Cycling in Devon
As it happens, the North Devon coast offers cyclists a real treat – the level and traffic-free 21-mile Tarka Trail, running between Braunton and Meeth. Created along the route of a closed railway, it follows, for the most part, the River Taw (which was the setting of Henry Williamson’s 1927 novel, Tarka the Otter – which explains the trail’s name!). You can hire bikes at Barnstaple station from Tarka Trail Cycle Hire.
Exmoor is made for cycling and equally suited to road and mountain bikers. For open panoramic views, the upper roads are perfect, while those who prefer their scenery to encompass woodland, rivers and streams, the valleys are the place to head.
Exmoor is not just full of hills to get road-bikers’ hearts racing. It also presents some seriously challenging terrain to mountain bikers. If you’re in the latter camp, it’s worth getting some advice about the best routes. Exmoor National Park has produced a colour coded off-road cycle map. It uses the Cycle Touring Club’s nationally recognised grading system, with routes ranging from green (easy – and ideal for families with younger children) to black (very challenging).
Needless to say, you don’t need to tackle those extremes to enjoy biking here. A short drive to the upland stretches will remove the need for a punishing uphill slog and give you instant access to magnificent terrain. The route between Minehead and Selworthy Beacon (taking in North Hill) is one suggestion, offering magnificent scenery and lungfuls of fresh air straight off the Bristol Channel.
And for mountain bikers who prefer a well-trodden designated path, there are some specific routes which are well worth trying, including a green route around the Crown Estate’s wood to the south of Dunster. The National Trust’s Honicote Estate between Porlock and Exford is also worth a visit, as is Wimbleball Lake, which has a lovely route around the water that takes riders in and out of woodland and grassland.