Every year, I try and participate in a couple of weekend cycling trips (in 2010, it was Kent and The Ridgeway). For this year, the first of my trips was last week, when I travelled to Blandford Forum in Dorset for a two day cycling holiday with friends. We cycled a circular route each day and covered about 150 miles in total over both days. There was some great scenery on the routes, including the Dorset hills to the west of Blandford and the New Forest (in Hampshire) to the east.
- Distances: 75 miles each day
- Start and Finish: Blandford Forum
- Terrain: mostly country lanes with a couple of easy bridleway sections
- Suitable for: Road bikes (skip the bridleway sections), mountain bikes and hybrid bikes.
- Google Maps, Day 1 and Day 2
Where We Stayed
We stayed in the Crown Hotel which is an attractive Georgian building near the centre of Blandford Forum. It’s a medium sized hotel with comfortable rooms, bar and restaurant, and plenty of parking (it has two car parks). The breakfasts were good and the outside patio area was great for a beer after each day’s ride.
Maps and Navigating the Rides
Beforehand, we mapped one of the rides with MapMyRide and procured a map of the North Dorset Cycleway (Regional Cycle Route 41) for the other. Unfortunately, the North Dorset Cycleway map seems to be out of print at the time of writing but our route is shown below (and is also available on Bikemap.net). During the rides, we also used four Ordnance Survey maps.
- Maps from Amazon UK: Landranger 195: Bournemouth and Purbeck, Wimborne Minster and Ringwood, 194: Dorchester and Weymouth, Cerne Abbas and Bere Regis, 184: Salisbury and The Plain, Amesbury, and 183: Yeovil and Frome (OS Landranger Map Series)
- The Google Maps app on a mobile phone was also very useful at one point!
Day 1 – North and West of Blandford (mostly), via Shaftesbury, Gillingham, and Bulbarrow Hill
We did this route anti-clockwise and started by cycling east from Blandford before turning north, through some quiet villages to Shaftesbury, and then in a southerly direction (mainly) for the return leg.
View Dorset Day 1 in a larger map
This was the toughest of the two days because there were several long climbs and two of the climbs were near the end of the ride. In particular, Bulbarrow Hill is a long climb to the summit at 274 m and the road out of Milton Abbas is quite a tough little hill (especially when you’ve cycled 70 miles beforehand). Overall, we cycled through some very pretty villages (for example, the aforementioned Milton Abbas) and saw some great panoramas from several viewpoints. There were also some some very fast descents on the ride (for me, anything over 30 mph is fast!) and the last two miles into Blandford was a long, slightly downhill, section, which was great at the end of the ride!
Day 2 – Figure of Eight loop to the New Forest and back
This ride included lots of quiet villages, a short section of disused railway bridleway, and the glorious scenery of the New Forest, lunch in Brockenhurst, before a section of busy road and lots more quiet villages and open countryside on the return to Blandford. There were not nearly so many hills on the route and we finished 45 minutes quicker than the first day’s ride; it was pretty much the same distance.
The main achievement of the day was avoiding New Forest ponies and cows that like to walk across the road at inopportune times!
View Dorset Day 2 in a larger map
Staying in Blandford
For the real ale drinker, Blandford is great because it’s the home of Hall and Woodhouse brewery and many pubs in the area have their beers on tap (including the Crown Hotel where we stayed). We also visited The Dolphin which offered a choice of seven or eight real ales, including the worryingly named Piddle Ale (Piddle Brewery).
- There is a friendly cycle shop called Off Camber in the town centre; it was ideally situated near the hotel where we stayed.
We ate a couple of nice meals in the town, including at China China in West Street, near the hotel, and at the Namaste Gurka Restaurant.
Two days cycling through attractive countryside with some challenging climbs and fast descents. Great scenery with panoramic views and the forested woodland areas of the New Forest. What’s not to like!