You’d be forgiven if the UK never crossed your mind as a destination for great adventure motorcycle riding. As it turns out, the diverse landscapes on offer in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland provide a variety of terrain packed into a relatively small area.
Whether you’re looking to get out on a day trip to have some fun, or leave for a few days to clear the mind and get away from it all, the UK has a lot to offer for the adventure rider.
Outlining all the different routes one can take would be far beyond the scope of this post, but what follows are some highlights we recommend.
One thing to keep in mind before you go: double-check the route(s) you’re taking to make sure there are no closures. Some (most) routes require a road-legal motorcycle be used to traverse the path.
Ready? Here we go.
We start with a fairly easy trail for riders of all levels, but especially beginners, to enjoy. Located in Norfolk, portions of this 50-mile, mostly flat trail follows the coastline, providing some amazing scenery and views of the water as you ride by.
Other portions are on easy back roads. One of the highlights of the trail occurs near Castle Acre, as you’ll experience a water crossing – and who doesn’t love a good water crossing?
There isn’t anything too technical here, so while beginners will appreciate the gentle entry into adventure riding, if you’re looking for something more challenging, you might be best served looking elsewhere.
Also, be aware of travelers on foot, as there are sections of the path specifically for them.
Located in Wiltshire, Fosse Way is a historic road dating back to the Roman Empire. Today you can easily spend a weekend traversing all the route has to offer, as it spans from Lincoln to Exeter on a wide range of terrain.
While there are some paved portions of the route, you’ll also find yourself doing some scrambling in portions while also enjoying the relaxed nature of open green roads (otherwise known as fire roads to some people).
The route isn’t challenging, so this is another path suitable for less experienced riders. However, there are some tricky sections with hidden ruts covered by long grass and rocky sections the absolute neophyte may find intimidating. Otherwise, the only navigational challenge is finding your way around Kemble airfield and back on the dirt.
To find something with a little more spice and variety for more experienced riders, Sarn Helen, located in the south of Wales, has something for you. This one area has so many different routes, both on-tarmac and off, so if you’re experienced and looking for a mighty challenge, there are other paths near Sarn Helen sure to satisfy.
There are several different paths you can follow, navigation alone is part of the difficulty. Even Sarn Helen itself offers a challenge straight away, as it starts with a steep climb that can be slippery at times but levels off and takes you through woodlands and open landscapes.
Along the way, you might not see another soul for a while as the route takes you through parts of the UK that have yet to be inhabited.
It’s worth stressing again the importance of navigation, as it’s easy to lose your way at Sarn Helen and find yourself on a much harder trail. If you’re considering Sarn Helen, note that it’s only open between June 1 - August 21.
High Peaks and Goyt Valley
High Peaks and Goyt Valley in South Yorkshire is perfect for a quick getaway to clear the mind. This is a great loop with a little bit of everything, from open dirt roads to twisty tarmac sections (assuming you like to do a little canyon carving in between your off-road sessions).
Littered in between, you’ll find rolling hills, beautiful trails, and scenic countryside that’s sure to take your breath away. Smaller enduro bikes will have no problems navigating the different challenges, and most adventure bikes will be fine too, but if you’re newer to the big bike lifestyle, be wary of the rocks you’ll likely encounter. Engine protection and bash guards are highly recommended.
Salisbury Plain and Drove Roads
Let’s get the caveat out of the way first. This land – all 94,000 acres of it – is owned by the Ministry of Defense. As such, it’s not uncommon to find unexploded munitions in the ground, barbed wire, tanks, trenches, and even live firing!
This is why it is crucial to only stay on the marked path. Fortunately, the pathway is well marked, and there is plenty to see and do on the path anyway. It’s not every day you get to ride by wrecked combat equipment and combat practice areas and not be in the middle of a war zone. This alone makes it very special.
Beyond the obvious highlight, the vast land means the trail options are seemingly endless and include some deep water crossings. This water also means certain spots can be muddy and slippery, making it better suited for riders with a little more experience.
This one isn’t for the weak or faint of heart. If you want a challenge, the Grasshill Causeway in County Durham is it. It’s only four miles, but it’s an intense four miles full of rocks.
Not just rocks, but also descents filled with rocks. Of course, descents mean getting up to the highest point first.
This is the easy part (relatively speaking), because the surface soon goes to hell at the top and all of your skill braking while going downhill will be put to good use. As a reminder, be sure to turn off ABS if your bike has it because you certainly will be in a world of trouble if it’s on.
If you want an added challenge, go after a rainstorm that has made the trail nice and wet. Weight the rear wheel, be deft with both brake levers, and be sure to install crash protection on your motorcycle. You’ll need it!
Sound too intimidating? Don’t worry; there are many easier routes nearby, all of which offer epic scenery and plenty of fun.
As you can see, the UK offers something for everyone when it comes to adventure riding. But, clearly, we’ve only just scratched the tip of the iceberg, too.
If you’re open to including equal amounts of tarmac riding (or more), other options include the North Coast 500 in Scotland, the “Cat and Fiddle road,” and of course, the Isle of Man. If you do the latter, be sure to visit during the TT, as that’s a sight every motorcycle fan must witness at least once in their lives.