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Ilfracombe to Barnstaple

Ilfracombe’s attractive harbour is a suitably maritime location to start this coast-to-coast ride. Although getting here requires an out-and-back trip from the railway station at Barnstaple (now that the Bike Bus has stopped running), it’s worth the effort to reach this colourful town, a down-to-earth hold-out against the march of the chain store.

The ultimate ambition is for the railway path to extend all the way between Ilfracombe and Barnstaple, but for now, you’ll have to detour onto quiet lanes after five miles of well-surfaced, level path. One option drops down to the coast at Woolacombe: the climb back up to the main route at Georgeham is tough, but in sunny weather it’s worth it for a burst of sea air.

The railway path resumes at Braunton, for an easy five-mile ride along the estuary to Barnstaple. Look out for the Tarka Inn, a bizarre castellated manor house turned into a waterside pub. Henry Williamson lived in Georgeham, and Tarka the Otter was set along the rivers Taw and Torridge.

Hotels

Appledore

from £107Shorewaters
from £189The Waterside

Appledore Bideford

from £78The Mount

Appledore

from £70Sheerwater
from £60The Seagate

Appledore Nr. Bideford

Barnstaple

from £74Hardwick Flat
from £285Southgate

Barnstaple, Devon

Barnstaple, North Devon Coast

from £60Cedars Inn

Berrynarbor

Berrynarbor

from £0Hayloft III

Bideford

from £400Copperfield
from £174Riverside View
from £90The Cabin
from £128The Granary
from £60The Mount
from £91The Old Barn
from £0The Orangery
from £60The Seagate

Bideford Devon

Bideford, Devon

from £65The Royal Hotel

Bishops Tawton

from £0Elmsleigh

Boode Nr. Braunton

Braunton

from £75Mi-Pad

Croyde

Devon

Eastleigh

from £76Barn Owl
from £82Tawny Owl

Ilfracombe

from £102Apartment 6
from £36Avoncourt
from £484Beechwood House
from £58Brookdales
from £0Cairn House
from £40Carlton Hotel
from £80Epchris House
from £73Fisher
from £70Gabriel House
from £70Hele Valley
from £90Hornblower
from £66Jellicoe
from £45Laston House
from £75Marine Court
from £0Marine Court
from £93Nelson
from £87Palm Leas
from £40Strathmore
from £40Strathmore
from £150The Habit
from £0The Leas
from £0The Towers
from £70Torrs Hotel
from £0Torrs Hotel
from £55Varley House
from £44Varley House

Instow

from £148Instow House
from £0Mimosa

Instow Barnstaple.

from £75The Swallows

Instow Bideford

from £90The Cottage
from £157Waters Edge

Instow

from £123Midships
from £92Myrtle Loft

Landcross

Littleham

from £272West Ashridge

Littleham Nr Bideford

Marwood Barnstaple

Mortehoe

Mortehoe Woolacombe

from £213The Grange

North Devon

Northam

Northam Nr. Bideford

from £40The Shoe Box

Nr Ilfracombe

Saunton

Tawstock Barnstaple

West Down

from £68Blare Cottage
from £91Lake View
from £68Royd Cottage

West Down

from £70Duror Cottage

Westleigh

Westleigh Nr. Instow

from £124Thyme Cottage

Westward Ho

from £59Twenty One

Westward Ho!

Willingcott Valley Woolacombe

Woolacombe

Woolacombe

from £0Barton House
from £0My Way Too
from £122Sands
from £83Sunnymeade
from £0Tickety-Boo

Woolacombe Nr. Ilfracombe

Woolacombe Nr. Ilfracombe

Yelland

2

Barnstaple to Petrockstow

This is the Tarka Trail, one of Britain’s best-loved railway paths. Completely level for miles on end, it’s justly popular with Devon C2Cers and novice cyclists alike.

From Barnstaple station, you and your bike gently cruise the Taw estuary – there’s no better word for it. Keep an eye out for wildfowl, perhaps stop for a coffee by the bike shop at Fremington Quay, and dodge the day-trippers at Instow. Arriving at Bideford, you can choose from the railway station café or the bike-friendly pub down a set of steps.

The route takes on a more inland feel here, forsaking the coast until Plymouth. But the gradient is still gentle as the path criss-crosses the River Torridge on restored viaducts. The crowds thin out after the bike hire centre and pub at Great Torrington. Our favourite, though, is the café and bunkhouse at East Yarde, a delightful, decidedly organic encampment with local ale and cider as well as coffee.

Hotels

Appledore

from £107Shorewaters
from £189The Waterside

Appledore Bideford

from £78The Mount

Appledore

from £70Sheerwater
from £60The Seagate

Appledore Nr. Bideford

Barnstaple

from £74Hardwick Flat
from £285Southgate

Barnstaple, Devon

Barnstaple, North Devon Coast

from £60Cedars Inn

Beaworthy

from £1000Libbear Barton

Bideford

from £400Copperfield
from £174Riverside View
from £90The Cabin
from £128The Granary
from £60The Mount
from £91The Old Barn
from £0The Orangery
from £60The Seagate

Bideford Devon

Bideford, Devon

from £65The Royal Hotel

Bishops Tawton

from £0Elmsleigh

Boode Nr. Braunton

Braunton

from £75Mi-Pad

Croyde

Eastleigh

from £76Barn Owl
from £82Tawny Owl

Exbourne

from £79Hayes Meadow
from £106Hayes Orchard

Great Torrington

from £61Hilly Fields
from £89Mere Brook
from £89Mill Pool
from £104Otters Haven
from £74Owlery Holt
from £150Riverside
from £100Skirr
from £247Tarka

Highampton

from £80Bolthole

Highampton Beaworthy

from £59Forda Farm

Ilfracombe

Instow

from £148Instow House
from £0Mimosa

Instow Barnstaple.

from £75The Swallows

Instow Bideford

from £90The Cottage
from £157Waters Edge

Instow

from £123Midships
from £92Myrtle Loft

Landcross

Langtree

Little Torrington

from £84Heather
from £84Lavender

Little Torrington

Littleham

from £272West Ashridge

Littleham Nr Bideford

Marwood Barnstaple

Meeth

Meeth

Northam

Northam Nr. Bideford

from £40The Shoe Box

Northlew Nr. Okehampton

from £73Hof Cottage

Okehampton

from £30Elmfield
from £30Elmfield
from £0Furzedon B&B

Petrockstowe

from £200Sincocks Farm

Sheepwash

Tawstock Barnstaple

Weare Giffard Nr. Bideford

from £290The Old Dairy

West Down

from £68Blare Cottage
from £91Lake View
from £68Royd Cottage

West Down

from £70Duror Cottage

Westleigh

Westleigh Nr. Instow

from £124Thyme Cottage

Westward Ho!

Willingcott Valley Woolacombe

Winkleigh

Winkleigh, Devon

from £50Duke of York

Woolacombe

Woolacombe

from £0Barton House
from £0My Way Too
from £122Sands
from £83Sunnymeade
from £0Tickety-Boo

Woolacombe Nr. Ilfracombe

Woolacombe Nr. Ilfracombe

Yelland

3

Petrockstow to Tavistock

The central section of the Devon Coast-to-Coast mostly follows quiet country lanes. This is Devon, so that means hills; but also unspoilt villages and welcoming pubs. It’s the ideal counterpoint to the railway paths at either end.

The route leaves the old railway just before Petrockstow. (Though the railway path continues a little further, it’s a dead end for now, dumping you on the busy A386.) NCN 27 climbs on narrow, hedge-lined lanes towards Sheepwash, a tiny village with cycle-friendly pub and church clustered around the village square.

NCN 3 leaves us here for Bude and ultimately Land’s End, but we continue south on undulating lanes to Highampton and the new traffic-free route into Hatherleigh. Should you choose to overnight here, the Tally Ho pub here offers great beer and filling food. It’s a steep climb out of the village, but worth it for the views from the top.

In fact, the hardest climb on the whole route is within Okehampton itself. The town is in a valley; the railway… isn’t. And, needless to say, we’re heading for a path beside the railway. Okehampton station is a curiosity, both the headquarters of the preserved Dartmoor Railway and the terminus of a summer-only mainline service. Take half an hour to look around and maybe enjoy a coffee. (There’s a youth hostel here, too.)

The cycleway follows the railway for a while, but claims the trackbed for its own at Meldon, just in time for the magnificent Meldon Viaduct – the finest structure on the whole route. At the summit of the route, this metal beast was too good to lose, and the Devon C2C has given it a whole new lease of life. Don’t just speed over, but walk down to the viewing platform to appreciate this feat of engineering.

As the route skirts Dartmoor, the scenery is the finest of the whole route. Building a railway up here was quite some achievement. The path isn’t yet complete, diving left just after Lake Viaduct on a steep, gravelly path to head for a hilly country lane route via Bridestowe. If you’re a little more confident in fast traffic, you may choose to continue on the railway path, then follow the A386 for half a mile before turning right onto a minor road. This gap is being fixed by Devon County Council and shouldn’t be an issue within the year.

After the next burst of railway path, it’s undulating lanes through Lydford (perhaps stopping at the Castle Inn) through to Mary Tavy. Signage here is a little confusing: keep right at the valley dip when an off-road route heads left, and follow the lanes through North Brentor even if the first signs say 274, not 27. Eventually, after Mary Tavy, you’ll join a new cyclepath that takes you towards Wallabrook Viaduct and the outskirts of Tavistock.

Bike shops

Great Torrington

Tavistock

Yelverton

Campsites

Bridestowe

Crapstone

Graddon Cross

Gulworthy

Highampton (01/01-31/12) (128m) >00-441409231464

Highampton

Horrabridge

Little Torrington

Lydford

Moorshop

Okehampton

Tavistock

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Hotels

Beaworthy

from £1000Libbear Barton

Bideford

Brentor

from £156Crofter'S Barn
from £67The Smithy

Brentor Tavistock

Buckland Monachorum

from £94Tregona

Chipshop Nr. Tavistock

from £85Birch Lodge

Cudlipptown Nr. Tavistock

Devon

from £75Rose Cottage
from £55The Rosemont

Dousland Nr. Yelverton

Great Torrington

from £61Hilly Fields
from £89Mere Brook
from £89Mill Pool
from £104Otters Haven
from £74Owlery Holt
from £150Riverside
from £100Skirr
from £247Tarka

Highampton

from £80Bolthole

Highampton Beaworthy

from £59Forda Farm

Horrabridge Nr. Yelverton

from £76Magpie's Nest

Langtree

Little Torrington

from £84Heather
from £84Lavender

Little Torrington

Lydford

from £44Heathergate
from £0Springs

Mary Tavy

from £110Kirkside Barn

Marytavy. Tavistock

Meeth

Meeth

Milton Coombe

from £63The Bolt Hole

Moorshop Tavistock

Morwell Cross

from £0The Smithy
from £0The Stables

Northlew

from £69Bolland Barn

Northlew Nr. Okehampton

from £73Hof Cottage

Okehampton

from £85Bearslake Inn
from £85Bearslake Inn
from £0Castle Inn
from £30Elmfield
from £30Elmfield
from £78Fairway Lodge
from £0Furzedon B&B

Peter Tavy

Petrockstowe

from £200Sincocks Farm

Plymouth

Sheepwash

Southcott

from £102Shippen Cottage

Tavistock

Tavistock

from £70Bedford Hotel
from £0Jack'S Den
from £73Rockmount
from £88The Priory
from £0Toad Hall

Winkleigh

Winkleigh, Devon

from £50Duke of York

Yelverton

from £500Overcombe House
from £60The Rosemont

Yelverton, Devon

Yelverton,

4

Tavistock to Plymouth

There are two routes in Tavistock: the main NCN 27 through the town centre, and NCN 270 over the railway viaduct. If you’re not planning to stop, the latter is easier with good views.

The route briefly winds through housing estates before diving onto a railway path, which it will follow almost all the way to Plymouth. And what a railway path. It’s all tunnels and viaducts – and of the latter, the most striking is the Gem Bridge. Opened in 2013, this brand new £2m viaduct for cyclists and walkers replaces a demolished railway structure. It saves an awkward hill scramble and has become a magnet for local families on bikes. Devon County Council and Sustrans, we salute you.

There’s a steep climb up to the summit at Yelverton, while a former tramway provides the roughest surface of the route so far. Don’t lose heart; these are brief interludes, if hard.

When the track ends on the moor above Clearbrook, however, we’d strongly recommend you continue straight on rather than turning left along the signposted route. The official NCN 27 here is rocky and uncyclable. Straight on, and you’ll descend to the railway path on a steep lane.

From here, it’s level and pretty all the way – and you might be lucky enough to see peregrine falcons nesting in the cliffs above the route. In time, another preserved railway joins the cyclepath, with a motley assortment of locomotives locked behind security fencing.

Keep an eye out for seabirds on the Plym estuary as you cycle along the wooded path. The official end of the Devon Coast-to-Coast is near the ferry terminal, but we’d suggest you call it a day at Plymouth’s regenerated harbour area with its pubs and restaurants. Raise a glass to Sir Francis Drake, Plymouth’s most famous son – and to your own achievement!

Hotels

Brentor

from £156Crofter'S Barn
from £67The Smithy

Brentor Tavistock

Brixton Torr

Buckland Monachorum

from £94Tregona

Chipshop Nr. Tavistock

from £85Birch Lodge

Cudlipptown Nr. Tavistock

Devon

from £75Rose Cottage
from £55The Rosemont

Dousland Nr. Yelverton

Down Thomas

from £0Beach Walk

Down Thomas

from £61Ocean Retreat

Down Thomas Nr. Plymouth

from £0Ocean Breeze

Heybrook Bay

from £61The Ravine

Heybrook Bay Nr. Plymouth

from £0Calrowan

Horrabridge Nr. Yelverton

from £76Magpie's Nest

Lydford

from £44Heathergate

Maker

from £0Blue Seas

Mary Tavy

from £110Kirkside Barn

Marytavy. Tavistock

Milton Coombe

from £63The Bolt Hole

Moorshop Tavistock

Morwell Cross

from £0The Smithy
from £0The Stables

Mount Batten Nr. Plymouth

from £155Marina View

Okehampton

from £0Castle Inn

Peter Tavy

Plymouth

from £70Invicta Hotel
from £45Kynance House
from £50Number One
from £50St Rita Hotel
from £35St Rita Hotel
from £30Sydney House
from £45The Caraneal
from £37ibis Plymouth

Plymouth, Devon

Plympton

Royal William Yard

from £119Drake's Wharf

Tavistock

Tavistock

from £70Bedford Hotel
from £0Jack'S Den
from £73Rockmount
from £88The Priory
from £0Toad Hall

Torpoint

Wembury

from £169White Dove Barn

Yelverton

from £500Overcombe House
from £60The Rosemont

Yelverton, Devon

Yelverton,