Distance: 35.5km (22.1 miles).
Time: 2hrs to 4hrs.
The beautiful old spa town of Cheltenham is known for its racecourse and Regency buildings, and is set in rolling green hills, surrounded by twee villages built from local Cotswold stone. There’s some great riding to be had, and many of the trails are still good in the wet too.
Roadside parking near Cox’s Meadow, off the A40 (grid ref SO 955/214, postcode GL53 7DF).
Cheltenham is pretty easy to access, being just off the M5, between Bristol and Birmingham, and near Gloucester. From junction 11, follow the signs towards Cheltenham General Hospital. Find an on-street parking space near the hospital, Cox’s Meadow and Sandford Parks Lido.
Maps & books
Ordnance Survey Landranger 163: Cheltenham & Cirencester.
Cotswolds Mountain Biking by Tom Fenton (Vertebrate Graphics).
There’s lots of accommodation on offer – see www.cheltenhamaccommodation.co.uk. For refreshments, try The Meadow Cafe at the start (07599 945778, www.themeadowcafe.com, closed weekends) or the UK’s number one chippy (2016), Simpsons on Priors Road (01242 521964, http://simpsonsfishandchips.com). For spares/repairs, Cheltenham Cycles on Winchcombe Street is very good (01242 255414, www.cheltenhamcycles.co.uk). There’s also a Leisure Lakes branch just down the road (01242 251505, www.leisurelakesbikes.com).
From The Meadow Cafe in Cox’s Meadow, join the cycle path through the park. Shortly after the houses start and before a large pond, turn left, over the brook. Go right and then left, and follow Chancel Way to the main road. Turn left, then right at the grass triangle. Take the first left (Oakland Street), then go right on the A40. Go left at the crossroads (Greenway Lane).
Follow this road uphill. At the T-junction turn right (Aggs Hill) to head even more steeply uphill. Bear right at the fork and then, when you reach the trees, turn left on the Cotswolds Way (CW). Go through one gate and then right, through another (closed to 4x4s and bikes). Continue uphill to the top (quarry) and turn left on the bridleway, along the hillside.
Go right at the fork, up to the road. Turn left and then left again, on a bridleway back downhill. Go right at the bottom and then right again, through a gate (CW) and along and up the hillside. At the top, bear left down a rocky track. When it gets grassy, bear right, around the foot of the hill. Follow the main, wide track around the bend, then join a singletrack trail to the right, which runs parallel.
Continue to the golf clubhouse and then turn sharp right, taking the left fork. As you drop downhill, turn left down a small valley on some singletrack (no signs). Climb to a quarry and bear right, then drop down into the valley below (left). Join the main track ahead, uphill, then turn left on the CW, back to the golf clubhouse.
Retrace your tracks along the hillside and under the old hill fort, then rejoin the grassy bridleway from before, this time turning right, downhill. Go left on the road (B4632), right at the first roundabout and over the second to join the cycle track on Bouncers Lane. Keep ahead all the way back to Cox’s Meadow.
Go through the park on the cycle path again, but this time continue straight through Charlton Park. Turn right on Moorend Road and continue up Sandy Lane, which heads off-road. After the track becomes wider, turn right through a gate, onto the CW. Follow this uphill and across the hilltop. Climb a rocky slope to go through a gate, then look out for tyre tracks indicating the entrance to the downhill trails off to the right.
At the bottom, join the trail that runs left, along the foot of the hillside. Eventually, bear left up some steps to the hilltop. Turn left on the CW and look for the hidden trails to the left, which drop steeply downhill. Keep heading down until you reach Daisy Bank car park.
Turn left on Daisy Bank Road and go over the B road (Leckhampton Hill) to join a narrow path. Keep ahead to rejoin the road. Go over the first roundabout and right at the second (Charlton Lane). Turn left at the T-junction (over the bridge), right at the first roundabout (Charlton Lane) and left at the second (Moorend Road). Rejoin the cycle path to get back to the start.
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Routes produced in association with Rough Ride Guide
MBUK Big Ride images by Russell Burton