North Devon Cycling Routes
For many of us, cycling is our first choice for an outdoor activity to get exercise and fresh air. You get to see more of the countryside from the saddle of the bike than in a car and you can also cover greater distances than on foot – it is the best of both worlds! North Devon offers a number of cycling routes to suit all tastes and all include the most stunning scenery you could wish to see.
The National Cycle Network Route 3 runs from Barnstaple to Tiverton and covers a route that is 47 miles long. It starts at the River Taw and then heads through the stunning beauty of the Exmoor National Park. Here there is a wide variety of wildlife to see including red deer and the famous Exmoor ponies. The route then follows the road down through Bampton and into Tiverton.
Devon Coast to Coast Cycle Route
If you want a serious route, then the Devon coast to coast cycle route is one to consider. At 99 miles in length, it involves two of the national cycle network routes, number 3 and number 27 and offers the chance to see the best of everything North Devon has to offer.
The route starts at Ilfracombe and heads to Braunton before following a 30-mile traffic free section using the former railways around the Taw and Torridge estuaries. It takes in places such as Bideford, Great Torrington and Meeth before reaching Okehampton.
The Granite Way is the name for the section from Okehampton to Lydford while the route from Tavistock to Plymouth is often called the Drake’s Trail. The route enters the city of Plymouth past the National Marine Aquarium and the Tinside Lido.
While travelling the whole of the route may be an option for serious cyclists, others may want to complete it in sections. With many picturesque villages and towns along the route, it is also a great basis for a cycling holiday across the county.
Exe Estuary Trail
The Exe Estuary Trail is a mostly flat route that runs for 26 miles around the Exe Estuary. This makes for great views of the River Exe and includes notable places such as Exmouth, Dawlish Warren and Exeter itself. It is a section of the National Cycle Network route 2.
The route offers the chance to see a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as well as a special protection area that is rich in bird life as well as other wildlife.
Ilfracombe to Minehead
There are two notable north Devon cycling routes that pass through Ilfracombe. The first is the regional route 51 that travels 39 miles from Ilfracombe to Minehead. The route includes coastal views across Combe Martin Bay then reached Lynton, with its harbour.
From Lynton, the route continues along the East Lyn River and around Porlock Bay. You can stop off at the Bird of Prey Centre at Allerford while the final section finishes at the Minehead train station. There are a few good climbs along the route as well as some off-road sections.
Ilfracombe to Ossaborough
The route from Ilfracombe to Ossaborough Railway Path is an ideal short route to do with the kids and is just five miles long. It follows the disused London and South Western Railway line from Ilfracombe Pier.
It continues along the outskirts of the town past the Slade Reservoirs and finally into the countryside. It followed the NCN route 27 and is mostly away from roads so there is no traffic to contend with.
The Tarka Trail cycle route is an example of a route within the coast to coast path. It is one of the classic Devon cycling routes that connects Braunton to Meeth via Barnstaple. It uses disused railway tracks and is a mixture of tarmac and packed stone surfaces, running for a total of 30 miles.
Along the way are some amazing views across the Taw Estuary as well as a number of notable sculptures. It is also a route rich with wildlife due to the variation of habitats – from oak woodlands and hazel coppice to meadows and streams.
The route was made famous back in 1927 when Henry Williamson wrote a novel called Tarka the Otter and described the countryside around the route. Today, it intersects with the South West Coast Path, the Dartmoor Way and the Two Moors Way so there is plenty of opportunities to head off in different directions.
Finally, a great place to take the kids is the Scadson Woods Bike Park. Near Paignton, the site has a number of trails set of 13 acres of woodlands and includes areas for beginners right through to professionals and even a dual slalom track. You can enjoy spotting the badger setts and wildflower areas while having a rest from the riding too.