It’s time to settle into the saddle, grind through the gears and pedal out some more of those favourite bicycle related clichés before we take you into the wonderful world of the North Devon cycling holiday!
So what does North Devon have to offer the cyclist? It’s easier to mention what it doesn’t, because the region has it all – from sportive quality road biking to off road mountain biking and pootling along a flat scenic track for casual all-the-family cycling. In short, if you’re looking for a cycling holiday this year, set the Garmin south westwards.
Road Cycling in North Devon
If you’re a serious cyclist on the road then you want hills and this is where the Carlton Hotel, located in Ilfracombe, sits in a strategic position at the bottom of a long and steep hill (the term combe comes from the old English word for steep valley). Challenging start (but a great finish!).
While there is great cycling to be had around the town, with some nice circular routes that take in coastal views and some more of those challenging hill climbs such as the infamous Challacombe hill which featured in last year’s Tour of Britain.
However, the real joys of North Devon road cycling can be achieved on the twists, turns and straights of Exmoor National Park which extends to the east of Ilfracombe. A hit with many a cyclist whose first experience of Exmoor cycling often comes with an instant dose of bike induced nirvana!
Sweeping views across the moors, dips down into wooded valleys, quaint villages to roll into, with local ales and cream teas on offer (we’re not all trying to set land speed records) are all part of the Exmoor road bike experience.
As well as its proximity to Exmoor, Ilfracombe sits at the end of a 99 mile coast to coast ride across the length of Devon (taking in national cycle routes 27 and 3). From nearby Barnstaple, route 3 also runs from Barnstaple to Tiverton (the scenic route takes in Exmoor and the River Taw), which is 47 miles one way.
The Carlton provides a great base for those planning a North Devon cycling holiday – individual and group. We have free parking and a secure facility to keep those expensive road bikes safe while you unwind with good food from our bistro (including a healthy wellbeing option) and a massage treatment.
Mountain Biking in North Devon
Road bikes and the suck of all encompassing Lycra not for you? No problem! North Devon’s combination of country and coast makes for perfect mountain biking territory. The country lanes of Devon, fringed by their tall Devon banks, are plentiful and mostly quiet and along the way there are many bridleways that allow riders to navigate various off road terrains.
While many mountain bikers like to plot their own route, there are plenty of options for those who are looking for riding that’s a little more customised. Right on the edge of Ilfracombe we have Keypitt’s farm which has a choice of Blue to Black grade trails. Near Barnstaple you can also find Coxleigh Barton Equestrian Centre which has trails for mountain bikes that make the most of the ups and downs, much through woodland, of this country estate with amazing views over the Taw estuary.
Family Cycling in North Devon
Every parent knows how much fun it is travelling on holiday with a car full of kids… A lot less fun than a family cycling adventure once you’ve arrived! While North Devon is renowned for its hills, casual cyclists are not renowned for their love of them… which is why the flat length of Tarka Trail, running from Braunton to Bideford (via Barnstaple) has established itself as a popular route.
Perfect for a family cycling party that values checking out the scenery more than clocking up the miles in a saddle. Tracing the Taw river, the Tarka Trail follows the old railway line (hence, long, straight and flat!). Along the route there are plenty of cool and funky places to stop, refuel and rest including the excellent cake and brownie experts Bake and Brew and fresh seafood from The Glorious Oyster.
The Tarka Trail is the perfect way to explore the region’s towns, especially with the tourist traffic that comes in school holidays. With bike hire available in Braunton and Barnstaple this is a great way to spend an afternoon, or even plot a day trip.
Remember how we said Ilfracombe starts and ends with a hill? Well there is an alternative, which allows even the most amateur cyclists escape the combe with barely a break of sweat as the old railway line (now a walking and cycling route) has an extremely low gradient.
So that ends our race through North Devon cycling holiday options. With its luxurious rooms, healthy dining, bar, gym and treatment facilities The Carlton Hotel makes for a wonderful base camp to explore Devon’s variety of cycling routes.