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Devon & Somerset’s coast to coast — The West Country Way

Adam Court (CC BY 2.0)

Devon & Somerset’s coast to coast — The West Country Way

Mountain Biking Collection by Katherine Moore

3-5

days

3-5 h

/ day

121 mi

11,550 ft

11,600 ft

Welcome to the West Country Way, a long distance mountain biking route that links the coasts of South Devon and Somerset via the two moorland National Parks of Dartmoor and Exmoor. This 121 mile (195 km) route is a journey taking in the diverse landscapes of glorious Devon, from the cobbles of Plymouth harbourside to the wild and rugged beauty of Dartmoor, the quaint chocolate box cottages of rural mid Devon villages and the lush green of Exmoor, before revealing North Devon’s dramatic cliffs and Somerset coastline.

A large part of the West Country Way is comprised of the Two Moors Way; a bridleway linking Dartmoor and Exmoor. Expect wide traffic-free gravel trails, as well as some muddy climbs, wooded tracks, valley-side singletrack and field trails, linked by quiet lanes through picturesque villages — the perfect setting to pick up some food and drink and a pretty place to stay overnight. Passing through Dartmoor, you have the unique opportunity to wild camp as it’s the only place in England where you can legally do so (read more at dartmoor.gov.uk/enjoy-dartmoor/outdoor-activities/camping).

This is a mountain bike orientated Collection, but there’s little reason why you can’t do it on a gravel bike. It’s also worth noting that a full suspension mountain bike will probably be a bit overkill for this distance too.

Choose the spring, summer or autumn for this challenge. It’s not recommended to attempt this in the winter due to unfavourable ground conditions on the moorland which can get very boggy, and as the weather on Dartmoor especially can be harsh and unpredictable. In any season, make sure you have a survival bag and basic first aid with you and are familiar with the local emergency procedure.

This route is presented in four stages, which you can opt to ride as four days, more or less. Ridden in this way, you’ll get to experience a night of wild camping on Dartmoor followed by two to three nights in Devon and Somerset villages and towns.

Access to either end of the trail is easy and train services are recommended as this is an A to B rather than circular tour. There’s a major train station in Plymouth at the start, where stage one begins, before leading you to The Hoe for the official start of the trail (see more details at gwr.com/plan-journey/stations-and-routes/plymouth). At the other end in Minehead it is less simple; either you extend your route heading west to Barnstaple Train Station, or ride south east to Taunton (24 miles/38 km by road, or 25 miles/40 km by mountain biking route over the Quantocks), which is on a more major train line. Therefore, it might be worth considering taking a night’s stay in Minehead at the end of your trip before riding towards the station the next day.

Please note; this is not to be confused with Sustrans’ West Country Way, a long distance road cycling route from Bristol to Bude on National Cycle Route 3: komoot.com/collection/889051/vibrant-cities-emerald-hills-the-west-country-way

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
    Difficult
    04:34
    32.1 mi
    7.0 mph
    2,825 ft
    1,850 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    The official start of the first stage of the West Country Way is not until the Plymouth Hoe next to Smeaton's Tower, however here we start at your likely joining point at the train station, making the first stage 32 miles (51 km) long.

    Start by leaving the station and heading south through the city to the Hoe, where you’ll …

  • Difficult
    03:58
    29.0 mi
    7.3 mph
    2,600 ft
    3,175 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    On the second stage you’ll cross over the second half of Dartmoor to reach the eastern edge, then head north past Castle Drogo into the rural heart of mid Devon to spend the night in North Tawton, notching up 29 miles (47km) on the way.

    Cross the Bellever Bridge out of the woods and start riding north east on lanes …

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  • Difficult
    04:57
    36.8 mi
    7.4 mph
    3,275 ft
    2,900 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    On the third stage you’ll travel from the heart of Devon into West Somerset, crossing into the greener Exmoor National Park, and totalling 37 miles (59 km). Follow the River Taw for the first stint, crossing from lanes to singletrack and back again, before you meet the B3220. It’s all lanes from here north to Chulmleigh, with lots of little …

  • Difficult
    04:08
    23.5 mi
    5.7 mph
    2,850 ft
    3,675 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The final stage of the West Country Way will take you across Exmoor National Park to your finish point of Minehead on the West Somerset coastline, looking across the Severn Estuary to South Wales not so far away. You have 24 miles (38 km) left to ride – hope you have the legs for it!

    Leave Withypool behind as you …

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    4
  • Distance
    121 mi
  • Duration
    17:36 h
  • Elevation
    11,550 ft11,600 ft

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Devon & Somerset’s coast to coast — The West Country Way