Dust off your bike, because we’ve got seven awesome cycling routes in and around the city for you to try out.
If you want to explore Leeds, there’s no better way to do it than on two wheels. It’s time to get on your bike and head out on one of the many incredible routes that take you around the city and into the nearby countryside. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or a pro, you’ll find a ride to suit you, stopping at a medley of must-visit landmarks along the way. What are you waiting for? Saddle up!
Aire Valley Towpath
The Aire Valley Towpath is a brilliant route to take on your bike. You’ll start in Leeds city centre and head west from Granary Wharf. The route takes you along the banks of the River Aire and you’ll pass loads of industrial landmarks along the way. It’s worth a detour to Kirkstall Abbey, where you can have a picnic beside the historic ruins.
Back on the canal path, you’ll ride past Bramley Fall, Rodley, Calverley Woods and Apperley Bridge, before you reach our main destination a few hours in. Saltaire is home to Salt’s Mill, a UNESCO World Heritage Site – expect independent shops, cafes and galleries. It’s 17 miles there, and 17 miles back, but with so much to see on the way, your ride will fly by.
Check out the Aire Valley Towpath route.
Want to explore the natural beauty of the Yorkshire Dales on your bike? Head out on this 36-mile circular route around Ilkley. You’ll start in the picturesque market town, before heading north into the Dales National Park where you’ll get to experience all of its breathtaking scenery on two wheels.
Riding out on proper country roads, the route is a little tricky and probably best suited to more experienced cyclists. It’s rewarding, though, as you pass the beautiful ruins of Bolton Abbey before taking on the winding bends through the charming villages of Appletreewick, Burnsall and Grassington, each of which are perfect for a mid-ride pitstop. Then it’s back on the bike as you pass through Skipton and Embsay before reaching the end at Ilkley.
Check out the Ilkley Loop route.
Otley Chevin Circular
Get on your bike and head north on this circular cycling route to the picturesque market town of Otley. Start in the city centre and make your way onto Otley Road, as you take on the 22-mile round trip – it should only take an hour to get there, but you might want to stop at Golden Acre Park along the way.
As you reach Otley, make a detour to the Chevin. This beautiful woodland covers a ridge overlooking the town and it’s great for cyclists, with over 6.5km of bridleways to explore. Afterwards, head towards the centre where you can stop off for a bite to eat at Salami & Co, a friendly little cafe perfect for recharging your batteries, and visit the acclaimed Chevin Cycles shop. You’ll take a different route home, one that takes you through Pool-in-Wharfedale and Bramhope where you’ll find even more lovely views.
Check out the Otley Chevin Circular route.
Kirkstall, Roundhay and Back
Want an easy ride that stays within the city’s borders? Try this 13-mile circular cycle route around North Leeds. Start at Leeds Town Hall and make your way west out of the city along Kirkstall Road. In less than 15-minutes, you’ll come to your first landmark, the historic ruins of Kirkstall Abbey.
After you’ve had a good mooch around, go east, cutting between Hawksworth and Horsforth and through Weetwood towards Moortown. Here, you have a decision to make – you can cut onto Street Lane and ride along to Roundhay Park or head south towards the city centre, passing through Meanwood, Headingley and Woodhouse as you work your way back to Leeds Town Hall.
Check out the Kirkstall and Roundhay route.
This scenic cycling route will take you all the way to Wetherby. It’s a 32-mile route and you’ll ride along National Cycle Network trails. Start just south of the River Aire at Granary Wharf, before heading east along the river on Route 66 towards Temple Newsam. From here, you’ll head through Austhorpe, Aberford and Bramham – be sure to stop at the aptly named Paradise Way, the views are incredible.
You’ll swap Route 66 for Route 67, as you arrive into the charming market town of Wetherby. You can visit landmarks like Wetherby Ings, the Georgian Bath House and Sandringham Park – or why not stop at Pomfrets for a cuppa and a slice of cake? Then it’s time to head back – you can go the way you came, or try the more scenic route, which will take you back through Linton and past Harewood House.
Check out the Wetherby Circular route.
If you’re looking for a family-friendly day out, why not try the Headingley Loop? It’s just 18-miles long and on well-laid roads, which means it’s perfect for beginners. The ride should only take a couple of hours to complete as you make your way from and back round to Otley Road in Headingley.
You’ll first head north, passing a series of natural wonders along the way – Golden Acre Park, Adel Dam Nature Reserve and Eccup Reservoir are all worth stopping at for a break on your ride. After the reservoir, you’ll head right into the countryside, weaving through villages like Arthington and Weardley, before making your way back into Headingley via Pool-in-Wharfedale and Bramhope.
Check out the Headingley Loop route.
The Lines Way
This leisurely 22-mile bike ride around South and East Leeds is mostly traffic-free, so it’s a great shout for families. You’ll start on the south bank of the city centre, before following the River Aire out of town and towards Thwaite Mills – this is one of the last remaining water-powered mills in Britain and it’s sat on a lovely island, perfect for picnics.
From here, you’ll join The Lines Way just outside of Woodlesford. This track is used by cyclists and pedestrians – it’ll take you all the way to Garforth, passing St Aidan’s RSPB Nature Park along the way. This is one of Leeds’ best-kept secrets, a 400-hectare former open cast mine near Swillington that’s now heaving with wildlife and greenery. Once you’ve explored, you can carry on to Garforth, before joining Route 66 which takes you past Temple Newsam and back into the city centre.
Check out The Linesway route.Cover image copyright Pete Carr.