Whether you're looking for family friendly rides or challenging endurance rides, there's something for everyone in the stunning South Downs National Park.
The South Downs is Britain’s newest national park, having only been designated in 2011. If you’ve ever stepped foot in this beautiful area, you’ll struggle to comprehend why it didn’t become a national park sooner. The mighty hills, stunning coastline and chocolate-box villages will blow you away.
Stretching 1,648 square kilometres, the South Downs covers a huge area, so naturally there are plenty of fantastic cycle routes to experience. We’ve collated three of the best and listed them in terms of length and difficulty – there’s something for every type of rider here!
The Meon Valley trail
Perfect for: Casual riders/young families
One of the shortest cycle routes in the South Downs, the Meon Valley trail is ten miles of level riding, so it’s ideal for families after a gentle but interesting bike trip. The route follows the former railway line which ran from Wickham to West Meon and you’ll pass through several pretty villages, including Soberton, Corhampton and Exton.
It’s well worth stopping off in one or two of the villages for lunch or high tea, as the selection of pubs and tearooms is impressive. Don’t miss Droxford station, as this is where former Prime Minister Winston Churchill apparently finalised the plans for D-Day with General Eisenhower.
Perfect for: Capable cyclists/families with older children
This 50-mile route in East Hampshire starts in the beautiful Alice Holt Forest and ends in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. These two tourist attractions are linked for a reason: Alice Holt Forest is where the oak trees used in Tudor shipbuilding were grown, whilst the Dockyard is home to a ship from that very period – The Mary Rose.
Much of this cycle route is off-road, but the terrain is pretty level and therefore easy to traverse. You’ll ride through many interesting towns, including Borden, Liphook, Liss, Petersfield and Havant, as well as Hayling Island and Queen Elizabeth Country Park. If you’re going on a family bike ride, see if you can get the kids to spot all 20 stone sculptures along the way. Each one refers to the history or wildlife of the area.
Perfect for: Expert cyclists/those after a challenge
The South Downs National Park
The South Downs Way is a journey that simply must be made. It spans 99 miles between Winchester and Eastbourne, so cycling it is no easy feat. Many of the tracks are on stone or grass and some are rather hilly – the is the South Downs, after all!
Due to the length and terrain, the South Downs Way will probably take you between two and three days to complete, so make sure you plan to stop over somewhere. There are plenty of options in terms of hostels, B&Bs and campsites. When there’s so much to see and do along the way, you won’t want to rush this route.
You’ll ride through a selection of charming market towns, including Midhurst, which boasts more than 100 listed buildings, and Lewes, home to the oldest brewery in Sussex. If history is your thing, stop off at Winchester Hill – a stone age hill fort with Bronze Age barrows inside it.
Bring your camera to capture the awesome views from Devil’s Dyke and Ditchling Beacon. They are a challenge to climb, but the sea views are worth the hard work.