The Devon Coast to Coast Cycle Route is southern England’s best developed cycle route. Tarmac traffic-free paths on former railway lines allow you to explore Devon’s stunning countryside at an easy pace. Whether you are young or old, fast or slow, the limited mileage and stunning countryside makes the Devon Coast to Coast an adventure suitable for all!
The route stretches from the North Coast in Ilfracombe to the South Coast in Plymouth. It features one of the longest continuous railway paths in Britain, the Tarka Trail. This route provides 32 miles of splendid reasonably flat traffic-free cycling from Braunton to Meeth, with the sections alongside the Rivers Taw and Torridge being the most scenic. Our guidebook provides additional connecting routes, so you are able to enjoy the nearby Atlantic beaches at their best, including suggestions for the finest walks.
The Devon Coast to Coast Route features three more scenic railway paths; the Granite Way, the Drake’s Trail and the Plym Valley Way. All are much shorter than the Tarka Trail, but feature breathtaking views of Dartmoor National Park. If a cycling paradise existed in the UK, this is where it is. These three southern routes combined feature 10 high railway viaducts and two long spooky railway tunnels.
Once again, our guidebook brings huge added value beyond the standard signposted route, enabling you to combine the bike ride with the best Dartmoor walks and adventure activities, with suggestions for bike parking, walking itenararies and so on. Naturally, bike rentals, bike shops, B&Bs, hotels, hostels and campsites relevant for the route are also included.
What you’ll see
Far north, the route starts in the rocky and very hilly Victorian seaside resort of Ilfracombe. From its scenic harbour with the famous Verity statue by artist Damien Hirst you head into the hills to Woolacombe with its spectacular beach, probably one of Britain’s very best. Via pleasant Braunton you cycle to market town Barnstaple. It typical Devonian pannier market and scenic Rock Park are worth to explore before heading on to Instow, where you can enjoy the scenic, slightly inland beach.
Just around the corner is pretty Bideford, the gateway to the splendid Atlantic beach of Westward Ho! The Tarka Trail then follows the beautiful Torridge valley via Torrington. Near the attractive small town of Hatherleigh you get off the Tarka Trail to follow a route along quiet country lanes with great views of Dartmoor on the horizon.
You also cycle across Abbeyford Forest before you make your way to Okehampton. This town is a major hub for those who want to explore Dartmoor National Park; its high steep slopes dwarf the buildings in the town, such as the impressive ruins of the local castle.
The next dismantled railway route is the Granite Way which guides you across some impressive railway viaducts, offering you superb views of Dartmoor. You’ll pass Lydford Castle and Brent Tor before arriving in Tavistock. This touristy place filled with plenty of shopping opportunities is the birth place of Sir Francis Drake and you won’t be surprised to hear that the route now continues via the Drake’s Trail, another dismantled railway path with great railway viaducts.
The final section of the route is the Plym Valley Trail. This traffic-free route leads through a wooded valley on the southwestern edge of Dartmoor, guiding you to Plymouth’s seafront. You finish the ride in Plymouth Hoe, the pleasant old part of Plymouth, located on a pretty bay along the English Channel.
How you could do it
The total length of the route is 81-117 miles (130-190 kms), depending on the route options you choose. The guidebook of 40 pages allows you to fully explore the route and its sights. If you do all walks and activities listed in our guidebook, it could easily take you a week or more!
The guidebook fully explains how to deal with the logistics of a one-way cycle route, showing you how to make best use of the Devon railway network. It also shows how to get to start point Ilfracombe without having to cycle the same route twice. Naturally, it is possible to bring your own bikes and to rent locally. Some rental companies provide a pick up service at the other end. It is also possible to cycle the route luggage free, with daily pick ups and drop offs.
The route can be cycled by enthusiastic cyclists in 2/3 days of cycling. Novice cyclists and families with children who like to take their cycling easy should allow 4/5/6 days of cycling. Note that the links between various railway paths are made by some quiet country lanes on which you will encounter both very steep climbs and steep descents. As long you are fit and happy to walk your bike along these stretches (up to half a mile per stretch) you can do the Devon Coast to Coast.
Suggested extended family itinerary:
Day 1: Train Exeter – Barnstaple and short-cut Barnstaple – Ilfracombe: 2 hours
Day 2: Ilfracombe – Barnstaple: 4 hours
Day 3: Barnstaple – Westward Ho!: 2 hours
Day 4: Westward Ho! – Torrington: 2.5 hours
Day 5: Torrington – Okehampton: 4 hours
Day 6: Okehampton – Tavistock: 3 hours
Day 7: Tavistock – Plymouth: 3 hours and Plymouth – Exeter
Route updates and more
Travelling from abroad: If you are visiting from the European continent, it is best to travel by train. You can take the Eurostar service from Paris or Brussels to London St Pancras. Then, take the London Underground to station London Paddington, from where Great Western Railway services take you to Exeter. Exeter Airport is a good option if you prefer to fly, but the choice of flights is very limited since the advent of Brexit and Covid19. Travel from the airport by bus or taxi to Exeter St Davids station to continue the onward journey by train.
Travelling within the United Kingdom: Great Western Railway runs a direct link with London Paddington. Cross Country Trains also serves Exeter with a good connection to Birmingham and beyond. Both companies carry bicycles for free, but reservations are recommended. Disembark at Exeter St Davids station. The Exeter-Barnstaple line normally runs once per hour, on Sundays only once every two hours. When bringing own bikes on trains, we recommend you travel between Exeter and Barnstaple during the quiet hours between 11 am and 3 pm or after 7 pm. After cycling coast-to-coast, at Plymouth, you are back on the mainline to London/Birmingham directly. Buy tickets in advance to keep the price acceptable and ensure to have a reserved space for your bike. Book online via www.gwr.com or www.crosscountrytrains.co.uk.
For your choice of accommodation on the way, please use our facility listings featuring hotels, B&Bs, guesthouses, hostels, bunkhouses, campsites and bike repair shops. We did a lot of research to provide you with the best choices relevant for the route. Only local businesses with professional standards are listed. All facilities are either directly on or close to the route. We have omitted venues that require membership (YHA excepted) or a stay of minimum two nights. Also, campsites not allowing tents are naturally not listed!
To avoid disappointments, we recommend making reservations at least 24 hours in advance for all accommodation, even for campsites! For some campsites, this is now compulsory. Please refer to the terms and conditions of the provider in advance and adhere to the rules of the provider!
Route updates: Things do change; routes do get improved or are shut down! Venues come and go as well and our eyes can’t be anywhere. When cycling the route, have your eyes out for changes and report these to us. We keep a PDF available for you to download prior to cycling the route. You can here download the updates for this route: Download Route Updates Devon Coast-to-Coast.