Cycling via Bath, Bristol and Cheddar to Taunton

What is it like to cycle through the West Country via Bath, Bristol and Cheddar in two days? In this blog we look at this beautiful route of 189 kilometers (about 117 miles) and give you a good idea of what you may encounter along the way.

Previously, we wrote about our route from London via Avebury or Stonehenge to Alton Barnes. Multiple cycle routes pass through this village. From Alton Barnes, our route heads west towards the town of Devizes. This town has several traditional inns where you can stay overnight, as it was once an overnight stop on the stagecoach route between Londen and Bristol.

From Devizes, you turn onto the towpath of the Avon & Kennet Canal. Almost immediately, the spectacular locks of Caen Hill are awaiting you. This flight of locks with 29 locks bridges a height of 72 meters. It allows you to cycle down a nice descent with plenty of opportunities to observe some canal boats making their way through the locks. A flat towpath route follows into Bradford on Avon. This town has many elegant buildings and has a scenic backdrop of the Cotswolds.

These scenic hills are easily travelled by bike with a great thanks to the Avon & Kennet Canal towpath. On this path, you don’t have to climb an inch and you can enjoy the picturesque landscape to the fullest. You will cross the Avon River twice via two aqueducts. Then, you have the choice to remain on the towpath into Bath or to cycle the Two Tunnels Greenway. This scenic cycle route features the Combe Down tunnel, the longest former railway tunnel in England open for cycling. The tunnel is 1670 meters (one mile!) long and well paved and lit. Every few hundred meters, you will hear atmopsheric music playing from some small loudspeakers.

Both routes take you to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bath. This compact city is famous for the Roman Baths and its Georgian architecture. Showpieces include the Royal Crescent and Pulteney Bridge. Bath Abbey is also well worth a visit. Bath is also known for the Jane Austen Centre. Jane Austen lived and worked in Bath and also wrote two novels about the Georgian class society actually set in Bath.

From Bath you will cycle to Bristol on the Bristol and Bath Railway Path. The first sections of this path on a former railway were built in 1978 by volunteers of the Sustrans charity. This charity still holds its head office in Bristol and is still managing England’s National Cycle Network up to today. The scenic path from Bath will take you into Bristol’s City Centre without having to mix with any motorised traffic.

Bristol is a city known for its creative industries. The studios of Aardman Animations, responsible for both the world famous Wallace and Gromit and Shawn the Sheep series, are located in the ‘Floating Harbour’. This is Bristol’s historical docks area, also featuring a great YHA in a former warehouse, the historic ship ‘SS Great Britain’ and the M-Shed, Bristol’s city museum flanked by Bristol’s iconic four dock cranes.

From Bristol, you will cycle through the spectacular Avon River gorge towards the coast, passing under the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge. It takes you to Pill village, where pilots used to board ships heading from Bristol. Today, Bristol’s modern docks are located directly on the coast. You will cycle next to a large parking lot where new cars eagerly await their owners after having arrived by freight ship in Royal Portbury Dock.

From here, the scenic valley of Weston in Gordano will bring you to the coastal town of Clevedon, looking out over the wide Bristol Channel. There is no real beach here, but there is an elegant pier and pretty promenade with plenty of silty air to breath in. If you haven’t spent the night in Bath or Bristol on your way, this is a good opportunity to do so. Just out of town, at Kingston Seymour, you will also find a campsite of which its proprietors have been fans of our route since its very beginnings.

The route is heading inland now. The Strawberry Line, another cycle route on a former railway, takes its name from the most common freight carried on this line. You will cycle through various fruit orchards, with the Mendip Hills looming on the horizon. Another former railway tunnel will take you across the Mendips without any serious climbing.

Cheddar is a town known for its narrow winding gorge into the Mendip Hills. There are several caves here, open for all sorts of caving, from a pleasant underground stroll up to a guided crawling adventure. Locals also matured their cheeses in these caves, contributing to the fame of Cheddar Cheese. Naturally, there is a ‘cheese experience’ in town, where you can learn everything about England’s most famous cheese variety.

From Cheddar you will cycle into the flat Somerset Levels. Grazing cows seem to last forever into the horizon, but the flats are also broken by some impressive isolated hills. From the service town of Bridgwater, you will join the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal towpath, which will take you to Taunton. This large town marks the end of this reasonably flat route. Further west, the hills of Exmoor will force you to climb up steep hills to an elevation of 600 meters above sea level. Another time you can read more about this continued route to Devon and Cornwall.

Practical notes:

The route starting in Alton Barnes is a continuation of our route from London. You can also use our England North-South Cycle Route to get to Alton Barnes. The nearest train station on our routes is Bedwyn. You can also join the route at Bradford on Avon, Bath, Bristol Temple Meads or Yatton stations.

The described route section starts at Alton Barnes and ends in Taunton. From Taunton, you can cycle further west towards Devon and Cornwall, with some serious climbing to take in. You can also take bikes on the train back to London or Harwich/Dover. In England, bicycles can be taken on the train for free, but not during peak times and depending on the capacity of the train. On some routes, such as Taunton-London, you need to make a reservation for bicycles.

We do not recommend the use of any bicycle trailers, cargo bikes, bike trailers, etc. This is due to various barriers on cycle paths with tight corners and narrow gaps. You may also encounter difficulties on narrow towpaths, steep slopes and when taking your equipment on the train. Note e-bikes can only be charged at booked accommodation on the way; public charging points are rare.

The route in this blog is partly signposted as ‘Route 4’ up to Bristol. Note that the Two Tunnels Greenway and multiple Bath highlights are not located on this signposted route. From Bristol to Taunton, parts of the route are signposted as ‘Route 41’, ‘Route 26’ and ‘Route 3’. We created the traffic-calmed route across the Somerset Levels ourselves. You can only comfortably cycle the full route of this blog with the ‘London-Land’s End Cycle Route’ guidebook. This guidebook contains route directions, maps, cycling-focused tourist information and facility listings with campsites, youth hostels, B&Bs, hotels and bicycle repair shops along the way. Order your copy now and you will receive the guide in your mailbox within a week! GPS tracks of the route will be sent to you by email.

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