As any cyclist living in or near Plymouth can tell you, we’re spoilt for routes down here!
A firm favourite, amongst fast club riders and more social cyclists, is a Tavistock – Princetown loop. My version of that is detailed below.
The starting point will be Coypool, where there is ample free parking available. At this stage you’d be forgiven for thinking I was about to direct you up the Plym valley. Gorgeous as it may be, the Plym valley is usually heaving with people on a sunny weekend morning, and cycling through is slow going.
No, my route will see you to cycle back towards the MacDonald’s. At the traffic lights, at the junction with Plymouth Road, turn left. There is an on-carriageway cycle lane, but it remains an unpleasant road to ride on. After the petrol station, the cycle lane deserts you – just grin and bear it and keep cycling to the mini roundabout, then take the first exit. Very soon after, there is a second mini roundabout, where again you need to take the first exit, to cross the train tracks by the bridge. This is Plymbridge Road.
Keep cycling uphill and stay on Plymbridge Road, straight through the first and second mini roundabouts. You will pass a news agent on your right – just keep going straight. When you get to the third mini roundabout, turn right onto Crossway. Follow Crossway to where it ends in a T-junction with Boringdon Hill, then turn left.
From here on, simply follow the road you’re on. It’s mostly fairly quiet, but don’t be surprised to encounter the occasional lunatic driver along here. There will be many lanes turning off left and right – ignore them and stick with the road you’re on.
Eventually, you’ll get to a T-junction. Slightly off to your left, you’ll see a road opposite leading off to Cadover bridge. Most cyclists would take that route. I suggest you ignore it, and turn left, towards Shaugh Prior.
You’ll soon ride through Shaugh Prior, then have a nice descent. When you go past the Dewerstone car park, look out for a lane veering off to the right, signed Goodmeavy. Turn right along that lane. It’s a proper green tunnel lane, and a bit gorgeous, but can be a tad slippery at times.
Soon enough, the lane will make a sharp turn to the right, with another lane leading off to the left. Ignore that other lane and continue along the one you’re on. You will for a short stretch be cycling on a road that’s parallel to the Plym valley cycle path, before it starts heading downhill.
Slow down here, as you’ll be turning right, passing under the Plym valley trail. Just follow this lane, but save your legs as there’s a bit of a climb ahead. Some club riders call this Vomit Hill, but really it isn’t worthy of the name.
At the top, the small lane you were riding on joins a slightly larger road. At that junction, ignore the lane to your left, and the bigger road to your right. Instead, continue absolutely straight on, following the sign saying Meavy Yelverton.
After a short while, the road will descend, and you may be tempted into simply letting gravity drag you downhill as fast as possible, but you have a turning coming up, so cover your brakes. Go past the first lane leading off to the right, signposted Lovaton, but slow down when you see it. The next junction is a short bit further, where you must turn right. You will see a large triangle sign warning drivers of cyclists, and the lane is signposted – though quite small – to Meavy. Turn right here.
Follow the lane until it crosses the river Meavy. Almost immediately after you will come to a T-junction, where you must turn right. When you see the village green ahead, you will find a small lane veering off left, going right past the pub. You must take this lane and follow it uphill to the T-juntion, then turn left towards Dousland. Follow that road through Dousland, crossing the B3212 by the Burrator Inn while down so.
Enjoy the descent into Walkhampton, and when you get to a junction with a large stone cross in the middle, turn right. Just follow the descent further, until you cross a very pretty bridge over the river Walkham. All that descending should’ve been a warning, and now there’s a nice little climb ahead to escape the Walkham valley.
After almost two miles, you will come to a skew T-junction on open moorland, where you need to turn right, then follow that lane until you get to another T-junction, where you must turn left. Ignore the lane turning off to your right shortly after you made the turning, and just keep going straight ahead.
It’s a refreshing descent, but be prepared for a junction where the lane you’re on will veer 45 degrees to the right. Just stay on the lane, and ignore the two turning off left (one of which is effectively going ahead in a straight line), as well as the one leading off to the right.
Soon, you will start cycling through the outskirts of Tavistock. The lane you’re on, Green Lane, will make a sharp turn to the right, becoming Violet Lane. Follow Violet Lane all the way to the T-junction with the B3357. You will see the ornate entrance of Mount Kelly on the opposite side of the junction, and you now need to turn right.
Directly ahead of you awaits Pork Hill. It isn’t particularly steep, and at under 3 miles, isn’t particularly long either. A short descent later, and you’ll start the Merrivale climb. Again, Merrivale isn’t particularly long, or steep, but you’ll certainly feel it so soon after Pork Hill. More importantly, Merrivale (or Rundlestone, as some call it, after the rock formation on the right, near North Hessary Tor) has a number of false summits. It can be very disheartening to realise you didn’t crest the climb after all, and that it continues into the distance, so be prepared for that.
You’ll know you’re almost at the top once you’ve passed the service lane leading to the big mast on North Hessary Tor. Very soon after, you need to turn right, towards Princetown. Just follow the road past the prison, through the village centre, then turn right by the junction with the Plume of Feathers.
The road will be undulating, with only the climb towards Sharpitor being worth mentioning. Once you passed the pony pool – a small pond by a car park on your left – you’ll have a gorgeous descent ahead, called Peak Hill. Do bear in mind that on that descent there is a cattle grid, though!
Three miles of fast descent later – I set my personal cycling speed record on that descent during the Dartmoor Classic, when I hit 53mph – you will ride into Yelverton. Keep going until you get to the big roundabout, then take the 1st exit. About 20 metres later, turn left, then follow the road as it turns 90 degrees to your left.
Unless you want a well-deserved cake stop at Viera’s, don’t go into the parking area, but follow the road as it bends 90 degrees to the right, then simply follow it out of Yelverton. Once you crossed the bridge over the river Meavy, you’ll have half a mile of climbing ahead of you, then you should turn left at the first lane you encounter. It is signposted Hoo Meavy and Clearbrook. There’s still a bit of climbing to do, before you hit the descent to Hoo Meavy. At the bottom, there is a T-junction, where you must turn right. It is signposted Clearbrook.
Follow the lane uphill through Clearbrook. You will find a lane, signposted Goodmeavy, turning off to your left, and almost opposite NCN27 turns off to the right. Ignore both these, and simply keep going straight. Almost half a mile later, there will be an unsigned lane leading off to the left, and you need to turn left to take that lane. Follow the lane all the way until it get’s to a T-junction, but be careful: there is often gravel and debris washed onto the lane, so take it slow down there.
At the T-junction, turn right. You will have a short, but sharp climb ahead of you, until you get to the T-junction with New Road in Bickleigh. The fences and cameras to your left are part of the Royal Marines base in Bickleigh. Simply follow the road past the camp’s main gates, then take the first turning to the left. Follow that little lane until it makes a 90 degree turn to the right. Some 50 metres further, a path leads off to the left, and you need to take that path, to join the Plym Valley trail. From the little path, turn right onto the Plym Valley trail, pass underneath the road bridge, and just keep going straight on.
The Plym Valley is a very gentle downhill all the way to Plym Bridge. Once you get to the platform for the heritage railway, you need to follow the ramp down, cut through the car park entrance, and pick up the trail on the other side of the car park entrance. It will probably be heaving with people, giving you a very valid excuse to cycle slowly, until you leave the Plym Valley trail, to arrive back at Coypool, where you started from.
Here’s a link to the route on RideWithGPS: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27117970