Peaceful hedge-lined country lanes winding deep into rural Somerset and Devonshire, sweeping moors stretching across the horizon, and cosy pubs serving local ales and fresh fish – cycling the West Country Way from Bristol to Bude is a wild adventure.
This Collection showcases the best corners of South-West England in seven stages. You will cycle 219 miles (353 km) along beautiful lanes and traffic-free paths that take you through wooded countryside and emerald hills dotted with historic villages. Canal paths are the closest you will find to gravel on your journey, so any road bike is suitable.
Covering between 19 miles (32 km) and 43 miles (69 km), each route in this Collection is suitable for all levels of riders. If you enjoy longer days in the saddle, you can easily combine the routes together. You will finish each stage in a town or village with plenty of accommodation options to ensure you are well-rested for your adventure.
Although you will pass through the picturesque Mendip Hills, most of the climbs are manageable and large sections follow flat canal paths: you will ascend 3450 meters (11,318 feet) over seven days. With komoot in your pocket and signposts in both directions, you will also find the route easy to follow.
Starting in Bristol, a colourful city with a thriving cultural scene, you will mostly follow the National Cycle Network Route 3 as it leads through quirky villages and towns like Glastonbury with historical abbeys and Wells with its intricate gothic cathedral. After crossing the majestic Mendips, you will cross into Exmoor National Park with its misty moors and moody landscapes. Here, you can enjoy spectacular starry nights far away from civilization.
Your adventure will not only take you through gorgeous scenery inland but also dramatic coastal landscapes. Devon is known for its stretches of rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, and pretty fishing villages. With Roman ruins, medieval manor houses, and industrial relics, you will also be fascinated by the region’s rich history.
To reach the start of your adventure, you can easily take the train to Bristol as the city has regular direct connections cities across the UK. In Bristol, you find will a huge range of accommodation, ranging from youth hostels to five-star hotels.
For more information about the West Country Way, visit: sustrans.org.uk/find-a-route-on-the-national-cycle-network/west-country-way-bristol-to-bude
For train tickets and timetables, visit: thetrainline.com/destinations/trains-to-bristol
Glistening lakes, rivers winding through dramatic limestone hills, and villages stuck in time – on your first day cycling the West Country Way you will journey deep into the region’s history and nature.
Stage one begins in the creative city of Bristol. Known for its buzzing arts and culture scene, passionate locals, and nonconforming spirit, Bristol has a unique atmosphere. Here, you can wander the graffiti-covered streets in Stoke’s Croft, admire Georgian architecture in Clifton, or stoll along the colourful harbour.
Bristol has an excellent network of cycle paths which you will follow to leave the city. Gradually, the concrete suburbs will give way to green countryside where you will follow country lanes with little traffic.
After two small climbs, you will reach Chew Magna village on the banks of the River Chew. Here, you will find many quaint shops and cafes.
Next, the route continues past the giant Chew Valley Lake, a great picnic spot, before continuing south. After the lake, you will reach your longest climb of the day as you ascend into the stunning Mendip Hills.
For the next 9 miles (13 km), you will cycle over the tops of rolling hills enjoying panoramic views over the west of England. Here, it is easy to see why the Mendip Hills are considered to be one of the most special places in the country.
After a final descent, you will arrive in your final destination, Wells. With a stunning cathedral, many restaurants, pubs, guesthouses, and country inns, Wells is a lovely place to end stage one of your adventure.
On stage two of the West Country Way you will cycle 28 miles (45 km) further through this beautiful region from Wells to Bridgewater. Intricate Gothic cathedrals, hedonistic villages, tree-flanked cycle paths, and plenty of delicious cake stops await you here.
You will leave Wells on secluded gravel tracks leading through luscious farmland before joining country lanes that wind towards Glastonbury village. After a short climb to Glastonbury Tor, you will descend into the village.
Known around the globe for its music festival, Glastonbury is a quirky town full of myths, history and independent shops selling incense. You will find plenty of nice places for lunch here.
Soon after leaving Glastonbury, you will join a traffic-free track along the South Drain through woodland. The path here can become muddy, especially after rain, so you may have to push at times.
After winding through the countryside for 4.3 miles (7 km), you will reach the outskirts of Ashcott, a small village with no less than five pubs and its own brewery.
Continuing through the rolling Somerset countryside and hedge-lined farmland, you will pass the sleepy villages of Shapwick, Chilton Polden, and Cossington. Shortly after Bawdrip, the landscape will become more populated as you near Bridgewater.
A large historic market town, Bridgewater concludes stage two of the West Country Way. Once the site of political battles and rebellions, today Bridgewater is a calm and friendly town with many eateries and accommodation options.
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On stage three of your adventure following the West Country Way from Bristol to Bude you will pass through some of Somersets finest towns and landscapes. The shortest section of the Collection, today you will cycle an easy 19 miles (31 km).
Before setting off from Bridgewater, you may want to stock up on enough food and drinks for your ride, as you will not find many shops for the next 12 miles (20 km).
With a bag full of snacks, you will leave the town via traffic-free gravel paths which lead into the countryside along the Bridgewater and Taunton Canal which will take you all the way to Taunton.
Here, you can enjoy ultimate tranquillity far away from the hustle and bustle of cities: emerald ducks swim in the calm waters of the canal, narrowboats rock gently tied to their moorings, and birdsongs chime through the silence.
After 14 miles (23 km) of calm and flat riding along the canal, you will reach Taunton. From Cornish rebellions to Norman invasions and Civil War trials, the town has a fascinating history dating back over 1000 years. Here, you will also find a huge range of restaurants, shops, cafes and pubs to refuel.
Re-fuelled and re-energized, you can rejoin the route as it follows the National Cycle Network Route Three out of Taunton. You will cycle through the surrounding countryside before crossing over the River Tone and following a quiet country road into Hillfarrance.
A quaint village a stone’s throw from Taunton, Hillfarrance is a lovely place to spend the night. In the centre of the village, you will find the Anchor Inn which serves great food and offers rooms. You can also stay in various self-catering and AirBnB options.
Peaceful canal paths, medieval manor houses, and chocolate box villages – stage four of the West Country Way guides you through a wonderful corner of the west of England to the outskirts of Exmoor National Park. The longest stage of the Collection, today you will ride 43 miles (69 km) and climb 720 meters (2362 feet).
Your journey begins in the sleepy village of Hillfarrance, riding into the magnificent countryside on quiet roads with little traffic. You will pass charming farmyards and fleecy sheep grazing in pastures in abundance as you ride over gentle hills through the heart of rural England.
After crossing the River Tone, you will head north before joining the Grand Western Canal which you will follow for 12 miles (20 km). Following the towpath, you will be joined by diverse wildlife and rocking canal boats as you ride through quiet landscapes and the historical villages of Sampford and Halberton before arriving in Tiverton. With many shops, restaurants and cafes, this town is a great place to stop for a bite to eat, and you’ll need the energy for the next section.
The road out of Tiverton climbs Vanpost hill for 6 miles (10 km), but your effort is rewarded with views over the stunning Somerset scenery. Next, you can enjoy a relaxing downhill stretch into Bampton. Here, you could visit the Bampton Heritage & Visitor Centre to learn about the area's history.
After a short stretch following the Tune River, the final section gently rises and falls through the countryside, passing Morebath village before joining a path along the River Barle as it flows into Dulverton.
With cobbled streets and white-washed cottages, Dulverton is a pretty village to rest your legs. Lying on the edge of the Exmoor National Park, the village is a gateway to impressive landscapes. It is also home to the Exmoor National Park Authority headquarters. Dulverton is a popular holiday destination and, as such, you will find many accommodation options here.
Cycling through dramatic moors, exploring former roman forts reduced to grassy hills, and eating fish and chips on the beach – stage five of the West Country Way is full of adventure. Today you will ride 34 miles (56 km) through the stunning Exmoor National Park from Dulverton to Barnstaple.
From Dulverton, you will cycle into the Exmoor National Park. With moorlands, winding rivers, woodland, valleys and farmland this stunning region is marvellous to explore by bike. After an initial ascent, you will cycle through the wild landscape for 18 miles (30km). Enjoy – this is one of the most spectacular sections of the West Country Way.
Next, you will drop down into Bratton Fleming village via Leworthy Hill, crossing over the River Bray along the way. Here, you will find a village shop and The White Hart local pub to refuel.
Your final 12 miles (20 km) are an enjoyable downhill stretch following small lanes as they wind through the Devonshire countryside towards the coast. When you smell the fresh salty air and hear gulls in the distance, you are nearing your final destination, Barnstaple.
Situated on the mouth of the River Taw where it flows into the Bristol Channel, Barnstaple is a picturesque coastal town with a rich history. It is even thought to be the oldest borough in the UK. As the main town in North Devon, Barnstaple has accommodation options to suit every budget, as well as restaurants serving cuisine from around the world.
Stage six of the West Country Way leads you along white sandy beaches, through picturesque Devonshire countryside, and over inspiring Victorian bridges. Today, you will ride 30 miles (50 km), climbing 480 meters (1575 feet) over the course of the day.
You will leave Barnstaple via the National Cycle Network Route 27 as it hugs the River Taw’s estuary. Don’t forget to keep your eyes on the road as you cycle past flocks of birds that call the nature reserves here home.
Along the way, you will pass Instow, a village on the estuary where the rivers Torridge and Taw meet, before continuing along the River Torridge to Bideford. Sprawling across both sides of the river, Bideford is a pleasant town with the longest medieval bridge in Britain.
Next, you will continue to follow the River Torridge as it narrows and heads inland through green nature and woodland. On the outskirts of Great Torrington, the West Country Way joins the Tarka Trail the longest traffic-free route in the UK.
Leaving the trail close to Petrockstowe, you will have a small climb just before Sheepwash village. As the name suggests, in the past sheep were regularly washed in the village before shearing. Today, you are more likely to find locals in the Half Moon Inn, famed for its fresh fish from the River Torridge.
From Sheepwash, the road climbs once more into Highampton, a friendly parish overlooking Dartmoor and Exmoor.
Your final five miles are an easy downhill stretch through picturesque countryside into Hatherleigh, a village on the banks of the River Lew. Here, you will find various hotels, holiday rentals and bed and breakfasts to spend the night.
With stunning coastal views, moss-painted stone bridges and sprawling sandy bays, your final day of cycling the West Country Way from Bristol to Bude is a fantastic ride. Stage seven covers 30 miles (50 km), leading you from Hatherleigh to the Irish Sea.
Setting out from Hatherleigh, you will ride past fields of sheep grazing and cattle and quaint farms. The road gently rises and falls before crossing the River Torridge and passing through Black Torrington. You will find a beautiful 15th-century church in the centre of the village.
For the next few miles you will find yourself relatively alone in the quiet countryside. You are more likely to meet horse riders than cars as you wind through rural lanes. After 3 miles (5km), you will cycle through Cockbury village and continue into the peaceful landscape.
After a short descent, you will arrive in Holsworthy, a thriving Devonshire town nestled amongst the hills. If you cycle through on a Wednesday, you can visit the popular Pannier Market held in the Market Square. The town also boasts many good restaurants and independent shops.
Don’t fill your panniers with too much local produce as you have a gradual climb as you leave Holsworthy. But don’t worry, after you reach Pyworthy village you will cycle mostly downhill all the way to the coast.
From Pyworthy, you will continue travelling westerly, cycling through a few small villages such as Lower Dux, Springfield and Bridgerule. Here, the route flattens out for your final 8 miles (13 km) before joining the Bude Canal as it flows into Bude.
With beautiful beaches, a thriving cultural scene and great surfing, it's no surprise that Bude has been awarded the title of the UK’s best coastal town multiple times. Straddling the border of Devonshire and Cornwall, the pretty coastal town charms its visitors with white sandy beaches and historic harbours. A popular holiday destination, you will find limitless accommodation here, including camping.
As Bude does not have a railway station, the best way to return home is by car. Alternatively, you can take a train to Exeter St David’s and travel the rest of the journey by bike.
For more information about Bude, visit: visitbude.info