Best Biking Summer Holiday... Great Britain

Best-ever biking summer holiday across Great Britain so you can get some ideas for your own. You don’t have to spend thousands of pounds or be away from work for long


Name: Barry Tavner
Bike: KTM 950SM
Miles covered: 1,322
Total cost: £480
Pros: Amazing roads, no traffic
Cons: Bloody cold in Scotland

September of last year, and I needed to get away from work and London. I love living in the city but sometimes it does you good to get out and realise there’s more to Britain than getting pissed with your mates in bars and pubs. I had a KTM 950SM at the the time, not exactly the most obvious long-distance bike in the world but I’ve covered plenty of miles on KTMs and so long as you don’t expect Pan European levels of comfort, they’re absolutely fine.

Going abroad wasn’t really on the cards because, quite honestly, I couldn’t be arsed. I’ve always loved heading north into the wilds, so stuffed a backpack full of pants, socks and a toothbrush and took off up the M6 towards the Lake District. The weather at the end of last summer finally came good, and for five days I was spoilt with glorious British sunshine. The plan was to head up towards the west coast of Scotland, discover some of the legendary roads I’d heard so much about from mates and the guys in the office, then cut across to Edinburgh and make my way back down.

My first problem was encountered on the motorway. The high-level exhausts of the KTM don’t exactly lend themselves to luggage systems and the bag I had strapped to the seat managed to get itself melted by the exhausts. The chain I’d taken managed to escape, followed by a small scattering of scorched clothes.

Once into the Lake District, I was amazed at how devoid of life the whole place had become. With the school holidays over I basically had the entire place to myself, which neither myself nor the KTM had any problem with. I arrived in Ambleside, hooked up with some friends and spent three days having some of the best riding of my life.

If you’re based in the South and your idea of a good road is the A286, A339 or A272, then the roads and open-ness up here will blow you away. With minimal traffic (apart from the odd coffin-dodger or caravan pottering about) the A and B-roads are yours to enjoy. I chose to ride at medium velocities and soak up the scenery as well as the road ahead. This is where bikes like the KTM come alive, and any discomfort or flambeéd clothes on the motorway are soon forgotten. At times, it’s all about the riding, eyes looking well ahead, body straining against the wind and picking the perfect line through a series of perfect roads. And at others, it’s all about kicking back, leaving the KTM in a high gear and being slightly amazed at how stunning this country can be. When it has a mind to.

It’s not all about riding. The beer in this neck of the woods is some of the finest in the world and if you don’t like proper English beer after a week in the Lakes then you never will. And it never ceases to amaze me how riding a bike for just five hours in one direction can have such a marked difference on the country and people around you. The Lakes were only 300 miles from London, but I may as well have been riding on another continent.

Taking off for Scotland, the winds picked up and the temperature went down. The next waypoint on my map were the Trossock mountains, north of Glasgow. I’d wanted to push properly into the Highlands but now there wasn’t really time. While it was grey and raining down south, the sun continued to blaze down where I was. But it was cold - boy, was it cold! This is where the KTM’s skinny frame starts to count against you, nowhere to hide from the wind and compared to the Lakes, the Trossocks aren’t quite as open or inviting. I dive into Edinburgh early and get properly pissed with my friends.

It’s human nature to always go on holiday abroad, but the fact is that there’s some incredible riding to be had in this country. You just need to know where to look. The three best places to explore are Wales, the north of Scotland and the Lakes, all quite similar in topography and everywhere I went on the big, orange KTM in Cumbria I got a warm welcome from the locals. To date this simple week away from work on a bike has been by far the best ride I’d had. For anyone looking for a proper break away from it all who doesn’t want the drama of going overseas, I can’t recommend it highly enough.


Your biggest cost in any ride-out in Britain is fuel and B&Bs. If you go in the middle of season a B&B can cost up to £80 per night in the Lake District, so pick your excursion in May or September if you want to save. Expect to spend around £250 on fuel if you and some mates are going to be covering serious miles. The local ales are great so bring plenty of beer money, and for those of a hardy nature camping is always on the cards. Just be prepared to be eaten alive by midges!


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