From rolling hills and twisting bridleways to quiet country lanes and riverside trails, the South Downs has something to offer every keen cyclist. Whether you’re looking for a quick, hour-long ride or an epic weekend adventure, you’re sure to find a route perfect for you in this beautiful corner of southern England.
1. The Centurion Way
The Centurion Way is a 5.5-mile railway trail connecting Chichester to West Dean via Lavant. The trail crosses an old Roman road, hence the name, and also passes the beautiful Brandy Hole Copse Nature Reserve, famous for the sea of bluebells that erupts there every spring. This gently sloping cycle route is a great choice for those who want a taste of cycling in the South Downs in under an hour.
2. River Itchen
The River Itchen is a beautiful chalk stream flowing from mid-Hampshire to Southampton. This 16-mile circular cycle route begins and ends in New Alresford, looping around to join the river at its source on the return leg of the journey. Start in the picturesque Georgian town of New Alresford, near Winchester, and follow the trail south-east to the Circle of Stones, a local landmark. On your return, save some time to explore the stunning National Trust country manor Hinton Ampner. This cycle route is moderately challenging, with a mixture of on- and off-road sections and some steep climbs, and should take around three hours.
If you won’t be satisfied until you’ve cycled the entirety of the South Downs National Park, then the South Downs Way is the trail for you. This epic, 100-mile-long off-road mountain bike route stretches all the way from Winchester to Eastbourne, and can take up to three or four days to complete. Your reward for meeting this challenge is a diverse trail that offers the very best of the English countryside: vibrant wildlife, stunning views, quaint villages and cosy pubs, historic landmarks and ancient monuments.
The trail passes by five different National Nature Reserves and offers a truly comprehensive experience of the South Downs to those adventurous enough to tackle it. Needless to say, you’ll need to be an experienced off-road cyclist with a good level of physical fitness to complete the trail, but for those seeking a gentler experience, it is possible to complete only a section of the route.