Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Verona and more places to get on your bike
Edinburgh to Falkirk Wheel (32 miles)
While the 25-odd miles of Scottish countryside that make up the bulk of the route are certainly not to be sniffed at, the main stop-and-gawp moments come at the start and finish. Early on you’ll catch some stunning views as Edinburgh gently fades away behind you, with some of the Scottish capital’s top attractions – Murrayfield and the Corn Exchange among them – just a short detour away. Located 32 miles down the road, you’ve got one of the most stunning feats of modern engineering in Europe – the Falkirk Wheel. Opened back in 2002, this one-of-a-kind rotating boat lift forms a connection between the Union and the Forth and Clyde canals. BA flies to Edinburgh from around Dhs2,718.
Amsterdam loop (41 miles)
If there’s one city that begs to be explored on two wheels, it’s Amsterdam. It’s estimated that there are around half a million bikes roaming the streets of the Dutch capital, so expect to be jostling for position with fellow cyclists along the route’s busier bits. For first-timers in the Dutch capital, it’d be foolhardy not to drop by some of the big attractions. Veering left down Stadhouderskade will take you to an interactive hops museum, as well as the Van Gogh Museum: home to hundreds of works by the self-harming post-impressionist. Later on, it’s all about rural charm – you’ll pass numerous idyllic picnic spots as you approach the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal, while Loenersloot boasts a still-inhabited medieval castle. Pegasus Airlines flies to Amsterdam from around Dhs1,985.
Bolzano to Verona (98 miles)
Forget everything you know about Italy when you arrive in Bolzano – many of the locals speak German, for a start. And while the south is all gleaming marble and imperial artefacts, up here the sights are less about history and more about science, the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology – home to five-thousand- year-old Ötzi the ice man – being the major crowd-puller. From here, it’s on to the picturesque, orchard-flanked villages of St Pauls and Eppan, through the Dolomites and the cobbled streets of Trento before eventually arriving at Lake Garda. Verona much closer resembles the idyllic image of Italy relentlessly flogged by the tourist board, taking the terracotta tiles from Florence and the imposing amphitheatres from ancient Rome. Once settled, most guidebooks will point you towards tourist trap Juliet’s Balcony. Egyptair flies to Verona (90 minutes’ drive from Bolzano) from Dhs1,850.
Reims grapes tour (116 miles)
While it’s unquestionably a good place to start, there’s a lot more to Reims than bubbly, and with plenty of drinking in store during the days ahead, we’d recommend spending your time there checking out its more sobering features. Few are as spectacular as the Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral, which, though not as large as its Parisian cousin, is just as old and sports a gothic façade that’s every bit as impressive. The nearby Palace of Tau is older still, acting as the official residence of French monarchs as far back as 990. Also check out the Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir vineyards. Egyptair flies to Paris (half an hour from Reims by train) from Dhs2,385.
Northern Ireland’s Causeway coast (117 miles)
Though the best views of this trip are definitely found along the coastal sections, there are sights to be seen en route to the country’s edge for those willing to put in a little extra legwork. Slemish Mountain – just a short detour from the road to Carnlough – is believed to have been the first home of Saint Patrick, the extinct volcano serving as the Irish patron’s turf after he was brought to the country as a slave aged 16. Marking the journey’s mid-point, Ballycastle features plenty of noisy bars and a blue flag beach. Then the Giant’s Causeway is made up of thousands of basalt columns, believed to have been formed millions of years ago by a volcanic eruption. BA flies to Belfast (55 minutes by car) from around Dhs2,993.