Exe Estuary Trail, Devon

image/svg+xml Distance:

18-36

miles
Riding Time:

1.5-3

hrs
Total Ascent:

500

ft
Difficulty:

6.5

This is a mostly flat and pleasant off-road cycling route using the excellent Exe Estuary Trail. From start to finish is about 18 miles, however this can be extended to 36 miles if you want to do the out and back loop.

Route Guide

I’ve added this route to the Mountain Biking section but it could easily be ridden on a hybrid/gravel bike or even a road bike with 28mm+ tyres. The Exe Estuary Trail forms part of the National Cycle Network Route 2 which will eventually link Dover in Kent with St. Austell in Cornwall via the south coast of England. I started the route from a Holiday Park in Dawlish Warren, however the ride can be easily started from any where in Dawlish.

After a short stretch on road we take a left onto a Bridleway which is clearly signposted for the Exe Estuary Trail. The very clean, well maintained bridleway runs along side the Dawlish Warren Road for about ½ mile and then crosses back over it. It then continues for about another ¼ mile before rejoining the road and going through the village of Cockwood. We follow the road around a pretty little harbour with a preview of the views to come across the estuary in the distance.

Following the clearly marked cycle way signs for the Exe Estuary Trail we take a right and join Exeter Road. After a few hundred yards we rejoin the NCN Route 2 cycle lane. As the cycle lane passes through Starcross look out for the blue cycle lane signs as the route takes a little detour through some houses. I understand why the route designers did this as the road that goes through Starcross is rather narrow and not really wide enough for both cars and bikes.

As you reappear from behind the houses we continue down the cycle lane on the other side of the road.  After a few hundred yards the cycle lane ends and joins a quiet country lane. We stay on this road for about 1.5 miles with lovely views across Powderham Deer Park on the left and the Exe Estuary on the right. Just before a church the route takes a sharp right back onto a cycle lane.

The cycle lane closely follows the edge of the estuary and nature reserve. It’s also very well surfaced and the gradient is flat so it’s easy to maintain a good speed. After about 2 miles the trail goes over a specially built bridge providing some elevation and a good viewpoint of the whole area. For the next several miles the trail remains quite flat and makes for a very pleasant ride.

Eventually we reach Bridge Road temporarily leaving the cycle lane as the road crosses over the River Exe. The route then rejoins the cycle lane on the other side of the road where it takes us around a housing estate and into Topsham. Topsham is a really nice town, clean and well kept with some nice independent shops. It also has facilities to refill drink bottles and buy some supplies if required.

When approaching the town centre it can be a little confusing, there are a lot of cycle lanes signposted going in different directions. So if you bear left at the first roundabout and then continue straight on you should be ok  (please ignore the GPS directions included in my GPX file in the Town Centre as I took a couple of wrong turns here). We continue on the road and out of the town following the signs for the Exe Estuary Trail. After about a mile the route goes off-road and through 2 RSPB Nature Reserves – Bowling Green and Goosemoor.

This was a quite an interesting section of the route, as the trail is covered with wooden boarding and high wooden fencing with open slots for you to view the bird life across the marshes. Bowling Green Marsh is recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Avocets and other rarer migrant birds can be seen here. On leaving the Nature Reserves we join a narrow country lane and head towards Exton.

After about ½ mile the route goes off-road again and features sections of board walk, adding interest/variety to the ride. This section of the route continues for about 1.5 miles and provides more fantastic views across the estuary. The trail ends just before Lympstone Village where a pub on the corner, complete with cycle racks provides a convenient refuelling stop.

We leave Lympstone and continue down a quiet country lane before turning off-road and rejoining the Exe Estuary Trail again. The trail continues for another mile giving some of the best unobscured views of the whole ride. As the main trail ends the cycle lane merges with a path that runs along side a minor road for a short time. It then cuts across Carter Avenue Park and merges with another shared use path/cycle lane and follows the A376 into Exmouth.

You can continue to follow the cycle lane signs avoiding the busy roundabout and ride all the way down to the seafront. Here you can appreciate the lovely views across the River Exe and of Dawlish Warren on the other side. As well as it’s 2 mile long sandy beach, Exmouth has a nice variety of shops and places to eat.  There is a ferry from the Exmouth Marina which will take you and your bike (for a small extra fee) back across the estuary to Starcross. These ferries run once every hour up until about 5:30pm, for full details please visit the Exmouth to Starcross Ferry Facebook page

Alternatively if you felt like doing a longer ride, then you can just go back the way you came. There are plenty of Exe Estuary Trail cycle signs directing you back towards Topsham and Dawlish Warren if you decide to do this. Also, the GPX file provided on this page includes the full out and back route so you can follow it on your GPS device too. If you are looking for an off-road cycling route in the area I’m sure you will enjoy this route.

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