Electric bike vacations in Devon

What you’ll probably love most about cycling in Devon is the fact that you’re on quiet roads pretty much throughout. The type of lanes that have a line of grass running down the middle, where you’ll encounter only the occasional car but need to keep an eye out for incautious rabbits. If the kids want to go faster than you, or you’re a bit wobbly having put away one more cider that was wise at lunchtime, there’s no need for concern. And with the option of hiring electric bikes too, you’ve always got a little extra va-voom if you want it. You can pedal at your own pace through blissful Devon scenery, between peaceful villages, country pubs and farm shops that beckon you in with wholesome-looking local produce. Actually, thinking about it, what you’ll love most about cycling here is getting a little lost once in a while.

Managed adventure

On a Devon cycling vacation you’ll be center-based, with options for rides spoking off in different directions. You’ll be staying in rural, eco lodge accommodation that has won multiple awards for its sustainable tourism ethos, with a UNESCO biosphere reserve right on your doorstep. And, along with seemingly endless shorter routes that can usually be tweaked to wind up at a traditional thatched pub, there is the well-known Tarka Trail, a 52km, car-free section of the ‘Devon coast-to-coast’ route to explore.
Essentially then, if you like your cycling scenic, laidback and ever-so slightly tipsy, then Devon is the place for you. As Ian Ripper, of our Devon accommodation provider Wheatland Lodge Vacations puts it, “This is the real Devon countryside. Much of the time you’re riding along quiet back lanes. May especially is phenomenal, you’re going to see orchids, cow parsley, lots of butterflies. Eggs are for sale by the road from genuine farm shops, not your boutique-y places. You get a real sense of managed adventure here, it’s a great opportunity to explore this idyllic landscape.”
Cycling is the obvious way, and the most appealing way, to travel these parts, fully immersing you in the countryside in a way you’d never get through a car window. Whether you’re riding along a stretch of disused railway track along the Tarka Trail (“Our boys grew up on it”, says Ian) or a placid riverbank, around medieval-style strip fields in the old leper colony of Taddiport or the Exe Estuary, you cannot help but feel a deep connection to nature.
And there’s nothing daunting about setting off on your own. The longest you’re likely to be on anything resembling a busy road is a few minutes. You’ll be equipped with maps and route notes from your hosts that will handily point out where you can get a good sandwich or a puncture repair, and on longer rides you can simply hop on the train back if you get tired. In dire straits you can be picked up in the van, but if you just need a second wind, a cheeky half at the nearest pub should revive flagging spirits.

No reservations

You’ll be based on the edge of the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, made up of the catchment area of the Taw and Torridge Rivers. This is what vacationing in this area is really all about – a unique range of landscapes that you can explore at your leisure, from the agricultural heartland to the estuary along riverbanks where you might see otters and kingfishers. And finally, at the very heart of the reserve, the sand dunes of Braunton Burrows, where American troops trained before D-Day. “There are over 400 plant species here,” says Ian, “you can cycle in through farmland, along the river and its reed beds and sea grass, around the estuary and end up in this lunar-like sand dune system. It’s really something quite special. It’s about 65km over basically flat ground, with lots of lovely places to stop to eat or drink along the way.”

Peaceful lanes can lead you to nature-watching hides, well-attended farmers’ markets and countless pretty little villages, as well as to Honeychurch, the smallest church in Devon, dating to Norman times, and North Tawton, once home to Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. Speaking of markets, since you’ll be self-catering it’s good to know there’s a farm shop just a few minutes’ ride away from your accommodation selling local meat, eggs, bread and whatever else you’re likely to need.
Travel Team
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The minimum age for riding e-bikes in the UK is 14 – any younger and your kids will have to rely on their own puff. Plotting a flattish route is no issue though, when your hosts are so familiar with the local area. And as Ian Ripper explains above, the North Devon Biosphere Reserve is not especially hilly. If you’re moderately fit you will be fine, especially with the extra zing an electric bike gives you, and since these are tailor made vacations you’re entirely free to decide your own itinerary and the length of your rides.
A typical cycling vacation in Devon is around a week long, but could also make up a long weekend. The best time to go is between April and mid-July, or September through to mid-October. You miss the busiest periods, school vacations, and can be fairly sure of decent weather. Bring the kids, however, and as well as the cycling they’ll love having the chance to see hedgehogs, foxes and badgers in the wild, evening barbecues and campfires, and even paddleboarding on the pond.
Stay in a comfortable, cosy lodge with your own kitchen, on a farm that also operates a fascinating conservation project in a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Popehouse Moor. Plus, says Ian, “We’ve got solar panels and a turbine as well as a grid connection so if your bike needs a charge it’s going to be 100% renewable.” You’ll be provided with electric bikes and a full orientation on how to use them (it’s very easy), route notes, maps and all the support you need to head out every day in full confidence.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: John Englart] [Devon country track: Phil Gayton] [Tarka Trail: Wheatland Farm Lodges] [Dartmoor e-bike: John Englart]