GoCycle Expert Guide – Devon Coast To Coast

Cycling Devon Coast To Coast Guide

Want to cycle Devon Coast To Coast but unsure of how to go about it? Worry no more! My Devon Coast To Coast cycle route guide will make your whole experience a better one. It’s more than just a route guide – it’s a Digital Tour Leader!

The Devon Coast To Coast cycle route (aka National Cycle Network route 27, or NCN 27 for short) is a stunning route. At 98 miles long, the route stretches from Ilfracombe, through Braunton, Barnstaple, Bideford, skirting the edge of Great Torrington, before veering deeper into mid-Devon. It passes through Sheepwash and Hatherleigh, then Okehampton, Lydford, Tavistock, Yelverton and finally Plymouth. Over 70 miles are on traffic-free cycle paths, with the remainder on mostly quiet rural lanes.

The route takes you through some spectacular landscapes, from the rugged north Devon coast, through the beautiful part of Devon known as the Ruby Country (after the distinctive reddish-brown cattle), skirting the edge of the ever-incredible Dartmoor, before descending to Plymouth. If you’ve never cycled such a distance before, 98 miles seem a lot, but the reality is that you’ll cycle it over two days, at a leisurely pace, with an overnight stop, or perhaps several overnight stops.

Cycling 50 miles in a day means six hours of riding, at a slow 8mph average pace. Of course, the route offers many delights, ranging from natural vistas, to outdoor art installations (at times in unexpected places), to a broad array of coffee shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs. The best part about a ride like this is that you’ll be burning the calories anyway, so there’s no need to watch what you eat, and stopping regularly is an essential part of the experience! It is entirely possible to ride the whole route in a day, but I’d strongly advise against doing that, as doing so would mean you have to ride fast, and won’t have time to appreciate the wonderful surprises the route offers.

Getting thereYou are limited to only 4 ways of getting there:
1. Get dropped off, along with your bike, and your camping gear (if camping).
2. Take your bike on the train to Exeter, then change to the Tarka branch line to Barnstaple. From Barnstaple, you’ll first need to cycle the 18 miles to Ilfracombe
3. Take the train to Barnstaple, then use a local taxi firm to take you and your bike to Ilfracombe. Few taxi drivers will be willing to do this.
4. Cycle to the start!
Unless you’re an experienced long-distance cyclist, I don’t recommend cycling to the start. I usually take the train, but be aware the earliest you’ll get to Barnstaple is just after 08h00, and that there is limited bike spaces on the train. Oh, and the train from Plymouth leaves at 05h05!

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Day 1: Cycling from Ilfracombe to mid-DevonYou’ll set off from the foot of Verity – the Damien Hurst statue standing guard over Ilfracombe harbour. Ilfracombe is set on a hillside, and you will initially come to dislike this fact, as very soon the route heads uphill. Once at the site of the old train station (now an industrial site) the gradient levels off, but it will remain a mild uphill for a while. It’s a gorgeous traffic-free ride all the way to Willingcot, then (normally) very quiet lanes, until you reach Braunton. From Braunton, through Barnstaple, Fremington, Instow, Bideford to Great Torrington is essentially completely flat, and also traffic-free. After Great Torrington, the route goes uphill, but a mild uphill, and it remains traffic-free past Yarde Orchard, until you leave the Tarka Trail shortly before Petrockstowe. Devon, however, is known to be hilly, and you’ll notice that very soon after this point, though you’ll soon reach the halfway mark, and will be able to rest overnight.

Overnight stay

You will need to book accommodation at a B&B, or perhaps consider using camp site. Camping is always my preferred option, but you may feel different.

Day 2: Cycling from mid-Devon to Plymouth
Unless you brought breakfast with you, you’ll have to wait for the B&B to serve breakfast, or cook breakfast yourself, if camping. Should you choose to forego either option, the next stop to get anything edible is the Co-op in Hatherleigh (trust me, nothing else will be open on a Sunday morning in Hatherleigh!) and there is no hot food available there. The ride to Hatherleigh will give your legs a warm-up for what’s coming, and to leave the little town (don’t risk your life by calling it a village – they’re immensely proud of having town status) we have to ride up a steepish hill that will carry on for longer than what you may like. From there, the route is rather undulating, through Jacobstowe, and you’ll certainly remember the last hill before Okehampton.Okehampton is the first place to have a cooked breakfast, if you skipped on that 12 miles earlier, back at the camp site.

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From the town centre there’s another memorable hill up to the train station. Once at the station, you’re back on a traffic-free, mainly flat route, along the Granite Way. The Granite Way crosses Galbraith’s incredible Meldon viaduct.Soon, you’ll be in Lydford, then there are a few hills to conquer between there and Tavistock. From Tavistock, you’ll ride on the stunning Drake’s Trail, traffic-free all the way to Plymouth. Drake’s Trail crosses Gem Bridge, an exquisite construction that spans the Walkham valley.At Horrabridge you’ll encounter your last memorable hill before Plymouth, but once you’ve conquered that it’s mainly a gentle downhill all the way till we reach Plymouth. Of course, Plymouth will have some final reminders that Devon isn’t usually flat, with the short little climb by Saltram, and the bigger climb overlooking the Cattewater. From there, it really is downhill, to finish at the Barbican.

There are various route guides available for the Devon Coast To Coast route, but by far the most detailed is my WillCycle – Devon Coast To Coast guide, available to purchase below, for the price of a cup of coffee – at only £3, this is probably the best bargain you’ll encounter today. After clicking the “Buy Now” PayPal button, you will be automagically redirected to a PDF copy of the guide. Please download that to your computer.


Here’s an extract from the guide, to give you an idea of what to expect:

 A great deal of time, energy and effort has gone into creating this guide, so thank you for being one of the majority who will not share it with others. After all, it really isn’t expensive, but will help me keep it up to date. 

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Obviously, keeping it up to date means I have to cycle the route every so often, so you can buy the route guide for the price of a cup of coffee. Go compare that with any of the other guides available for the route – not only is this one far more detailed, and uses QR codes that you can scan with your phone, to be taken to additional online resources, and is regularly updated, but it costs a fraction of what other guides cost.

You wouldn’t think twice about buying a cup of coffee while out and about, so skip just two coffees, and buy this guide instead. It will help you plan your adventure.

Click here to get your digital copy of my Devon Coast To Coast guide. Please note that it is a digital download, and not a physical booklet.

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