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King Alfred’s Way – (burnt) cake walk or serious off road challenge?

Doug Tincello reports on tackling UK cycling’s newest route, King Alfred’s Way, in three days.

Over the weekend of the 4th to 6th of June I tackled UK Cycling’s newest route, King Alfred’s Way.

The route is a circular 350km ride out of Winchester and passes through some of the most historic countryside in England. It’s named after Alfred the Great, who is buried in Winchester Cathedral and who consolidated Wessex from the Vikings.

The route passes near the ancient castle of Old Sarum, Stonehenge, and Avebury stone circle before traversing the ancient Ridgeway from Marlborough to Reading. Here the route passes Uffington Castle and the famous white horse. The latter part of the route runs along the Thames (lots of fancy houses) before picking up the South Downs Way back to Winchester.

UK cycling have made a fabulous route using bridleways, single track and quiet roads. You can ride the loop over seven, five or four days and have plenty of time to stop off and take in some history, or even do individual sections since the route is rarely more than a mile or two from a proper road and civilisation. However, on the trial one often feels way out in the wilderness, especially over Salisbury Plain or up on the ridgeway where you can see for miles with only the songs of skylarks for company.

Of course my friends, who are always up for a challenge, decided we could do the route in three days! We did, but didn’t see any of the history. 120km a day off road made for long (6 hour plus) days in the saddle but we were blessed by glorious weather. The route guide says it is suitable for gravel bikes or touring bikes, but some of the hillier parts were steep with technical descents which would not be out of place in a mountain bike park. It was great fun, hard work and a satisfying achievement.

If I were to ride it again, I think I would plan for four or five days and would take a hard tail mountain bike with gravel (not very knobbly) tyres. Well worth a go though!

Doug Tincello


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