Five of the perfect scenic bike rides within the West Country | Travel

Around the Purbecks

Type of trip Cliffs, coast roads, wild swims and a lost village
Start/end Wareham
Distance 45 miles
Difficulty Challenging. Hilly; lanes with a brief part of off-road cycleway
Route map
The “Isle” of Purbeck isn’t actually an island however a peninsula bordered by the ocean to the south and west and the River Frome to the north. It’s a geologist’s paradise, that includes sandy heath, ball clay, chalk downland, oil-bearing shale and laborious limestones lengthy prized as constructing supplies. Much of London was rebuilt after the Great Fire with stone from Purbeck quarries. The wealthy geological layer cake gives quite a lot of wildlife habitats and the Purbeck hills are home to many species of untamed flower.

Note that this trip passes by way of the military’s Lulworth firing vary. Whiteways Road (between East Lulworth and Steeple) is open virtually all weekends, and on a regular basis in the course of the summer season however test forward on the Ministry of Defence’s web site to make sure the highway is open.

Starting out of the fortified Saxon city of Wareham the route heads east by way of the heath and coniferous woodland above the biggest onshore oil discipline in Europe. Turning west simply outdoors Swanage, the trip passes the craggy ruins of Corfe Castle en route for the “lost village” of Tyneham: in 1943 the battle workplace evicted its 225 residents and the village is now an open-air museum. It’s then an exciting descent to Lulworth Cove (and a testing climb again up the identical highway) earlier than heading inland on quiet lanes by way of Chaldon Herring to the River Frome at Moreton (there are paddling and swim spots by the ford). The church is price a search for its engraved home windows by Laurence Whistler. TE Lawrence “of Arabia”, who lived close by, is buried within the graveyard right here. Lanes on the south financial institution of the Frome lead again to Wareham.

• Olivers in Corfe Castle is a restaurant and B&B within the coronary heart of the village (doubles from £95 B&B, April to October).

• The Boat Shed Cafe on Main Road Lower in West Lulworth is in an ideal location overlooking the cove.

Grand Tour


Somerset/Wiltshire borders
Type of trip Rolling countryside, stately properties, follies and a citadel
Start/end Frome
Distance 32 miles
Difficulty Easy. Lanes and a few brief sections of unsurfaced observe.
Route map
Frome is a cool, independent-minded Somerset city blessed with many good-looking outdated buildings and a few steep, slender, cobbled streets. There’s a robust biking scene, too. The hip bike company Charge relies right here, as is the Bicycle Academy, which runs programs in framebuilding.

This trip takes in two of the good treasure homes of the West Country: Longleat and Stourhead, making use of cycle paths and bridleways that permit individuals on bikes privileged entry to their grounds. Starting out of Frome on National Cycle Route 24, quiet farm lanes result in Longleat, the 130-room Elizabethan pile set in 10,000 acres, which incorporates Britain’s first safari park. It’s an actual thrill using from the home up the broad, tree-lined carriage drive to the imposing gateway.

Heading south by way of rolling countryside on the sting of the Wessex chalk downs, the subsequent cease is Stourhead, a Palladian mansion most well-known for its gardens, which have been impressed by scenes of the Grand Tour of Europe. The trip takes in a brief wooded bridleway – that may get muddy after heavy rains – en path to the grandest of Stourhead’s follies: King Alfred’s Tower tops a hill on the border of Wiltshire and Somerset, seemingly the spot the place Alfred the Great rallied his troops in defence of Wessex towards Viking invaders. More quiet farm lanes result in Nunney, a bewitchingly fairly village set round a moated citadel. From there it’s simply three miles again to Frome.

• The Seymour Arms in Witham Friary is a superb time-warp of an property pub. No meals served however you’ll be able to carry your personal.

• Moat and Turret Cafe in Nunney is widespread with cyclists and serves nice muffins and light-weight lunches.

Widecombe Way

Lost Lanes West Country cycles. Widecombe Way

Type of trip Dartmoor explorer
Start/end Bovey Tracey
Distance 32 miles
Difficulty Challenging. Hilly; lanes and a railway cycle path
Route map
This trip begins in Bovey Tracey, the self-styled Gateway to the Moor and home to a lately opened Cafe three Sixty, an ethereal, fashionable cafe, bike store and social hub of the native biking scene. If you’re getting right here by practice, the flat and principally traffic-free Stover Trail connects from Newton Abbot station about 4 miles away. Any bike trip on Dartmoor goes to be hilly however this trip front-loads the climbing, when the legs are freshest. The first 5 miles are virtually fully uphill all the best way to Haytor Rocks, Dartmoor’s most well-known landmark.

It’s a protracted and rewarding descent into Widecombe-in-the-Moor, whose church, generally known as the Cathedral of the Moor, towers above low-slung granite cottages with thatched roofs. From Widecombe, a sliver of tarmac lane climbs progressively up Challacombe Down. Here the desolate wildness of Dartmoor turns into startlingly obvious. Just in need of the summit go brief observe on the suitable results in the stays of Grimspound, a big bronze age walled settlement. It’s an eerie spot and it’s becoming that whereas researching The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle sheltered in one of many huts to a smoke a pipe. The trip then swaps the broad open expanses of the uplands for the advanced topography, patchwork fields and dense woodland of the moorland edge, passing by way of the beautiful villages of North Bovey and Lustleigh. The final two miles follows the brand new Wray Valley cycleway again to Bovey Tracey.

• The Rugglestone Inn inWidecombe-in-the-Moor is an genuine, wisteria-clad Dartmoor inn serving actual ale and pub grub, and which has a cottage obtainable for brief breaks and week-long stays (from £375 per week).

• The Ring of Bells Inn in North Bovey is a brilliant, lately renovated eating pub with rooms (doubles from £95 B&B).

The Dart Circular

Lost Lanes West Country cycles. Book Selection

Type of trip Devon lanes by an impressive river
Start/end Totnes
Distance 25 miles
Difficulty Moderate. Short however some steep hills. Lanes and a brief part of unsurfaced cycleway
Route map
Queen Victoria praised the River Dart as “England’s Rhine”, which says as a lot about her personal world view because it does concerning the Dart. The rivers are literally very completely different. The Rhine is lengthy, broad and meandering and with an enormous lowland delta, whereas the Dart is brief, shallow and fast-flowing till Totnes, the place it empties right into a tidal flooded river valley. What the tidal Dart does share with the Upper Rhine is scenic grandeur, castles and nation homes.

This brief however deceptively hilly trip begins on the traffic-free path from Totnes alongside the banks of the Dart in direction of the Sharpham property. It’s downhill to Bow Creek, one of many fingers of the Dart and a pair of riverside pubs. The Maltsters Arms was as soon as owned and run by Keith Floyd, the TV chef and gastronome. Over the subsequent hill is Dittisham (pronounced Ditsham), a village that sits excessive on a spur overlooking the Dart and extends downhill to a little bit quay. Ring the bell for the tiny clinker-built ferry throughout the water to Greenway (£three.50 for grownup plus bicycle). The childhood home of Sir Walter Raleigh, the property was later purchased as a holiday home by Agatha Christie. It’s now within the possession of the National Trust. Some very quiet lanes result in Stoke Gabriel, one other sleepy riverside village, and again by way of Littlehempston and over the grand stone bridge Staverton for a ultimate run in to Totnes by way of the grounds of Dartington Hall.

• The Maltsters Arms in Tuckenhay is a big foodie pub overlooking the river, which additionally has double rooms from £79 B&B.

• The Anchor Stone Café in Dittisham serves native seafood specials on the quayside.

Promised Land

St Michael’s Mount.

St Michael’s Mount.

Type of trip Classic Cornwall, from tiny harbours to cliff-top mines
Start/end Penzance
Distance 35 miles
Difficulty Moderate. Mostly lanes with two sections of gravel observe
Route map
Penwith is Cornwall’s Cornwall: a peninsula on a peninsula. It outdoes the remainder of the county in terms of archetypal Cornish traits: its shoreline is wilder, its rocks are richer in ores, its fishermen catch extra fish and it has extra prehistoric ruins.

Starting in Penzance, the trip passes the newly restored artwork deco saltwater lido. Trawlers mass in Newlyn’s harbour and the quayside fish outlets promote the day’s catch. Around the headland is Mousehole, the place tightly packed terraces rise from its compact harbour and tiny sandy seashore. Heading inland, the route passes Carn Euny, one of many best-preserved prehistoric villages within the West Country (free entry). From St Just, an outdated mining observe rounds the headland. It passes the outdated copper and tin mines whose chimneys and engine homes perch precariously on cliffs above the Atlantic waves. Some of the seams prolonged deep underground and as much as half a mile out to sea.

Back on the tarmac at Pendeen, the coast highway east in direction of Zennor is a pure pleasure to trip, particularly when the prevailing westerly tailwind is blowing. It’s a dramatic, elemental panorama: historic patchwork fields, darkish craggy cliffs on the left and comely hills rising on the suitable. DH Lawrence rented a cottage close to Zennor and liked it right here. “This isn’t merely territory,” he wrote in a letter, “it is a new continent of the soul”. The ultimate leg is on quiet lanes to St Michael’s Mount after which the traffic-free promenade path again to Penzance.

• Stock up on picnic provisions at Hole Foods Deli and cafe in Mousehole.

• The Tinners Arms in Zennor has stone flooring, log fires, low ceilings, good beer and easy, native meals. For lodging, there’s the close by White House (doubles from £120 B&B).

Lost Lanes West: 36 Glorious Bike Rides within the West Country of England, by Jack Thurston, is revealed by Wild Things Publishing (£16.99). Guardian readers obtain a 20% low cost and free P&P with code Guardian18

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