National Cycle Network Route 2 (NCN 2) offers a captivating coastal adventure, unveiling a diverse and picturesque landscape along the southern shores of England. Prepare to traverse cliff-top paths, encounter charming villages, bask on sandy beaches, explore naval cities and discover two national parks.
Starting in Dover, the route heads west and concludes in the Cornish town of St Austell. I’ve split the 420-mile (680 km) adventure into nine stages, which end in towns or cities with a wide choice of accommodation. In each Tour description, I’ve also suggested a campsite option should you choose to bring a tent.
Each stage of NCN 2 takes you through villages, towns and even cities, ensuring that you’ll have ample options for pubs, cafes, restaurants and supermarkets. Additionally, you’ll never be too far from a bike shop, should your bike require any maintenance or repairs. These factors make Route 2 an ideal choice for cyclists seeking a multi-day touring experience without the concern of being in remote or isolated landscapes.
The majority of the route (90%) follows paved surfaces, and just over a third is traffic-free. The first half is on mostly flat terrain, while the latter stages take on challenging climbs and thrilling descents. With punchy hills and an average daily distance of 47 miles (75 km), it’s advisable to have some multi-day cycling experience. However, with the full route available, you have the flexibility to tailor it to your preferences if you prefer a more relaxed pace. For this adventure, a comfortable hybrid, touring or gravel bike would be most suitable, although a road bike can suffice if you don't mind occasionally walking the rougher off-road sections.
You can undertake this trip all year round, but bear in mind that the south coast seaside towns are likely to be very busy in the height of summer. Most of the campsites will be closed during the winter months, and the short cold days could be challenging. I completed this journey in June, and enjoyed the long hours of daylight and warm sea. Avoiding the school holidays meant that most beaches were relatively quiet and accommodation was readily available.
Some parts of Route 2 are still in development, with gaps between Dawlish and Totnes, and Plymouth and St Austell. For these sections, I’ve included a direct route following mostly quiet lanes. The Route 2 start and end points are in well-connected towns with train stations, and most of the route is never far from a rail service.
Get ready to embark on a coastal adventure with swimwear in tow, as this route remains close to the shoreline throughout. Prepare to be captivated by the stunning Jurassic Coast, explore the diverse landscapes of the New Forest National Park, and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Brighton, Bournemouth and Plymouth. Experience the beauty of river trails along the Exe Estuary and River Dart, and discover the charm of quaint Cornish harbour villages. You’ll be amazed by the incredible variety that awaits on this unforgettable south coast adventure.
Ready to get going? Create and customize your own version of this adventure using the full Tour below as a template.
Last updated: July 25, 2023
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
Stage 1 promises a mix of cliff top cycling, historic architecture, seaside resorts and flat marshland. You'll pass through many towns and villages throughout the day, so you'll find plenty of places to eat out or buy your own food.
Starting off from Ray Smith’s ‘Crest of a Wave’ seafront sculpture, you…
You'll spend most of stage 2 hugging the coastline as you cycle between the Sussex seaside towns of Hastings and Worthing.
Before you leave Hastings, look out for the unusual set of tall black fishing net huts on the seafront. With Grade II listed status, they were built to provide weather-proof stores…
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With two ferry crossings to factor in, I've proposed a shorter day for stage 3, a flat, coastal route to Gosport, just outside the naval city of Portsmouth. There are plenty of places to stop for food along the way.
You'll begin along the seafront, passing through Goring-by-Sea and Ferring. Discover the…
The fourth stage of this adventure features a long, scenic section of cycling through the New Forest, a magical national park nestled in the southwest corner of Hampshire. Although the landscape is less built up than previous stages, you'll pass through the villages of Hythe and Brockenhurst, where you…
Almost all of the route on the fifth stage lies within the Dorest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
You'll begin by cycling along the seafront to Sandbanks, an affluent neighbourhood with a chain ferry service over to Studland on the Isle of Purbeck peninsula.
The route winds its way through the…
Stage 6 takes you across the border between Dorset and Devon, presenting a challenging route adorned with a series of steep hills. As you conquer these inclines, you'll be rewarded with awe-inspiring views over the Jurassic coastline. With plenty of seaside towns and villages, you won't be short of places…
Stage 7 takes you mostly inland, treating you to the beauty of the countryside and a scenic trail that traces the River Exe on both sides. You'll pass through a number of towns and villages offering plenty of opportunity to stock up on food.
This stage begins with the Exe Estuary Trail, a scenic ride…
The penultimate stage is a shorter day, giving you a chance to rest your legs before tackling the steep and gruelling hills of Cornwall in the final stage. Stage 8 passes through a number of villages and built areas, so there's a range of options for food stops.
From Totnes, you'll join the scenic, traffic…
Gear up for a day of challenging hills, characteristic of Cornwall's terrain. You'll have the opportunity to pass through several villages where you can refuel and enjoy a famous Cornish pasty.
Begin by taking the Cremyll ferry from Plymouth over the River Tamar to Mount Edgcumbe Country Park, where you…
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