Cornwall is a beautiful place to cycle. Sumptuous, deserted beaches, picturesque villages, ancient harbours, and truly ancient Celtic ruins meander gently by as you pedal along. Some Cornish like to think of themselves as a separate people to the English, with their own language and traditions, and it can feel like cycling back in time when you’re there. One of the best ways, if not the best way, to explore this beautiful, historic place is on two wheels.
Any time of the year, Cornwall offers something for anyone who visits. Genteel bike rides along the coasts, mountain biking up on Bodmin Moor, or kid-friendly day trips from one picture perfect village to the next. A lot of people head to Cornwall for some sea, sun and sand. If you’re looking for the best way to explore the area and make memories with your family, cycling is the answer. Here are some of the best ways to enjoy Cornwall by bicycle.
The Camel Trail
The Camel Trail is one of the most popular routes in Cornwall. It follows a disused railway line (the old South West Railway line for the train buffs out there). The route gets its name from the Camel Estuary, in which is the Cornish culinary capital of Padstow. Fans of chef Rick Stein’s shows will have seen just how pretty it is.
From Padstow, you cycle along the estuary to Wadebridge, then take the railway line through the Camel Valley to Bodmin. The Camel Valley is steeply sided and heavily wooded, containing some truly ancient landscape almost unchanged for millennia. As you emerge from the valley into the gorgeous town of Bodmin, you join another railway line and wind your way inland to the very beginnings of the famous Bodmin Moor. This is the setting of Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier (definitely worth reading). The route ends at Blisland, a quintessentially beautiful Cornish village. Time for a Cornish Cream Tea!
There is plenty to do on the route, with parking and amenities easily accessible. For the experienced cyclists, Blisland marks the beginning of some difficult and challenging rides over the Moor. A top destination. Suitable for children.
An incredible set of trails and paths criss crossing the Tamar valley, an Area of Outstanding Beauty. In a county renowned for its beauty, if something is designated an Area of Outstanding Beauty, you know it is going to be something special. And the Tamar Valley is special. Cornwall and Devon were mining counties until recently, and you can see the remnants of the mines and mills in beautiful decay all along the trail.
The Tamar Trails Centre is an ideal starting point for adventures in the valley. Nestled on the Cornwall / Devon border, there are 25 miles of mountain biking trails to choose from, with a variety of difficulties for novices and experts alike. Most of the trails are stone tracks, so they are ideal for young children and adventurous families. It’s all free!
For your first ride, how about the Mineral Railway Trail? Following an old mining railway track, you can head a couple of miles in either direction from the Tamar Trails Centre and enjoy the gorgeous woodlands along the way. There’s loads for kids to look at and explore, and parents will love all the activities available to their kids.
The Cornish Coast
The entire Cornish Coast is accessible on a bike. Organising a cycling trip on the Cornish coast is easy: just pick a town you’d like to start in, work out how far you want to go each day, and pick the town you want to finish in. No matter where you start and stop, you’ll find some amazing gems along the way. From hidden smuggler’s caves (read Jamaica Inn for the low-down) to sea stacks covered in sea birds, there is something for everyone. Fossil hunters love the Devonshire and Cornish coasts because they contain some of the best Jurassic era fossils in the world. If that’s not your thing, there are surf schools, extreme sports, art galleries, music, and epic theatres all over the place.
Hiring bikes for you and your family is easy in Cornwall. There are loads of services to choose from and you can pick up your bike in one town, ride it to the next and leave it there (check the provider first). Prices start at around £15 per day.
Self-guided bike tours are a brilliant way of exploring Cornwall. Hire some bikes, leave your luggage to be transported to your destination, and spend a few relaxing days leisurely cycling around some of England’s finest landscapes. Prices start around £300 for a 3 day trip. Cycle trips are available for up to 14 days and can cater for young children and expert cyclists alike. Enquire online for more information.