Try these 10 great cycle routes around Suffolk

Cyclists at Alton Water

Cyclists at Alton Water - Credit: Anglian Water

It's Bike Week - so what are the most popular cycle routes to try around the area? Here are 10 suggestions to try. 

If you want to combine your ride with a pub or restaurant visit, it is often advisable to reserve your table in advance, due to current limits on numbers.

Dunwich and Minsmere

This 13-mile circular route is the perfect way to explore the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Natural Beauty. Set out from Dunwich Beach car park through Dunwich Forest, and the attractive village of Westleton with its thatched church.

The estimated time is three hours, although this will be longer if you take an optional detour through Walberswick.

The route then takes you past the famous RSPB Minsmere reserve. There is an admission charge for non-RSPB members if you want to stop and admire the wildlife, including a large colony of avocets and many other birds, from the Bittern to the Marsh harrier.

After visiting the National Trust's Dunwich Heath visitor centre, your return route will take you past the ruins of Greyfriars Priory, a historic monument which is free to visit, and is one of Dunwich's many reminders of its unique history as a lost city. 

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It is free to park in Dunwich Beach Car Park. If you are looking for refreshments, the nearby Flora Tearooms beach cafe is famous for its fish and chips, or try a cake at the National Trust cafe at Dunwich Heath. Well-known local foodie pubs include The Ship at Dunwich and The Westleton Crown.  

For more details, visit the website. 

 Rendlesham Forest to Shingle Street

This 12.5-mile coastal route will take you from the forest through to the famous coastal hamlet, known for its Martello tower.

Shingle Street is a great location for birdwatching, with its salt marshes providing a home for  oystercatcher and ringed plover. 

Start off from Rendlesham Forest's main car park, which does make a charge,  and cycle through Boyton to Shingle Street, before retracing your route via Hollesley. If you are looking for a longer route, an optional diversion to Bawdsey Quay will bring the distance up to 22.5 miles.

If you're looking for somewhere to stop off on the way, you can't beat the majestic horses at the Suffolk Punch Trust at Hollesley, which has reopened to visitors. However, visits need to be prebooked. You can also refuel at the site's cafe, which does not require booking.

Rendlesham Forest is also a great place for off-road cycling, with two cycle routes to choose from and its own cafe, Bear Grills.

Visit this website for more details.

Alton Water to Pin Mill

The water park near Ipswich is your starting point for a 13.5-mile route around the Shotley Peninsula,  to the picturesque riverside hamlet of Pin Mill and back. The estimated time is three hours.

Head through Stutton village, and past the Royal Hospital School, with its landmark bell tower. You will then go past Holbrook Creek, which is a great place for bird-watching, and through the villages of Harkstead and Chelmondiston.

At Pin Mill, you can see a number of boats and barges, including many which have been abandoned. The return route will take you through the village of Holbrook.

Alton Water Park is also a great place for cyclists in its own right, and you can combine the peninsula route with a circuit of the reservoir if you wish.

You will be charged to park at Alton Water. The park has a cafe as well as picnic areas.

At Pin Mill, the renowned Butt and Oyster pub is extremely popular, and the perfect place to relax and watch the boats on the Orwell.

Follow the link for more details. 

The Butt & Oyster at Pin Mill

The Butt & Oyster at Pin Mill - Credit: Archant

Snape to Orford

This 15-mile journey follows quiet lanes through the Suffolk Sandlings, starting out from Snape Maltings and taking you to atmospheric Orford

Starting out from the historic Maltings complex, turn left along Suffolk Coastal Cycle Route 41, which is well-signposted. 

Travel towards Orford before turning off to head for Iken, with a visit to the ancient St Botolph’s Church. Then carry on to Orford Quay before turning back to Snape.

You can park at the walkers' car park at Snape, but parking may be limited on busy days. It is also possible to take a longer 24-mile route starting out from Wickham Market Station.

Snape Maltings has several different places to eat, including the Takeaway Hut and River View Cafe and Bar, while the Crown and Castle is a popular place to eat in Orford.

See this link for more details.

The Broads

The Broads Trust has come up with a choice of 16 different "Broads by Bike" circular routes around the Broads National Park.

This includes several routes exploring the southern Broads around the Waveney valley, taking in Bungay and Beccles.

You can download free maps for these routes (although a small donation to the Broads Trust is requested).

Historic churches and wind pumps are among the sights you will see on your travels,  and the many places to enjoy refreshments include the Wroxham Waterside Terrace or the many other cafes in Wroxham and Hoveton.

For more details, visit the Broads by Bike website.

The Miller's Trail, Ixworth, near Bury St Edmunds

This 23-mile route, starting from the West Suffolk village of Ixworth, goes through an agricultural area where you can see local wind and watermills, as its name suggests.

As well as mills at Bardwell, Stanton and Pakenham, the trail also takes in a number of attractive villages including Walsham le Willows and Stowlangtoft. 

Start off from Ixworth library/village hall car park and ride through Bardwell  and  Barningham, then through Market Weston and Wattisfield  to Walsham le Willows and Stanton, before coming to Wyken Hall Vineyard with its gardens, restaurant and country store - an ideal place to stop for refreshments.

Alternatively, for a shorter 12-mile route, you can take a short cut along an unclassified road east from Bardwell to Wyken Hall, before cycling through Stowlangtoft and  Pakenham back to Ixworth.

See the map and full route details here. 

Towers and Spires, Bury St Edmunds

As its name suggests, this 30 mile route starts out from St Edmundsbury Cathedral.

It then takes you through the villages of Great Barton, Pakenham, Thurston, Tostock, Woolpit, Shelland, Rattlesden, Drinkstone, Hessett and Rougham, with a multitude of impressive churches and towers to admire on your ride.

The route map helpfully suggests many cafes and pubs where you can find refreshments on your way, and you can also visit Pilgrims' Kitchen at the cathedral itself for a breakfast, brunch, lunch or cake.

A shorter 19-mile route is ideal for families.

See the route map here. 

The Painter's Trail, Dedham

Would you like to ride through the landscapes which inspired great artists like John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough?

The whole Painter's Trail is a long-distance  69-mile route, which will take you through the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Stour Valley.

However, there are many smaller sections you can take on, including an easy 14-mile route which starts in Dedham, in the heart of Constable Country, just over the Suffolk border into Essex. 

Start out from the centre of Dedham and head past the former home of Sir Alfred Munnings, now an art museum, before going towards Dedham Heath, Langham and Boxted, with its Norman church. You can then travel past Langham Hall and back towards Dedham.

An alternative shorter eight-mile route does not include the journey to Boxted.

There are car parks in Dedham at Mill Pond and Mill Lane, which  charge, and are sometimes very busy. The village has many places to eat, including the popular Old Bakery Cafe and Boathouse Restaurant.

A full set of cycle guides to the area are available to download, taking in seven different routes.

See more details here. 

Off-road cycling

Thetford Forest

Choose from three trails starting from Thetford Forest High Lodge Visitor Centre, enjoying the unique atmosphere of the forest. Cycle hire is possible but needs to be booked in advance.

The five-mile Shepherd Trail is relatively flat and suitable for most types of bike, with its terrain including a mix of gravel forest roads, tracks and trails. There is the option of a 3.5 mile short cut, ideal if you are riding with children,.

The other trails are the Beater Trail, with two alternative routes, covering six or 11 miles, and the single-track 10-mile Lime Burner trail, both for more experienced off-road cyclists. At the other end of the scale, there is also a Pump Track where children can improve their riding skills.

There are charges at the main forest car park and it is advisable to book and pre-pay, due to limited space.  The cafe at High Lodge is currently offering takeaway only. There are also picnic tables.

For more details, visit the Forestry England website. 

One of many good reasons to ride at sunrise.

One of many good reasons to ride at sunrise. - Credit:

Tunstall Forest

Are you a mountain biker with good off-roading skills? If so, this track could be for you.

The 10-mile, single track mountain bike Viking Trail starts from Sandgalls car park in the north of the forest.

The Viking Trail is the legacy of the motorcycle events  held in the forest over the past decades, and there is an on-going programme of maintenance which includes building of technical features for more advanced riders.

The forest has free parking and a picnic area, but there are no catering facilities or toilets nearby. 

For more details, visit the Tunstall Forest website.