Enjoy some of England’s most dramatic and ancient landscapes on this ride across the north western edge of Dartmoor National Park.
The scenery along the stretch of the moor between Lydford and Okehampton is unrivalled for its wild and rugged beauty that is simply remarkable throughout, but never more so than from the middle of the two windswept viaducts mid-route. Before starting your ride, take the very short, on-road descent to the National Trust’s Lydford Gorge to explore the deepest gorge in the South West and see the 90 foot-high White Lady Waterfall.
Start the ride at the modest Lydford Castle, actually a notorious medieval prison, and ride past the pretty cottages and gardens of Lydford, a village that oozes Devon charm. Join the traffic-free trail on the edge of the village and head into craggy moorland, lush rolling fields and intoxicatingly pure country air.
In the opening miles you’ll be under the silent, watchful gaze of the giant granite Widgery Cross at Brat Tor, before reaching the 19th Century Lake Viaduct where the scenery is spectacular in every direction. The church of St Michael de Rupe on Brent Tor dominates the distant skyline to the left, while brittle brown moorland stretches away to the right, often dotted with hunched hikers creeping their way steadily up the hillside.
At Sourton, pass the doors of the handsome village church and take a mid-ride rest on the grassy banks by its gates, or continue through Prewley Moor for less than a mile to reach Devon Cycle Hire for snacks and drinks.
In the ride’s second half, there’s a signed link path down to the steep shores of Meldon Reservoir, or simply continue along the trail to roll over the Scheduled Monument of Meldon Viaduct for more extraordinary views. From the middle of the viaduct you can see South Down and Sourton Tors, Meldon Dam, and vast expanses of bleak, dark granite that typify Dartmoor.
It’s a steeper descent after the viaduct, passing Meldon Quarry and the tracks of the heritage Dartmoor Railway along the way. Then look for glimpses through the trees to the tumbledown remains of Okehampton Castle, once the largest castle in Devon. At Okehampton cross the road to finish your ride at the visitor centre and café of the Dartmoor Railway or, alternatively, head into Okehampton town centre. Once done, follow the route backwards to where you started or take the 118 bus service back to Lydford Castle.
Starts: Lydford Castle
Finishes: Dartmoor Railway, Okehampton
Distance: Approx 9.5 miles one way
Terrain: Easy – tarmac cycle path with one short, quiet on-road section
Cycle Hire: Devon Cycle Hire, Sourton Down
Route details provided by Sustrans, the UK’s walking and cycling charity, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. For more information on the route, visit www.sustrans.org.uk
Featured images: J Bewley for Sustrans