A family mountain biking trip in the Lake District, UK

We’ll soon be going on an adventure, exploring some isalnds on the west coast of Scotland, with mountain bikes and the occasional luxury stay thrown in. It promises to be a great experience – if the weather holds, at least – and amazingly we’ve always tended to be rather lucky in that regard with our previous trips north. Keep an eye on the blog for regular updates which, if time and internet connections permit, we’ll be doing as we go along. In the meantime, though, I thought I’d share a ‘trial run’ we took closer to home, in the English Lake District.

We have some great new bikes from Ridgeback for the job so first I’ll share with you a bit of information about them. Ridgeback, if you’re not already familiar with them, were responsible for introducing mountain biking to the UK and are currently enjoying their 30th anniversary.

Mountain biking in the Lake District - car ferry

We have four different Ridgeback bikes among the four of us in the family. Mine is a 19″ matte black Dual Track X3, my wife’s is the 15″ Dual Track X1 which comes in a very smart-looking ‘forest green’, our eldest son loves his 13″ 602LX which is aimed at “young adults” and our youngest is very comfortable on his RX24 (he tried the 602LX but it was asking a bit too much of him at this stage!).

This was our first outing on them and we decided to do a loop around Windermere (England’s largest lake), starting from Windermere down to the car ferry just beyond Bowness (which is just £1 per person to cross as a foot passenger with a bike), and back up through Claife Heights on the western (and much quieter) side of the lake.

Mountain biking in the Lake District 2

Mountain biking in the Lake District

Mountain biking in the Lake District

Now in its second year is a ‘bike boat’ service which is excellent for making the trip a little bit more interesting and varied. There are various jetties where you can pull up, catch the boat and travel with your bike to another point on the lake. We had meant to go up as far as Wray Castle (but inadvertantly got on at an earlier stop – Bark Barn) and ventured across the lake to Brockhole where we sat on the lawn and had an ice cream. The bike boat is a great service – you just hand your bike across before boarding and then take a seat. We were lucky enough to have it all to ourselves – just the four of us, our four bikes and the skipper.

Windermere Bike Boat

Windermere Bike Boat

Windermere Bike Boat

Once at Brockhole, there is an excellent playground there and a new treetop challenge where you follow a marked route through the trees, walking along rope bridges, climbing and zipwiring your way along. Instead we managed to locate a nice muddy puddle and had a little bit of fun with that before returning to Windermere!

Muddy puddle

The road through the central Lakes is quite a busy one, with plenty of motorhomes and caravans during the tourist season, but for most of the way from Brockhole to Windermere, there’s a reasonably wide pavement with barely any pedestrians, so we opted for that instead.

Brockhole to Windermere

Note that if you are local to the area, you can apply for a card that gives you a 20% discount on all trips on the bike boat (as well as on Windermere Lake Steamers) in season, and a huge 50% off out of season. The card lasts five years and is a nice little extra perk that many people don’t know about.

As for the bikes? Well, they were fantastic, coping with lots of different terrain, and should be ideal for our forthcoming adventure in Scotland…

Comments (8)

  1. Clay says:

    Sweet pictures, that looks like a blast! Bike riding is one of the best ways to get to know an area. Generally when i’m on the road I like to either go for a run in the morning or ride around on bikes to learn the area. It always proves well for finding good spots to eat!

  2. Paul Johnson says:

    Thanks, Clay… I enjoy running also and have done a few marathons. I’m less of a cyclist but will hopefully have enough in me to keep up with the children when we go to Scotland, even if I am the one with the panniers on the back!

  3. Nick says:

    Hi Paul, great post and the photos make me want to grab my mountain bike and head out somewhere remote. I’m sure you’ll have a great time in Scotland, and it’ll probably be a little more hilly than The Lakes. I think I’d have chosen a route a little more off the beaten track in The Lake District (the roads are always mad), but it looks like you had a great time. Look forward to reading about your Scottish adventure.

  4. Paul Johnson says:

    Thanks, Nick… actually when you get on to the western side of Windermere, it really is fairly quiet. No vehicles and only a handful of walkers and other cyclists. In any case, this was really just meant as a trial with the bikes. When we get to Scotland, we’ll have more time and I imagine we’ll be able to get off the beaten path a bit more.

  5. Paul Holdsworth says:

    Hi Paul
    Great write-up, glad you enjoyed the Bike Boat! As you rightly say, our service gives rapid access to some superb, traffic-free cycling (as well as an extensive network of very quiet lanes), from the busier parts of south Lakeland. It’s a great way to get to safe cycling terrain for young families, and we do make a point of handling the bikes carefully – as a cyclist myself I know how important this is!
    All the best
    Paul (Bike Boat skipper)

  6. Paul Johnson says:

    Thank you, Paul… was it you who kindly took us across? :)

  7. Paul Holdsworth says:

    I guess it must have been – that’s me in the picture! I’ll be at the helm of the Bike Boat most days this summer.

  8. Simon says:

    Nice blog. Love the Lakes and biking, so was a win-win. In fact, the north-west of England has some great cycling locations. Rivington is half a mile from the office where I work and is great!

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