Cycling in Wiltshire over chalk downland, through river valleys and quintessential English villages has everything to offer the cyclist.
Off or on-road you can cycle around towns, cities or in the countryside and explore this ancient rural landscape. In the heart of the countryside, there is a rich vein of tracks permeating this historic area. The legacy that is left behind from those bygone days comes in the form of old bridleways such as ‘The Monarchs Way’, Britain’s second longest trail that meanders its way through the county. It is possible to follow some of the route Charles II took to escape the Cromwell’s army. However, it is difficult to follow all of the 610 miles of this route by bicycle as footpaths, (not accessible for cycles) help forge the link of this infamous route.
Other off-road routes that are popular are the Shaston Drove, which follows the ridge of chalk downland from Salisbury to White Sheet Hill which stands above Ludwell, 5 miles east of Shaftesbury. Running parallel south to the drove is Win Green Ox Drove which crosses the Ebble valley. There are many opportunities to deviate from the droves as bridleways link from the track and swoop down to the South Wiltshire river valleys.
These ancient droves are not the only domain for the off-road cyclist. For the intrepid and hardy off-road cyclist there is Salisbury Plain. Though access to the Plain is restricted because of military manoeuvres, it is possible to explore this fascinating area by following trails at the edge of the plain and odd byways which are dotted around it. There are times in the year when much of the Plain is open and it is possible to ride across the numerous tracks that criss-cross this desolate yet absorbing wilderness.
North of Salisbury Plain there is a wonderful route with breathtaking views of Pewsey Vale. It is a series of bridleways which follow the escarpment. The trails give access to Wiltshire’s highest points of Milk Hill and Tan Hill (964 feet) before cascading down to the Avon and Kennett Canal where it is possible to cycle much of the towpath. One important point to note is that when cycling along the towpath, it is necessary to obtain permits (free of charge) from British Waterways before tackling this serene landscape.
However, the county is not just about off-road cycling and mud splattered tracks. There are numerous possibilities for riding along quiet country ‘green’ lanes providing visitors with a chance to experience rural England at its best. The Wiltshire Cycleway is a route designed to be cycled in an anti-clockwise direction and offers six circular routes ranging from 70 to 160 miles. These routes link in with national routes developed by Sustrans and the National Byway. It is possible to visit many of Wiltshire’s famous attractions such as Longleat, Stourhead and Marlborough as they are accessible from the Cycleway.
In the north of the county is one of these national cycle routes, known as the North Wiltshire Rivers Route. This route is part of National Cycle Route 4 which is a footpath and cycleway linking Melksham, the National Trust village of Lacock and Avebury, now famous for its prehistoric stones. Much of this route follows traffic free paths and runs through the historic towns of Calne and Chippenham.
It is not just the countryside that the cyclist can explore but also the towns or cities and none more so than the stunning cathedral city of Salisbury. The local council backed by cycling user groups, has led to the introduction of the Golden Way, a seven mile circular route. The route offers the cyclist the chance to explore all around the city but it is also linked closely to the National Cycle Network and Wiltshire Cycleway if one wishes to escape to the countryside.
Off Cycling offers short break tours discovering the delights of Wiltshire. They offer guided tours that are led by experienced and qualified leaders as well as delivering bespoke day trips or short tours for visitors who wish to ‘go it alone’. Details can be found on www.off-cycling.co.uk.
So whether it is a day, weekend or even longer Cycling in Wiltshire has much to offer and will certainly prove a pleasurable, satisfying and rewarding experience.Cycling in Wiltshire