Devon coast to coast
The Devon coast to coast is a fantastic ride – from Ilfracombe to Plymouth you get to cycle by beaches, through lush river valleys and over Dartmoor, all in one trip.
There are plenty of places to stay along the way so it’s easy to plan a two or three-day itinerary to cover the 99 miles. And, thanks to some converted railway lines, 71 of these miles are on traffic-free paths so it’s a good choice for families or cycling novices. That said, there are some hilly bits. It is Devon after all.
I love the Devon coast to coast so much I have done it three times. But I have to admit I have yet to tackle the stretch from Ilfracombe to Barnstaple. This is simply because of logistics. There’s no train station in Ilfracombe so I have always started from Barnstaple. Devon Cycling Holidays has a Bike Bus that offers transport for bikes and riders so that could be a solution next time.
Cycling from north to south is best mainly because there’s an incredible 10-mile down hill ride between Yelverton and Plymouth on the traffic-free Drake’s Trail that I would hate to do the other way.
Ilfracombe to Braunton
10 miles / 16 km
It’s a bit of a climb out of Ilfracombe on NCN route 27. Then you have a choice – you can either divert onto NCN 278 and cycle alongside the beach at Woolacombe (adding about 4 miles and some hills) or you can stick to NCN route 27 to Braunton.
Braunton to East Yarde
24 miles / 39 km
You are now on the Tarka Trail and it’s traffic-free all the way. The stretch from Barnstaple to Bideford has great views of the Taw and Torridge estuaries but there can be some pesky headwinds. There are several cafés by the path including the café in a train carriage at Bideford and the Puffing Billy in Great Torrington.
East Yarde to Hatherleigh
13 miles / 21 km
East Yarde has a wonderful café with fantastic homemade food and a friendly vibe but it’s only open in the summer. It also offers accommodation in Yurts if you want to stop here for the night. Not long after this café, the Tarka Trail ends and you’ll be on some pretty country lanes (following NCN 27) to Hatherleigh – home to another great café, Cornucopia.
Hatherleigh to Okehampton
9 miles / 14 km
This next bit is somewhat up and down but the views of the Devon countryside are fantastic and you’ll get your first glimpses of Dartmoor in the distance. Okehampton is a good place to stop for the night – there’s a youth hostel as well as plenty of pubs, cafes and B&Bs. We stayed at the excellent Meadowlea Guest House.
Okehampton to Lydford
11 miles / 18 km
A steep climb out of Okehampton on Station Road takes you up to the Granite Way (on NCN 27), an old railway line that offers smooth cycling, some impressive viaducts and superb views as you skirt the edge of Dartmoor. At Lydford there are a couple of good pubs and the Lydford Country House hotel.
Lydford to Plymouth
32 miles / 51 km
It’s not quite downhill all the way but it feels like it at times. You’ll come down from Dartmoor to Tavistock via villages Mary Tavy and Peter Tavy. From here you’re on Drake’s Way a superb traffic-free route that features the impressive Gem Bridge. There’s a bit of a climb at Yelverton and then it really is downhill all the way.