Devon – what a county….. They’ve got it all – stunning coast lines, rugged moorland, rolling hills, rivers, canals, forests, historic cities and cream teas! No wonder it’s a brilliant place to take the family cycling.
Whether you’re a local family, looking for a quick bike ride out, or are from further afield planning a day trip or a longer holiday with the kids, there’s bound to be a family friendly cycle route to suit.
Here’s our pick of Devon’s finest traffic, free family friendly cycle routes, plus some books and maps to help your planning. Don’t forget to send us your favourites if we’ve missed them off…….
The best family cycle routes in Devon
Exe Estuary Trail
This level route is virtually all traffic free, making it ideal for family cycling. The route starts in the heart of historic Exeter, and then passes through the city along the Exe Estuary Trail – part of the National Cycle Network route 2 (NCN2)
The route then passes through Exeter Quay before heading to the ancient seafaring port of Topsham. You will cycle past RSPB reserves and beside the Exeter canal and also pass a few locks. There’s plenty therefore to keep the kids interested along this flat route, which is a there and back ride (approx a 9 mile round trip to Topsham). Always be mindful of when you’re off spring need to turn back.
Further details and a map can be found on the Travel Devon website.
Haldon Forest Park, near Exeter
Located just 15 minutes outside of Exeter, Haldon Forest Park has great off road family cycling, what ever the age of your children.
The Discovery Trail (1.5 miles) is a brilliant place to take very young cyclists who are just getting the hang of riding. There are fun features along the green graded route for children, regular resting points and some stunning views. This level, well surfaced trail uses the ‘Access for All’ standard suitable for wheelchairs and prams.
Haldon Forest also has a skills area and pump track near the main carpark, which is perfect for getting experience in handling the challenges the harder trails bring, without committing to going on a full route.
For those ready for something a little more challenging, the “Spicers Trail” is 2.3 miles long and gives the opportunity to try out some different terrains and gentle gradients, before moving onto the four mile long Kiddens Trail, with more single track and gradients to test out. All the above can be tackled on regular hybrid bikes.
For older and more experienced riders, with good mountain bike skills and decent mountain bikes, Haldon Forest has a 6 mile red graded “Ridge Ride” with technical features and fast descents to test out their skills (and nerve). There’s an additional black loop that can be added on – be careful to warn your kids not to follow this (unless of course they have the skills).
For more details visit the Forestry Commission website.
Devon Coast to Coast Route (National Cycle Network Route 27)
This Sustran’s route, as the name suggests, spans Devon from north to south. Some of the route is on road, but there are long stretches that are off road.
The following parts of the route are traffic free, and are ideal for family cycling. They are obviously all there-and-back routes, which mean you can pick how long you choose to ride for in each direction.
For full details of the route, visit the Sustrans website.
The Granite Way (Okehampton to Lydford)
11 miles one way, this route has plenty to keep the kids entertained – a viaduct, a castle, a dam, possible steam trains and stunning views of Dartmoor. This informative pdf gives full details of The Granite Way and the attractions along it
The Tarka Trail Cycle Route (Braunton to Meeth)
A brilliant one for the kids this, the Tarka Trail is named after Tarka the Otter (written in 1937 by Henry Williamson), who had many adventures in this part of Devon.
A wooden sign on the Southwest Coast Path / Tarka Trail public footpath and cycleway. Taken between Bideford and Barnstaple in North Devon England
The Tarka Trail follows disused railway lines, and the route from Braunton to Meeth via Barnstable and Bideford is all off road. This is a whopping 32 mile stretch, so there is plenty of places to join the route and have a great days cycling with the kids. This downloadable map of the Tarka Trail shows the Tarka Trail route in much more detail.
The Plym Valley Cycle Trail (Clearbrook to Plymouth)
This 7 mile stretch of off road cycle path follows the route of a now disused railway. The bike ride goes from the National Trust car park at Plymbridge Woods through changing countryside to the wilds of Dartmoor. More information of the route can be found on the National Trust Website.
Devon Cycling Books and Maps
There are a number of book and maps available to help you plan your Devon cycle sprog adventure
Need more information about family cycle routes in Devon?
Travel Devon have a good list of cycle routes in Devon, with interactive maps and lots of ideas on where to ride, bike hire and cycle shops.
Many thanks to Heather Baker from Saddles and Paddles for help in compiling this guide. Saddles and Paddles is a family friendly bike shop suitated in Exeter’s historic quayside