8 brilliant bike rides in Northants
Seasoned pro or one of the thousands who opted to get on their bikes during lockdown, we've tested some great local rides to give those glutes a workout.
Blakesley to Thorpe Mandeville circular route, 10 miles
Ding ding! Watch out for the very slow, red-faced woman in bulging lycra who hopefully hasn’t forgotten her bike pump this time. This rural route follows quiet roads with a few long hills that may require a bit of extra puff. Worth the effort though, as early on a Sunday morning you’d be lucky to see a car on some of these stretches. Start the the Bartholomew Arms in Blakesley and cycle through Wood End and Plumpton towards Weston (single track roads). You then head to Sulgrave and Thorpe Mandeville before turning sharply back towards Culworth, Eydon, Canons Ashby and back to Blakesley. Our top tips for lunch are The Crown Inn at Weston and The Red Lion in Culworth, so you could make one of these an alternative start/finish point. There are also two great visitor attractions en route worth a detour: Sulgrave Manor and National Trust Canons Ashby. Tea rooms ahoy!
Brackley to Cottisford circular route, 17 miles
Brackley makes for a fab start/finish, as it is jam packed with top notch eateries. Head out from the market square down Bridge Street towards Tesco and cross the A43, going out of town towards Evenley. Here a visit to Forge Coffee is an absolute must, and if you’re ready for a detour then a potter around Evenley Wood Garden makes for a pleasant diversion. Continue to Mixbury and then hangar south to Cottisford before reaching Croughton, where you’ll pass Croughton Air Base, and Hinton-in-the-Hedges, before finally arriving back in Brackley for a stop off at The Green Room.
Stoke Bruerne – Blisworth circular route, 12.4 miles
This is a fairly easy ride, with a slightly more bustling vibe. Starting in Blisworth, the home of Stonyfield Wines, you can follow the canal towpath all the way down to Stoke Bruerne, heading over the Blisworth tunnel along the path. Go through Stoke Bruerne, or stop here for an ice-cream or a cheeky pub stop, and then onwards, crossing the A508 towards Ashton and through Hartwell. The road then crosses over the M1 to Salcey Forest. Here you can enjoy the cycling routes around the woods and the fab Grounds Cafe, or continue on your way to Quinton and finally back across to Blisworth.
Castle Ashby to Brafield-on-the-Green circular route, 11.8 miles
Never one to miss a good tea room, Muddy seriously recommends kicking this ride off at Castle Ashby, so you can bookend your exercise with a lovely cuppa and a slice of cake at the tea rooms in the walled gardens. From here, head towards Denton but turn left before reaching the village. Once you reach Horton, you turn back on yourself to head north out of the village towards Brafield-on-the-Green, Cogenhoe, Whiston and finally back to Castle Ashby for a well-deserved refuel.
King’s Sutton to Chipping Warden circular route (28 miles or 15 miles with a short cut).
If you’re after a real leg stretch then this is the route for you. But DON’T PANIC, there are some absolute corkers of pubs and refreshment stops en route, so no need to worry about your hydration and energy levels. This a really bucolic route on quiet country roads and passing through picturesque villages. Start at King’s Sutton and head toward Middleton Cheney via Upper Astrop. Pass through Chacombe, Wardington and Chipping Warden before swinging back down through Culworth, Sulgrave, Marston St. Lawrence and turn off towards Farthinghoe, Charlton and Aynho before you return to your start point, where The White Horse beckons. If you fear 28 miles may finish you off, slash the route in half by cutting across in between Middleton Cheney and Marston St Lawrence via Thenford, which gives you the choice of two smaller routes depending on your start point.
Brampton Valley Way (17miles)
If you’re cycling with energetic kiddos, the BVW is your friend. A top notch traffic-free cycling and walking path that joins Northampton to Market Harborough via a meandering countryside trail, the route is quite a long one, but if you’ve got less hardy legs you could pick a short section rather than do the whole thing. There are a couple of nice detours to enjoy en route after braving the dark of the Oxenden Tunnel (use your lights!), including Kelmarsh Hall, Brixworth Country Park and Lamport Steam Railway. Just remember to be careful crossing over the A508 close to Lamport. Why not enjoy a pitstop at The Workhouse in Brixworth to refuel?
Salcey Forest, 4.5 miles
A flat, smooth and pretty safe option for beginners and novice cyclists, the trails around Salcey Forest are a great way to develop your skills and build confidence, so extra good for wee ones who are just getting comfy in the saddle, or even big ones who want to ride their bicycle but don’t want the hassle of navigating road traffic. You can hire bikes at the lovely Grounds cafe, located beside the car park.
Fineshade Wood, 5 miles
Another fantastic road-free family cycling track taking in five miles of waymarked routes around the woodland. There’s also slightly longer optional route if you prefer. There are some moderate hilly sections in the woods, so pack your energy tubes. Fineshade is a great place to ride together as a family group and let the littler Mudlets have a bit more freedom than they would enjoy on the roads. Bike hire is available here too – bonus – courtesy of Grounds Cycle Centres.