Ever wanted to ride a bike around Devon and wild camp on Dartmoor?
I’ve always wanted to go on a bike ride around Devon and wild camp on Dartmoor. Ever since I was a child, I felt the call of wild places. I knew there was magic on the moors. I had to go there to feel it for myself.
4 Day Devon Bicycle Tour With Wild Camping On Dartmoor
It was the first week of April. A month notorious for rain. There’s even a saying in it in the UK ‘April showers bring May flowers’. Excellent news for gardeners. An ominous omen for bicycle tourists.
Famed for its spectacular coastline, picturesque cottages and badass cream teas. We were in Devon for a four-day cycling and wild camping trip. We were very excited to be there.
The perfect four day Devon bike ride itinerary
As is the norm for many of our cycling challenges, we were riding with MashUp and District Cycling Club. Our raggle-taggle band of merry cycle tourers.
Last-minute phone calls to other members of our cycle touring club revealed that some riders were several hours into a late-night drinking session. Typical pre-ride preparation involves craft ale, late-night dancing and a Turkish kebab from Kingsland road.
No one could get hold of the guy with the train tickets. A guy who was no longer coming with us due to a lame excuse. Like the boy scouts, we were always prepared for any eventuality. Even a logistical challenge such as this.
To make matters worse, the Met Office issued a severe snow warning for most of the country. Hmmm… Wild camping on Dartmoor in the snow. Sounds just like our sort of a plan!
Cycling around Devon in a storm
By hook or by crook we eventually made it to Exeter, in varying degrees of inebriation.
We had the great fortune that one of our top riders, Tom ‘The Hen’ Hennessy, is a proper Devon lad.
Tom had detailed local knowledge and offered his parents pad for us to crash in for the weekend.
So, we started the proceedings with a couple of Hen’s favourite day rides out of Exeter. On day one we headed to the eastern villages. The going was good and the weather stayed fine.
We ended up with a fish supper at a cracking chippy in Exmouth. Then pottered back along the recently completed Exe Estuary Trail.
The cycle path took us up the estuary to Exeter, to Tom’s local pub, where we got to work on strong cider and tasty cheese plates.
The shenanigans rolled on
Day two, we headed up onto the notoriously bleak Dartmoor. Remarkably, despite the forecast, the weather was still on our side. There was no sign of the freezing blizzards that were battering the north of the country.
We soon found ourselves lounging about in the sunshine drinking tea in Morten Hampstead. Ten minutes out of the village we hit a killer climb. This steep ascent was closely followed by a mechanical issue.
Dave, our rookie mascot and the newest addition to the Mash-Up & District Cycle Club had snapped the chain on his bike. Six riders and no chain tool*, talk about amateur hour. This was up there with the best bikepacking fails.
We rode back to the village to ask a favour from the locals. Soon enough a knight in shining armour came over with a chain splitter.
Meanwhile, Steve, the MashUp and District food and drink advisor went off to interrogate the local cafe.
Within minutes a raging argument had spilt out of the door and into the street.
Steve had offered some friendly advice about customer service and the correct temperature of toasted crumpets. The owner had blown his top and thrown Steve out of the cafe.
Our chain-splitting friend gave us an insight into village politics while I fixed Dave’s chain. The job was quickly done with the right tools.
Back on the road, ‘crumpet-gate’ had given Steve a huge adrenaline boost and he led the charge for the rest of the day.
Cycling Dartmoor National Park
So, after our two-day warm-up, it was time to get to business. Jim arrived with the rest of our camping gear* and we got fully loaded up with a superb curry on Sunday night.
The plan was to camp for the rest of the week so we could do some distance. We wanted to see what the North Coast had to offer.
The rest of the Mash-Up crew decided to join us for the first day of cycle touring which took us up onto Exmoor with spectacular views over mid-Devon.
We enjoyed a delicious pub feast just outside of Barnstaple with the rest of the lads before they set off for London by train.
Wild camping in Dartmoor National Park
Jim and I, rolled off into the night to become reacquainted with the world of wild camping.
While technically illegal, wild camping is pretty safe in England.
We found a perfect wild camp spot on Dartmoor quite easily. THere’s so much space and plenty of hedgerows to shelter under. We got a fire going as quickly as we could.
The weather had turned and we found ourselves on the sharp end of a blizzard. It was starting to get pretty cold!
Our bike ride around Devon
The weather conditions were far from ideal. It was pretty nasty at times but you’re never too far from a welcoming pub and an open fire.
Some of the cycle routes on Dartmoor, particularly those along the NCN which follow the north and south coast are incredibly steep and narrow. Despite the challenges, our Dawes Galaxy Touring bikes never let us down.
I wouldn’t recommend it for a leisurely introduction to cycling.
Cycling across Dartmoor
If I could sum up our cycle tour of Devon with one word it would probably be ‘diverse’. Arguably, the terrain was as varied as the Coast to Coast. The moorland was certainly similar in its bleakness.
Over the next 4 days, we rode in wind, rain, fog, sunshine, sleet and snow. We cycled through the desolation of snowy Exmoor. Down to the picturesque North Coast villages of Lynton and Porlock.
Through forests and farms, cutting down canals and racing along the dramatic cliff tops of the southern ‘Jurassic’ coast. It’s not just the name that’s impressive either, the Captain’s Cottage tea room rocks. Call in for some fresh crab sandwiches and cream tea.
Devon by bike is the best way to see Dartmoor and the coast
But, if you like a challenge then this has to be one of the most rewarding places for an adventurous bike ride in the UK.
If you’re not up for wild camping there are lots of small campsites too.
We stopped at a cracking one in the middle of Porlock village. There were piping hot showers with a stunning sea view.
You can’t say fairer than that. We heart Devon!