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Tarka Trails - #5 Bideford to Braunton Burrows

7 Aug 2021
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Braunton Burrows, is one of the largest sand dune systems in the British Isles. At the heart of the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) it is a UNESCO designated Biosphere reserve and is easily accessible by bike! This is an easy ride with little climbing and makes for a great day out to enjoy a picnic lunch on the beach.

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.