Suggested Itinerary for The West Country Way cycle route.
The route that follows shows how it be done in a day by day itinerary. This is the route we cycled, so it has been riden! We did it in mid June 2008.
The route map Sustrans sell shows the route in 8 day stages, which starts the opposite direction from Padstow to Bristol. There is no 'right' way to do it, a nice way of enjoying the route without it being too strenous is by doing sections over various weekends when you have the available time.
Day 1 - Bristol to Bath (15 miles approx)
Starting by unloading the bikes from the parcel carriage of the train (front of Intercity trains) from Bristol Parkway station, we cycled to Mangotsfield train station, a disused railway which begins the WCW (the official end / start is at College Green in Bristol) and is part of the Bristol to Bath railway path, a very well used traffic free track which connects the two cities.
Mood Rating: Jim - Nervous / Fi - Tired
Day 2 - Bath to Street, Somerset (40 miles)
The first serious day. Leaving the cities behind and heading into the Mendips. Getting off the railway path at Saltford, we headed to Chew valley lake for cake and tea. Then first big hill up to the Castle of Comfort. Fi managed to stay on her bike all the way up the hill, even though Jim didn't. Then onto Priddy where cider was enjoyed, Thatchers Heritage.
Then down the other side of the Mendip hills to Wookey Hole and eventually Glastonbury after cycling across the Somerset levels. Street Youth Hostel is 3 miles out of Street, on the Somerton road.
There are some lovely circular rides here to do as side excursions in the Sedgemoor area, which link to routes 3 and 33 of the National Cycle Network.
Mood Rating: Jim - Energised / Fi - Good
Day 3 Street to Tiverton, Devon (45 miles)
Continuing to leave the Mendips behind and the silhouette of Glastonbury tor. It's a very different ride today as we follow the Somerset levels for part of it, which is a network of ditches, drains and meadows. With some beautiful wild flowers along the way.
You will pass under the M5 motorway as you head into Bridgwater, lots more nice canals with well serviced traffic free tracks, one advantage of doing this ride early in the year is the nettles and vegetation won't get in your way, pollen being lower too.
Taunton for lunch, and Sheppy's cider farm for high tea, eventually leaving Somerset our second county, and arriving in Tiverton, Devon for late afternoon. We stayed at a friends house here, but there are campsites in the area.
Mood Rating: Jim - Excited / Fi - Good
Day 4 - Tiverton to Dulverton (11 miles)
Leaving Tiverton after posting surplus kit back to our home address we take a quick ascent out of town. One man saluting at Fi's Union Jack flag on her bike. Past a National Trust estate to Bampton, and then Dulverton. Some very rural lanes and hedgerows, we counted 20 species of plants cycling along a particular section of hedgerow.
On arriving in Dulverton, and because of the terrible rain, we decide to stay at a Bed and Breakfast. Margaret, the land lady does us proud and provides us with shelter for us and our bikes, and even organises drying facilities. The further west you cycle the friendlier people become! A nice evening of fish and chips and a couple of pubs give us time to recharge for the next ascent onto Exmoor the next day.
Mood Rating: Jim - Lethargic / Fi - Good, but tired
Day 5 - Dulverton to Westward Ho! (52 miles)
Leaving Margaret's with a fabulous full English breakfast, we unlock the garage to get the bikes prepared for the next adventure. We found the bikes needed spraying with teflon lube to keep the gears and cables working correctly. The bikes gather a fair amount of dust, grit and mud along the way.
Straight up onto Exmoor National Park, and a fantastic panorama of Exmoor, and the surrounding countrywide. Very wild and rugged the further we climbed, almost to 400 metres. The cloud hindered our view towards the top. However, the wildlife more than made up for it - buzzards, Exmoor ponies, and lots of flowers.
Sideways rain made the cycling slower, through breaks in the cloud we could see Lundy Island and the Atlantic coast, along North Devon.
After a long descent from the other side of Exmoor, we had lunch in Bratton Fleming where the local pub has free internet, and then continued to the coast and Barnstaple. There is a good tourist board office here.
This is where the Tarka Trail begins, a traffic free section of over 30 miles, using the old railway lines of North Devon.
After passing Instow, a lovely fishing village, you get to Westward Ho! which is a funny English holiday town, bucket, spades the lot!. Wouldn't say it was the best campsite of the trip, however camping close to the cliff and South-West coast path made for a lovely Midsummer's evening.
Mood Rating: Jim - Buoyant / Fi - Motivated
Day 6 - Westward Ho! to Bude, Cornwall (45 miles)
After some lovely fresh air and strong tea, we leave the campsite. First we headed to the Morrisons in Bideford for a breakfast in the cafe, missing Margaret's plate loads. Then we get back on the Tarka trail, lots of absolutely stunning woodland, and rivers. Our first puncture aswell, a small stone penetrating the tire. Soon on our way, and soon after we stop for another snack being tempted by the homemade food at East Yarde Cafe. Sitting in an orchard, eating flapjacks and drinking organic cranberry juice, good idea Fi!
Back on the trail to complete pretty much all the Tarka trail, we head back onto country roads to start a series of a lot of hills, lots of them. Finally glad to arrive in Holsworthy (renamed Hillsworthy), where cloudy Thatchers cider is enjoyed.
Arriving in Cornwall, we see the Devon sign pass behind us as we speed down a country lane to the junction that takes us into Bude. Here we spend 2 nights in North Cornwall - 'sun, sand and sleep' at the Upper Lynstone campsite Where you can walk from the campsite into town along the coast path.
Mood Rating: Jim - Tired / Fi - Tired (but after pizza lunch 'no stopping her!')
Day 7 - Bude to Padstow (50 Miles)
Leaving Bude we brace ourselves for some of the trips biggest hills, double arrows on the map mean very steep indeed. One was 30% incline, we both managed to stay on the bikes and rise to the challenge. Perhaps starting in Cornwall, rather than Bristol we wouldn't have been so ready for these? Fi found them scary coming down them as some sections of road weren't in the best condition.
We ventured then into deepest, darkest Bodmin moor, a mysterious place. After passing by St Breward, the Camel Trail began. This was the final traffic free section all the way to Padstow. 17 miles from here.
On arrival in Padstow, there was no one to congratulate us, we made our way to one of the harbourside pubs and had a well deserver Rattler cider - We had DONE IT!
Mood Rating: Jim - Satisfied / Fi - Very happy