This cycle route from Exeter to Truro has many tough climbs as it skirts Dartmoor & Bodmin Moor. It has a good surface -mainly road or old railway. There are spectacular views and lush sunken lanes which feel like a strung-out Eden Project. This route is part of a Lowestoft to Land’s End coast-to-coast route. Nicknamed #LowLE it links England’s most Easterly and Westerly mainland points. LowLE is an adventure bike ride, off-road through some of England’s finest places. After the gentle run into Exeter along the Exe estuary this is a proper-job of climbs. This route is fine for pretty much all but the sportiest of road bikes. Gravel bikes are ideal but everything from a touring bike to a mountain bike will be fine.
A choice of hills
England narrows to Land’s End from Exeter. It is only 34 miles (54km) from Exeter in the south to Barnstaple in the north. Nowhere in this part of England is flat and the flattest routes are filled with the main roads so it is a choice of hills and terrain. We chose to skirt to the north of Dartmoor, and then south of Bodmin Moor in this section. We saved a final off-road section for the final day to the north of Penzance. There are some options for crossing the moors if you have time, see below.
Cycle Exeter to Callington 50 miles, 5500ft ascent
From the cathedral in Exeter, cross the river Exe and pick-up Route 279 shown on Open Cycle Map, which takes mainly minor roads to Okehampton. After leaving the city, the traffic reduces to local traffic. The first summit is at Heath Cross, then it descends to Tedburn St Mary. From there it is a steady ascent over 6 or so miles that criss-crosses or runs along side A30. It can be busy but we were unbothered by the traffic. We pressed on to Okehampton enjoying the fast descent into South Zeal and the climb straight back up to Sticklepath.
Okehampton & beyond
Okehampton is a good place to find refreshment but to avoid going into Okehampton, and preserve a couple of hundred feet, turn off Route 279 Exeter Road on the approach to the town, just after the railway bridge. This narrow road peters out at a ford, cross or head left briefly to cross at the bridge. The bridleway then continues parallel with the railway and road to Okehampton railway station where you pickup NCR27. The rail embankment and the trees shelter the off-road section from the road so its far more pleasant than it sounds and there is even a bike shop on the route!
NCR27 follows an old railway and feels flat compared to the road, but it climbs steadily to Aliceford and then descends gracefully towards Lydford. On the way you cross a steep valley on Meldon Viaduct which offers spectacular views (main picture). There is a steep climb out of the Lydford gorge on NCR27 and onto a fast straight piece of road. Alternatively, after crossing the river, turn left off the road on a short section of bridleway to re-join the dismantled railway. Continue on the minor road then head up the hill to North Brentor. Either way the route ends up to the north of Brentor, a crag of granite crowned with a church.
Cornwall at last
Cornwall lies across the Tamar river. Descend through Longcross, Sydenham Damerel and down to the quiet & picturesque crossing at Horsebridge. There is a steep climb through Hampt Wood. Then from Luckett through Broadgate and Down Gate the route climbs steadily to the north & west of Kit Hill. Callington, home of Ginsters Cornish Pasty makers, lies a short distance from Kelly Bray along the busy Launceston Road (A388).
Cycle Callington to Truro 52 miles, 5500ft ascent
The next stage of this cycle route from Exeter to Truro is to head west from Callington through Haye and Trevigo to Golberdon. If coming direct from Kelly Bray cross the Launceston Road and head straight to Golberdon. Descend to cross the River Lynher then the longest climb of the day, 500ft to just west of Pensilva. It is the highest point of the day with great views from here across north to Bodmin moor and east to Kit Hill and Dartmoor beyond.
A series of short sharp ascents and descents mark progress to Bodmin. The lowest point is crossing Cardinham Water near Bodmin Rugby Club. Skirt around the south of Bodmin on NCR 3 as far as Lowertown then west through Trevillyn across the A391 at Bilberry then through Criggan and into Roche.
Hospitability and Pasties in Roche
In Roche we found Hawke Butchers shop selling the tastiest pasties and pies. Seeing hungry cyclists at the end of lunchtime they gave us a great deal and donated to our charity fund – what a great shop, recommended.
Leaving Roche on Harmony Road we crossed Goss Moor. It may be possible to use the disused railway to head to Indian Queens but it’s not clear on the map so we briefly joined the B3279 before heading over the A30 on a cycle bridge. The route roughly follows the A30 crossing to the south at St Ender. Crossing the A39 takes a bit of a detour along a bridleway towards Killigrew Farm, then loop back north once over the A39 and up towards the A30 once more!
Arriving in Truro
The route becomes more scenic as it heads south through St Allen and joins NCR32 for the approach into Truro along the river Allen. Arrival in Truro is sudden: one minute a narrow lane in a steep valley, once under the rail bridge we hit suburbia and it’s half a mile to the cathedral in the centre. There are all the facilities of a county town in Truro, including bike shops and plenty of choices to eat and stay.