Many will be familiar with the UK’s right-of-passage LEJOG road touring route, running from one end of the UK to the other: between Cornwall’s Land’s End and Scotland’s John O’Groats. The Great North Trail is an off-road take on the northern portion (though plans are being hatched for a future route extension too). It knits together existing singletack, drovers roads, and minor back roads, with newly formed connectors to create an epic, 800 mile route that’s largely off-road. Towards the end, riders can either strike out for remote and windswept Cape Wrath—where they will be eligible to join the Cape Wrath Fellowship—or the classic and more well-travelled option, John o’Groats.
Although some will choose to tackle the route in one mouthwatering chunk (we calculate it at 18+ days, at 45 miles a day), it’s divided into eight more digestible pieces, each of which could be ridden over a long weekend, or even as shorter segments for family-friendly day rides. The route uses existing established trails, such as the Pennine Bridleway and Cross Borders Drove Road, linked via a network of trails, forest roads and abandoned railway lines. Cycling UK have been hard at work advocating landowners for trail access over the last few years and it’s finally come to fruition, though there will likely be upcoming improvements too as new, more efficient rights of ways are created.
As is, the route takes in some of northern England and Scotland’s most iconic spots of natural beauty, running through the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, Kielder Forest, Corrieyairack Pass, Loch Ness and Cape Wrath. It’s also part of the cycling charity’s wider ambition to connect the National and Great Trails of England, Wales and Scotland, in a plight to open up more and more countryside to cyclists—for both health and economic benefits.
Given the mixture of conditions and the emphasis on off-road riding, it sounds like a hardtail is an ideal bike for the undertaking, though a gravel bike shod with 40c tyres will get you through too. Around 98 per cent of the Great North Trail is on bridleways, byways, cycle routes, unpaved roads and very low traffic minor roads.
We’ll be posting the route on the site in the near future; in the meantime, head to Cycling UK for full details, gpx files, and a breakdown of each segment. We’re thrilled to have another long-distance bikepacking route in the UK and look forward to riding it ourselves!
Images courtesy of Cycling UK/Joolze Dymond. Opener by Cycling UK/Robert Spanring.
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