Rout 27 Devon Coast to Coast
Riding the Devon Coast to Coast
Route 27 is now better than ever with completion of the spectacular new off-road section between Tavistock and Yelverton including the recently opened Gem Bridge over the River Walkham.
From stunning cliffed coasts and sandy beaches to wild moor and deepest
rural Devon, Route 27 on the National Cycle Network takes you from
Devonís north coast resort of Ifracombe (now boasting a stunning young lady at the harbour entrance) to the vibrant south coast city
of Plymouth. Known as the Devon Coast to Coast route, 78 of the 103
miles follow off-road traffic free trails, mainly using well surfaced
track beds of former railways. These trails take you gently from
sea-level to the elevated plateau of mid Devon and western fringes of
Dartmoor, avoiding most of the sharp gradients (and traffic) of Devonís
Within the first thirty miles youíll find the glorious sandy beaches, flower-rich dunes, craggy cliffs and sweeping estuaries which make up the internationally recognised northern Devon Biosphere Reserve.
Route 27 of the UK National
Cycle Network - now also part of
the European Velodyssey network
The newly constructed Gem Bridge carries route 27 over
the Walkham River between Tavistock and Yelverton
From Braunton, passed Barnstaple to Bideford the route follows the well-known Tarka Trail, skirting the estuaries, salt marshes and water meadows of both the Taw and Torridge estuaries. (If you're short of time or need to get yourself and bike to Devon by rail - join the route at Barnstaple station, terminus of the Tarka Line from Exeter St Davids - route 27 passes by the station with bike hire and cafe nextdoor). A couple of miles out of Barnstaple, don't miss the old station and quayside buildings at Fremington - now a gorgeous cafe.
The route sadly misses historic Great Torrington though passes by the old Torrington station (now the Puffing Billy). Opposite is Torrington Cycle Hire which also offers spares, repairs and refreshments. A short detour up the hill from here to Great Torrington is highly recommended - a little known gem of a town with it's Civil War connections, a super town square and a fine collection of traditional shops.
From the Puffing Billy a steady ascent takes you up through woodland and
streamside to the old clay workers cottages at Yarde - and home to
Yarde Orchard. Make this an overnight stop (bunkhouse, yurts or camping)
- preferably on a Saturday for live music, supper, real ales and a
cracking night in the cafe-bar.
Beyond lie the secret claylands of the
Marland Basin, haunts of Tarka and his animal compatriots as immortalised in Henry Williamson's novel. You'll pass some mighty mosaic sculptures depicting some of Williamsons animal characters.
Route 27 leaves the trail at the old Petrockstowe station then takes to the lanes through Sheepwash, thatch capital of Devon, then over the Torridge to Highhampton and a further new off-road section to Hatherleigh. Hit Hatherleigh on a Tuesday (market day) and mingle with mid-Devonís farming characters and hillbilly smallholders at the poultry auction.
Up a bit onto Hatherleigh moor with great views to Dartmoor then cruise along quiet lanes to Okehampton on the northern edge of Dartmoor where the Youth Hostel uses the old railway station. From here the Granite Way swings round the north-west fringe of Dartmoor following the old Waterloo-Plymouth railway. The cycle route takes you over the towering Victorian viaduct of Meldon (Brunelís masterwork of iron beams) then a little way on, over the fine granite Lake viaduct. Route 27 signs will then take you down off the old railway route, under the viaduct and a descent on lanes to Bridestowe - nice village but a bit of a climb to regain the old railway for the last mile into Lydford. For a bit of up-market comfort and an excellent Italian restaurant, stopover at the Lydford Country House, right on the trail. Lydord Gorge, Devonís answer to the Grand Canyon is well worth a detour on foot and the stark Medieval Castle is a must, as are the food and ales at the adjacent Castle Inn.
Hereon, thereís a choice of routes Ė a lower route through the ancient stannary town of Tavistock or stay on the flanks of Dartmoor through the moorland villages of Mary and Peter Tavy.
Until recently, the Tavistock-Yelverton route was renowned for sharp gradients, stones, mud, blood and sweat. It's now a completely reconstructed dedicated cycleway built to the highest specification - yet passing through glorious wooded landscapes with Dartmoor views. Highlight is the spectacular new Gem Bridge which carries the cycle way on shapely pillars high over the River Walkham with it's steep wooded flanks, then a bit of a rise to Yelverton on the fringe of Dartmoor.
If you need to stopover in Tavistock, try the new bunkhouse facility at the Union Inn - great value, clean, warm and comfortable - and with a bar 20 seconds away. Great selection of eating places within 4 minutes walk.
The grand finale is the exhilarating descent of the Plym Valley Trail - sweep past moss and fern festooned cuttings, past towering stands of Douglas Fir, Oak clad slopes, Victorian viaducts and Peregrine nest sites on disused quarry crags. Then along by the peaty waters of the Plym river past the ancient Plym Bridge and in no time youíll find yourself in a bleak wasteland beneath urban flyovers. Skirting Sainsburys, the familiar blue and red cycleway signs soon guide you to Plymouthís city centre and beyond to the historic and spectacular Hoe. Several B&Bs offer accommodation here with great eating places in the nearby Barbican district (try Himalayan Spice for great Nepalese)
Devon Coast to Coast is a glorious 3-day ride (some people do it in a day!) which can also fit well into more extended bike tours. From Plymouth, Brittany Ferries link you to Roscoff on the north Brittany coast Ė or even Santander in northern Spain for a real adventure.
Here's a glimpse of goodies along the way......
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