a great selection of bikes and e-bikes to perfectly suit your next adventure – happy cycling!


Adam Cross is the Customer Care Manager at Pauls Cycles and specialises in all things related to cycling lifestyle, gravel/off-road riding & road cycling. In his role, he leads advice and support for cyclists of all levels, being well versed in the sport of cycling. Riding and racing bicycles for 15 years, Adam has competed in everything from short distance time trials to ultra distance gravel and 24 hour mountain bike races. When not at work, Adam will most likely be found on the sandy tracks and trails of Thetford Forest.