A wonderful way to experience the city and countryside around Winchester is on two wheels, with cycling a real pleasure at any time of the year.

Choose a bike suited to your cycling needs

You don’t have to own a bike; there are local pedal and electric bike hire outlets that offer reasonable day rates. These include The Cycle Company, a local business that sell and hire out e-bikes, and Bespoke Biking, a great community enterprise that also runs the Handlebar Café (more on this later). Most of this route is flat, so very suitable for families with younger children. If your fitness or health doesn’t lend itself to traditional cycling, then getting on an e-bike will enable you to enjoy a full cycling experience nonetheless. We rented bikes from The Cycle Company in Shawford; two e-bikes for the adults and regular ones for the children, all very modern and in mint condition.

Our group consisted of two adults and two children under ten, and as our chosen route involved some road riding, confident biking skills were helpful.

The circular route from Shawford to Winchester centre and back is around 14 km and takes in nature, history, culture, and offers food and drink options. There is plenty of information online, but we used the recommended free app, Komoot, which includes the route details and tracking.

Shawford, Twyford and St Catherine’s Hill

Leaving Shawford village, you ride over the River Itchen towards Twyford, which has a beautiful heritage post office to admire. You then take a quiet country route past Twyford Church, as well as Twyford Waterworks.

Crossing over the crystal-clear river Itchen into Twyford. The Itchen is a special chalk stream river, the chalk bed providing natural filtration for the flowing water, allowing wildlife to thrive in and on its banks. You can see trout, minnows, Atlantic salmon, water voles, kingfishers, even otters if you are incredibly lucky! See what you can spot.

Leaving the path, you then have your busiest short road section before reaching the St Catherine’s Hill area, Chalk Downland Hill, owned by Winchester College.

Catch a snack on the road

The route takes you alongside the river in the shadow of St Catherine’s Hill, before reaching the community Handlebar Café on the right. The café and bike workshop sit on the Viaduct Cycle Path. The beautiful railway-themed carriage design, created by local young people, blends superbly into its environment.

We enjoyed warming hot chocolate, delicious cappuccinos and snacks on their leafy terrace in the treetops overlooking the river. There are also plenty of bike racks to store your bikes and a bike tool station to use free of charge.

Getting to Winchester

Following the viaduct cycle path to Winchester city centre, the route takes you over the old mill, where the waters tumble and rush through a narrow channel. If you are lucky, you may see a heron standing in the grassy area. You ride alongside the ancient flint brick wall and almshouses.

This is a peaceful haven to sit and watch the river go past where ducks and swans gather, just a stone’s throw from the city bustle. Reach the road and opposite is the City Mill, a National Trust property where you can buy baked goods made from flour made on-site.

Turn left and the dominant figure King Alfred’s statue beckons you into the city. You might be getting hungry, so hot fish and chips eaten in the pretty Abbey Gardens offers a welcome pause. Following the ancient city wall to the back of Winchester Cathedral takes in special heritage spots that make this city such a great place to explore.

Keep pushing! The return leg

Finally, the return leg. Ride past Winchester College and the old Hospital of St Cross. Then enjoy the ride across the Hockley Viaduct, the oldest surviving bridge across the river, with views both North and South. Stop and read the interesting historical railway inscriptions and quotes written on the walls as you cross the viaduct. Get some great photos too!

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