Bath to Bournemouth
With plenty of traffic-free bike paths and quiet country lanes, there’s barely a car in sight on this lovely ride from Bath in Somerset, through a corner of Wiltshire and down through Dorset to the South Coast. Highlights include Longleat, Stourhead, Gold Hill in Shaftesbury and Poole Harbour.
This route comes with a dedicated Bath to Bournemouth Sustrans map; we supplemented this with an OS map which came in handy as we diverted to Shaftesbury for an overnight stop. This involved climbing up a big hill at the end of the day but we got to see the famous Gold Hill of Hovis advert fame – and we had a spectacular downhill start the next day.
Unfortunately we lost the National Cycle Network signs coming out of Wimborne Minster and had a bit of a nightmare getting to Poole. The map shows a traffic-free path which would have been far better than the pavement we cycled on next to a busy A road.
Despite the disappointing last hour or two, this was a fantastic weekend ride. The scenery was exceptional – hedgerows teaming with wildlife, rolling hills and lush woods and hardly a car to be seen.
Bath to Frome
21 miles / 34 km
From Bath Spa station, follow the cycle path by the river Avon going west until you see signs for the Two Tunnels greenway (look out for the green pedestrian bridge). This takes you out of Bath to Midford and from there you’re on NCN 24, aka the Colliers Way. There’s a good cafe at the Wellow Trekking Centre.
Frome to Longleat
5 miles / 8 km
Still on NCN route 24, you can either cycle through the centre of Frome or take Somerset Road to head straight out of town towards Longleat. You’ll approach this impressive stately home via a pretty wooded road that runs through the estate. My fears about accidentally cycling through the safari park proved to be unfounded!
Longleat to Shaftesbury
19 miles / 31 km
Look out for signs to NCN route 25 at Longleat taking you out of the estate. About eight miles of quiet lanes later and you’ll pass another impressive pile, Stourhead. The gardens here are well worth the entrance fee. Route 25 then continues to Gillingham but we diverted just after Wolverton (via NCN routes 20 and 253) to Shaftesbury where we stayed at the Royal Chase Hotel (ok) and ate at Amore (very good).
Shaftesbury to Wimborne Minster
25 miles / 40 km
Don’t leave Shaftesbury without a visit to Gold Hill; then take NCN route 253 going south to Bedchester where you’ll rejoin NCN 25. Soon after Child Okeford, route 25 follows an old railway line to Blandford Forum via Stourpaine. It then follows the river Stour on a quiet lane to Wimborne Minster.
Wimborne Minster to Bournemouth
15 miles / 24 km
Our complete failure to find route 25 from Wimborne Minster to Poole was extremely frustrating and meant we missed out on several miles of bike path. We picked up the route in Poole Harbour, at least giving us a bit of traffic-free cycling by the sea. The route then took us through Bournemouth’s rather hilly suburbs.