10 July 2012

Cream of cycle touring: Devon Coast to Coast

I did the Devon Coast to Coast route last week with my chum Nigel, the 100-mile traverse of Devon from Plymouth to Ilfracombe.

It’s 70 per cent offroad, more than half of that being well-tarmacked, flat railtrail (right). This fallen tree blocked our progress at one point - Beeching's Axe was clearly more pervasive than I thought.

The other 30 per cent is definitely not flat, with 1 in 4 descents down winding lanes to a hairpin bend, followed by 1 in 4 pushes up the other side.

Indeed, the GPS height profile resembles an ECG trace of, say, a cyclist riding the hilly sections of the Devon Coast to Coast route.

The route is well signposted (right), when you can actually see the signposts through the rain.
The railtrail sections – notably Drake’s Trail out of Plymouth, the Granite Trail into Okehampton, the stretch of the Tarka Trail from Great Torrington to Barnstaple, and the final swooping descent down to Ilfracombe – are a delight, and well-endowed with fine viaducts, bridges and tunnels (right).

If you’re doing it in the rain like us, don’t expect the tunnels to be a dry haven – they’re as dripping inside as outside.
The route takes you through some thrilling scenery and delightful villages, and gives you all the traditional Devon sights. Such as Polish lorries wedged tight thanks to following their satnav down a back lane (right).

Of course, we offered assistance – we suggested he upgrade to the 2012 data set.
We stayed in Okehampton and Barnstaple, taking a leisurely-ish two and a half days for the route.

Okehampton sported some interesting bike parking (right) appropriate for a convivial trip that involved more calorie intake than expenditure.

Indeed, for a Devon cream tea, drop into the Green Lantern in Great Torrington – £1.90 for the best mid-course refuel we had on the trip.
Barnstaple gave us the most appropriately named Wetherspoons for cycle tourists I’ve ever seen (right).

Anyone know of any more? Is there a Saddle or Pump or Puncture? If so I can see another arbitrary cycle trip coming up...

Anyway, the Devon Coast to Coast is lovely, and we recommend it. Don’t underestimate those hills, though, in between those lovely flat smooth railtrails.

GPS trails (thanks Nigel):
Day 1 – Plymouth to Okehampton goo.gl/maps/lzcx
Day 2 – Okehampton to Barnstaple goo.gl/maps/Dia5
Day 3 – Barnstraple to Ilfracombe and then Lynmouth goo.gl/maps/yav6

NB The above routes are not suitable for HGVs.
UWAGA Powyższe trasy nie nadają się do pojazdów ciężarowych.


  1. Bike-themed pub names? Now there's a challenge. And I suppose pubs called "The Bell" don't count.

    The best I can find is the Rusty Bicycle in Oxford, which looks very promising, if only I ever had a reason to visit the Other Place.

    I did find the Railway and Bicycle in Sevenoaks, next to the station, though unfortunately it's been demolished and turned into yuppie flats (and spot the spelling error).

  2. The Rusty Bicycle? That wasn't there when I was in The Other Place - I wonder what it used to be?

  3. I've been to a few 'Chain' pubs before.

    Is the route doable on a touring road bike, or do you need tyres fatter than 700x28's?

  4. @Tim: It used to be The Eagle

    @davidnottingham: I did the trip with 25mm tyres. However if you look at maps of the route (including the OS 1:50000 map) you will see that in a few places (mostly in the central section) there are alternative off-road and on-road routes, with the off-road route described on signposts as being "muddy" or "summer". In these cases, since it was wet, we followed the on-road route.

    1. Thanks, knowing someone in Ilfracombe, this ride is a definite route for the future

  5. I've always fancied doing that route myself.

  6. can this be done on a road bike?

    1. Yep, definitely. I was on a 38C-tyre tourer, but my chum was on a narrow-tyre road bike. (?23C)