We’ve all enjoyed train rides along the coast – long vistas, sandy bays, shafts of sunlight glinting on the waves. Many railway lines, axed under Dr Beeching in the 1960’s now breathe new life and provide traffic free, gently graded bike rides. Bells ring where whistles once sounded. The view is from a slow moving bike rather than a rushing train. One of the most scenic of such lines – the North Devon Railway and its Bideford extension offer a flat and gentle pedal around the Tawe estuary. Being on a bike of course means you can stop anytime you fancy – not just at a station. And along the route there is so much to fancy that you may well spend more time off the bike than on.
Loll on the sandy beaches and enjoy the rare wild flowers and butterflies in Braunton’s Unesco listed dunes. Treat yourself to a cream tea at the Saunton Sands Hotel. Explore the gardens of stately Tapeley Park with their modern twist and stock up your panniers from one of the UK’s top 10 food markets in Bideford. Old stations along the line offer great coffee stops – Fremington Quay has waterside seating and the ferry to Appledore gives a nice little detour. All this lies within two handfuls of miles and a leisurely spin on two wheels.
If you’ve had too big a lunch stop for comfort, you can opt to pedal on a little further. This will lead you inland along the verdant valley of the River Torridge where sweeping bridges soar over dramatic drops and across picturesque river scenes. It’s still and quiet – you are far from traffic; there’s the occasional village, sheep clad hills and a spire peeping out in the distance. It’s a better view than you would have had with Dr Beeching for only the handlebars sit between you and the scene. And yes, thank the Lord, its flat ! We call it Devon Dreams.
For UK cycling holidays, Silver Travel Advisor recommends The Carter Company.