Cycling the Lake District, UK: All You Need to Know in One Guide

Exploring the Lake District on a bike sounds like an exhilarating adventure! From challenging climbs to scenic descents, there’s something for every cyclist. Whether you’re craving a heart-pounding challenge or a leisurely ride, the Lake District offers diverse routes to suit your preferences.

When biking in this area, it’s essential to plan thoughtfully to select a challenge level that suits you. The demanding routes feature steep inclines and brief, technical descents. For road cyclists seeking a tough ride, the Lake District can be among the most challenging locations in the UK. However, there are also more manageable alternatives available—continue reading for best route suggestions.

When It’s Better to Cycle in the Lake District

There’s no denying the Lake District’s charm year-round! With its majestic cliffs, serene lakes, abundant wildlife, and rich history, there’s always something captivating to experience. Depending on whether you prefer chilly days for your cycling adventures or you opt for warmer weather, choose the right time for your visit to have the most comfortable experience.

In spring, immerse yourself in blankets of bluebells, fields of golden daffodils, and the fragrance of wild garlic.

Summer brings peak tourist season, offering warm and dry weather perfect for outdoor adventures like cycling, hiking, boating, and picnicking. Plus, indulge in beer festivals, food festivals, and lively country shows.

Autumn paints the landscape in breathtaking hues as trees don their vibrant foliage, creating a stunning backdrop for exploration. Enjoy pleasant weather and fewer crowds, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities.

South Lakeland Loop

Distance: 68.1 km with 863 m elevation gain

This route offers a delightful journey through the Southern Lake District, showcasing its rolling fells and tranquil country lanes. Starting from the Wheelbase Cycle Store in Staveley and heading clockwise, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the Lake District mountains and verdant fells. 

The route takes you along peaceful roads, passing through charming villages like Cartmel, known for its famous sticky toffee puddings, and Grange-over-Sands. Continuing northeast through the bustling market town of Kendal, famous for its mint cake, you’ll wind your way back to Staveley. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to stop at traditional pubs and cozy cafes, immersing yourself in the local culinary delights.

josh ibbett Josh Ibbett Bikepacking: Lakeland 200

Coniston, Duddon Valley, and Wrynose Loop (Central Lakes)

Distance: 63.1 km with 1351 m elevation gain

Starting from Elterwater, the route leads south along the serene shores of Coniston Water before traversing the tranquil and captivating Duddon Valley. The journey’s highlight is the ascent to the top of Wrynose Pass, which offers spectacular panoramic views and a thrilling descent through Little Langdale.

For those seeking a shorter ride, the route can be adjusted by following the road along the western edge of Coniston Water. Alternatively, for an extended adventure, consider turning left after descending Wrynose Pass to cycle past Blea Tarn and return via the Langdale Valley. While café options may be limited after Coniston, detours to the market town of Broughton-in-Furness or the Newfield Inn at Seathwaite in the Duddon Valley provide welcome refreshment stops.

This picturesque route offers a more manageable exploration of the Central Lakes. While still presenting a challenge, the ascents are generally gradual, allowing for a rewarding cycling experience amidst breathtaking scenery.

Lake District cyclist cycling 100k in the Lake District – full loop around Coniston Water

Grasmere, Whinlatter, Hardknott Loop (Central and North-West Lakes)

Distance: 105.6 km with 2133 m elevation gain

This route offers a comprehensive showcase of the diverse scenery and challenging climbs of the Lake District, spanning the central, northern, and western regions.

Beginning at Skelwith Bridge in the heart of the Lakes, the route heads northward, passing through picturesque Grasmere before reaching the bustling tourist hub of Keswick. Please note that, as of the time of writing, a road closure on the western side necessitates passing Thirlmere Reservoir on the A591. From Keswick, the route follows a section of The Fred Whitton course, traversing Braithwaite and ascending Whinlatter Pass. Along the way, cyclists will skirt the scenic Loweswater and the eastern fells before facing the formidable challenges of Hardknott Pass and Wrynose Pass on the return journey.

For much-needed refreshment, Keswick offers ample options, and cyclists can also find sustenance in Eskdale before tackling the demanding final climbs of the day. This route promises a true test of strength and endurance amidst the breathtaking landscapes of the Lake District.

Cycling Weekly Hardknott Pass | Iconic Climbs | Cycling Weekly

The Struggle

Distance: 4.1 km with 353 m elevation gain

From the outset, cyclists face a steep ascent, navigating through drystone walls and verdant moorland. While there’s a slightly more forgiving midsection, the climb crescendos with a series of sharp turns leading to the finish. The road surface adds to the challenge, testing cyclists’ skill and endurance.

Upon reaching the summit, cyclists are rewarded with panoramic views and the welcoming sight of the Kirkstone Pass Inn. Looking back towards Lake Windermere, the vista is truly breathtaking.

“The Struggle” is indeed a legendary climb, renowned as one of Britain’s most iconic hill climbs. Beginning on the outskirts of Ambleside and culminating at the summit of Kirkstone Pass, the highest pass in the Lake District, it spans 4.2 kilometers with a challenging elevation gain of 340 meters and gradients exceeding 20% in certain sections.


Whinlatter Pass

Distance: 4.9 km with 262 m elevation gain

The ascent up Whinlatter Pass offers cyclists a distinct and memorable experience within the Lake District’s landscape. Stretching for 4.9 kilometers, this climb stands out for its considerable length compared to other well-known passes in the region. Beginning at the quaint village of Braithwaite, cyclists embark on a journey through lush greenery as the pass is enveloped by dense tree cover. This characteristic feature distinguishes it from many others in the area.

Despite its length, Whinlatter Pass boasts a more moderate gradient, with an elevation gain of 230 meters. This gentle incline allows cyclists to settle into a comfortable rhythm, making the climb a manageable yet rewarding endeavor. Along the way, riders are treated to glimpses of the surrounding countryside, with occasional breaks in the tree canopy revealing stunning vistas of Bassenthwaite Lake to the north.

As cyclists ascend through Whinlatter Forest, they find themselves immersed in a tranquil setting, shielded from the elements by the towering trees that line the route. This sheltered environment adds to the allure of the climb, providing a sense of solitude and serenity amidst the rugged beauty of the Lake District. With its scenic vistas and manageable gradients, the ascent up Whinlatter Pass offers cyclists an unforgettable journey through one of England’s most picturesque regions.

Simon Thomas – The Lake D Cycling Whinlatter Pass – The Fred Whitton Route – The Lake District

Recommended Hotels in the Lake District

1692 Wasdale: Gosforth, Seascale CA20 1EW link | Instagram

Haven Cottage: Rydal Road Ambleside, Cumbria LA22 9AY link | Instagram

The Edwardene: 26 Southey Street, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 4EF link 

Recommended Cafes in the Lake District

The Bluebird Cafe: 12 Lake Road, Coniston, Cumbria, LA21 8AN link | facebook

VeeVa!: 49 Station Road, Cockermouth, Cumbria, CA13 9PZ link | Instagram 

Helvellyn Country Kitchen: Glenridding, Penrith, Cumbria, CA11 0PA link | Instagram 

Recommended Bike Rentals in the Lake District

Lake District bike hire options focus predominantly on off-road bikes. Road bike rental in the Lake District is harder to come by.

Lake District Bikes (mountain & road bikes): Beck View, Lowick Green, Nr. Ulverston, LA12 8DX link 

Total Adventure Bike Hire (mountain and e-bike): 9 Church Street, Windermere LA23 1AQ link | Instagram

Whinlatterbikes: 82 Main Street, Keswick, CA12 5DX link 

If you want to contribute to the guide or spot some inaccuracies, please get in touch with us through our newly launched WhatsApp community. We value your input and are open to collaboration.

Read more about adventuring in the UK: 

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