Granite Way Cycle Route Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Granite Way is traffic-free shared path, built on the remains of a disused railway, and it’s simply gorgeous. Skirting the high moor, it runs for 9 miles, from Okehampton to Lydford, and forms part of the Devon Coast To Coast route.
Built on the track bed of the old London And South Western Railway (LSWR), much of the route showcases extreme Victorian ingenuity, none more so than the stunning Meldon Viaduct.
The start – Okehampton train station
When leaving the station, after passing through the car park gates, you’ll be at a crossroads. Simply cross straight ahead. Some 50 metres further, there will be a ramp to the left of the lane that you must ride up, to get onto the Granite Way. The cycle path will initially run alongside a shunting yard.
From this point onwards, simply follow the track. It will chicane a bit, as you’re passing a scouts hut, and at some point will get very close to the A30 expressway. As it starts going downhill, you need to slow down, as there’s a narrow gate at the bottom.
Once through the gate, you need to turn left, to follow the tunnel under the A30. Though it’s uphill, and the concrete surface not overly smooth, normally it’d be perfectly fine. However, sometimes, you can be unlucky, and the farmer could recently have herded his cattle through there, and then you’ll find it considerably less pleasant, and rather slippery!
To be fair, I’ve only twice had the unpleasant and somewhat unhygienic experience of using the tunnel shortly after cattle used it, so the likelihood of it being fine for you is quite high.
On the other side of the tunnel, there’s another narrow gate, followed by an uphill section to get you back onto the trackbed level, then simply continue along the path. Soon, you will see the train graveyard to your left, with many old carriages in various stages of falling apart.
Don’t be disheartened by the industrial-wasteland impression, though. After all, there are very good reasons the Guardian newspaper listed the Granite Way as one of the UK’s top five scenic bike rides.
Very soon after, you’ll get to Meldon Viaduct itself. This is a great place to stop and have a picnic, or just admire the views.
The track is tarred and pretty decent most of the way. When it was a railway, there were twin tracks along here, and that resulted in ample space for a shared path.
The people who built the Granite Way took advantage of this, and you will notice the path meanders a bit, with named ponds appearing periodically by the side.
When you get to an odd arrangement of railway sleepers to the right, you will be at the site of the old Meldon Junction, where the long-lost branch line to Bude, Cornwall, used to veer off. The Granite Way continues along the old track bed that used to run all the way, through Tavistock, to Plymouth.
You will soon pass around the back of Sourton Down, where bicycle hire, toilets and a café is accessible directly from the track. A short while later, you will cycle around the back of Sourton, where at the Church of St Thomas a Becket over summer weekends they often have cream teas and other delicacies available (COVID permitting).
A while later, you’ll be crossing Bearslake Viaduct (sometimes simply called Lake Viaduct). Just before the viaduct, you’ll see a path leading off to the left. That used to be the official route onwards to Lydford, before the last traffic-free segment was constructed, and it was quite an unpleasant diversion.
However, in case you need it, the Bearslake Inn in at the far end of that rough track, where food and drinks, as well as toilets are available.
You will notice when you’re on the new traffic-free section, as the surface is noticeably better. You will come to a road crossing – the buildings to your right are what remains of the old Bridestowe station, and disputes over land ownership delayed the new traffic-free segment from being built for many years.
Cross the road (it’s usually a very quiet road) and simply continue along the traffic-free path on the opposite side. You’ll be nearing Lydford now, and the landscape around you will have changed from open moorland to farmers fields.
Soon enough, you will notice the path veers slightly to the right, along a gently-sloping ramp, to deliver you to a road at the top. You will now be in Lydford, and should you wish to continue to the Castle Inn, you will need to turn right, then continue along the road.
The road you’ll be riding on is called School Road – simply follow it until you see the Caste Inn on the right, just before the Lydford Castle. The Castle Inn has a beer garden around the back, and that’s easily reach by wheeling your bike along the little lane at the far end of the pub. The food is great, and the happily cater to weary cyclists.
The surface is very good, except for a short (around 300 metres) permissive path in the middle, where suddenly it becomes a rough single-track.
Most bikes can use the route, but trikes and most cargo bikes will struggle. If you’re happy to turn back at the rough, single-track section, trikes will be fine, provided you accessed the Granite Way from Sourton. Doing so means you will avoid the gates and sharp turns at either end of the tunnel under the A30.
There are toilets available at Okehampton train station, at Sourton Down, and again in Lydford.
Refreshment stops: ⭐⭐⭐
Points of Interest
Okehampton Castle is worth visiting, as is The Highwayman Inn (slightly off-trail) – supposedly England’s most haunted pub, and certainly extremely unusual.
Routes in Devon
- The Exe Estuary cycle route to Exmouth
- Nun’s Cross Trail cycle route
- Princetown Railway traffic-free cycle route
- Saltram Loop traffic-free cycle route
- DayCycle – Tarka Trail
- The Granite Way
- DayCycle – A Redlake adventure
- DayCycle – Grand Western Canal – a stunning, flat & traffic-free 15 mile route
- DayCycle – Stover Trail & Wray Valley Trail
- DayCycle – Dawlish to Exeter St Davids, 14 miles, mainly flat
- DayCycle – Drake’s Trail
There are no barriers along the route, but there are several gates. Also, the single-track section in the middle would likely prevent trikes or most cargo bikes from getting through.
Forecast for the Granite Way
Getting to the Granite Way
Ordinarily, cycling the Granite Way meant either living in the area, cycling out that way, or driving there, then cycling the route. However, thanks to the Dartmoor Line, between Exeter and Okehampton, re-opening to regular passenger trains, you can get yourself and your bike to Okehampton by train. Just be sure to read my Bikes and Trains post first!
If you do drive there, you’re not limited to parking by Okehampton train station (pay and display car park) but you can also park in Lydford, or Sourton.
DayCycle routes are routes can can easily be cycled by most people in a day, or part of a day. Do have a look at all the other DayCycle routes available on WillCycle. Many contain detailed route guides, as well as embedded maps (like the one below) from which you can download the GPX file for the route.