5 places to cycle off-road across Suffolk
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Explore the sights of Suffolk on bike with these more rural routes.
With the sun shining and summer in full swing, here’s five cycle routes you can enjoy across Suffolk - ranging from leisurely routes suitable for all the family, to more advanced trails with varying terrain.
Located roughly six miles south of Ipswich, visitors to Alton Water can either do the four-mile bike ride on surface tracks, or the more strenuous eight-mile cross-country route for those looking for a challenge.
As you head off, you’ll see a variety of sights, ranging from sailing boats, windsurfers and kayakers enjoying the water, to the local wildlife that inhabits the countryside, including a variety of birds such as golden eyes, wigeons, pochards and shovelers. With a number of places to stop along the way, be sure to bring a picnic so you can sit down and enjoy the views. A café and toilets are also available at Alton Water’s visitor centre.
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For those who don’t have their own, bikes are available to hire for both adults and children. Prices start at £9 for two hours for a children’s mountain bike, and £15 for two hours for a standard adult mountain bike. A family ticket - for two adults and two children - costs £45 for two hours. Helmets, children seats, tagalongs and trailers are also available to rent. Alton Water has a pay and display car park, with a daily charge of £3.
High Lodge, Thetford Forest
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With three cycling trails to choose from, High Lodge in Thetford Forest offers visitors a variety of ample opportunities to truly soak up your surroundings while riding a bike. Starting at High Lodge, Shepherd Trail is five-miles in length and is a relatively flat route with wide open forest roads, tracks and rides – ideal for families and beginners.
For more expert riders, there’s Beater Trail and Lime Burner Trail – a pair of advanced routes that are listed as ‘moderate’ and ‘difficult’ respectively. Beater Trails winds between trees, with small obstacles of root and rock, whereas Lime Burner Trail features varied and changeable surfaces with more challenging climbs, tricky descents and technical features such as drop-offs. Whichever route you opt for, you’re guaranteed to enjoy all of the beauty that Thetford Forest has to offer, including rich wilderness, towering pine trees and if you’re lucky, you might catch sight of some deer.
Bikes can be hired from Bike Art, with prices starting from £9 for a child’s bike and £11 for an adult bike for the first hour – with rentals for the day costing £29 and £36 respectively. Parking is available at the High Lodge centre, starting from £2 for an hour and going up to £12.50 for all-day parking. Public toilets and a café can also be found at the High Lodge visitors centre.
Situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Suffolk’s Rendlesham Forest has two cycle routes that you can embark upon – Tang Trail and F.I.D.O Trail. The former is six miles in length, while the latter is 10 miles.
Tang Trail is a gentle woodland cycle and is perfect for those who want a more leisurely ride, whereas F.I.D.O – named after the Second World War ‘Fog Investigation and Dispersal Operation’ – will take you through more varied terrain, including road, gravel, sand and grass.
Parking is £2.50 for up to two hours - or £4 for the whole day, and visitors are able to use one of the picnic spots throughout, or grab a bite to eat from Rendlesham Forest’s mobile café, Bear Grills. Toilets are also available within the forest.
If you’re up for the challenge, the Viking Trail in Tunstall Forest awaits. 10 miles long, it begins from the north of the forest, where riders start from the Sandgalls cark park before embarking across heathland areas filled with coniferous trees.
The Viking Trail is the legacy of the motorcycle events that have been held in the forest over the past decades. This trail is more rural than the others on this list, with no facilities or toilets available in the immediate vicinity.
The trail is great for birdspotting as you cycle around – be sure to keep an eye out for ground nesting birds such as nightjars and woodlarks.
Brandon Country Park
Explore open heathlands, wide horizons and luscious forests at Brandon Country Park, where visitors can undertake Poachers Trail. Just under six miles in length, this route features well-marked wide paths, narrow tracks and undulating drives, and is suitable for all the family, albeit slightly bumpy in places.
When visiting, be sure to look out for the park’s mausoleum and its historic walled garden. Wildlife that inhabits the area includes woodpeckers, muntjac deer and tawny owls.
Currently, the park’s toilets are open but the café isn’t. Parking at Brandon Country Park is £1 for up to two hours, and £2 for all day on Monday to Fridays. On weekends and bank holidays, parking is £1.50 for two hours and £3 for the whole day.