This little loop out to Ringstead is only short but it still takes in some stunning scenery and a surprisingly diverse range of landscapes from the coast to pastoral downs. We’ve also designed it to be a gentle introduction to riding off road, with a couple of gravel sections inland and behind the beach plus a grassy run through a beautiful nature reserve. These are all rideable with care on a road bike, but you may be more relaxed on a gravel bike or mountain bike. If you need to hire one, Open Sky Cycles who helped us to put this route together will be happy to help.
The route starts right in the centre of Hunstanton on the green, where village founder Henry Le Strange looks out over the site of the old pier and across the Wash to Lincolnshire. We’re heading north to the top of the hill for the best view possible, which is presumably why the old Lighthouse sits up here. You’ll also pass the ruins of the old chapel of St Edmund (the first Patron Saint of England) here before turning down the sandy road into the car park. Obviously take care here as the arrangement is free range and people will be more concerned with getting to the glorious beaches of Hunstanton at the far side rather than watching out for riders.
Aim for the small wood at the bottom of the hill though and you’ll pop out onto the road that curves round the seaside edge of Old Hunstanton. This village is the original settlement site for the area with remains that date back to the Neolithic (New Stone Age) some 6000 years ago and was important in Anglo Saxon, Viking and medieval times. It’s now mostly a quiet retirement village but it’s a very pleasant place to pedal through before you cross the main road and head inland to Ringstead.
At this point you can short cut the route down to 17.5km heading through the village and taking a left turn into the Ringstead Downs Nature Reserve just to the south. We’re looping round a longer way though, leaving the village in a south east direction and crossing the line of the Peddars Way Roman Road. Unfortunately, while a lot of Peddars is bridleway and therefore legal to pedal, this section is only designated as a footpath and so we can’t officially include it. Instead, we follow a quiet country lane for a few km before turning right down a gravel farm track. It’s straight enough to look like a Roman Road though and it crosses Peddars hallway down too so if you want to tell people that you’ve ridden in the footsteps of Legionaries from nearly 2000 years ago, who are we to spoil the story.
At the end of the farm track you’ve got another choice. You can head south to the historic village of Sedgebury with its tales of Iron Age and Roman Treasure, prehistoric flint finds and even a detour to the world’s prettiest purpose built gunpowder store at ‘Magazine Cottage’. You can then head into Heacham past the Norfolk Lavender farm. It’s a relatively busy road though so instead our listed route heads back north until you’re nearly back at Ringstead. After the little shimmy on the road though keep an eye out for a vehicle barrier at the edge of a wood with signs for Ringstead Down nature reserve.
Obviously being a nature reserve, you need to ride very carefully not to avoid ruffling any fur or feathers and it’s also a popular dog walking spot. It might be slightly muddy after wet weather too. It’s a beautiful, tranquil roll through unspoilt old woodland though and a real taste of the wilder, more nature rich experiences gravel riding can provide. Then it’s carefully through the farm then south and west onto the bridleway that takes you to the main road. It’s running slow here on the outskirts of Heacham but you obviously need to take care. The road from Heacham Manor Hotel into the village itself is lovely and quiet though. While the holiday parks between the Heacham and the sea have definitely skewed the sense of place and priorities, Heacham has a very rich and prosperous history that stretches back to 4000 BC when stone age Neolithic settlers started to clear the land and harvest the rich coastal resources. The area has also revealed Bronze, Iron and Roman age remains and was important as a trading port through the Anglo Saxon and Medieval periods too, before becoming a popular holiday destination alongside Hunstanton in the 19th Century.
You’ll roll past the holiday parks on your way to the large sea defence bank that helps keep this lowland area safe. Make sure you pop onto the top for amazing coastal views up and down the vast, unspoilt beaches with their unique east coast sunsets and on a clear day you’ll be able to make out Boston in Lincolnshire across the Wash.
For the last few km though we take the gravel road behind the beach huts and diverse seaside houses that form a strip all the way up to Hunstanton. The route is rideable on a road bike as long as you’re careful of the potholes and it’s certainly a nicer way back to the start than taking the main road. As you reach Hunstanton you’ll roll round past the fun fair and then keep to the back road past the main car park and you’ll pop out by the bandstand right where you started.
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