Welcome to the Braunton 150, a 150 mile (241 km) mountain biking route taking in Exmoor National Park and the coastlines of North Devon and Somerset. Exmoor is more lush, green and hospitable than nearby Dartmoor, and with stunning coastlines and deep, steep river valleys it makes the perfect spot for a bikepacking challenge!
The Braunton 150 was created as an Individual Time Trial, a type of race against the clock where you can set off at any time and have your total time recorded against others who’ve also done the whole route. Here we propose five stages which you can take at any pace you like - whether that’s five days or under 20 hours… gulp! One word of warning; don’t underestimate the hills of Exmoor.
In addition to the lush green hills, rocky doubletracks, quiet woodlands and fresh rivers, Exmoor hosts many quaint villages that thrive in the summer months on tourism, so you’ll find plenty of tearooms and shops en route to quench your thirst and hunger! Make sure you have an afternoon cream tea whilst you’re here.
The best bike choice for the route would be a rigid or hardtail mountain bike, due to the steep climbs and descents - you’ll need all the gears you can get! You’ll also be just fine on a gravel bike, but be aware that you may need to walk some of the steeper segments.
In terms of getting to the start of the Braunton 150, the closest train station is in Barnstaple, a 6 mile (10 km) ride away. If you are driving to Braunton, you’ll be able to leave your vehicle there as it’s a circular route, to return to is some day’s time! If you’re travelling from mainland Europe, you can take the Eurostar train to London and change for Barnstaple, or take a ferry from a number of ports in Northern France to the South coast of the UK, where you can find local train stations.
The first stage of the Braunton 150 heads directly to Exmoor National Park from the start in Braunton. You might have taken the train to nearby Barnstaple, or have left a vehicle in the town itself as this is a circular route - either way you have another 31 miles (50km) ahead of you today to climb up to the moors, and it’s anything but direct too!Start by heading North East out of the town, gently climbing on a combination of quiet lanes and doubletrack up to Metcombe Down and Burland Cross. Head South here on the lane to pass Swindon Down and descend on lanes into Muddiford. You’ll be climbing immediately again (get used to it)! Make your way up the unpaved doubletrack from the village and onto lanes that bring you over the River Yeo to Arlington Court Estate, a beautiful place to spend an hour or two looking around or enjoying a cuppa. Head South now on singletrack through Deerpark Wood, leaving the banks of the River Yeo to head East, crossing the River Bray to reach the edge of Exmoor National Park. You’ll cross the river on a singletrack before rejoining the lane near Barton Town. Before you reach the village of Challacombe, take a right onto this beautiful doubletrack way that turns into a singletrack, climbing up onto South Regis Common. Here the track meets the Tarka Trail, where you head South down past Great Vintcombe water to rejoin the lane towards Simonsbath. There’s just one final detour as you head South further still, past Cornham Farm and Ford, to finish with a road descent heading North into Simonsbath. Here you’ll find a hotel and inn to choose from for accommodation for the night, or campsites and other accommodation choices further East.
After a good night’s rest, start your second day heading South East into the rural heart of Exmoor National Park, where you visit the historic Tarr Steps, and climb to the highest point on your trip, and in fact in Somerset; Dunkery Beacon. Hope for a clear day today and you’ll be rewarded a thousand times over for the effort of getting up there. Similar to the first stage, this second one will involve 30 miles (49km).Start by following the River Barle heading South East on the Two Moors Way - a wide and gravelly bridleway that links Exmoor and Dartmoor National Parks - all the way into Withypool. Leave the path now to take tracks around Withypool Hill avoiding the summit, before taking the fun Parsonage Farm singletrack down to Tarr Steps. Don’t forget to stop of a photo at these ancient stone steps creating a crossing place on the river Barle, and stop in at the Tarr Farm Inn if you’re hungry or thirsty - they do an amazing cream tea! Take a left immediately after the farm onto a bridleway heading up Watery Lane to Knaplock, now climbing gradually. After a brief stint on Room Hill Road, keep following the trails to Winsford and the River Exe, heading North West on Ash Lane before dropping back down to follow the River heading on West. Now you start climbing all the way up to the top of Dunkery Beacon, your last and biggest climb of the day. You’ll pass to the East of Exford as you take the doubletrack road climb, then onto singletrack for the last section where you can finally see the stone cairn that marks the summit. From up here you can see for miles, even to the South Wales coastline on a clear day, but it’ll probably be fairly breezy!The descent is more technical than the climb, and you head off East down a trail that rapidly becomes very rocky - take care here. The last part of the descent brings you into a pretty woodland with some more favourable trail conditions, then you simply roll down the lane to Wootton Courtenay to finish. In this village you’ll find welcoming places to both eat and stay, but make sure you book in advance as this is a very popular area.
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You’ll enjoy a shorter ride on the third stage, this time of only 23 miles (37km), but don’t let that fool you; the Exmoor hills are just as tough today! You’re heading to the North Somerset coastline, concluding the day in pretty Porlock after much wiggling around.Start by leaving Wootton Courtenay heading up onto Wootton Common to the North East, on doubletrack dirt roads. Descend through the woodland beside Periton Hill to your left, and down into the busy town of Minehead. It’s a great place to stock up on snacks or even brunch!Make your way all the way down to the beach and follow Quay West to the West along the coastline near the South West Coast Path. You’ll climb up through the woodland above Culver Cliff, passing North Hill to Ivinghoe Beacon. More incredible views await you here as you take the coastline singletrack, looking down over Bossington to Porlock. Just like the first stage, it’s not plain sailing from here to the end of the stage, but instead take a detour through Horner Wood to Lucott Cross before heading down into the town. This is the biggest ascent of the day now, with some steep gradients as you pass Crawter Hill and finally up onto Lucott Moor. After rolling along Mill Lane, take the Hawkcombe Head Trail descent, from grassy track to woodland singletrack - you’re going to love it! The trail will take you all the way down to the coastal village of Porlock. It’s a tourist honeypot so you won’t be short of options for places to stay and refuel here, why not try some local delicacies while you’re here?
The penultimate stage covers a total of 22 miles (35km) from the coastline village of Porlock to the clifftop town on Lynton. It’s a harsh start today with a mega climb out of Porlock, ramping up with steep sections giving way to more gentle, up to a maximum of 20 per cent gradient. Rather than on the busy main road or toll road, this is on off road double track so at least you can walk in peace! Rejoin Pitt Lane halfway up the climb before turning right onto singletrack for the last ramp up Smalla Combe. At the top of Culbone Hill, most of the climbing is done for the day already. Cross the main road to rejoin singletrack on the Robbers Bridge descent, down into Oarford where you take a doubletrack road heading to South Common. Head back past Badgworthy Hill to enjoy Badgworthy Wood Trail descent, not too steep but great fun, with some technical sections and a few river crossings too! Rejoin the East Lyn river heading East, riding onto the Watersmeet Trail and onwards into Lynmouth. This is a beautiful town with lots of attractions including the cliff railway and a gorgeous pebble beach. As today is shorter, why not take some time to explore? Head on up to Lynton on the cliff to stay the night, before the final stage tomorrow which is a big day - make sure you rest up ready for it!
The final day is a big one; hope you’re ready for it! You’ll ride no less than 44 miles (70km) today to cover the North Devon coastline back down to Braunton, and a very hilly one too! Start by hugging the coastline heading West, past the spectacular Valley Of The Rocks, the climb up inland to Wildner Top and then back down to the coast. Pass through Croscombe Woods and Woody Bay to reach some fantastic gravel double and singletrack following the coastline here, before descending down to the River Heddon. You’ll climb up the other side on Joe’s Lane and Trentishoe Hill, peaking near Holdstone Hill. It’s a steep one, good luck! Head South to Stony Corner before a big descent off the tops, heading West again down Vellacott Lane down to pretty Combe Martin on the coast. After a short stint on the high street, climb up the valley side lanes and singletrack to lead down to Berrynarbor, then up again on Oxenpark Hill. Drop down past the woodland to trace the edge of Ilfracombe town; a good chance to pop in further in search of a meal!Leave the town on National Cycle Route 27, through the railway tunnels and past Slade Reservoir, then heading North to continue along the coastline again. Turn inland past Lee to cut the corner of the headland here and rejoin the coast at Mortehoe, heading South alongside Woolacombe Bay on the cycle route again.Out of Croyde you’ll find the last climb of your trip; nothing as high as the previous but still pretty steep. From here it’s easy going as you descend from Saunton and take the unpaved American Road to Crow Beach, then up the mouth of the River Taw and up the River Caen back into Braunton where you started, phew!