What better way to spend a weekend than with an exhilarating ride through some of the country’s finest scenery, including picturesque villages, dark tunnels and dizzying viaducts?
This long-distance bike ride is a great way to enjoy all that this loveliest of counties has to offer. Much of the 99-mile route (National Cycle Network route 27) – from Ilfracombe on the north coast to Plymouth on the south – is along disused railway lines so is largely traffic-free and mostly flat, making it an ideal weekend spin.
It’s customary to dip your wheel in the water at Ilfracombe’s harbour before heading out of town to join the Tarka Trail at Braunton. This well-pedalled path follows the Rivers Taw and Torridge to Barnstaple, Bideford and beyond. It then passes through a string of pretty villages on the way to Okehampton.
You’ll eventually arrive at the town’s beautifully restored railway station where you can still catch a Sunday service (operated by the GWR) to Exeter during the summer. At just over half-way, it’s a perfect place to stop for the night: the old goods shed has been converted into a youth hostel with family rooms and camping plus a bike workshop for any running repairs
The second day’s route starts with the Granite Way and offers up dramatic views as it skirts around the western edge of Dartmoor. A tricky and hilly (well, this is Devon after all) section then takes you on to the ancient stannary town of Tavistock. From here, the Drake’s Trail provides an almost entirely off-road path to Plymouth.
This final stretch of the ride is the most pleasant of all, winding its way along verdant valleys, through dark tunnels and over viaducts – including the dizzying Gem Bridge – before finishing with a welcome freewheel into the county’s largest city. Pedal past Plymouth Hoe and dunk your tyre in the Tamar to celebrate the end of this stunning coast to coast cycle.
For more details and a map of the route, go to sustrans.org.uk