The south-east corner of England might seem like a busy place, but it's easy to escape the crowds and discover this green and pleasant land by bike.
Cycle Friendly Kent
The ‘Garden of England’ is densely packed with trails, quiet lanes, big-ticket sightseeing, quirky coastal towns, salubrious towns and villages, and curious one-offs. Whether you fancy an invigorating ride along the cycle paths linking colourful seaside towns, or prefer to head inland and explore the rolling green countryside of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, there's lots to discover. It's a haven for food and drink connoisseurs, with a wealth of local produce to sample, vineyards galore and the pointed white tops of hop-drying oast houses peeking through the trees.
As part of the European Regional Development Fund EXPERIENCE project, Cycling UK is working with the Kent Downs AONB to develop an official riders' route for the North Downs Way National Trail through Kent (based on Cycling UK's suggested riders' route from 2018). We're also creating cycle hub locations along the North Downs Way, with promoted routes which showcase the varied riding in the area, and supporting businesses within these hubs to become accredited Cycle Friendly Places so you know you’ll have great options for places to eat and stay.
The medieval village of Wye, located just north-east of Ashford, has a modest 2,500 residents, yet still warmly welcomes visitors and cyclists.
With a train station and easy access just off the M20 motorway, it is well positioned to offer some wonderful adventures through the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, providing a welcome feeling of peace and tranquillity in the otherwise busy and bustling south-east corner of England.
‘Wye’, coming from the Old English Wēoh, means ‘idol’ or ‘shrine’ and Wye became an important ancient communications center because of the ford that crosses the River Great Stour. The Romans had a camp here, and through this gap in the North Downs, built roads connecting to Canterbury and Hastings.
By the time of the Saxons, Wye had become a royal manor and many of the village buildings are medieval, although often concealed by more modern facades. Until 2009 it was also home to London University’s agricultural college, with laboratories working on ground-breaking developments in plant molecular biology and gene sequencing amongst other things. It was even internationally famous for developing new and successful varieties of hops.
The village offers ample visitor facilities, providing a great base from which to explore the surrounding countryside and the rich history that the area has to offer. Our three routes from here provide a range of riding and experiences to suit leisure riders, explorers and off-road enthusiasts alike.
By train, Wye village has a train station just over the river, linking it with Canterbury to the north and Ashford to the south.
By road Wye is easy to access from the M20 motorway, exiting at junction 9 for Ashford. There is plenty of roadside parking, but follow the road around the village to get to a free car park, shortly before the church and Co-op.
By bike, Wye is on Sustrans Route 18.
Chilham (15 miles)
Exploring both sides of the River Stour valley, this is a ride that offers some lovely quiet and picturesque riding, along with a great refreshment stop in the gorgeous village of Chilham half-way around the route.
Wye Downs (and ups) (16 miles)
This route links together a fabulous collection of off-road rights of way and quiet country lanes, to provide a lovely exploration of the countryside to the south-east of Wye village. With stunning far-reaching views from on top of the Wye Downs, to lovely woodland tracks and quiet villages, plus a thrilling descent back off the Downs, there is also the opportunity to step back in time to marvel at how this land was farmed.
Wye woodland mountain bike loop (11 miles)
Although not very long, this route packs quite a punch, with some tricky trails and 455m of steep climbs and descents along the way placing it firmly in the mountain biking category. It may only explore a small compact area, just east of Wye village, but the trails wiggle around, searching out the more fun and challenging riding, whilst also exploring some beautiful quiet countryside and some wonderful views too.
One of Britain’s best-known south coast ports, Dover stands proudly between its famous white cliffs.
Initially named Dubris by the Romans, it has long been a strategic port, located just 33km from the coast of France. During the Saxon period, Dover became a fishing port and was one of the Cinque Ports that homed England’s first long-serving Royal Navy. With its majestic castle as a coastal fortress once used to protect the whole country, along with unique wildlife and ancient woodland, Dover certainly is worth exploring beyond its busy ferry terminals.
Our three routes explore both the rich history and countryside that this area has to offer, using ancient pilgrim routes and byways, Roman roads and new cycle paths to visit the numerous historic sights, castles and world war memorials that link long spans of history and sights together using the power of the bicycle.
By train, Dover Priory is the main station for Dover, a terminus of the South-east Main Line from London, with further lines connecting it with other towns along the coastline, and inland to Canterbury.
By road, Dover is about eight miles east along the A20 from Folkestone, which sits at the end of the M20 motorway.
A Dover-Deal Sandwich (25 miles)
The ride starts from an amazing high point with wonderful views overlooking the busy Dover docks below, with boats and vehicles coming and going. You’ll be heading inland first, past Dover Castle and joining an old Roman road for a dead-straight journey northwards through the quiet countryside to Betteshanger.
Once you reach the coastline your journey becomes busy and bustling as you follow a well-surfaced cycle track southbound, alongside miles of lovely shingle beach. With plenty of worthwhile distractions along the way, from castles to ice cream and afternoon tea in china cups served from a lighthouse, it’s a quintessential English journey back to Dover, which shouldn’t be rushed.
Kearsney and Alkham (11 miles)
This route is ideal for a gravel, touring/hybrid bike or hardtail mountain bike, with quiet single-track roads guiding you along the River Dour, and wonderful old mill, before elevating you up into the rolling hills. You will pass the local banger car racecourse, before pressing onwards to explore some quiet valleys and rougher tracks of your own, following byways and back-lanes, crossing the Alkham Valley.
After rising to the top of a hill once more, you are rewarded with a thrilling descent to finish the ride back at Kearsney Abbey, where refreshments and discovery of the beautiful gardens awaits you, to round off a wonderful day of exploring.
Samphire Hoe (8 miles)
This route is suitable for any type of bike, including a road bike, as it follows a hard and well surfaced cycle path along the tops of the cliff, to the edge of Folkestone. With a good all-weather track and an out-and-back ride to provide easy navigation, once the climb up through the tunnel at the start is done, it is easy riding, so suitable for novice riders.
The route turns around at the Battle of Britain memorial, to provide a thought-provoking rest stop, before returning back along the coast. There is also an option at the start or finish to add a short, easy loop around the Samphire Hoe Country Park, along a cycle track, to enjoy the wildlife and plants found there too.
Home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Canterbury Cathedral, the Church of St Martin and the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey – Canterbury’s rich history and beautiful buildings make it a popular tourist destination, which is consistently ranked as one of the most-visited cities in the United Kingdom.
As a result it has great facilities for visitors, and with lovely riding in all directions it makes a wonderful place to visit and explore by bike. Our three routes all head out in different directions, each offering a slightly different experience, but each with wonderful riding, scenery, and unique history. All are suitable for gravel, hybrid or mountain bikes.
Canterbury started life as an Iron Age settlement, and was a centre for the local Celtic tribe, the Cantiaci, in the first century AD, until 43 CE when the Romans invaded. They called the town Durovernum Cantiacorum, until they left in 407AD when town life broke down and the town was probably left abandoned. In 597 AD the Pope sent Augustine and some monks to convert the Saxons, and in 603 they built an abbey and Canterbury was chosen to be the seat of the first archbishop, which lead to it being rebuilt.
By train there are two mainline stations in the city, Canterbury West (in the north) and Canterbury East (in the south)!
By road, Canterbury is just beyond the end of the M2 motorway, another five miles down the A2.
By bike, National Cycle Network routes 1, 16 and 18 all run through Canterbury.
Canterbury to Coast (43 miles)
This ride starts by exploring the quiet, rural countryside of Kent, using bridleways and back roads, to pass through the 'garden of England'. The peace and tranquility of the ride through these gentle green hills are replaced as you hit the coastline, with concrete tracks, busy paths and numerous cafes and shops.
Canterbury Cathedral Cycle (25 miles)
This route uses a mixture of cycle paths, quiet roads and bridleways making it suitable for gravel, hybrid and mountain bikes, and visits no less than three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Canterbury Cathedral, the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey and the Church of St Martin. After a rich historical start to the ride, the route guides you out of the busy city centre and plunges you into the beautiful, quiet countryside where you will enjoy leafy tracks, orchards and a ford. After a choice of refreshments at some excellent cafes and country pubs along the way, the route then guides you back along traffic-free cycle paths, into the bustling centre of Canterbury along its amazing narrow historical streets, for a wonderful and varied journey.
Canterbury to Chilham (7 miles)
This route offers a nice, gentle ride along the River Stour which is suitable for all types of bicycle, including a road bike, although you’ll want to stick to the road and avoid the short optional off-road trail between Chartham and Chilham if you are on a road bike. You can ride it from either one of the ends, and catch the train back, or ride it in both directions if you wish. With so much history to see in Canterbury, a charming setting with refreshments to enjoy in Chilham and lovely countryside including a vineyard to visit along the way too, it provides an enjoyable ride with a taste of traditional England thrown in for good measure.