Katherine Moore

My favourite West Country riding — South-West Gravel Gold

Katherine Moore

My favourite West Country riding — South-West Gravel Gold

Mountain Biking Collection by Katherine Moore

7

Tours

33:43 h

259 mi

17,025 ft

South-West is best, or so the saying goes. I may be biased as this is my home turf, but there’s certainly a lot of truth in that. From the coast of Cornwall to the wild national parks of Dartmoor and Exmoor, countless protected areas of natural beauty, conservation sites, the Jurassic Coastline and idyllic rural scenes; the South-West is surely one of the most wonderful places to explore by bike.

When it comes to riding off-road here, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Difficult as it was, here I’ve managed to narrow it down to my favourite few areas to explore, which include the mining trails of inland Cornwall, my childhood playground in East Devon, the wilderness of Dartmoor, the all-too-often forgotten Quantock and Mendip Hills and the golden Cotswolds.

Most of these routes are accessible by train, so you can easily enjoy them as a day trip or weekender. Popular with tourists seeking rural escape, the South-West boasts not only an overwhelmingly friendly population, but also a swell number of tea rooms, cafes, pubs, campsites and guesthouses, all to keep you well fed, watered and rested on your jollies.

As these are gravel routes, they can all be ridden on a gravel, cyclo-cross or mountain bike, although I would recommend tyre widths of 40mm and above. The routes vary in difficulty and length, so check the Tour information and descriptions before you leave.

The West County is well known for being very wet. Therefore, a lot of these trails become pretty tough-going in the winter. It’s best to try them in the drier months, and always make sure you have waterproofs with you, just in case!

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

  • Difficult
    05:30
    47.7 mi
    8.7 mph
    2,100 ft
    2,100 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    This triangular route heading east from Bristol is one of my favourite local gravel loops from where I live, and a pretty big day out too. It takes in parts …

  • Intermediate
    03:21
    28.9 mi
    8.6 mph
    2,000 ft
    2,000 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Unjustly, the lanes and trails of Cornwall often get overlooked for cycling. Perhaps because they’re right down the end of the country, or perhaps in part because of their wicked …

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  • Difficult
    04:11
    35.6 mi
    8.5 mph
    1,600 ft
    1,600 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Part of the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Woodbury Common is a heather and gorse heathland with both plantation and natural ancient woodland to the east of …

  • Difficult
    03:23
    24.1 mi
    7.1 mph
    1,125 ft
    1,150 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    Well-known as an off-road mecca on the South Coast, the New Forest is a corking area to explore on bike, horse or foot. Great swathes of moor and grassland are intercepted by deciduous woodland, parkland and plantations. Ponies and cattle roam semi-wild across the moorland and roads, and the gravel riding here really is second-to-none.I rode this route back in January with the Woods Cyclery on one of their Sunday shop rides, while recording Unpaved Podcast. Co-owner Tom Farrell really knows how to put on a good gravel route in his backyard, so we can thank him for this Tour, plus most of the photos too! For anyone who hasn’t visited, the New Forest is like a giant trail centre. The gravel roads that criss-cross the moorland and woodlands are well draining year-round, there are brilliant cafes and pubs in almost every village or town and you can link them all up for an almost tarmac-free ride!

  • Difficult
    07:56
    58.2 mi
    7.3 mph
    3,900 ft
    3,900 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    In Bristol we’re spoilt for riding. The Cotswolds to the north, the Wessex Downs to the west, Wales a short ride away and the Mendips to the south. Classified as …

  • Difficult
    05:35
    36.7 mi
    6.6 mph
    4,000 ft
    4,000 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    Perhaps overshadowed by their neighbour, Exmoor National Park, the Quantock Hills in Somerset often don’t get much of a look-in, yet they’re dream territory for gravel riders that enjoy challenging climbs and more technical terrain. Although you will find wide gravel tracks criss-crossing along the tops of the Quantocks across the heather moorland, these tend to me much rockier and technical than typical byways or bridleways in the English countryside. If this sounds like your cup of tea, combined with a series of rooty woodland valley singletrack, clear stream crossings and quiet lanes, this Tour is for you.Starting and finishing from the train station in Taunton, this route is a great day trip for riders across the South-West, and can easily be extended for a great weekender. Why not take some extra time to explore the gorgeous North Somerset coastline while you’re there?

  • Difficult
    03:47
    28.1 mi
    7.4 mph
    2,275 ft
    2,275 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    No Collection of off-road routes in the South-West would be complete without a foray onto Dartmoor. A truly wild expanse of moorland, unique granite tor-topped peaks and vast, hostile landscapes …

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    7
  • Distance
    259 mi
  • Duration
    33:43 h
  • Elevation
    17,025 ft
Katherine Moore

My favourite West Country riding — South-West Gravel Gold