GoCycle Expert Guide – Somerset Circle

Go  exploring  along  the  gorgeous  Somerset  Circle!

The UK has many disused railways, and many of these have been converted into shared paths. In fact, Sustrans’ very first path was the Bristol And Bath Rail Path, which follows the course of an old, disused railway, and forms part of the Somerset Circle. The Camel Trail in Cornwall, and most of the Tarka Trail in north Devon are built on disused railways, too, as are many shared paths. One of those paths is the Strawberry Line, in Somerset. The Strawberry Line is now a shared path, linking Cheddar with Yatton, but they have big plans to extend it much further.

The people behind the Strawberry Line also came up with the idea of the Somerset Circle. Their vision of the Somerset Circle currently is aspirational only, though they are working hard to make it a reality, and as such, the route they envision doesn’t exist yet, and probably won’t exist for a number of decades. What that means, in practical terms, is that I had to deviate from the envisioned route in a number of places, to compile this route guide.

For the avoidance of all doubt, this route guide is for MY interpretation of the Somerset Circle, and any errors or omissions are mine alone. In due course, I’m sure the good people of the Strawberry Line will be successful in making their vision become a reality, and when that happens, we will all benefit from a route far better than what is detailed in my guide. Until then, however, this is as close as you will get.

Why  you  should  get  the  guide  now

If you’re looking for reasons (other than the fact that this is a stunning route) to get the guide, allow me to give you plenty reasons:

  • This cycling route guide is tested. Provided you follow the guide (PDF or TCX file running on your GPS device or phone) you will remain on a route that has no nasty surprises.
  • As I keep pointing out, the route is gorgeous.
  • You cannot get this cycling route guide elsewhere. Devon Coast To Coast, the C2C or Trans Pennine Way are well-known routes, and the GPX files for those routes are freely available. That’s not the case for the Somerset Circle. I designed the route, and it doesn’t appear on public maps.
  • It’s more than a route guide – it’s a Digital Tour Leader, that tells you about pubs and cafés along the way, plus more. If you had to recreate the .TCX route file alone, it would take you a great many hours, and then you’d end up with a route that’s untested. I’ve done all that for you, then cycled the route to ensure it’s good.
  • It’s ridiculously cheap. Two supermarket coffees costs the price of this guide. You think nothing of buying multiple coffees in a month, and this route will give you far more pleasure than any cup of coffee ever could.
  • It is superb value for money!
  • The route is circular. Unlike Devon Coast To Coast, The Trans Pennine Way, the C2C, Hadrian’s Way, and most other routes that are linear, getting back is not a problem, so this route is a better option than any of those.
  • The route offers great variation, including the flat roads on the Somerset Levels, and the climbs of the Mendip hills.
  • Around half the route is traffic-free, with the other half mainly on quiet rural lanes.
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The Somerset Circle route, detailed in this guide, is 94 miles long, and consists of a delicious combination of mostly rural lanes, gravel droves, and self-compacting gravel, or tar, traffic-free paths. In parts, the surface is bumpy, and a hybrid, or adventure/gravel bike is recommended, though it’s possible to do the ride on a road bike.
It is entirely possible to ride 94 miles in a day, but I strongly advise against that, for the simple reason that you will miss out on so much. A route like this is like a fine meal – it should be enjoyed, at leisure, and never rushed.

Of course, that means this is a multi-day ride, and as such, part of my GoCycle series of rides.

GoCycle routes are multi-day rides, and you will need to overnight somewhere. I make GoCycle guides available in PDF format, with an accompanying .TCX, for less than the price of a cup of two coffees and a croissant. As I’m sure you’ll appreciate, I spend a huge amount of time preparing GoCycle route guides, and they are highly detailed. Anyone who buys a route guide can also get the route in digital format, in a file with a myriad of extra information embedded, ready to use on various cycle computers.

The route starts and ends in Bristol, as Bristol has excellent transport links. As a result, I started the route at Bristol Temple Meads train station. The trouble with all linear routes is either getting to the start, or getting back, from the end of the route. The Somerset Circle neatly avoids all that, because it’s a circular ride, and starting at the station means all you need to do is get yourself and your bike on a train.

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From Bristol, the route heads downstream, towards the sea, but never actually makes it to the Bristol channel, before turning west at Portbury, then winding it’s way to skirt the edge of Clevedon. Yatton follows soon after, and that of course is the start of the traffic-free Strawberry Line, taking you all the way to Cheddar.

The mention of Somerset often makes people think of the Levels, which are pretty flat, and though you will have encountered a few lumps and bumps to Cheddar, overall, up to that point the route has been mostly flat. With perhaps only really the little climb by Bagley, the route remains mainly flat to Wells, which is a good option for staying overnight.

Day 2, however, is a different story, but at least you’ll tackle it with fresh legs. To be honest, the climbs ahead of you can in no way be described as challenging for just a moderately fit cyclist, but you will notice you almost exclusively will be going up, for around seven miles.

The bright side is you’ll be rewarded with ten miles that are mostly downhill, so plenty of time to rest your legs after the climbing. Besides, a ride like the Somerset Circle is best done slowly, stopping often, and savouring everything, from the landscape, to wares from various restaurants, cafés and pubs along the way.

Before long, you’ll be in Radstock, and not long after, you’ll be cycling along the Two Tunnels Greenway. Of course, that leads you to Bath, from where it will be almost completely traffic-free, along the Bristol – Bath Rail Path.

It’s a great weekend break that almost anyone should be able to easily fit into a busy schedule. Just remember, part of the route crosses the Somerset Levels, which are prone to occasional flooding. When flooded, part of the route you won’t be able to ride, so always check the 5-day flood forecast, before setting off. At spring tide, part of the route soon after leaving Bristol sometimes flood, so do yourself a favour and check the tide forecast, too.

Getting  there
Bristol is both the start and end of the route (though of course you can start from anywhere you prefer) so there’s no trouble getting home again at the end. Bristol’s excellent transport links means – for those not fortunate enough to live in Bristol – getting to the start is easy, especially by train. See my guide for taking your bike on the train for details.

See also  More route functionality

Get  the  guide!

Simply click here to get your copy of the superb guide now.

You will receive, as a .ZIP download, the PDF guide, as well as a .TCX and a .GPX file of the route, to use in your digital navigational device of choice.

Here’s a write-up of when I cycled the Somerset Circle, to give you deeper insight into the route.

Why should you get the guide? Simple – if you had to go and try to replicate this ride yourself, you will spend a great deal of time. Even if you calculated the time spent at half the minimum wage level, it would effectively cost you far more than the price of my guide.

That’s not all: my guide follows a route I’ve cycled. I have personally tested the route (I do that with all my route guides) to ensure that I got it right. As it happens, I made some mistakes with the first draft of the route, and cycling it allowed me to rectify those, so you are guaranteed a route that works.

You will get not only the guide, in PDF format, not only the .TCX file, which will keep you on course and inform you about the landscape around you, as you ride through, but you will get peace of mind. You will be able to trust the route from the outset.

All, for less than the price of a coffee and a croissant. This is probably the biggest bargain you’ll have this year! So, what are you waiting for? You know you want to ride this stunning route, you know you can fit it into a weekend, and you know you deserve a treat.
Do yourself a favour, and get your copy now!

9 thoughts on “GoCycle Expert Guide – Somerset Circle”

  1. I’m planning to do this one, not sure when though. I’ll ride to Bristol over two days, Komoot has a gravel specific suggestion. Stay at a B&B on the way and half way round your route. Mountain bike should be fine with a little luggage.

      • Hi Will, I’m not sure about the route yet. It will depend on finding a nice B&B at roughly half way to Bristol. I’ll then plan aroud that. Looking foward to sampling your guide.

      • I’ve now ridden this over two days. It was brilliant. Joining up the cycle paths, quiet lanes, ex rail lines to produce a wonderful two days. The two tunnels were a highlight but really the whole route is highly recommended.

        • Thanks Andy. I’m glad you enjoyed the route. Especially on a sweltering hot day, the coolness of the tunnels is a welcome respite.

  2. Approximately how much of the ride is ‘bumpy’? I’ll definitely be doing it on a road bike but I’m not so keen on too much bumpy due to a bit of arthritis.

    • Hi Andy,
      While it’s certainly possible to do the ride on a road bike, I would strongly suggest that you don’t. The Pill Path from Bristol is quite bumpy in places. The Strawberry Line is unsealed along pretty much it’s entirety, and much of the Two Tunnels Greenway is unsurfaced. All of those are bumpy in places, and of course the route also follows some gravel droves on the Somerset Levels.

  3. This is Sustrans original founder returning to his original concept
    John Grimshaw is still building bits of the route often with a volunteer work camp, which can be great fun
    I did the camps in 1987 & 1988 at Loch Venachar where we stayed in the old estate house, which was 7 miles from Callander, and had no motorised transport
    Every morning a shopping crew would head off with bikes & trailer(s) to get fresh bread milk &c, whilst the work teams would head down to the Lochside and build the path with locally dug material. At lunchtime the catering detail would bring crates of food down to the camp fire and we’d take a break
    Some nights we’d walk en masse to the pub and back – enjoying the glorious ‘dark sky’ & other natural things
    Would love to repair the Kinlochhourn to Arnisdale drove road sometime – as features in the singing satnav “Road to the Isles” or perhaps take Clair Balding for a long ramble on 2 wheels starting on the Tummel in StrathTay

    • The Somerset Circle, as envisioned by the people behind the Strawberry Line, will be amazing when fully completed, but I have to say their love affair with really tight A-frame barriers is seriously out of date.


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