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Five Sunnyside Holiday Cottage provides a perfect base for a cycling holiday exploring the Tarka Trail and surrounding coast and countryside. Located in the middle of the 30 mile flat traffic free section of the trail, it's perfect for young families and less experienced riders to enjoy riding in safety. For those who are feeling more adventurous the Tarka Trail provides a gateway into the stunning North Devon landscape. Here are examples of some grand rides files from Five Sunnyside.
We leave Bideford and Five Sunnyside and head out on the Tarka Trail to Braunton which makes for a convenient place to stop for a coffee and pick up up supplies for a picnic on the beach before heading out onto the dunes.
We head out of Braunton on the B3231 Saunton Road and continue for approx 1km before turning left onto Moor Lane and then left again onto Sandy Lane. There are many small farms along these lanes, many of which have produce for sale on the roadside, so it's worth remembering to take some cash with you if you've room in your saddle bag for some nice fresh veg.
Continuing along Sandy Lane we pass through the barrier preventing vehicle access onto "American Road" which has its origins from 1943 when the dunes were used as a training base for American Troops in preparation for the Normandy Landings . The wide gravel track is fairly well maintained but might prove a bit of a challenge on very narrow tyres.
To reach the beaches we need to dismount and take the walking path for approx 1km over the dunes. There are a network of paths over the dunes and although clearly defined they are not signposted. I turned right off the American road and walked with the bike on the boardwalk that leads out onto the Southern end of Saunton Sands and then cycled south along the beach to Crow Point.
Even though it was peak holiday season at the time of my ride the beaches were pretty much empty which I think must have something to do with the fact that access by car is so restrictive.
The return leg of this ride sees us leaving the Burrows on the toll road from Crow Point. This road carries most of the traffic for visitors to the Burrows and is narrow in places so some care is needed. Conveniently this road takes us back to Braunton to rejoin the traffic free section of the trail at the Quay Cafe before the meander along the river back to Bideford.
The ride starts with a leisurely riverside ride along the Tarka Trail to Braunton where we join NCN 27 for the short sharp climb peaking at 136 metres with the "No Man's Land" trig pillar coming into view after the right turn at Bucklands Cross.
From here we enjoy a 5km descent all the way to Croyde Bay with the option of continuing a little further on the trail towards Baggy Point for a great view across the bay.
There's easy access down to the beach and an opportunity to enjoy a pasty or an ice cream, or both, from Croyde Beach Cafe.
The return leg begins with a steady climb out of Croyde which continues for the next 5km before reaching the charming village of Georgeham and the 17th Century Rock Inn. Leaving Georgham we turn right at Bye Cross to join NCN27. If you favour a bit of rough stuff the route includes the short off-road section of NCN27 at Nethercott which passes the iron age hill fort Knowle Hill Castle.
Reaching Braunton we rejoin the Tarka Trail to enjoy the flat meander along the river back to Bideford.
Setting off from Five Sunnyside we briefly head South on the Tarka Trail to Pilmouth leaving the River Torridge to follow the River Yeo along its meandering path towards Parkham . I had hoped that there would be an opportunity in Parkham to buy some of its famous cheese but alas such a marketing opportunity seemed to have passed by the good folk of Parkham.
Like most cyclists, food is never far from my thoughts when riding and I'd made the effort when planning this route to make sure it did not bypass any village or hamlet that might serve up a tasty snack. Despite my efforts, the larder of this part of Devonshire countryside appeared bare, so all hopes were pinned on the cafe that was marked on the map at Hartland Quay would be open.
The long and steady climb peaks at the point when we cross the A39, where great care is needed as the turn off is situated on the apex of a blind bend... best to dismount at the T Junction at Summerville Cross and walk on the right hand side of the road to reach the RH turn onto the trail at Bursdon Moor.
From here we enjoy the long descent over the moors to Hartland Quay with spectacular views across the Atlantic coast. To my delight the cafe on the Quay was open, but all of the tables were occupied by dour looking sightseers seeking refreshment to recover from their walk from the adjacent car park. My consolation was that there was no such queue at the gift shop which also sold ice cream, so along with the snack I'd stashed in my saddlebag I rested a while with my "picnic" to enjoy the view.
The ride starts on the Tarka Trail at Bideford and follows the trail to Barnstaple where we cross the River Taw at Taw Bridge. Note: the old railway bridge at Rock Park is currently closed until further notice so we leave the Tarka trail at Rock Park and follow the local cycle path towards Whiddon Valley where we head east on NCN3 towards Brayford and the Exmoor National Park.
The climbing starts in earnest heading North from Brayford peaking at 475 metres at Kinsford Gate before turning left onto NCN 277 and descending into Simonsbath.
There's one last short climb out of Simonsbath before the decent through Exmoor Forest all the way to down to Lynmouth and a well earned rest.
The climb over Exmoor took me a little by surprise as I'd underestimated the demands of the ascent together with the exposed terrain. Foolishly, I hadn't packed any snacks and found myself desperately longing for there to be café that served pasties in Lynmouth. To my relief "Lyndale Tearooms" came into sight at the foot of the descent and within a very few minutes normality had been restored with a most delicious pasty and a cappuccino.
I took time to study the map and plan the return leg, due to a road closure I'd effectively completed the planned route so far in reverse. I decided to carry on along the planned route in reverse and take my chances on getting through the road closure from the opposite direction. Leaving Lynmouth via the 25% gradient of Lynmouth Hill isn't a great aid to digesting a pasty so I elected to walk with the bike along the Clooneavin Footpath up to Lynton and then joined NCN 51 and the Tarka Trail for a magnificent passage through the Valley of Rocks which includes the highest sea cliffs in England!
View from Clooneavin footpath
The Valley of Rocks
We leave the coastal trail at Woody Bay heading south towards Woody Bay Station before exiting the Exmoor National Park at Blackmoor Gate to begin the descent back to Barnstaple.
Once again the Tarka Trail from Barnstaple provides a flat finale to the ride and time to consider the tastiest and most refreshing way that you might enjoy replacing some of your many lost calories on arrival back in Bideford?