Friday, 14 October 2016


Although I live in Devon, I have never cycled its north east coast before. I have heard that the scenery is stunning and hills are steep. I met my friend, Jaana, in Barnstaple for a two day ride to Minehead. I cycled up from Ivybridge on the previous day while she came from London on the train.
The ride across the centre of Devon is one of my favourites with its varied mixture of moorland, countryside, quaint villages, cycle trails, quiet roads and sufficient coffee stops. 


Some of the route left the highway and I enjoyed the next section crossing Mary Tavy Moor. Last time I was here, a cyclist came the other way wearing a dishdasha. This is a white ankle length garment usually with long sleeves and frequently worn by Arabs. The rider was accompanied by 6 children, all on mountain bikes

As we left Barnstaple, our journey took us north initially on a flat cycle trail, formerly a railway but after Braunton the journey started becoming arduous as we climbed into the hills.  We arrived at Woolacombe Bay and discovered a most beautiful beach.

If you are a surf dude, you might end your journey here as it is apparantly one of the finest surfing destinations in the UK. The scenery changed to rugged cliffs as we cycled northwards and, at Ilfracombe, we discovered Verity, a complete contrast to everything up to now

Verity was created by Damien Hirst in 2011 and is 20.25 metres high. She is made from stainless steel and bronze. Verity was part of the reason that I wanted to cycle this coast and she must have made a significant impact on visitor numbers coming to Ilfracombe.  The cliffs beyond continue to Minehead and we started to encounter some of the most challenging hills that I have ever met.

We discovered that a normal hill here is 25% and each hill has many bends, some switchbacks and the roads are all narrow. We walked up the hills and it was slightly terrifying going downhill with alarming thoughts of brake fade and worse.  The compensations were truly epic scenery and admiring comments from people who never thought to see cyclists on these roads. Some of the roads were too narrow for most types of motor vehicle so we were left to ourselves to enjoy the scenery at a slow pace.  We cycled through Combe Martin,along the Valley of the Rocks, Lynton, Porlock and finished at Minehead.

These are the journey details:

    Day 1: Ivybridge - Barnstaple:-    84 miles,  cycle routes NCN2 and 27

    Days 2 and 3: Barnstaple - Minehead:-   78 very hilly miles, cycle route RCN51

The map is here  


  1. Hello Graham,
    Just reading your latest blog edition. Knowing the North Devon coast very well I am in awe of you cycling these hills. They are horrendous and we have never even thought of cycling here and never will. The rewards are fantastic; it's so beautiful here. Lionel and I met in Lynmouth while we both worked at the Tors Hotel. Did our courting in this area. We have walked the hills and that is a challenge too.
    We did the Rhine route this year -some 800 miles- wonderful journey but it will be the last big one. Next year we intend to cycle the Zuiderzee Route, starting from the Hook going towards the Zuiderzee, also called IJsselmeer. I think at 77 we haven't done too badly. Still enjoying the tandem, but no winter cycling for me. Lionel still goes out on his single bike.
    Well, this was just a short note to say I keep following you at times. Take care and best wishes, Mary

    1. Hi Mary. The area is simply stunning. If you don't like cars, the bus services are minimal so the bike is the only real alternative. You definately earn lots of cakes at the coffee stops. You too have done lots of adventures on your bikes and we share a mutual adventure cycling on the North Sea Cycle Route, especially Norway that too has some epic hills. I enjoyed your story about Lynmouth