Top five cycle routes that visit historic buildings
Jonathan Manning has written about dozens of cycle routes from Club sites for our Magazine App over the past five years. Here he picks his five favourite rides that visit stately homes or historic buildings.
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
This ride captures the start and end of Sir Winston Churchill’s life; his birthplace at magnificentBlenheimPalaceandfinalresting place in a humble grave in neighbouring Bladon. Blenheim has been home to the Dukes of Marlborough since Queen Anne gifted the estate to John Churchill following his victory at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. The park, gardens and palace are spectacular, with walks taking in famous film locations (Spectre, Harry Potter, Mission Impossible) and to landmarks such as the Temple of Diana, where Sir Winston proposed to Clementine. Bladon Chains Club site is actually within the estate grounds, although the ride heads into the rolling farmland of the nearby area. Please note, the Club's lease for Bladon Chains ends in September, so visit before it's too late.
Start: Bladon Chains Club site. Distance: 18 miles /28.5km.
Read more about this route, including detailed directions and a map, in the February 2019 edition of the Club Magazine app (free for members on App Store or Play Store).
Belton House, Lincolnshire
Formal gardens, a handsome fallow deer park and a fabulous adventure playground make 17th century Belton House the ideal midpoint for this relatively flat, peaceful ride through the Lincolnshire countryside. Run by the National Trust, the house itself is fairly modest compared to some of the huge stately piles in this selection, but there are still exquisite riches inside to make a visit more than worthwhile. Plus, of course, a reliably good National Trust café for a cuppa and piece of cake before continuing your ride. The route starts and finishes at Wagtail Country Park, an Affiliated Site with a pretty fishing lake at its heart, and passes through picturesque stone villages of which Hough-on-the-Hill is the pick, with its striking church and appealing The Brownlow Arms.
Start: Wagtail Country Park AS. Distance: 20 miles/32km.
Read more about this route, including detailed directions and a map, in the May 2018 edition of the Club Magazine app (free for members on App Store or Play Store).
The Grange at Northington, Hampshire
Eight colossal pillars prop up a façade that looks more Ancient Greek than local Hampshire at The Grange, Northington. The free-to-visit mansion (outside only) was transformed from a 17th century brick building into a replica temple thanks to a coat of cement and the addition of classical facades in the early 19th century. Whatever the architectural subterfuge, the landscape is timelessly beautiful, making The Grange the perfect mid-ride stop for a picnic. This is Jane Austen country, a gorgeous chunk of the South Downs, where one spellbinding panorama sweeps into another and each achingly pretty village seems more attractive than the last. There’s even competition among the stately homes, with the ride passing through the grounds of privately-owned 17th century Avington Park, where ginger-fringed Highland cattle graze by a lake.
Start: Morn Hill Club site. Distance: 25 miles/ 40km.
Read more about this route, including detailed directions and a map, in the April 2020 edition of the Club Magazine app (free for members on App Store or Play Store).
Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk
It seems counter-intuitive to take a holiday on the North Norfolk coast and then turn your back on the vast sweep of sea and sand to head inland. But there are rich rewards for exploring the whisper-quiet roads as they pass through villages of flint-walled cottages and churches. The highlight of this route is Felbrigg Hall, a lavish stately home set in 500-plus acres of park and woodland, crisscrossed by walking trails. The building itself, managed by the National Trust, houses exotic collections from around the world, including opulent furniture, Dutch oil paintings and rare Chinese wallpaper. Modern highlights include the carrot cake in the café, sure to be popular with any cyclist! The second half of the ride heads back to Cromer and then follows the coastline to the Club site at Incleboro Fields.
Start: Incleboro Fields Club site. Distance: 13.4 miles/21.5km.
Read more about this route, including detailed directions and a map, in the February 2018 edition of the Club Magazine app (free for members on App Store or Play Store).
Broadway Tower, Worcestershire
There are two magnificent attractions on this ride through the Cotswolds that starts from the Club’s Broadway site. The first is Snowshill Manor, a National Trust property which houses an eccentric collection of curiosities, from stringed instruments to masks, armour and models of Samurai warriors, gathered from around the world by the compulsive collector, Charles Paget Wade. If Snowshill seems peculiar, the mix of attractions at Broadway Tower, a few miles along the route, is positively mind-blowing. Above ground is the late 18th century ‘Saxon’ tower, perched on a dramatic outcrop and claiming a 16-county panorama on a clear day from its top. Below ground is a Cold War nuclear bunker, decommissioned in 1991, which is open to visitors at weekends. And sitting between the two is the very fine Morris & Brown café. Throughout the ride are dreamy Cotswold villages of golden limestone cottages, separated by steep-sided hills cloaked in ancient woodland; a landscape as eye-catching as any man-made stately home.
Start: Broadway Club site. Distance: 10.4 miles/16.6km.
Read more about this route, including detailed directions and a map, in the December 2017 edition of the Club Magazine app (free for members on App Store or Play Store).