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Birdwatching by bike in Devon — Coast to countryside

Boldonian (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Birdwatching by bike in Devon — Coast to countryside

Bike Touring Collection by Katherine Moore

7

Tours

30:29 h

276 mi

18,800 ft

Chattering colonies of guillemots on the rocky cliffs, swathes of wading oystercatchers and curlew feeding on the mud flats, a kingfisher darting across the river, peregrine falcons nesting in the oak overhead, the nightjar’s dusk appearance on the common, busily drilling woodpeckers and the enormous spoonbills in the marshland; Devon has bird life in buckets.

With a huge range of habitats across this heavenly county, how better to explore them than by bike? This Collection links up some of the best places to watch birds and seek other wildlife too, including nature reserves and built hides as well as wilder spots. You’ll also learn what to look out for, and when might be the best time to visit to maximise your chances of some thrilling sightings.

You can visit the ancient pebblebed heaths of East Devon, enjoy the easy and mostly traffic-free route around the Exe Estuary known for wading birds, seek coastal species on the English Riviera and the North Devon coastline and visit lakes and reservoirs on Dartmoor and Exmoor alike.

Most of the Tours in this Collection are suitable for road bikes, although there are two that favour gravel bikes, sturdier tourers or hybrids or even mountain bikes as there are a few sections of gravel on these more remote routes.

For some of the reserves, to access viewing areas or bird hides you’ll either need to dismount and walk with your bike, or you can take a lock with you to secure your bike while you explore.

The Tours can mostly be accessed by public transport, including trains to Exeter, Plymouth, Newton Abbot, Honiton and Barnstaple. For the Lynton and Okehampton Tours, you will either need to ride to these or drive. You'll find options for pay and display parking at both.

A few last top tips for birding by bike; make sure you take some extra layers like a packable down jacket and hat in the colder months as you can quickly chill when you're patiently waiting for birds in hides or at reserves, a bird identification book or mobile app can be really handy, and don't forget the binoculars!

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
    Intermediate
    02:21
    24.9 mi
    10.6 mph
    325 ft
    300 ft
    Ferry
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    The Exe Estuary is a haven for wildlife, especially when it comes to birds. Rolling green fields yield down to the edge of the water, where the receding tide reveals miles of mud flats, sandy coves and beaches that are home to many species of wading birds and seabirds.With the brilliant RSPB Bowling Green and Goosmoor, Exminster and Powderham …

  • Difficult
    04:17
    39.0 mi
    9.1 mph
    3,100 ft
    3,100 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Would you like to meet the south coast’s largest breeding colony of guillemots? Berry Head National Nature Reserve’s high cliffs are well-known for these charismatic sea birds which number around 1,400 over the season. But, you also might see cirl buntings, razorbills, sparrowhawks and even eider ducks too!Time your visit between October and July for a chance of seeing the Guillemot colony.

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  • Difficult
    03:43
    30.8 mi
    8.3 mph
    2,100 ft
    2,075 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The pebblebed heaths of East Devon are a number of neighbouring commons, including Dalditch, Withycombe, Lympstone, East Budleigh, Bicton, Woodbury, Colaton Raleigh, Hawkerland, Venn Ottery, Aylesbeare and Harpford. They characterise much of the rural landscape to the east of Exeter.These areas were formed some 245 million years ago, formerly a wide, dry riverbed, which explains the rounded pebbles that you can find miles from the coastline.

  • Difficult
    06:31
    64.6 mi
    9.9 mph
    3,375 ft
    3,375 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    From the town of Barnstaple out west to the border of Cornwall, this Tour takes in some of the best of the North Devon coastline and country, including part of the traffic-free Tarka Trail, and visits to the RSPB Isley Marsh nature reserve and Devon Wildlife Trust’s Marsland and Meresfelle nature reserves.At over 64 miles (100 km) it’s a …

  • Difficult
    04:51
    43.9 mi
    9.0 mph
    3,475 ft
    3,450 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Keep your eyes peeled for woodland species and waterfowl on this Tour, heading to Dartmoor National Park from Plymouth via Warleigh Point nature reserve on the edge of the River Tamar and the gorgeous market town of Tavistock, as well as taking in the wildlife around Burrator Reservoir.Starting from Smeaton’s Tower on The Hoe, just a short ride from …

  • Difficult
    04:17
    39.4 mi
    9.2 mph
    2,600 ft
    2,600 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Heading north from Okehampton, a high market town on the northern edge of Dartmoor, this Tour used quiet country lanes and the odd cycle path to link up two superb Devon Wildlife Trust reserves; Meeth Quarry and Halsdon. These both also have bird hides, so don’t forget the binoculars!With a glorious view of Dartmoor after climbing out of Okehampton, head north through Jacobstowe to start, paying a visit to the quintessentially Devonshire rural town of Hatherleigh.

  • Difficult
    04:29
    33.0 mi
    7.4 mph
    3,875 ft
    3,875 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    A shorter, but by no means flat loop from the North Devon coastline into Exmoor National Park, this Tour is best ridden on a gravel or mountain bike, as it takes in some off-road segments. Enjoy coastal views to South Wales (on a clear day), waterfowl on Wistpoundland Reservoir, history and rugged moorland as you pass close to the Somerset border.

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Questions and Comments

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    7
  • Distance
    276 mi
  • Duration
    30:29 h
  • Elevation
    18,800 ft

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Birdwatching by bike in Devon — Coast to countryside

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