Cycling on Dartmoor: 3 Easy Trails

5 August 2022

One of the UK’s fifteen National Parks, Dartmoor is famous for its rugged beauty. With a Devon landscape that can be wild and unforgiving - especially in bad weather – it’s good to know that there are parts of Dartmoor that are actually designed for exploration, even if it’s not the sunniest of days. So, along with walking routes, climbing spots, and amazing places for wild swimming, the moor also has designated cycle routes. Sure, as you navigate the landscape, you’ll see the hardiest of cyclists pushing uphill in a raging storm. But there are other, more gentile trails for those of all ages and abilities and all trails are free to use.

Drake's Trail

Sir Francis Drake is mentioned everywhere in Devon. An Elizabethan explorer and raconteur, there are streets and pubs named after Drake as well as statues and museums created in his name. Plymouth is extremely proud of their association with the man, and the 22-mile-long Drake’s Trail cycling route actually starts in the Stonehouse district of the city, ending in the Dartmoor town of Tavistock where he was born.

However, most people like to begin their cycle at the Plympton section of the route (from Plymbridge Woods, for example), thus avoiding cycling in urban traffic. And, if you want to hire bikes for the trail, start at its Tavistock terminus or at nearby Yelverton where there are at least three cycle hires places available.  Whichever starting point you choose, Drake’s Trail takes in splendid views of Dartmoor as well as Gem Bridge and Grenofen Tunnel.

Gem Bridge is a new-ish, 200-metre-long bridge that spans a beautiful, secluded Dartmoor valley, and Grenofen Tunnel is a 370-metre tunnel just two miles south of Tavistock. The entire route is relatively flat, which means that, as well as cyclists, it’s good for those in wheelchairs, walking families with push-chairs and prams and dog-walkers.

Stover Trail

Stover Trail is a six-mile route that links the towns of Newton Abbot and Bovey Tracey.  It’s another route that’s designed for family use and is perfect for those who want to quietly meander and take their time. Travelling North to South (towards Dartmoor) the official route starts in Newton Abbot, although the Stover Park section is a much nicer place to begin, the  park is a lovely spot that offers 114 acres of woodland, heathland, grassland, and lakes.

Leaving Stover Park, the route crosses the A38 (the main road into Plymouth and Cornwall beyond) via its own bridge and on towards Bovey Tracey, and there are plenty of information boards along the way pointing out various the area’s historical points and wildlife.

There are a couple of things to think about when it comes to the Stover Trail: there’s nowhere nearby to hire bikes (so you’ll need to bring your own) and there’s no parking to speak of from the Newton Abbot terminus. Due to its relative ease and accessibility, the Stover Trail can get very busy during weekends and public holidays.   

Wray Valley Trail

The growing number of trails and tracks that use abandoned train routes around the South Devon and Dartmoor area show an intelligent use of known, proven routes and at just under seven miles in length, the Wray Valley Trail is a welcome addition that follows then old Victorian railway line from Bovey Tracey to Moretonhampstead that was closed in 1959.

The trail takes in the National Trust estate of Parke and the pretty village of Lustleigh and it’s worth noting that the mile-long Lustleigh section is narrow and fairly hilly. However, the majority of the route is a flat, surfaced path. There’s plenty of (paid) parking available in both Moretonhampstead and Bovey Tracey, and there’s a bike hire place in Moretonhampstead. What’s more the local council have put together an audio trail for the route that can be downloaded via QR codes posted on information boards along the way.  

The Wray Valley itself is lovely. Home to the Wray Cleave ravine that’s popular with climbers, this area of Dartmoor is safe and sheltered enough for camping, and there are plenty of camp sites nearby. If you’re feeling particularly energetic, you can ride the Stover Trail to Bovey Tracey and then join the Wray Valley Trail to continue on to Moretonhampstead.