I discovered the Devon Coast to Coast when researching some of the best rides in the UK for a bike packing trip back in April, I was looking for something that wasn’t too much of an epic as an introduction to bike packing for a group of friends. It caught my eye because it was traffic free, relatively flat, had amazing sights, regular café stops and was easily manageable as a two day trip. The route itself is magical, the majority of it is a newly pathed cycle road that follows the route of an old railway taking you across breathtaking scenery, amazing bridges and through various tunnels.
We organised logistics a few days before and decided that it was best to take the bikes down in the car, driving to Exeter and leaving the car there. We would then get the train up to Barnstable and ride down to Plymouth, staying over night at Dartmoor, then getting the train back at the end of day 2 to Exeter.
As you’ll see on the strata post above, the total distance was 131km, almost 10 hours of casual riding, with only 1500m of climbing over the two days. We stayed over night on Dartmoor where wild camping is allowed – of course, always leave the camp as tidy (or tidier) as you found it and no-one will contest you.
The first part of the route is very simple, taking a flat pathway out of Barnstable along a family orientated cycle path along the coast before turning left and heading south inland. Its here where you instantly start to get the feeling of being back on the 1960’s railway even heading through old train stations that are pathed where the track used to live and through bridges deep in the countryside.
And through several tunnels like this one, as you approach you feel the air turn cold and it reminded it me very much of train rides as a child. This first section of the ride is quite busy and forms part of a short loop designed for family days out, there are plenty of cafes and the road is pathed like new.
At around 40-50km in the busy pathed areas slip away and the route enters in and out of forests and valley paths, still quite well pathed on the whole but also dipping into loose gravel and dusty paths.
To touch on the equipment front: We both cycled road bikes, I ran 28mm Conti 4Season tyres whilst Dee ran 25mm Specialised road tyres. Both survived very well, puncture free for the entire weekend. I feel like we got away quite lucky there and at times I wish I had something a bit more substantial like 30-35mm G-One All Roads.
At the end of day one, we grabbed beers, and lit a sensibly sized camp fire…
Somewhere just before Oakhampton was a small section that re-joined the road for around 5-7km but got advise from the locals that this was correct and it starts again shortly after Oakhampton. Our campsite of choice was in the shadows of the magical Meldon Reservoir just past Oakhampton. We ate dinner as we came through Oakhampton at one of the many small country pubs and then took 1-2km further just before the sun fell behind the hills, if you zoom in on the strava segments above you can see the paths we took to find this hidden gem of the route.
Waking up at the reservoir was a highlight of the trip, I wanted to swim, but the signs said not to and I guess wet gear all day would have made the ride a little less enjoyable.
Day two was more of the same, sensational little paths, beautiful forest roads that followed th rivers and dodged the hills. In fact, it felt as though we were heading downhill for much of day two as we headed back towards the coast and into Plymouth. Our route continued to follow NCN27 all the way to the sea wall at Plymouth and then across into the city train station to finally head back to the car.
In summary, its a fantastic ride, definitely on the easier side and suitable for any cyclist that has done 50km rides in the past. We enjoyed the relaxed pace, regular coffee stops, afternoon beers and overnight camping. Its one I’ll do again, probably when my kids are a little stronger 🙂