Brecon Beacons, Wales
In a great spot overlooking the Cefn Coed viaduct, halfway point on the 90km traffic-free Taff Trail, The Grange is a well-appointed guesthouse run by cycling fanatics Gethin and Nikki Pearson. The choice of local rides is immense: lonely mountain roads and bridleways crisscross the Brecon Beacons national park and include big-name road climbs, such as the Rhigos and the Tumble, as well as the Gap off-road route. The mountain bike trails of Bike Park Wales are a few minutes away, and a network of gravel tracks along the ridges above the valleys of the south Wales coalfield is ripe for exploration. The set-up is geared to looking after cyclists: Gethin and Nikki maintain a Strava library of recommended routes, there’s a secure lock-up, bike workshop and pressure washer, they serve hearty home-cooked dinners and can arrange transfers and emergency pick-ups.
Nevis range, Scotland
For Londoners, there’s no better start to a Scottish cycling holiday than a night on the Caledonian sleeper, being rocked to sleep as the train trundles north, bike stowed in the guard’s van. It arrives next morning in Fort William, at the end of the West Highland Way and the Great Glen cycling routes. The mountain biking possibilities are unlimited, from gentle family-friendly trails to cross-country marathons and the extreme downhill trails that featured in the UCI World Cup (1-2 June 2019). On the meadows and woodland of an organic farm at the foot of the Nevis range, but only four miles from the station, Great Glen Yurts is an outdoorsy alternative to a hotel or B&B. The yurts, shepherd’s huts and cabins are all cosy and have their own wood-burners, plus there’s a rustic shared kitchen. Bike hire and route advice are available from Nevis Cycles.
The 19th-century Romantics who flocked to Wales fell in love with the Mawddach estuary and its broad tidal reach ringed by craggy hills. The old railway line is now a traffic-free cycling and walking path, and just the beginning of the good cycling in this corner of southern Snowdonia. A short ride from Morfa Mawddach station, Graig Wen has rooms and self-catering cottages in a stylishly renovated former slate-cutting shed, plus yurts and a small campsite on a wide expanse of salt marsh, meadow, pasture and oak woodland. There’s good mountain biking on the trails at nearby Coed y Brenin and plenty of quiet country lanes and gravel tracks on the flanks of Cadair Idris, in the Dovey valley and the hills around Bala. For dinner, the George III at Penmaenpool is an easy ride along the estuary, and further upstream is the handsome, granite town of Dolgellau.
The mountain passes of the Alps and Pyrenees get the limelight, but the true heartland of French cycling is Brittany, with its rolling hills and rugged coast. La Chaumine is a charming 18th-century farmhouse B&B a few miles from the coast in the south of the region. It’s a two-hour drive from St-Malo ferry port (a two- to three-day ride along waymarked cycle route 3) or an hour’s drive from Nantes. The weather is generally better on this southern side of Brittany, and there’s plenty of space to stretch out in gardens that provide the house with flowers, fruit and vegetables. Hire bikes are available, and there’s a pool to cool off in at the end of the day. Steve, the British host, is an experienced cyclist who can give advice on roads to ride and the best beaches, towns and villages to visit.
Green Bike Pyrenees
Nick and Mireille, the Anglo-French couple who run B&B Green Bike Pyrenees, are both accomplished cyclists with an encyclopaedic knowledge of routes and cycling events. They are within striking distance of celebrated mountain cols such as the Marie-Blanque, Aubisque and Soulor, as well as lesser-known gems that feature in the couple’s own route guides. Only 15 miles from the TGV station at Pau, they offer transfers for guests with bikes and can provide good quality road and mountain bikes to rent from €20 a day. It is a popular base for watching the Tour de France, which this year features an individual time trial stage starting and finishing in Pau. Guests have use of a bike workshop and the hosts offer emergency pick-ups in the event of a mechanical mishap.
Twin bedroom at The Free Range Chalet, French Pyrenees, France
Bagnères-de-Luchon is a Pyrenean spa resort that grew around thermal springs on the French-Spanish border. Its wide, tree-lined boulevards and elegant architecture give a sense of grandeur. Close to the centre, Free Range Chalet is a imposing 19th-century villa offering great-value half-board accommodation specifically tailored for cyclists. The town is a regular staging post in the Tour de France, and there’s stellar riding in all directions, including the famed road climbs of Portillon, Peyresourde, Port de Balès and Superbagnères, plenty of off-road tracks as well as gentler former railway line trails. The historic thermal springs, which include Europe’s only natural steam room inside a series of caverns, are perfect for post-ride relaxation. The nearest rail stations are Tarbes and Toulouse, and it’s also possible to get there on the Eurostar and sleeper train from Paris.
Terrace at Chalet Morville, Les Deux Alpes, France with mountain views
A fully catered ski chalet in winter, Chalet Morville in Les Deux Alpes turns into a road cycling-oriented B&B in summer. It overlooks the spectacular steep-sided valley of the Vénéon, and the climb to the chalet has its own Strava segment. Chalet staff maintain a selection of recommended routes, including famous Tour de France climbs such as Alpe d’Huez and the Galibier, as well as lesser-known but often more rewarding remote roads deep into the Écrins national park. There are five double rooms, and the common areas include spacious living and dining rooms, a sun terrace, a sauna and a hot tub. The garage is well-equipped with bike tools, and top-quality road bikes, ebikes and mountain bikes can be hired in nearby Bourg-d’Oisans for about €40 a day.
Girona, Catalonia, Spain
This city has been a popular base for English-speaking professional cyclists since the 1990s, when Lance Armstrong made his home here. It has since grown into a mecca for recreational riders, too. Good weather, great Catalan food and a wealth of quiet country roads are a draw, but it’s the sense of community and the laid-back way of life that keep people coming back. Can Portell is a farmhouse dating from 1690 and has been lovingly decorated in a riot of colour (the owner is a huge Frida Kahlo fan). There are rooms in the house, as well as two hand-painted gypsy caravans and a converted stables for small groups. Guests wanting to relax after a few big days on the bike – taking in famous climbs, such as the Rocacorba – can be on the beaches of the Costa Brava in half an hour.
Singletrack , Red Rock Trails, Spanish Pyrenees, Spain
Heather and Chris Regan run Red Rock Trails, offering all-inclusive cycling and outdoor adventure holidays from their restored stone farmhouse in a village two hours north-west of Barcelona. There are two family rooms and two doubles, a big open-plan living area, a cellar games room and a garden. Home-cooked meals give pride of place to Catalan and Mediterranean dishes such as salt cod bunyol and black rice, slow roast shoulder of lamb, or spinach and goat’s cheese coca, a local take on pizza, baked in a wood-fired oven. This is deepest rural Spain and almost undiscovered by tourists. As well as great cycling on quiet country roads and off-road trails, there are lake swims and gorge walks where kids can hunt for dinosaur footprints. The hosts will pick up guests from the stations at Barcelona, Reus or Girona.
C’an Beia hotel, Mallorca
Good riding on even and hilly terrain, a dramatic limestone landscape and plenty of sunshine have made Mallorca the most popular off-season cycling destination in Europe. A far cry from the soulless mega-hotels of Pollença is the family-run C’an Beia hotel in the inland village of Alaró. Just off the main square, the adults-only hotel has bright, airy rooms with exposed stonework and wooden beams, a pool and a sauna. Cycling Planet, the island’s coolest bike cafe, is just around the corner. Roads north head to the Tramuntana mountains, and to the south are flatter farm roads through citrus and olive groves. Bookings can be made through Cycle Mallorca, which will arrange airport transfers (19 miles) and provide advice on routes, workshop support, bike hire and a rescue service.