Castle Acre at sun set with bike in foreground

East Anglian Coast to Coast

The East Anglian Coast to Coast is a 200 mile loop between the South Suffolk and North Norfolk coasts in East Anglia. The route includes the Peddars Way, two significant water crossings and a wide variety of track surfaces. On the ride there is an abundance of wildlife around and a wealth of history to enjoy off the bike. The route won’t take you far from civilization, but there are long parts with little opportunity for refreshment. You need to carry what you need. Being self-sufficient adds to the adventure!


I planned this route over the winter and rode it in the early autumn sunshine. The inspiration was to ride the Peddars Way from my home in Ipswich. Extending it south to the Suffolk coast added loads of variety, making a fantastic ride. The East Anglian Coast to Coast is here for you to enjoy too, one way or as a loop!


Not since riding the Ridgeway on the Lowestoft to Lands End had I felt the wilderness feeling of being on my own with my bike & map. After a hectic time off the bike, the wilderness is a great way for me to decompress. To reach my goal, I had to put all my energies into getting to Hunstanton, mile by mile. I had chosen to camp, so I was carrying more kit, which added to the adventure. In the wilderness, away from the harvest tractors, I kept intruding into the routines of the local wildlife. There were certainly more animals than people on the route, especially in Suffolk; I encountered numerous muntjac deer, rabbits, a hare, a rat, and squirrels. The most breathtaking were the buzzards in Norfolk.

Buzzard on Peddars Way
Peddars Way near Fring
Peddars Way near Fring

I had always wondered how buzzards hunted in the woodlands they soar over. As I rode north along the Peddars Way, I disturbed a buzzard which then flew along the trail just ahead of me. I was transfixed as it shimmied between overlapping branches. Just as I was thinking ‘so that’s how they do it!’, the moment came to a shuddering halt as my wheels crashed from the top of a rut & I narrowly avoided brambles!

Neolithic Long Barrow
Long Barrow

There is also an abundance of man-made sites to see along the way, if you want to take it at a relaxed pace. From Neolithic long barrows off the Peddars Way, the Sutton Hoo Saxon ship burial (as featured in The Dig) past Tudor castles and even a Cold War museum and a nuclear weapons test site.

Overall, it is a great ride, mainly away from the bustle of roads and towns. In Suffolk it meanders, but in the north it is remarkably straight. It never feels dull, as the ruts and variation in the surface keep you engaged. One section of the Peddars Way reminded me of the South Downs due to the abundance of sharp flints. I didn’t get any rips but I did get a puncture!

Route Summary

The East Anglian Coast to Coast is about half on bridleways and tracks, with the rest mainly quiet roads. Overall it is gently undulating with the inclines and even the flats & downhills made challenging by sandy surfaces. The route is predominantly rural through woods, forests and across arable farm land.

The riding surface varies a lot. The Peddars way follows an ancient (Roman or Neolithic) road. It is very straight, with deep ruts in the sand and flinty soil. Ruts are the biggest technical challenge. The less well-used Suffolk section only had occasional broad ruts where tractors had been. Rendlesham forest must be an ancient seabed given the soft white sand with scattered rounded pebbles. It looks great, but it’s tough to ride on a beach! In areas where there is more clay, the surface can be hard, either worn smooth by bikes and walkers or rippled and rough from tractors and horses. For the rough sections ensure your backside is on good terms with your saddle! Lower tyre pressure will help progress. It was OK on 40mm tyres at 30psi, but some sections were judderingly slow with camping gear.

Flinty sand
Peddars way surface, flints in sand.

In Suffolk the route also goes through two significant water crossings, which were dry in late summer. When wet, these will require caution. Sun-seeking brambles and nettles frequently invade the path, so cover-up or be prepared for scratches and stings.

Even during harvest I travelled for miles without seeing anyone, and shops and pubs were infrequent. I carried 2L of water and enough snacks to get me through an entire day … which I needed!

East Anglian Coast to Coast – Route Details

Orford to Hunstanton (South to North)

Orford Ness Pagoda. Credit: Amanda Slater
Orford Ness Pagoda. Credit: Amanda Slater

On the face of it, Orford is a very quaint Suffolk village with many Tudor buildings and an impressively restored castle. Yet just over the water from the Quay lies the remains of Britain’s nuclear bomb testing site – for the casing and detonator, not the warhead! It is now mainly a nature reserve, Orford Ness is fascinating and surreal – like stepping into a Tom Baker era Dr Who set!

Having dipped my wheels in the water, I headed north into Tunstall Forest, past the red-graded Viking MTB Trail, then onto quiet roads through Farnham and beautiful Great Glemham. Little-used bridleways then led to Framlingham. These weren’t overgrown, but were bumpy field margins. Framlingham is again full of history and a castle where Mary Tudor gathered her support before she was declared queen. The church is a tranquil retreat from the castle and is better preserved inside, with wall paintings and a beautiful organ and roof.

Debenham & Bacton

Debenham's eclectic buildings
Debenham’s High Street has an interesting collection of buildings.

There are good sections of bridleway between Framlingham and Debenham with road around Earl Soham, home to the Victoria pub and micro brewery. You enter Debenham along Water Lane, a wide ford and then leave along Stony Lane, reputed to be England’s longest ford. When I rode it it was no more than damp. Here is another ride which passes through Debenham.

The route west continues on bridleways, tracks and byways to Bacton, with a short stretch along the busy A140. Parts of this section were a little overgrown but passable with care.

Leaving Bacton with its shops behind, after Wyverstone, strike north along Hundred Lane. The entrance to this is easily missed, as it disappears into a broad hedge containing a lovely piece of fast twisty single track. Follow this all the way to the road. The route continues on lanes and bridleways to the A143. To avoid about 1.5km on this fast road, cut through Walsham le Willows.

The Hundred near Bacton, a byway though a wide ancient hedge
The Hundred near Bacton, a smooth fast byway though a wide ancient hedge. On the right, a grassy byway across a field, very rough from tractor tyres – avoid!

The route skirts around Hepworth and Stanton (several shops) and stays rural. The turn towards Fakenham Wood is easily missed (signage damaged), as is the route straight on to a small byway through woodland to join the Icknield Way as the broad farm track swings left. This section was quite boggy in parts even after a few weeks of dry weather. I ran out of water, so it was disappointing for me that there is no shop or pub in Rushford, although it is very pretty, with a church just over a stone bridge – but no tap. Thankfully, I called in at a farm office and was given a generous refill.

Peddars Way

Shortly after joining the Peddars Way it crosses the A11 dual carriageway, patience and nerves are required in equal measure. I followed the official Norfolk County Council cycle route on the way North and it was frustrating that the GPX did not align with the signs. The GPX detour went though some pretty villages and included some good tracks. From Merton it is mainly road through North Pickenham and past Castle Acre, even for the walking route. This long stretch is not a problem on a bike, but must be a real drag for the walkers. Most of these roads are quiet, but the B1108 is fast and well-used.

Castle Acre is well worth a visit if you like quaint ancient ruins. There is also a well-stocked shop and several cafés. The road out leads past a striking modern conversion of a water tower, which must have the most incredible views!

The off-road section of Peddars Way might be straight, but the varying surface and ruts ensure it is not dull! Towards Fring, the countryside began to roll, with a few short, sharp climbs. From the top, there are old windmills to see on the land and modern ones just off shore. Past Fring, the cycle route rejoins the road. This is quiet and straight, with a climb out of Sedgeford followed by a long downhill to Ringstead, which I maxed out in my top gear enjoying a wide fast S-bend entering the village with its well-stocked general store.

North Norfolk Coast

The blistering inland temperatures subsided as I neared the coast and arrived at Holme-next-the-Sea. From the end of the track, it’s a long walk through the dunes to the sea and the obligatory wheel dip for the bike and welcome swim for me. The beach is littered with pebbles and shells so I collected a razor clam shell as a memento of my ride.

I then headed to Hunstanton for some great fish and chips and a quick look at the scenery before starting the journey back.

The route I rode headed straight back down the Peddars Way, but please add your recommendations for a more varied alternative in the comments below!

Heading South to OrFord

Ancient ditch, now a bridleway
The Grundle, an ancient ditch now a bridleway near Stanton

My East Anglian Coast to Coast route leaves the Peddar’s way just before the A11 dual carriageway crossing. I headed east on a track/service road which took me to an underpass. This was more pleasant and much safer. In Roundham there is a pretty, derelict church with interesting history boards which tell how the church caught fire and was then abandoned in the 18th century. After Brigham (with bridge over inviting river), the route enters mixed woodland roughly following NCN 13 past Knettishall. Leave NCN 13 before Coney Weston and head South East towards Market Weston. Take a sharp right before getting to the heart of the village and follow a long byway with only a few hundred metres on road all the way to Stanton – a great section. Cross the A143 onto a cycle route and head into Stanton, which has a range of shops.

Heading south out of Stanton, the way heads into the mysteriously named ‘The Grundle’, a dark, wooded ditch that sinks well beneath the surrounding farmland. While bone dry when I rode it, it has the appearance of a stream bed, so is probably at least boggy in wet weather.

Stowmarket & Ipswich

Ipswich Waterfront
Ipswich Waterfront

This East Anglian Coast to Coast rejoins quiet roads at West Street and meanders through Wetherden, where it picks up a cycle route next to a main road at Haughley and into Stowmarket. There is plenty to see in Stowmarket, including the award-winning Museum of Food. The route along NCN 51 tries to avoid busy roads, but in doing so leads through some residential backwaters before leading to a poorly-maintained cycle path next to the very busy (and better looked after) B113 to Needham Market. The route into Ipswich includes an interesting bridleway, but when I get a chance I will look for a better off-road route from Wetherden to National Byway 48 to the north of Ipswich. If you do cycle into Ipswich on NCN 51, the waterfront is beautiful on a sunny day and well-served with cafes. Head into the town on St Peter’s Street past the statue to Cardinal Wolsey, along Silent Street (possibly so named after it was struck by plague) and up towards Christchurch Mansion and Museum to take in their latest exhibition. Recent displays have included memorabilia from local artist Ed Sheeran, and not-so-local Black Panther movie costumes.

Heath & Forest

Butley crossing with ferry visible
Butley ferry. Yes its the rowing boat!

Head out of Ipswich on NCN 1 as far as the hospital, then across Rushmere Heath, past the WWII control tower for RAF Martlesham (made famous by Douglas Bader) past the larger BT Research radio tower and on into Woodbridge on NCN 1. Woodbridge is a beautiful town with numerous shops and cafés. Sutton Hoo, the famous Anglo-Saxon ship burial site is just over Melton Bridge. The direct route takes you south of MOD Woodbridge and is an excellent choice on summer weekends when the Butley Ferry is running. This crossing enables you to stay off-road into Orford. If the ferry isn’t running, cross Woodbridge Golf Course (bridleway) then north of the old airfield in Rendlesham Forest. The Froize at Chillesford is well worth a visit if it is open. Otherwise stay on the road to Orford, with its shops, cafés and pubs.

Suffolk crops - turf and free range pork!
Suffolk crops – turf and free range pork, near Rendlesham Forest

Who’s it for?

This is a fantastic route for a first multi-day adventure to shakedown your bike packing kit and how you carry it. The soft sand and ruts makes it challenging in places, but there aren’t any lung-busting climbs. For the same reasons it is an adventurous ride for kids/teens, without the trauma of something like a Dirt Dash. If sight-seeing is your thing, with everything from ancient burial mounds to 20th century sites there is plenty to see as you travel off the beaten track.

When Should I Ride it?

Combining in autumn sun

East Anglia is one of the driest parts of United Kingdom. It is regularly 30ºC in the summer, which is great if you carry enough to drink! I carry two litres, and can drink double that on a really hot day of riding. When it’s dry, the soft sand is difficult to ride on – if it’s a bit damp, it becomes firmer.

In spring with the sand and the coconut scent of the flowering gorse, it feels like a tropical lagoon can only be just around the corner! Most areas drain well, but even in hot spells there will be standing water on some of the tracks. The wind can be a grind when the way is exposed, but the route is frequently sheltered by trees and hedges. Generally off-road routes are rideable all year in East Anglia. If it has been wet, the two water crossings could be very challenging, so it may be wise to walk on the adjacent footpaths if you’re uncertain about them.

How long will it take?

On the road, I can cruise at about 15mph. Off road in East Anglia, with the additional challenges of navigation, I estimate about 10mph, 2/3 of my road pace. Also factor in time for stopping for photos and to enjoy the solitude, so 8-9mph, less significant breaks. I took two days there and two back (40 – 60 miles a day). With camping gear, this was a good all-day pace for me.

I can only go ONE way – Which direction is best?

If you cannot do the full loop then heading north from Orford offers the reward (in summer!) of a fantastic swim on Holme beach, followed by excellent fish and chips in Hunstanton. The route south will be equally rewarding, as there are several good pubs in Orford. If you have the choice then I’d go with the prevailing wind on the day of your ride!

Campsea Ash station is closest to Orford and Kings Lynn closest to Hunstanton.

Where can I find the GPX for the East Anglian Coast to Coast?

Coming soon … I am editing the route to iron out mistakes and avoid sections that didn’t work…. bear with me! Even better, send some advice for editing tracks through the contact form !!

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