A slow tour of Somerset
Cycle paths on old railway lines are a joy and there are four of them on this 84-mile round trip in Somerset, taking in Bristol, Bath, Wells and Cheddar. It’s also fairly flat; you’ll see the Mendips and Glastonbury Tor but you don’t have to climb them.
Why slow? Because there are loads of reasons to stop – views, cafes and places to visit.
Most of this ride is on well-signposted NCN routes. It’s a great weekend ride with a night in the cathedral city of Wells. Above all, it is remarkably traffic-free thanks to four cycle routes created from old railway lines – the Bristol-Bath path, the Two Tunnels Greenway, the Colliers Way and the Strawberry Line.
Bristol to Bath
16 miles / 26 km
The Bristol-Bath path (NCN route 4) begins on St Philips Road, not far from Temple Meads Station. En route, Warmley Waiting Room has fab cakes; there’s also a café at Bitton with tables in an old train carriage. You’ll come into Bath on the West Bath Riverside path. Look out for the green pedestrian bridge over the river. Cross this to get to the Two Tunnels Greenway.
Around Bath: the Two Tunnels
5 miles / 8 km
If you want to visit Bath, continue along the river. Otherwise, cross the green bridge and follow signs for Midford via the Two Tunnels Greenway. This route follows the tracks of the former Somerset and Dorset Railway. It incorporates the Devonshire Tunnel and Combe Down Tunnel; the longest walking and cycling tunnel in Britain. Don’t forget to turn your lights on.
Bath to Kilmersden
9 miles / 14 km
At Midford, head out of Bath on the Colliers Way (NCN 24). The first stop is Wellow where there’s a horse-riding centre with a good café. The route then takes you on to Radstock where there’s a co-op, a cafe and a bike shop. Continue on NCN 24 for another 10-15 minutes until you see signs for the village of Kilmersden.
Kilmersden to Wells
15 miles / 24 km
You’ll need to do some map-reading to get from Kilmersden to Wells. We took the following route: south to Luckington Cross, then west to Holcombe, Stratton-on-the-Fosse, Chilcompton and Binegar. From there, take the B3139 to Wells (a glorious downhill). We stayed at the Premier Inn in Wells and ate at the excellent Fountain Inn.
Wells to Cheddar
13 miles / 21 km
Leave Wells going due west towards Wookey and follow the B3139 (Wells Road) to Wedmore. This is a fairly quiet, gently undulating road with great views of the Mendips on your right. At Wedmore, follow the B3151 (Cheddar Road) to Cheddar where you will see signs on your left for the Strawberry Line.
Cheddar to Yatton
11 miles / 18 km
The Strawberry Line (NCN route 26) is so called because the old railway used to carry strawberries from the fields around Cheddar. Today, it provides a traffic-free path for walkers and cyclists, taking you through Axbridge, under the Mendips via a tunnel and past the apple orchards of Thatcher’s Cider.
Yatton to Bristol
15 miles / 24 km
At Yatton, you will need to consult your map. There are some quiet lanes which you can take to get to Backwell via Claverham. Then cycle through Backwell for a mile or so on the main road until you reach Chapel Hill on the left. Take that turn and after about 250 metres, you’ll see the bike path on the right (NCN route 33) that will take you all the way into Bristol.