Cycling bumps up fitness levels, is fun for family outings, gets you to work before the boss and takes you right to the heart of the countryside. No wonder new statistics are linking cycling with happiness.

To show who’s getting the biggest mood boost from bike riding, Merlin Cycles has compiled a map that records cycling habits vs happiness levels around the UK. Northern Ireland takes top spot, with 28% of adults cycling at least once a week and also recording higher than average satisfaction with their life and job.

Around one in 10 adults in the south east and south west of England also hop on their bikes at least once a week – and people in both regions reported higher than average life satisfaction.

Even London, with its crowds and busy streets, sees  10% of adults on their bikes at least once a week – a welcome trend that could see a reduction in traffic congestion.

Why not get out your bike (or hire one for your holiday) and explore one of the UK’s most scenic trails the happy way?

Scenic cycling trails

Get on your bike and explore one of these scenic routes, taken from Merlin Cycles’ Great British Map of Cycling. 

1 Isle of Arran, Scotland
Just off the east coast of Scotland, the island has beautiful rolling hills. Despite its diminutive size and rugged landscape, Arran boasts trails for people of any cycling ability, from 6-21 milers.

2. Hamsterley Forest, Durham, North East
With more than 33 miles of forest trails, Hamsterley Forest comes out as our top pick for the North East. It has the terrain to cater for everything from a leisurely family cycle to adrenaline-fuelled mountain biking.

3. The Cinder Track, Yorkshire and the Humber
Stretching from Scarborough to Whitby, the Cinder Track provides a secluded 21-mile coastline ride that includes incredible sea views and secret coves. Check out numerous historical sights, too.

4. Windermere, Lake District, North West
Don’t miss the Lake District. One of our favourite routes takes you from Kendal to Windermere. The 11.5 miles of country lanes and cycle paths, with views of the River Kent makes for a stunning ride.

5. Castlerock to Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Enjoy breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, while tackling the challenge of a few hills. The finishing point is the dramatic Giant’s Causeway – set off early to make the most of it.

6. The Monsal Trail, Peak District, East Midlands
At a leisurely, traffic-free 8.5 miles, the Monsal Trail is ideal for family days out. It runs through the heart of the Peak District, offering forest and trails for all abilities.

7. The Greenway Trail, Stratford-Upon-Avon, West Midlands
Starting in Shakespeare’s historic town of Stratford-Upon-Avon, the Greenway Trail is 17 miles long and winds through picturesque villages. There’s the odd hill but nothing too challenging. You’ll be treated to picturesque views of gentle countryside.

8. Marston Vale, East England
This consists of two well surfaced 4km loops in a figure of eight – excellent for a smooth ride. The Vale has incredible forest views, as well as peaceful lakeside scenery. This is the trail for you if you’re looking for landscape variety.

9. Elan Valley Trail, Wales
Wales is famous for its breathtaking views, and this has some of the best. It’s an 18-mile round trip, where you can admire the reservoir as well as a valley and rolling hills. This is a good route for off-road cycling with plenty for intrepid cycling enthusiasts.

10. Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, South West
A fairytale forest – head there in spring and summer you’ll be greeted by glorious blue skies and blankets of wildflowers. Distances range from three to 11 miles. The terrain varies dramatically from flat to near vertical hills (more of a challenge).

11. Tudor Trail, Kent, South East
Running from the spectacular Tonbridge Castle to the grand manor house Penshurst Place, the Tudor Trail leads into the centre of the market town and through the surrounding countryside. The journey is mostly off-road, but the hard work will be rewarded by scenic splendour.

See the cycling and happiness map here.