This is Land’s End to John O’Groats with a difference. Forget going direct and forget sticking to tarmac, the GB Divide traces a route through England, Wales and Scotland to deliver the very best off road riding that Great Britain has to offer, from techy singletrack, wide gravel roads, mucky byways, quiet rural lanes and everything in between.
While the total route covers around 1,242 miles (2,000 km), here we’ve split the task into four Collections, with this South West stage being the first. Within it there are four stages of around 65 miles (105km), which take in the beautiful national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, including Exmoor, the Quantocks, the Mendips, and many hidden gems in between.
The route is raced annually as ‘GBDURO’, an enduro style endurance race comprised of four stages spanning the entire length. For more about GBDURO, visit theracingcollective.com/gbduro. Both the route and the race were founded and are now run by The Racing Collective.
The ideal bike choice for riding the GB Divide is a tough one. While there are many paved lane sections that would favour a faster drop bar gravel bike, there are also some tricky, more technical parts that would favour a rigid or even hardtail mountain bike. In some parts you will have no other option but to walk, especially when you take bikepacking luggage into consideration.
This first segment of the GB Divide route is a great way to start the challenge as you are never too far from towns and villages should you need resupply or other assistance, much unlike the latter stages in more remote Scotland. There are also lots of places to choose to stay, whether that’s campsites, guesthouses, hotels or hostels.
The start and finish of these four stages are easily accessible by train, with the nearest train station in Penzance, a short ten mile (16km) cycle from Land’s End, and with a train station in Chepstow where you finish. There are also a good number of train stations along the route if you’d like to split this into smaller rides.
So if you think you’re ready to take on the length of Great Britain along this spectacular meandering route, the GB Divide is for you. Good luck!
Head to parts 2 to 4 here:
Read more about the GB Divide route here: gbdivide.net
Today marks the very first day of the GB Divide, setting off from the most southerly point of the route and the most south-westerly tip of the United Kingdom.These first four stages take you through the glorious south west, covering Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and into Wales. This very first day will involve 62 miles (100km) to Roche, which is a very hilly first day, typical of the Gaelic county of Cornwall!After a starting photograph at Land’s End, you’ll head through the heart of Cornwall, passing through the county’s capital city of Truro just over halfway. Enjoy the spectacular coastline past Sennen Cove as you head inland towards mining territory. Once the mainstay industry of these lands, it has left behind some beautiful gravel trails which pass great ruins of mine shafts and chimneys a reminder of years gone by.There are a lot of lanes on this first stage, which will help you cover more ground over the undulating terrain. Enjoy the descent into Hayle, down to the northern coastline here - you’ll even be able to smell the salty air. Join National Cycle Network Route 3 briefly before skirting around Lanner and heading into the brilliant Poldice Valley - a real off road gem.Pass by Truro before taking more lanes north east towards your final destination today of Roche. Choose from nearby campsites or the Travelodge at Roche Services, where you’ll find a number of other services open ‘til late at night.
The second day on the GB Divide is a little longer at 75 miles (120km), which will take you through east Cornwall and into glorious Devon. You’ll join the Camel Trail, a traffic free cycle route, just outside of Bodmin at Boscarne Junction – if you’re lucky, you might see a steam train!Follow the River Camel north west, again on the Sustrans Route 3. Climb sharply up to St Breward over Mine Hill, past Stannon Lake and to the Davidstow Airfield. If you have time, why not check out the free RAF museum?Continue north on lanes past Hallworthy and Warbstow – real farming country here! You might want to take a small detour into Holsworthy to pick up some supplies or enjoy a meal. Descend next into Great Torrington and up the other side, heading towards today’s end just outside Barnstaple. There are lots of options here for accommodation or campsites for the night, as well as great places to enjoy a much needed meal.
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Today you’ll cross from North Devon into Somerset, via the highest point in the county, Dunkery Beacon. Totalling 62 miles (100km), this ride affords some of the best views in the south west, reaching as far as the Mendips, South Wales coastline and over Exmoor National Park.Head carefully over the busy North Devon Link road and access Exmoor via Brayford village. You’ll climb up to Simonsbath on the road, following the National Cycle Route 277 signs.After passing through the gorgeous Exmoor village of Exford, you’ll start climbing Dunkery Beacon on the road. The last part of the approach is off road, on a rocky trail that’s not too steep. It’s easy to see the Beacon from a distance - a great pile of rocks up on the summit. Take a minute to take in the views from up here, but perhaps not too long - it can be very breezy and cold up here!The descent off Dunkery Beacon is pretty tough off road with large rocks and boulders along the singletrack - take care! Carry on towards Dunster before cutting back through the woodland south through Luxborough and Roadwater, then heading east for the Quantocks.Exploring this stunning area is a real highlight of the day, climbing up to west Quantoxhead before taking a route over the summits on gravelly golden tracks past Bicknoller post. Descend off the Quantocks by Over Stowey, descending gently through the lanes of Somerset toward Bridgewater town; your home for the night. Choose from many guesthouses, hotels and campsites as you spend the night here, ready for the penultimate night of the south west tour tomorrow.
The final stage of this first segment of the GB Divide trail will take you from Bridgewater in Somerset to Chepstow in Monmouthshire, south Wales, covering a total of 65 miles (103km). You’ll skirt around the city of Bristol, too, over the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge and a much larger bridge across the Severn into Wales.Head east out of Bridgewater and onto the Somerset levels, which are just that – level! Enjoy an easy morning with barely a hill in sight as you navigate the lanes north through Mark and Wedmore.When you get to Cheddar it all changes – perhaps get a bite here before starting the tough off road climb up onto the Mendips Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Pass over the tops before descending off the moor and farmland to the east of Burrington Combe.Head north to Wrington where you’ll take a bridleway over the next ridge past the airport and into Brockley Combe, then up again before descending through the woodland to Flax Bourton.Approach Bristol’s Ashton Court Estate by climbing the fire roads up through Belmont Woods and enjoy the views of the city as you take the gravel road through the estate towards Clifton Suspension Bridge.Skirt the edge of the city now to the west, through Stoke Bishop and Henbury before you reach the Severn Bridge. This cycle path then takes you all the way into Chepstow for the night, where you can continue with the next stage of the GB Divide through Wales.