Dartmoor. Traveling By Bicycle
Best 100-Mile Bike Routes
Dartmoor is a huge, gaunt mass of granite over which few roads venture. Only two cross it, but they go right through the middle, scoring a giant X across its craggy surface. This ride uses one of those roads, so you experience the majestic emptiness of Dartmoor, while the rest of it explores a magical river and some of the villages and hills scattered around the moor’s edge. You start in Okehampton, just north of the moor but only three miles from its highest point. This gives the town a real mountain-outpost feel. The main street is 150 metres above sea level, but High Willhays and Yes Tor, the two highest points in Britain south of Wales, rise to 619 and 621 metres directly above it. It would be an awesome experience to ride up there, but the road goes around the moor. The route heads east then south through Sticklepath and Chagford to climb onto the moor and into Fernworthy Forest.
It’s one of those up-and-back roads with a lovely secret at the end. Fernworthy Reservoir sits in the middle of an incredible pine forest, where light plays on the trees and through them onto the water and the ferny forest floor. The next section takes you up a wonderful hairpin-bend climb that locals call Doccombe, after which you descend into the Teign valley. You could pick any of Dartmoor’s lovely rivers to follow, but the Teign gives the best value of all. It starts high up on Dartmoor, quite close to Fernworthy Reservoir, from where one of its tributaries flows. By the time you join it at Steps Bridge the Teign is a fully grown but boisterous river that wriggles along a narrow valley where it’s joined by several fast-flowing streams, one with a giant waterfall, that crash, glug and babble into it.
You leave the Teign valley in Chudleigh Knighton, ride through Bovey Tracey, home of the Don of Dartmoor cycling, Tour de France finisher Colin Lewis, to climb Haytor Vale. Watch out for Lewis up here; he’s in his late sixties now, but he still rides these roads a lot and he’s still very strong. The sweep of the road up Haytor Vale as it emerges onto open moorland is wonderful, but it’s the start of a tough part of this ride. A straight steep descent into Widecombe-in-the-Moor leads to a hard climb up the Webburn valley, then a succession of long leg-breakers as one of the cross-Dartmoor roads rolls towards Princetown. You’re over halfway by now, and there are a couple of good cafes here, so stop if you want to; don’t be put off by the dark, forbidding walls of Dartmoor prison. The road continues undulating, trending downhill this time, to Yelverton, where a long descent to Tavistock begins. Sir Francis Drake was born just outside this attractive moorland market town in 1542, and you pass a magnificent statue of him before the climb to Honey Tor.
The rest of the ride heads for Brent Tor, where a church stands at over 1000 feet on top of a conical hill. Then you ride through Lydford, from where a cycle trail explores Lydford Gorge. That is definitely worth riding at a later date. Now you have one last climb to do, and it’s a long, straight, grim one, up Sourton Down, after which you face nothing more than a freewheel down into Okehampton to complete the ride. Go east over the A30 through Sticklepath to Whiddon Down, and turn right onto the A382. Turn right to Chagford and continue to Fernworthy Reservoir. Retrace and go right to the B3212, where you turn left, cross the A382 and climb Doccombe.
Turn right after crossing the river, then go right to cross it again and turn right onto the B3193. Follow this road to Chudleigh Knighton. Turn right onto the B3344 and cross the A382 onto the B3387 to climb Haytor Vale, then descend to Widecombe-in-the-Moor. Turn right and go north to the B3212, turn left and ride through Princetown and continue to Yelverton. Turn right onto the A386 to Tavistock. Turn left onto the A390 and take the right near the summit of this road signposted Milton Abbot. Turn right then left through North Brentor to Lydford. There, turn left, take the second left through Bridestowe and continue past the Sourton Cross services to join the A386 north. Turn right after the A3079 roundabout, and then go left to descend to Okehampton.
Dartmoor. Start and Finish: Okehampton.
Dartmoor. Getting There: Okehampton is 20 miles west of Exeter on the A30. Exeter is also the nearest rail link. There is a railway station in Okehampton, but it’s a rail society line.
Dartmoor. Bike Shop: Okehampton Cycles on North Street (it’s at a garden centre).
Dartmoor. Cafe: Toast on Market Street.
Dartmoor. Local Delicacy: Devon Blue cheese.