How I Discovered the Best Cycling Routes Around Newcastle



Let me start by introducing myself – I am Robert Lewis, an accidental cyclist, and an unintentional explorer of the serpentine roads of Newcastle.

My journey into the world of cycling began not out of a profound love for the sport or an innate desire to reduce my carbon footprint.

No, it was purely because my car decided to breathe its last on a cold Monday morning, forcing me to reconsider my modes of transport.

And thus, armed with a second-hand bike that creaked more than my knees on a cold day, I set off to discover Newcastle on two wheels over the weekend and never stopped going on bike trails in my free time ever since!

The UK’s Mountain Biking Trail Grading System

There are currently two grading systems flying around in the UK which can get a little bit confusing. Please check the official trail guide to stay informed before you decide to tackle a mountain bike trail!

Luckily I’ve found that the two systems are not all that different so what I’ve told myself to make it easier is that the old Orange rated trails are just like the newly labeled ‘Double Black’ rated trails.

Don’t ask me why they’ve decided on making such an insignificant change I genuinely couldn’t tell you.

Hamsterley Forest

Hamsterley Forest Mountain Bike Trails Map

Offering over 2,000 hectares of forest and 33 miles of trails, Hamsterley Forest is what I’d call a ‘must visit.’ In fact, it’s the first place I officially had a trail ride in. It’s relatively close to where I live so I was like ‘why not give it a shot?’

I’ve now taken the blue an red trails and intend to tackle the black trail in the warmer months.

The blue trail is ideal for groups and families who’d like a relaxing 2 hour trip. I went with my two mates Harry and Lily who haven’t been on quite as many bike trails as I have and they also enjoyed it with minimal complaints. Hopefully you guys like the sun more than they do.

I did the red trail solo on a miserable and rainy day (please don’t follow in my footsteps it was very foolish of me) and it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. I left the trail with a few scrapes and bruises but those were completely my fault. It certainly wouldn’t have happened if it didn’t rain that day. It’s quite a 3 hour trip which is why I recommend going solo or in a group of experienced cyclers.

Kielder Forest

Kielder Mountain Bike Trails Map

Kielder Forest presents over 100 miles of trails ranging from easy to difficult, catering to all skill levels. My next solo mountain bike trail kicked off on the Lonesome Pine trail, famously lauded for its rollercoaster-like drops and the UK’s lengthiest plank path—a bona fide trial of both my equilibrium and audacity.

Because clearly, what’s a ride without the imminent threat of a spectacular tumble?

Swiftly, I veered onto the Bloody Bush trail, making a beeline for the Scottish Border because, why not add international intrigue to my pedal-powered exploits?

This wasn’t merely a physical trial; it was a historical odyssey linking Kielder Water & Forest Park to Newcastleton and the illustrious 7 Stanes bike centre. Oh, the tales the tyres could tell, if only they spoke in human tongues.

Then there was that one ride, indelibly etched in my memory, where we charged through the forest’s heart as dusk embraced the sky. Ascending Deadwater’s stony paths, I was swaddled by an eerie silence only the wilderness can muster.

The descent? Pure, unadulterated exhilaration, darting through shadows into the starry embrace of the open night, courtesy of the area’s brag-worthy protected night sky status. Because nothing says “mountain biking” quite like turning into an amateur astronomer.

North Tyneside Waggonways Routes

Seaton Burn Orange Cycle Route Map

My first orange trail… This network, transformed from disused coal hauling routes into cycling paths, offers a unique historical perspective alongside scenic rides. With over £2m invested in their redevelopment, they now serve as wonderful trails for both locals and tourists!

All of the cycling routes you can find near the Waggon Ways can be found here! I highly recommend some of the Waggonways Routes for beginners because they’re so lovely and scenic. I want to bring my friends here with me next time but perhaps not on the orange route…

I took the Seaton Burn route. It was a mixed bag of postcard-worthy views and inclines that feel personally vindictive. It’s England, so naturally, the weather has a personality disorder—sunshine one minute, a downpour the next, leaving me to wonder if I’m cycling or auditioning for a water sport.

Seaton Burn itself is quaint, the kind of place that almost makes the uphill battles worth it. I say “almost” because let’s be real, any affection I express for those hills is strictly Stockholm syndrome.

By the journey’s end, drenched, slightly sore, but oddly invigorated, I’m left reflecting on the experience. It’s beautiful, brutal, and bizarrely addictive. Would I do it again? Ask me after I’ve recovered my senses and can sit down without wincing.

Seaton Burn itself? A charming spot that almost makes you forget you’re exercising. Almost. Between the quaint villages and the ever-present chance of a sudden downpour, it’s an authentic English cycling experience—complete with the requisite amount of grumbling and the odd, begrudging admission of its charm.

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