Why you should ride Rebellion Way – a new gravel adventure route around Norfolk

A rider on Rebellion Way
(Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Inspired by the massive success of the King Alfred’s Way ‘time travel gravel’ route around the historical highlights of southern England, the Kernow Way in Cornwall, The Great North Trail up the Pennines and the Cantil Way in Kent, Cycling UK are adding another route. This cyclo circumnavigation of Norfolk is designed to be the perfect warm up for those more challenging routes or just an easy introduction into multi-day off-road touring. Who better to tell you about it than our own Guy Kesteven who worked with access and advocacy charity Cycling UK to create and narrate the route...

Sunset on Rebellion Way

Norfolk is sunnier, drier and warmer than anywhere else in the UK (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Easy riding hot spot

Considering how much I like hills and challenging trails, I was genuinely shocked how much I enjoyed riding round Norfolk researching and refining this route. Not only does the fact it tops out at a maximum of 100m above sea level make it very easy on the legs, East Anglia is also generally several degrees warmer, sunnier and drier than the rest of the UK. That was certainly my experience when I tested out the route in July, making the most of glorious golden light blazing across cornfields and strobing through forests near Thetford. Or watching stunning Norman castles and priories rising out of the dawn mist at Castle Acre. You’ve even got the only opportunity to see the sun set into the sea on the east coast – if you time your ride through Hunstanton right.

Rebellion Way

The 375km loop is absolutely loaded with history including some stunning castle sites (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

What the route lacks in contours it makes up for in variety under your wheels. Mile after mile of utterly deserted forest riding, Roman Roads, prehistoric droveways, farm tracks, medieval commons, paths alongside steam railways and seaside gravel tracks through nature reserves are mixed with grass centred back roads. There’s even a hill with some singletrack on near Sheringham which we really weren’t expecting. For the most part though it’s blissfully easy, all-weather surface riding where gear changes are a rare interruption under vast panoramic skies and getting out of the saddle is only done to stretch your legs and air your undercarriage.

Rebellion Way's hill

It's even got a hill with singletrack and scenic views, but the mostly flat landscape makes the vast majority of miles super easy for anyone (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

The Rebellion Way name comes from the fact that while it’s mostly library quiet now, Norfolk has historically been a hotbed of revolution and rebellion. This started when Queen Boudicca of the local Celtic Iceni tribe went on a revenge rampage against Roman occupiers that saw her army burn St Albans, Colcheser and London to the ground. The lesser known Robert Kett also successfully fought off royal armies when he led a peasant revolt against land enclosures in 1549. Add in Roman forts on the east coast, the Viking army of Ivar the Boneless hanging out in Thetford for a while and the fascinating shine village and self styled ‘Nazareth of the UK’ in Great Walshingham and there’s way more history here than you might expect. World renowned Wurlitzer organ collections, a shell museum, seafront mammoth murals and the Royal holiday residence of Sandringham are all part of the random charm of this eclectic eastern loop too.

Countless live and ruined medieval churches, castles, prehistoric barrows, Palladian, Tudor, Jacobean stately homes and even the prettiest ammunition store in the world provide the architectural aesthetic. Pretty Georgian market towns, historic sea ports at Kings Lynn and Wells Next the Sea, and the lively capital city of Norfolk where the route starts and finishes provide obvious, regularly spaced stopping and refueling points. Plenty of pubs, local produce specialists and several breweries en route mean you’ll be really well fed and watered on the way round too.

Rebellion Way

Roman Roads and huge skies are all part of the Rebellion Way 'Time travel gravel' experience. (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Norfolk's not for hurrying

Plenty of varied accommodation options all the way round mean you can take as long or as short a time as you want on the tour too. I used the long days of summer to ride it in two days while still making ample use of the many tea and cake and farm shop food stops, taking plenty of pictures and filming a video diary. If you want a more leisurely approach though, the naturally slow pace of Norfolk could easily lull you into a relaxed week's worth of riding. Either way, it’s another route that proves that bikes are the perfect, uniquely nature and atmosphere immersive way to explore the fascinating history and landscape of the UK.

Rebellion Way guidebook

The official guidebook is loaded with maps, route facts and pictures of the journey (Image credit: Cycling UK)

The Rebellion Way launches today, for more details head to the Cycling UK route page, where you’ll find details and GPX files for the loop. For the full story, get a copy of the guidebook (£14 from Cycling UK's online shop (opens in new tab)) which will give you routing information, real maps and loads of stories and facts about what you'll see along the way.

Guy Kesteven is Bike Perfect and Cyclingnews’ contributing tech editor. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.


Rides: Pace RC295, Cotic FlareMax, Specialized Chisel, Vielo V+1 gravel bike, Nicolai FS Enduro, Landescape custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg