Essex is an under-rated holiday destination and can be perfect for a relaxed cycling holiday. Not too hilly, mostly rural and with plenty of quiet country lanes to choose from, it is reasonably easy to plan some routes yourself, whether you want to cycle one-day circuits or a longer one-way journey. Things can be tricky though if you want to head in and out of towns, where local roads tend to be dominated by motorised traffic. You'll find your choices in some places rather limited, especially on the relatively narrow strips of land between the great estuaries of Stour, Colne, Blackwater and Crouch. Longer traffic-free cycle routes are rare in Essex and in the vicinity of London, things get naturally trickier.
We developed a direct traffic-calmed cycle route between Harwich and London, initially to serve overseas cycling tourists visiting the UK, but now also popular with UK touring cyclists heading for the continent. From Harwich port, night ferries run to both Denmark and The Netherlands. From Harwich, our routes heads inland via scenic Wivenhoe to historic Colchester. Its Norman Castle and Roman Gate give a great historic flavour to your cycling holiday. Maldon is one of the very few places where you can enjoy free views over the Blackwater estuary. Most Harwich-London touring cyclists tend to choose the town and its vicinity to enjoy an overnight stay, splitting the ride over two days.
The route section between Maldon and London is very much our own. Signposted National Cycle Network routes take you on very long detours via either Tilbury or Cheshunt, with various unattractive, long, built-up routes further afield towards Central London. Much shorter and much more pleasant is our route in between the urban centres of Chelmsford and Brentwood, taking you reasonably easy and straight forward into the London suburbs Hainault, Ilford and Barking. This direct route keeps the urban cycling to a minimum, as we take you by the most rural area within the M25 London orbital motorway. The route ends at Woolwich Ferry, where you can cross the River Thames to join the spectacular Thames Valley Cycle Route to Central London.
Our Cycling in Essex route contains:
Route: Harwich - Colchester - Maldon - Ingatestone - Hainault - Ilford - Barking - Woolwich Ferry
Total distance: 97 miles (158 km); cycle paths: 13%, quiet roads: 68%, roads with regular flow or possibly fast moving traffic: 18%, busy main roads with adjacent footpath: 1%
Grading: Harwich - Ingatestone: Generally easy, some short climbs. Ingatestone - Woolwich Ferry: Moderate, some serious climbing. Only riverside path Wivenhoe Riverside Path suitable for younger children. Harwich - Ingatestone only suitable for children who have completed Bikeability Level 2. Ingatestone - London only suitable for keen and fit teenagers.
Highlights: Harwich Promenade, Wivenhoe Riverside Path, Colchester Castle and Roman Gate, Maldon Promenade Park, Woodham Walter village, Essex countryside, RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Woolwich Ferry
Our Cycling in Essex route is part of our London-Land's End Cycle Route Book. This guide book provides great value for money, includes GPS-tracks and features many more regions other than just Essex!