Top 10 Weekend Escapes revealed
Don’t have Fancy getting away from it all? Don't have much time/cash to spare? Then allow our mini bike breaks guide to inspire you! WORDS NICK SOLDINGER
The best places to go for a short cycling break.
OK, so we might be running out of year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t squeeze in one more cycling adventure to remember (and keep you going through the grim-weather months ahead). If like us you’re not a semi-retired millionaire, right now you’re probably thinking, ‘No chance, mate!’ But don’t rule it out just yet, because in here you’ll find 10 great cycling destinations within easy reach that won’t cost you a packet to get to.
1 Southwest France
The Languedoc region of southwest France is, quite simply a joy. Its climate is astonishing, managing to cram in around 300 days of sunshine every year in an environment that nevertheless remains green and bountiful thanks to the Pyrenean mountain rivers that nourish the land. The Pyrenees have, of course, long been synonymous with the Tour de France and it’s that association – along with the fabulous scenery and almost impeccable weather – that draws cyclists most of the year round. The autumn, though, is probably the best time to ride here. Summer can be seriously hot, with temperatures striking north of 30°F/86°C. And although it can be too humid in September, and too wet and cold from January to April, late autumn through to early winter is an often idyllic time in this part of the world. October in particular can provide near-perfect cycling conditions, with temperatures hovering around 20°C/69°F and rainfall taking a definite dip from mid-october to midNovember. As for the riding, come on? What greater recommendation do you need than unique challenges such as the Col d’aubisque or the Col du Tourmalet? Have a look at cyclinglanguedoc.com to learn more.
2 Southwest Ireland
The Dingle Peninsula is southwest Ireland’s most westerly point. In fact, it’s Europe’s most westerly point and is the first place the Gulf Stream hits after its 3,000-mile dash across the Atlantic from the Caribbean. It’s what gives this part of the world something of a freakish climate. So when Autumn arrives in the Dingle, temperatures oddly start to rise again. As September progresses, they can peak around the 20°C/68°F mark, making it – along with July – the region’s hottest month. It’s also, curiously, by far its driest, and although October is wetter by comparison, temperatures can still climb to a none-too-shabby 59°F/15°C. While the warm waters help to create a magical micro-climate, the winds that have whipped in off the Atlantic over millennia have helped carve out a landscape as wild and wonderful as any in the world. And as for the riding, it’s a cyclist’s wish list. There are plenty of well-maintained roads, a distinct lack of traffic and if you’re looking for a challenge, might we suggest the Bóthar na gcloch (literally road of stones), an X-rated climb, averaging about 9% as you winch your way up 5km to its peak. Its last stretch is what makes it such a badass though, when the gradient suddenly kicks up to 20% for the last 250 metres. Dismount if you dare!
3 , Côtedazur
Now, here’s a thing. Nice airport is literally on the beach, meaning that once you walk off your cheapo airlines flight you could literally cycle out of customs and into the sunshine of the Promenade des Anglais. Head east out of town and you’ll find yourself on an immaculate road up the Col d’eze, which winds its way upwards at an average 6% for around 10km and has been a regular feature in the Paris-nice cycling race over the years. It’s just one of dozens of spectacular rides that this region has on offer, whether its exploring the hills of the Massif des Maures along quiet roads flanked by cork oaks, or along coastal routes past sandy beaches and craggy headlands. In between you’ve got towns whose names have become bywords for glamour and wealth – St Tropez, Cannes, Antibes and of course the tax haven of Monaco. Part of the reason the super-rich choose to live here is, of course, the weather, with the region enjoying more than 200 days of sunshine a year. The autumn is an ideal time to visit as it’s still warm enough for cycling, while the majority of tourists have skedaddled. Even in October, temperatures have been known to linger around 21°C/71°F, while in November you can expect some days to hit 18°C/65°F. Just to put that into perspective, it can be as low as 6°C/43°F in London at the same time of year – with a 57% chance of rain. Brrr!
See those three? That could be you and your mates. The weekend after next...
FLIGHT TIME: 1hr 50 PRICE: Flights only from approx £35 return to Toulouse MORE INFO: cyclinglanguedoc.com
FLIGHT TIME: 2hrs PRICE: Flights only from approx £45 return to Nice MORE INFO: azurcycletours.com
FLIGHT TIME: 1 hr 25 PRICE: Flights only from approx £40 return to Kerry MORE INFO: irondonkey.com