Best Bikepacking Events UK & Ireland | 10 Scenic Cycling Challenges For 2021 - Outdoors Magic

Outdoors Gear, Equipment, News, Reviews, Forums, Walking Routes and More at OutdoorsMagic.com

Share

How To Guides

Best Bikepacking Events UK & Ireland | 10 Scenic Cycling Challenges For 2021

With travel opening up across the UK & Ireland, here's a list of the 10 best bikepacking events for 2021. Spanning across much of mainland Britain and the Emerald Isle, there's something for everyone.

Bikepacking events are a great way to combine your love of cycling and your desire for adventure whilst still pushing yourself that step further. Perhaps you’ve made your way through our best bikepacking routes in the UK round up and need a new challenge to overcome. Or maybe you’re a complete beginner and want to meet other multi-day cycle enthusiasts to learn from and share a pint with. Whatever your reason, we’ve compiled a list of just some of the top bikepacking events for 2021. With a focus on beautiful scenery, testing terrain, and camaraderie; there’s something here for everyone.

As well as endurance and adventure, long-distance bikepacking rides also require a genuine love for the outdoors. In this sense, respecting nature and travelling responsibly are of the utmost importance. Most organisers recommend travelling to the starting points via bike or by train to remain as eco-friendly as possible. Indeed, some events such as the GBDURO (now sold out) enforce no-flying rules to cut out flight emissions altogether. Going beyond leave no trace is key in protecting the glorious landscapes and natural paths that offer us so much joy.

In terms of your kit, minimalism and lightness is key. Most people bring sturdy bikepacking bags, a lightweight tent or bivvy, both camping and cycling gear, as well as suitable off-bike attire. Have a gander through our bikepacking guide for more tips and tricks on how to make the most out of your two-wheeled adventure.

 

Top 10 Bikepacking Events 

  • Great British Divide  
  • Pan Celtic Race 
  • Hell Of The Northwest  
  • Desert of Wales  
  • Dunoon Dirt Dash  
  • Highland Drover  
  • TransAtlantic Way  
  • Route Beer Ramble  
  • The Great British Escapades  
  • Dales Divide

 

The Great British Divide  

Photo: visitscotland.com/ Applecross

Route: Kent to Applecross
Distance: 1430 miles (2300 km)
Dates: 31 July
Price: £275

At roughly 1,430 miles (2,300km), The Great British Divide is one hell of a cycle. Much like LEJOG (Land’s End to John O’Groats), it goes from one end of mainland Britain to the other, beginning in the village of Bridge in Kent, and ending in the Applecross Innnorth west Scotland. 

Self-described as an ‘adventure’ rather than a race, 80% off-road cycling is involved altogether, with 2,500 metres (8,200ft) of climbingAs a self-supported race, you’re required to follow the set GPS route (revealed a couple of weeks before the start date), and must stop at the three set checkpoints, but can otherwise do your own thing.

Highlights across the route include: the North and South Downs Way, the New Forest, the Brecon Beacons, the Peak District, the Pennine Way, the Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland National Park, the Trossachs, the Isle of Skye, and the Highlands, to name a few. As it prides itself on riding the trails less travelled, mountain bikes (MTB) or ‘monster cross’ style bikes are required to complete this event. 

Event Website:
 greatbritishdivide.com 

 

Pan Celtic Race 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by PanCelticRace (@pancelticraceserie

Route: Kingsand, Cornwall to Llandudno, Wales via Ireland
Distance: 
1,600 miles (2,575 km)
Dates: 
4 July
Price:
 £395

The infamous Pan Celtic Race is the longest bikepacking event on our list. Normally it takes in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Wales, Ireland and Wales again, however, due to the pandemic, the organisers have had to cut the Ireland section out of the 2021 event. 

With 30,480 metres (100,000 ft) of elevation, the race is generally completed in 7-14 days, though a shorter route of 900 miles is available as an alternative. It begins in Kingsand, Cornwall, and heads south west to Land’s End and up to Bristol. From there, you cycle right through Wales’s mountains to eventually finish with a bit of a shin dig with the other competitors. 

Attempting to describe each and every view from this mighty ride won’t do it justice. Thankfully, however, the organisers have produced several short films to give you just a small snippet of what you could experience on this journey.  

Event Website: 
pancelticrace.com 

 

Hell Of The Northwest  

Photo: iStock/ Kirkstone Pass/ paddythegolfer

Route: North West England Loop
Distance: 525 miles (845km)
Dates: 16 April
Price: FREE

The North boasts some of the best, and most unique views in England and bikepacking makes for a pretty darn good way to explore them. Conjured up by one man and his love for adventure, the Hell of the Northwest is a self-supported challenge travelling through the more remote north west roads of England. With 14,000 metres (46,000ft) of ascent, the rules are simple: follow the set route in 3 days, record your journey on a tracker, and finish in time for the party. The results are then ranked based on these GPS trackers.  

Beginning in Clitheroe, the Hell of the North West passes through Lancashire, West Yorkshire, Cumbria and the Pennines. You’ll travel through iconic passes such as KirkstoneHardknottButtertubs, Waddington Fell, and many more. For those of you wanting a grittier, and dirtier adventure, there’s also the Hell of the Dirty North West, ‘a bonkers off-road endurance event’ for mountain bikers. 

Event Website: 
randomadventure.co.uk 

The Desert Of Wales 

Photo: pannier.cc

Route: Elenydd Uplands Loop
Distance: 100 miles (160km)
Dates: 12-15, 17-20, 24-27 June
Price: £345

Designed by Pannier, cycling tour experts and organisers, the Desert of Wales covers some of the most beautiful scenery around the Cambrian Mountains. It crosses single-track roads, gravel paths, forests, moorlands, and 3000 metres (9,845ft) worth of elevation. There’s a solid mix of terrain to both explore and challenge yourself with here. In this sense, gravel, cross-country, and adventure bikes are recommended, with a minimum tyre width of 38mm.   

Related: Best Walks in the Brecon Beacons | 10 Mapped Routes

The route begins and ends near Rhayader, and takes its name from author John Henry Cliffe’s description of the Elenydd Uplands. You’ll travel in and around the famous Elan Valley, traverse through the remote wildness of the Desert of Wales, and wild swim on the banks of the River Irfon. With small group sizes, you’ll get the feeling of an authentically wild experience, whilst also being able to meet like-minded people. 

Red Kites are a common sight in these parts so remember to look up as well as at the road ahead.  

Event Website:
pannier.cc

Dunoon Dirt Dash 

Photo: dirtdash.cc

Route: Loops of Cowal, starting and finishing in Dunoon
Distance: 82 miles (132km)
Dates: 25-26 September
Price: £85

Heading upwards to Scotland, we have the Dunoon Dirt Dash, a self-supported event in and around the Cowal Peninsula near Glasgow. It begins on Dunoon Pier, and finishes at Puck’s Rest, also in Dunoon. As one of the shorter routes, it’s an ideal introduction to bikepacking, though with a 2750-metre (9022ft) climb, it’s still enough to push you that much further. 

Organised by the founders of both Bikepacking Scotland, and the Dorset Dirt Dashthese guys definitely know their stuff. You’ll ride up steep and boggy terrain, as well as single tracks, gravel paths, forest tracks and cycle paths. MTBs and gravel bikes with a minimum tyre size of 40mm are recommended, as well as the pre-event and post-events gatherings.   

From towering Munros, to glorious glens; you’ll camp overnight right by a loch (revealed nearer to the time), boasting some classic scenery from the west of Scotland.  

Event Website:
dirtdash.cc 

 

Highland Drover 

Photo: pannier.cc

Route: Starts and finishes in Glen Coe via central Highlands
Distance: 186 miles (300km)
Dates: 9-13 September
Price: From £545

The Highland Drover begins in Glen Coe and takes you through the central Highlands of Scotland. It’s a 50/50 mix of gravel and unsurfaced road, with surprisingly few hike-a-bike sections for this part of the world.

In between cycling, you’ll spend 4 nights camping in bunkhouses, huts, and/or wild camping. One of these bunkhouses resides on the shores of Loch Ossian, by the edge of the boggy moorland that is Rannoch Moor. You’ll also pass through the edge of the Cairngorms National Park, and ride along some parts of the West Highland Way, and the Highland Trail 550.

Expect a mixture of moorland, Munros, historic roads, lochs, glens, and gravel tracks – you’ll also got to stop by at one of the highest whiskey distilleries in Scotland.

Event Website:
pannier.cc

The TransAtlantic Way 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by TransAtlanticWay (@transatlanticway)


Route: Derry to Cork along the Wild Atlantic Way
Distance: 1,553 miles (2,500 km)
Dates: 10 June
Price: £480

Venturing outside the UK (but only just), there’s the iconic TransAtlantic Way cycle route. Starting in Derry, Northern Ireland, this route takes you all along the Wild Atlantic Way visiting seven of the most westerly counties on the way down to Cork. At 1,553 miles, this usually takes around two weeks to complete, though there is a slightly shorter route if you prefer.  

It’s predominantly a coastal ride, taking in some of the most iconic landscapes this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Particular highlights include: the Inishowen peninsula in Donegal, Sliabh Liag (Europe’s highest sea cliffs), Mullaghmore beach for the hardcore surfers amongst us, The Burren in Country Clare, and the famous pubs of Cork.   

Related: Best Wetsuits For Open Water Swimming 2021

This is a self-supported race, with solo and pairs categories, though there are some check points. Due to its immense popularity, the route is clearly sign-posted along the way should your GPS fail you. 

Bikepacking these lands is more of a journey than a race. You only have to watch their short film ‘Dancing Pedals’ to see why. 

Event Website:
transatlanticway.com 
 

 

Route Beer Ramble 

Photo: iStock/ Richmond Park/ arturasker

Route: London to Bristol
Distance: 143 miles (230 km)
Dates: 14-15, 28-29 August
Price: £69  

This routes for the Londoners itching to get out of the city for a while. Starting in the famous, deer-laden, Richmond Park; this beer ramble takes you to Bristol via the Wessex Downs and the Kennet & Avon canal, journeying over a mixture of traditional cycle touring routes, bridleways, and gravel paths.  

You’ll be given a GPX device, with checkpoints to arrive at, and the option to either ride independently or as a bunch.  

With one nights’ worth of camping, you can either hire a tipi, or bring your own tent/ bivvy. If you’re unsure about what tents work best for bikepacking, check out our bikepacking tents buyer’s guide. Ending in the Tapestry Brewery for a tour and a tipplethe Propeller is a must-try thirst-quencher.  

Event Website: 
pannier.cc 

 

The Great British Escapades  

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Great British Escapades (@greatbritishescapades)

Route: Starts and finishes in Canterbury via North and South Downs Way
Distance: 295 miles (475km)
Dates: 17-20 June, 16-19 Sept
Price: £60

By the same creators of The Great British Divide, we have The Great British Escapades, a new bikepacking event exploring the North and South Downs Way. This route covers a large chunk of the south of England, including Kent, Surrey and Sussex. Along the way, you’ll ride through Areas Of Outstanding Natural Beauty such as the Surrey Hills, High Wealdand the Kent Downs.  

At 75-80% off-road, and with 8000 metres (26,250 ft) of elevation, you’ll need a MTB, ‘monster cross’ style bike, or a gravel bike. A minimum of 50mm tyres is also required to compete.   

Though wild camping is official illegal in England, it is possible to stop and camp for a short while in these places as long as you use common sense, remain responsible, and leave no trace.

It’s also worth noting that the 17-20 June intake occurs on the weekend of the Summer Solstice so will have the maximum amount of sunlight for those of you determined to finish first!  

Event Website:
 greatbritishescapades.com 

 

Dales Divide

Photo: facebook.com/dalesdivide

Route: West Coast to East Coast via Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors
Distance: 373 miles (600km)
Dates: 1 May
Price: FREE

The Dales Divide is a self-supported coast-to-coast race, starting and finishing in the coastal village of Arnside, Cumbria. The route includes gravel tracks, bridleways, and some quiet country roads, as well as unbeatable views across stunning moorlands, river valleys, and the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales.

The toughest sections are, unsurprisingly, in the two national parks, though this can often depend on how the weather forecast has altered the terrain. To be on the safe side, expect and prepare for some wet and muddy ground along the way. Hardtail MTBs and gravel bikes with wide tyres come recommended.

Event Website: 
facebook.com/dalesdivide 

 

Main Photo: iStock/ blyjack

Share

Newsletter Terms & Conditions

Please enter your email so we can keep you updated with news, features and the latest offers. If you are not interested you can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell your data and you'll only get messages from us and our partners whose products and services we think you'll enjoy.

Read our full Privacy Policy as well as Terms & Conditions.

production