5th March 2024

First ride of Spring - top 10 destinations

Many roads in the UK seem to have been designed with motorcycles in mind – with riders able to enjoy everything from sweeping moorlands, coastal roads and challenging mountain passes in all four parts of the country. But with many motorcycles sitting dormant over the winter months, many of us are looking forward to the arrival of the first ride of spring. With that in mind, Footman James has compiled the top 10 best motorcycle routes across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


1. The North Coast 500

If you thought the 516-mile ‘NC500’ was a road you had only heard about recently, you would be correct. It’s only officially existed since 2014 and has become phenomenally popular ever since. That’s why you’ll want to go there either side of the summer months to avoid scores of other motorists attempting the same route, and of course, the midges which affect the area. There’s an official website to help you plan your route and this leaves you free to enjoy the incredible scenery and the challenging roads.

Northern Ireland

2. A2, The Antrim Coast

We have chosen the Antrim Coast, which is also the home of the iconic Northwest 200 event, held every May. But you can enjoy the 60-mile Antrim route anytime. The route which begins at Larne, is well-regarded, because its stunning coastline offers a mixture of scenery, hills, straights, and bends. It finishes at one of the country’s significant tourists’ attractions, the Giant’s Causeway – now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


3. A470, Cardiff to Llandudno

This is a 185-mile ride, perfect for those looking for a variety in roads and in scenery, as it passes through two National Parks and two different coastlines. Leaving Cardiff, you will follow the Taff Valley to Merthyr Tydfil, before crossing the Brecon Beacons to the highest point in South Wales, Pen y Fan. From there, follow the many bends along the A470 to Builth Wells, continuing to Rhayader, heading north to Snowdonia National Park, and onwards to the finishing point – the coast at Llandudno. 

4. A542, Horseshoe Pass

Also known as the ‘Pass of the Cold Stream,’ this route travels up one side of the valley and then down the other in the shape of a horseshoe. However, the road is often closed in bad weather, which is why we recommend it from Springtime. Those looking to stop along the way, are recommended to enjoy refreshments and the outstanding views at the Ponderosa Café, which is located at the highest point of the route.

5. A4069, Black Mountain pass

This shorter 12-mile route still delivers incredible scenery from Ammanford to Llangadog at the Western edge of the Brecon Beacons. You’ll climb 493 metres above sea level, experience some tight hairpin bends and long straights. However, due to its length offering motorists the chance to cover the route more than once, it has become a road notorious for mobile speed cameras, so ride safely and enjoy. 


6. B3135, Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge isn’t just one of the leading natural wonders of the UK for those on foot, taking the views on a bike is equally, if not more enjoyable. This is due to the thrills you’ll experience when attempting the gorge’s challenging twists and turns. Once again though, great roads like this need to be experienced when they’re quieter – so head out nice and early.

7. Hardknott pass

The Romans knew what they were doing when they built this road – as it’s the joint steepest road in England with a 1 in 3 gradient. Therefore, experienced bikers are only recommended to try it with a lighter motorcycle, in good weather and in quieter conditions, as it’s highly challenging and dangerous. Not only is it steep, but there’s several hairpin bends to watch out for. However, it’s worth it when the 1,291 ft climb is completed on a clear day – you can often take in the views of the Isle of Man and the Irish Sea and experience the local pubs and restaurants.

8. Cat & Fiddle climb – Macclesfield to Buxton

This is another route that involves a steep climb and requires an awful lot of respect. Due to past road fatalities, there is now an average speed camera and local police presence, to ensure that the area remains safe. Used wisely, it’s still one of the best roads in England. Just watch out for the sharp bends, steep drops and dry-stone walls – and check the weather conditions before setting off.

9. Trans European Trail: East Sussex to Tyne and Wear

Perhaps you own a Scrambler motorcycle and are looking to try out part of the first fully mapped legal trail route through mainland Europe? Then why not try the 1,634-mile UK leg of this 2,112-mile Trans European Trail, which runs from Newhaven Ferry Port to North Shields. There are important things to consider – the UK route is not entirely non-tarmac, and parts around the Lake District are better suited to lightweight trail bikes in or around the 250cc class. Once you’re on it though, you’ll enjoy the ease of being able to follow the route and pick up advice from the community that lives around it.

10. Woolacombe – Bridgwater

Here we have another steep route for more experienced motorcyclists; with a 1 in 4 gradient that climbs 1,300 ft in less than two miles. Running from Bath to Falmouth, this 63-mile coastal route is part of the Atlantic Highway that offers views over the cliffs of Exmoor. There are great places to stop too - with Devon’s Lynton and Lynmouth villages being particularly recommendable visits.

Now that you’re able to plan the best rides of the year, maybe you’d like help choosing the right bike? Read our review on a modern classic; the Ducati 851.