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Devon’s best cycling trails – an insider’s guide holiday cottages

Devon’s best cycling trails – an insider’s guide

Cycling alone, cycling with friends, cycling with your family; it’s a pure pleasure where you can accomplish speeds met through your own strength and efforts. With the help of a bike you can cover vast distances in an environmentally clean, safe and healthy fashion. Bikes can also get you to parts of the countryside that a car cannot get to, and Devon is a place that has some great off-road trails.

Some of our staff at The Travel Chapter we have some ardent cyclists and we’ve asked them to choose their very favourite route and their reasons for holding it above all others.

Barnstaple is the main transport hub in North Devon, and you can hire bikes from quite a few spots. The easiest to find is at Barnstaple Railway Station.  The first two routes on this list pass close to the station.

Country roads - Barnstaple to Crediton and back (A377)

Barnstaple to Crediton cycling

This route is a road trail and heads through the ancient deep river valleys to the south of Barnstaple, staying close to the course of the River Taw and the Tarka Line – one of the most beautiful railways in the west.  With long flat stretches, this is locally known as a ‘back-route’ into Exeter and Crediton and isn’t troubled by massive volumes of traffic.  The views of vast coniferous forests and rolling Devonshire countryside make this a must for road cyclists.

The family run - The Tarka Trail

Tarka Trail

This sealed cycle and walking trail is a well-known destination for those that are perhaps trying out their first holiday on two wheels. In the main, the trail is very flat and easy for children to ride as well. Large sections are far away from roads as it follows the former path of railway track that got axed and torn up during the Beeching years.  The sealed section of the trail runs from Lee Bay (near Ilfracombe) to Meeth (near Okehampton). Named after author Henry Williamson’s Tarka the Otter, you pass over the bridge where he was born, and take in many of the spots that inspired the wonderful story, a British classic. There are one or two refreshment spots found along the way, including The Puffin Billy at Great Torrington, Tea on the Train in Bideford, John’s Deli in Instow to name a few.  Leafy and entrancing, this is a superb choice for all the family – some of the views are legendary and have remained unchanged for hundreds of years.

The wild one on Exmoor - Braunton to Simonsbath

Exmoor

Head out to the stark and empty beauty of Exmoor. The climb is gradual along the B3358 into the small village of Simonsbath at the heart of the national park. This trail is for those who like to push themselves to the limit and the high views across the moors are of an unparalleled beauty. Time your trip with the deer rutting season and you may witness the magnificent beast vying for a mate. Stop at one of the pubs for refreshment; we recommend The Black Venus for a swift half.

Beaches, pubs and dunes - The Braunton and Ilfracombe Circular

Cycling pubs and beaches

This trail is a bit hilly, but it takes you past some of the best ocean views on the north coast of Devon.  Winding round the head of Saunton Beach past the dune sea to the elite kingdom of the board riders, Croyde Beach. There are plenty of places to stop and refresh in Croyde be it a pub or an ice cream parlour. Head inland to the cute village of Georgeham down windy lanes and then up some hills - that will give you calves like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s - to Ilfracombe. It’s all downhill to Ilfracombe if you chose to go down to the sea, otherwise head back to Braunton down the fast road – it's downhill all the way. You may have busy traffic to contend with along the last stretch, as it’s the main road in the region. Check the Sustrans site or an OSS for a quieter parallel route.  All things considered, this is a very nice circular route with some lovely hills and views.

The tough one - Dartmoor Way

Cyclist - Barnstaple to Crediton

The Dartmoor Way is a new 95-mile-long circular cycling route around Dartmoor. This challenging route passes by Bovey Tracey, Buckfastleigh, Ivybridge, Tavistock, Okehampton, and Moretonhampstead to name a few and it takes in a variety of stunning vistas and seductive Devon scenery. This is one for the experienced, life-long rider; with busy roads, steep gradients, prolonged ascents and few amenities or facilities along the way - after all the route cuts into Dartmoor, one of the largest unspoilt and starkly beautiful national parks in England. So, this is catnip to pros and a true challenge of considerable magnitude to the hobbyist. Still worth an inclusion, even if you wanted to try out short sections of the circuit.

We have holiday properties close to each of these cycle routes. Many of our cottages come with storage space for one or more cycles on the premises. There are also many cycle hire shops throughout the county. Why not look out our collection of holiday homes to feel inspired when booking your cycling holiday in Devon?

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