At the very bottom, you will find a link to a PDF version of this article, so you can easily download and print the route guide, to take along with you.
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This is a lovely, family-friendly ride that is almost completely flat, and extremely pretty. The route is 15 miles there and back.
When leaving the Tiverton Parkway station – reachable by direct train from Plymouth – simply turn right and follow the quiet road out of the station.
Though a road used by cars, it is very quiet, and should be fine to use even with young children, provided they’re closely supervised. Follow the road for almost half a mile, then turn right by the National Cycle Network (NCN) millennium signpost at the left side of the road. Opposite the post, by the start of the little lane you’ll cycle along, there’s an small NCN marker sign showing you’re on NCN 3.
The lane, though narrow, is very occasionally used by cars, but you’re extremely unlikely to encounter cars along here. At the end of the lane, you need to cross Lower Town Road. Occasionally it can get a bit busy, but generally it is OK to cross. This is the worst part of the entire route. On the directly opposite side of the road, you will see a lane – simply follow that lane all the way to the canal, then turn left.
The temptation will be to just turn left and ride along, but do yourself a favour and stop a moment, and look around. For example, notice the large road bridge to your right. When you return, you must remember to leave the canal at this point.
! A word of caution here: though the canal isn’t particularly deep, it nevertheless is full of water. Especially if taking young children on this ride, you may want to consider your strategy for what to do if a child fell in the canal in advance.
The towpath is gravel, but mostly rather good. It can get very narrow, especially where it passes underneath bridges, and there are signs telling cyclists to yield to pedestrians, and to dismount when reaching the bridges (there are usually poor lines of sight at the bridges).
I don’t dismount, for the simple reason that when dismounted and walking my bike, I take up twice the width. Instead, I slow down and scoot along by pushing my bike with one foot, at walking pace, but you may want to dismount. With very young kids, I’d suggest you get them to dismount, as that will reduce the risk of them falling in the water.
! When approaching pedestrians, especially from behind, do either ring your bell, or call out to them, to alert them to your presence. Simply pushing past is rude, and besides, if you gave someone a fright when doing that, they might jump, and inadvertently push you into the water. A little consideration goes a long way.
A very short ride along the canal will bring you to the village of Sampford Peverell, where the
National Cycle Network (NCN) signs will try and entice you away from the canal. Ignore those signs and remain on the towpath, on which cycling is permitted along its entire length. In case you’re curious, NCN route 3 diverts away from the canal and onto roads, with some minor hills thrown into the mix.
Remaining on the towpath is a far more scenic and pleasant ride. In terms of route descriptions, there really isn’t all that much to add, until you get to Tiverton itself. After all, you’re following a canal, and getting lost would be exceedingly difficult to do. But, though I don’t need to give you lots of directions, the route will reward you with it’s sheer stunning beauty.
In Tiverton, when the towpath becomes tarred, you are nearing the end of the canal. Right at the very end, there are picnic benches and a children’s play park. There are also toilets, though with COVID-19, they may not be open.
Shortly before the end of the canal, you will see a path veering off to the side. That path has a handrail in the middle of it, and it leads to a rather lovely Canal Tea Rooms, where you can buy hot or cold drinks, food or ice-cream. When it’s time to return, simple set off again, initially with the canal to your right. Retrace your steps all the way, until eventually you get to the sport where you joined the canal, just before the big road bridge. Turn right, away from the canal here, and make your way back to the train station.
As ever, here’s the interactive map: