East Devon Trail
113 Mi.(182 KM)
% Rideable (time)
- 4Climbing Scale Fair68 FT/MI (13 M/KM)
- -Technical Difficulty
- -Physical Demand
- -Resupply & Logistics
Katherine Moore is a gravel rider and bikepacker from Devon, UK, who measures her rides by stoke level rather than speed. There’s nothing she loves more than showing people great off-road routes and multi-day rides. You can’t miss her – a love of bright colours means you’ll spot Katherine from a mile off! Find her at KatherineBikes.com or on Instagram @katherinebikes.
Photos by ForTheHellOfIt.cc
While bikepackers visiting Devon may immediately think of the Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks, quietly tucked away in the rolling hills to the east of the Exe Estuary lies an extensive network of blissful gravel trails, spicy singletrack and quiet lanes with expansive views across heathland and a patchwork of fields, out towards the Jurassic Coast and the English Channel.
The rewards are countless, but you just need to know where to look. Marrying up a deep admiration of this gorgeous part of the South West with the many creatures that seek refuge here, the East Devon Trail visits numerous nature reserves along its 115-mile length.
Look out for migratory birds on the move and foraging waders at RSPB Bowling Green and Goosemoor just a short ride out of the county’s capital, rare nightjars, Dartford Warblers, basking common lizards and adders across the rare lowland heath network of the Pebblebed Heaths, Trinity Hill and Fire Beacon Hill. And visit the Island Hide at Seaton Marshes with a near-360 degree view over the wetlands, where you can often see oystercatchers, black-tailed godwits and ringed plovers. If you’re really lucky and spend the time on the River Otter, you might even spy a beaver; part of the Devon Wildlife Trust’s pioneering reintroduction programme, which has paved the way for their wider reintroduction across the UK.
Besides wildlife to enjoy, there are also plenty of local delicacies to savor as you spend a few days on the East Devon Trail, a Devon cream tea being the most notable, of course. This region prides itself on locally produced food and drink, so be sure to give the petrol station picnic a pass in favor of restocking at farm shops, enjoying a meal in the quaint thatched pubs or even fresh fish and chips out of the paper on the beach.
Technical difficulty: 7/10. Physical demand: 5/10. Resupply and logistics: 2/10.
Although the East Devon Trail is not suggested as a beginner-friendly route due to the technicality of some off-road sections and the hike-a-bike steeps, the Trail is easily accessible, with extra bail-out points along the way, and also boasts many options for resupply.
While 115 miles doesn’t seem too far, we’d recommend budgeting extra time for the technicality and steepness of some of these inclines. Those who have ridden in Devon before will understand!
The East Devon Trail was a lockdown labor of love for Katherine Moore, who was drawn back to her home turf in February 2021 to help care for her Mum, after receiving a cancer diagnosis. The route was created in partnership with local stakeholders, including Devon Wildlife Trust, Wild East Devon, the Pebblebed Heath Conservation Trust, the RSPB and East Devon AONB.
If you enjoy the East Devon Trail, we urge you to consider donating to FORCE Cancer Charity. It’s a local Exeter-based charity that works alongside the hospital to support cancer patients and their families.
Find the daily itinerary in the Komoot Collection under the Trail Notes tab below...
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- Endless pebbled gravel trails through the purples and yellows of the heathland
- Views as far as the Isle of Portland along the Jurassic Coast from the South West Coast Path
- A near-360 degree outlook from the Seaton Marshes Island Hide
- Proper Devon cream teas
- The hike-a-bike up from Branscombe beach to the clifftop
- A pint of Otter
- The techy singletrack of the hollybush trail, Woodbury Common
- More donkeys than you can possibly imagine when passing The Donkey Sanctuary
- The striking Cannington Viaduct in the hills approaching Lyme Regis
- A cuppa or breakfast on Beer Beach at Ducky’s
- Fossil hunting on Lyme Regis Beach
- Lizards basking in the sunshine on the heathland paths
- A traffic-free exit of Exeter city center using riverside cycle paths
- Cormorants drying out their wings at Exeter Quay
- A lap of the glorious Killerton National Trust estate and the Limousin cattle
- Spring through autumn is best for drier trails, hedgerow blooms and cafe opening times, but there’s nothing stopping you exploring year-round. Don’t forget a raincoat no matter the forecast, Devon is very green for a reason.
- The trail is most easily reached by train as the loop starts and finishes at Exeter St Davids station. You may need to book a space for your bike in advance; visit GWR.com for more information. Other train stations along the route include Axminster, Honiton and Cranbrook.
- There is currently a major project underway in the area; the Lower Otter Restoration Project, which may cause some minor diversions on the route.
- It’s worth packing a little cash with your kit, as a few shops and cafes do not accept cards.
- Local bike shops include The Bike Shed (Exeter) and Roots Cycleworks (Ebford).
- There are a few hike-a-bike sections, most notably the climb from Branscombe Beach up onto the South West Coast Path to Beer, so it’s worth wearing decent footwear for walking with your bike. A few of the inland bridleway climbs after Axminster can also be tricky to ride when rutted by rain or farm machinery.
- There are a couple of water crossings, though nothing too serious. Where the stream flows into the sea at Branscombe can be avoided with a footbridge, and you can either ride through Umbourne Brook or take the stepping stones across.
- Turf Locks to Topham ferry: while the main route file avoids this, a tiny boat crossing of the River Exe can cut out some unglamourous cycle path and keep you along the glorious Exeter Canal for longer. Plus, who doesn’t love a ferry crossing with a bike? Contact the ferryman for opening times on 07801 203338. A one-way fare is £1.30 and bikes are 70p each, so make sure you take change! Visit Exeter Port Authority for the most up to date timetable and fees.
- The East Devon Trail can be linked to the start of the Old Chalk Way and Wessex Ridgeway in Lyme Regis.
- Unfortunately, wild camping without the landowner’s permission is not permitted in most of England.
- Besides typical campsites and hotels, there are some excellent options including the semi-wild Beacon Camping at kilometer 143. Rhea Farm and Fishery also comes highly recommended with a short diversion from Axminster.
- There is also a youth hostel with camping options in Beer on the route: YHA Beer.
- Drinking water and resupply availability is typically not an issue as the route passes through many towns and villages where shops, cafes and pubs are plentiful. Do make sure to top up on water and snacks before leaving Axminster, as it’s a fair way to Honiton without resupply options.
- Farm shops along the route offer a great selection of fresh, local produce for resupply, including Otterton Mill, Darts Farm, Pynes Farm Shop, Coldharbour Farm Shop and Knights Farm Shop, all very close to or on the route.
- No East Devon Trail experience is complete without a Devon cream tea (#creamfirst though, obviously).
- Taste of Sidmouth serves the best ice creams. A kink in the route means you can’t miss it.
- If you like seafood, you’re in for a treat. The Exe Estuary is one of the largest producers of mussels in Europe.
- Fish and chips eaten from the paper on the beach is another East Devon Trail classic.
- If you can, time your visit to Beer for the morning and enjoy a huge fry up at Ducky’s on the beach. Pack a note first, it’s cash only.
- For local tipples, look out for Otter Brewery, Exeter Brewery, Lyme Brewery and Lyme Bay wines.
Find the daily itinerary in the Komoot Collection below, and more information about the route at eastdevontrail.com
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