When you think of Devon you often think of sandy beaches, the Jurassic coastline and family-friendly days out. Wanting to do something a bit different with our family holiday this year, we looked at different days out that we could do and stumbled upon cycling an off-road route along the Granite Way.
The Granite Way is an 11-mile stretch of cycleway that links the town of Okehampton to Lydford Gorge. The majority of the route is off-road so ideal for those planning on embarking on the route with children or less confident riders. It passes along the fringes of the beautiful Dartmoor National Park.
We hired bikes from Devon Cycle Hire, who are situated just off the A30. They have an array of bikes for hire and even have doggy-trailers if you fancy bringing your four-legged friend along for the day. Bikes can be hired all day or for a half day and booking is strongly recommended during the school holidays and the bike hire shop is located directly on the route, not far off the halfway point. The team here were very friendly and were happy to adjust your hire bike accordingly.
Once kitted out with bikes and helmets, we decided to journey westwards towards Lydford Gorge. It was nice to be able to take to the saddle without the worry of traffic and to soak up the views along the way. To the left were the grand tors of Dartmoor, flocks of sheep and scenes that you would associate with Dartmoor National Park. To the right were the rolling hills and farmland that you expect from Devon… in other words, beautiful! The route is part of a disused railway and you find remnants of its days as industrial use including old station buildings.
Not long after journeying westwards we crossed the impressive Lake Viaduct, made of 9 granite arches that span the landscape. From here you can see from miles, although if you don’t like heights then maybe don’t look down at this point!
Feeling peckish, we decided to shortly after veer off the cycleway and follow the signs to one of the pubs that isn’t far off the route (there are quite a few to choose from and Devon Cycle Hire give you a small map which shows their rough locations). We dropped down some steep hills into the village of Bridestowe, a pretty Devonshire village. Here we found the White Hart Inn which offered bar snacks and light meals as well as main courses. Sitting outside the pub on one of the benches, we refreshed and psyched ourselves up ready to take on the hills leading us back to the Granite Way – not as easy as it sounds when you are a bit out of practice on your bike 😊!
Once we were back on the trail, we continued on towards Lydford, enjoying opportunities to have mini-races against each other without the worry of cars.
As we reached the end of the off-road section, we decided not to continue it onto the National Trust’s Lydford Gorge as we didn’t really fancy doing the last bit with cars and a weary 8 year old in tow. Instead, we decided to turn around and travel eastbound with the aim of reaching the route’s other viaduct at Meldon.
Meldon Viaduct is an impressive wrought iron truss girder railway bridge, one of only two remaining in the UK. If you are a fan of industrial heritage then it’s definitely worth checking out and there are a couple of information boards on it found along the bridge. Alongside it is the remains of some of the Meldon track and some of the former railway buildings. There’s even an old carriage that has been turned into a tea room, although unfortunately it wasn’t open on the day of our visit. When travelling back westwards, towards the cycle hire shop we could see Meldon Dam in the distance.
It was at this point that we decided to return to the cycle hire shop, having clocked up around 15 miles at this point. The journey back was on a slight incline but we managed to spot some wildlife along the way (bunnies, squirrels and plenty of butterflies) and that helped distract us from the achy legs that we were all started to have.
All in all, this was a great day out and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. It was nice to be able to do some cycling without the fear of getting too lost and in a predominantly car-free environment. Plus those views of Dartmoor are well worth it. If you are down in the area then give it a go. Happy cycling!