A NEW 800-mile cross-country cycle route has been launched.

Dubbed the Great North Trail, the long-distance journey connects the Peak District, via Cumbria and Northumberland, to Scotland.

The route has been created by national charity, Cycling UK, to answer a demand from cyclists for greater access to the countryside on routes largely away from traffic.

According to the group, about 98 per cent of the trail is on bridleways, byways, cycle routes, unpaved roads and very low traffic minor roads.

The trail, which starts near Wirksworth in Derbyshire, ventures north through the Pennines and Yorkshire Dales, and passes through Appleby, Alston, Haltwhistle and Kielder Forest, ending in the Highlands.

It uses some existing established trails, such as the Pennine Bridleway and Cross Borders Drove Road, but extensive research has been carried out to link these through a network of trails, forest roads and old rail lines.

Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at Cycling UK, said: “We know that around a quarter of people who use the National Trails do so on bikes, yet only two of the 15 National Trails in England and Wales are fully open for cycling.

“We’ve created the Great North Trail because we recognised very little has been done to promote national off-road trails.

“For example, plans to extend the Pennine Bridleway to Scotland were published 20 years ago, but still haven’t been implemented.

“And yet we know there is an appetite for more cycling access to the countryside. Off-road trails can be ideal for families to ride safely, away from traffic and city pollution.”