Gentle / beginner routes
A key route is the 2 mile off-road cycleway leading south beside the Bude Canal from Bude's Tourist Information Centre in the Crescent car park.
This has a tarmac surface and is almost entirely level ground apart from two small rises. It is signed as National Cycle Network route 3 (NCN3).
The cycleway runs on a broad multi-use path parallel to the canal towpath for a short distance, then veers left over the river Neet on the old railway bridge (with nearby interpetation board), goes round the front of the cycle hire centre and café at Pethericks Mill and then crosses the flood defence bank into Bude Marshes.
It then winds through the marsh area (watch out for a heron or egret beside the water or, very occasionally, the electric blue flash of a kingfisher), round the end of the rugby field past the Millennium cycleway post, then ascends slightly back onto the railway embankment.
After a further half mile it crosses a rural lane and then runs further south to join the access road to the water treatment works. This access road leads to the A39. The cycleway used to cross the A39 via a traffic island at this point; however, the route now takes a tarmac path off to the right about 30m before the A39 and goes under the A39 via an underpass. Once on the east of the A39 the cycleway runs on a tarmac path on the grass verge until it passes through a gateway onto the old, now cul-de-sac, road at Helebridge.
[Note: From here NCN3 is on minor roads. For those wanting to explore longer rides, it continues over two old humped bridges and then goes up the hill to Marhamchurch and then east to Holsworthy and thence north via Sheepwash to join the Tarka Trail near Petrocstowe. From Marhamchurch there is also another National Cycle Network route (now re-numbered as NCN304, which provides an easier inland variant to the scenic but hilly coastal southbound NCN3). NCN304 goes south via Week St Mary to rejoin the main southbound NCN3 before Hallworthy. That southbound NCN3 then runs across a beautiful stretch of Bodmin Moor to join the Camel Trail at Wenfordbridge and thence on to Bodmin.]
Those who are only out for a gentle ride have various options after passing through the gateway onto the cul-de-sac road and following the NCN3 route round the next bend and over the two humped bridges.
At that point they can go under the A39 via another underpass beside the river to visit the nearby Weir Coffee-house/Bistro/Nature-centre/Play-area and/or explore the permissive bridleway across Whalesborough farm.
Alternatively, turn left after the second humped bridge into a small car park and grassed area beside the old canal basin for a rest before returning along the cyclepath back to Bude.
Another option is to continue for a few more metres to the T-junction at the end of the road, cross the road and cycle a bit further along the short stretch of new cycleway. That cycleway leads to a field where it is planned to install picnic benches by the river, but that has yet to be funded. Currently that new stretch passes over a new cycle/footbridge over the river and there is an existing picnic bench near that bridge.
Yet another option, for slightly more adventurous cyclists, is to follow NCN3 up into Marhamchurch, where there is a pub and a community shop, and then quiet country roads north to Stratton and thence back into Bude via a tarmac bridleway and residential 'home zone' roads. (This route uses the 'Marhamchurch to Stratton' and 'Bude to Stratton' inter-village links documented later on this page.)
The first of those four options (the route back under the A39) is a path off to the right just after the second humped bridge (follow a white 'Bude Cycle Link' sign). This is a footpath so cyclists should dismount and push their bikes through the riverside underpass. Once back on the west side of the A39, this footpath crosses two small wooden footbridges to reach the canal towpath. From this point, turn left through a small gate onto a path that leads to the concrete access lane to 'The Weir' and Whalesborough farm. The Weir Coffee-house/Bistro/Nature-centre/Play-area is on the right about 200m along this access lane. The concrete access lane is also part of a permissive bridleway and a Sustrans link route providing a route to the coast road 2 miles south of Bude.
After passing the 'Weir' the concrete access lane climbs towards the farmhouse and the Whalesborough holiday cottages; before it reaches these buildings a spur goes left. 20m up this spur, a gravel track goes off on the left, initially steeply but then levels off. Both these left turns are signed for walkers and cyclists. After about 150m, the gravel track rejoins a concrete farm access lane leading 1 mile west to the coast road.
Coast road south of Bude
Note: The coast road is also a National Cycle Network route (NCN3) - a coastal southbound alternative to the inland southbound NCN304 that goes through Marhamchurch and Week St Mary. The coast road is busy in peak holiday, commuting and school-run times so not then very suitable for nervous or unsupervised young cyclists. At other times it affords a wonderful scenic ride.
From the exit from the Whalesborough permissive bridleway, either turn left onto the coast road to ride down to the surfing beaches, shop, surf hire centre, cafés and pub at Widemouth Bay (downhill all the way so a bit of a slog on the way back!) or turn right (carefully *) to ride back towards Bude
* This exit is just over the brow of a hill and, despite red triangle 'cyclist' warning signs beside the road on either side, some cars approach it rather fast.
If you turn right at this exit, the coast road leads directly back to the Crescent car park in Bude; however, a quieter and more scenic alternative is to take the coast road for 3/4 mile, then take the first right onto a rural lane, as you reach the hamlet of Upton Cross. This quiet rural lane leads down to a bridge over the canal at Rodds Bridge, then over the river and then back to the cycleway. Turn left onto the cycleway and cycle back to Bude.
For those who are confident to ride on grass, there is an off-road alternative to this rural lane route. Instead of turning right into the rural lane at Upton Cross, continue for 100m further north on the coast road, and then turn left into the first field gateway. This is a public bridleway that crosses the field to join the clifftop coastal path, goes through a gateway into a second field with a long gentle grass-path descent to another gateway at the foot of the slope.
Once through this gateway at the foot of the slope, the coast path veers slightly left to follow the clifftop, but the bridleway veers slightly right to go diagonally up the slope ahead. From the top of this slope the bridleway continues, past two wooden gateways in the nearby hedge, to a steel gate. Go through this and follow the fenceline downhill.
The bridleway ends at a gateway onto a back lane linking the west end of Breakwater Road to the east end of Breakwater Road near the Falcon Hotel. Turn right onto this back lane and follow it, passing St Michael's Church, to the Falcon Hotel. Just beyond the Falcon Hotel, Breakwater Road meets the coast road. Turn left onto the coast road to use it to cross the canal and then, at the traffic island after 100m, turn right into the Crescent Car Park.
Note: As well as this grassed bridleway, those that enjoy cycling on grass tracks are also permitted to use paths across Whalesborough Farm in addition to the concrete path mentioned above. This gives the ability to reach the surfing beaches, shop, surf hire centre, cafés and pub at Widemouth Bay without using the coast road. However, some sections of these Whalesborough paths are narrow, use railway sleepers to cross streams and can be muddy at times, so do seek local advice.
Bude Bike Hire routes
Bude Bike Hire have maps and descriptions of some short local routes.
These are available when hiring bikes from the hire centre but also can be freely downloaded from their website:
Currently there are seven routes on that 'routes' webpage:
- Canal & Coast This is the circular route documented above - along the Bude cycleway to Helebridge and the Weir coffee-house/bistro, on over the permissive bridleway to the coast road and back to the Bude cycleway via a minor lane through Upton.
- Canal & Coast + This is a variant to the circular route, using the grassed bridleway and Whalesborough paths mentioned above.
- Town & Beaches This is a route round Bude, over Nanny Moores Bridge, past Summerleaze and Crooklets beaches, to the northern beach at Northcott Mouth (with an option to return to Crooklets via the coastal bridleway).
- Farms & Villages & Beaches This route strings together three inter-village links (between Bude & Stratton, Stratton & Marhamchurch and Marhamchurch & Bude as documented below) to create a slightly longer loop.
- Week St Mary Week St Mary is a village on the inland southbound National Cycle Network route about seven miles from Bude. This route is also described further below.
- Tamar Lakes This is a loop, mainly on minor roads, to Upper Tamar Lake, where there is a Watersports Centre, a café and an easy circular off-road 5km cyclepath round the lake. These facilities and this route are also described below.
- Morwenstow This follows the Town & Beaches route to Northcott Mouth, then uses bridle paths to Coombe, then lanes to Morwenstow. Return via Woodford, Stibb and Poughill (seriously hilly so e-bike recommended). This has been very popular with those wanting a little more adventure or challenge.
Tamar Lakes ride (& lakeside circuit)
South West Lakes Trust, in conjunction with 1SW, constructed a family-friendly green cycle track at Upper Tamar Lake in 2010. This is a loop of 5km, encircling the whole lake from the café back to the café.
It provides a wonderful route round the upper lake for both cyclists and walkers, and particularly for young families who wish to stay totally off-road.
There is ample parking near the café so those just wanting the lakeside circuit can take their bikes there by car - Bude Bike Hire can hire car bike racks as well as bikes.
Fancy riding to the lake? There is an attractive quiet road circular ride from Bude or Stratton to Tamar Lakes - so, for families/groups with a mix of nervous and more competent cyclists, some can cycle to the lake while others meet them at the lake to cycle or walk round the lake.
(Caution: The loop does have a brief section on the A39 near Kilkhampton, this can be avoided by taking the drive through Penstowe Park Holiday Village where there is a restaurant/café in Penstowe Manor.)
This circular ride from Bude to Tamar Lakes and back to Bude can be done as either a clockwise or anti-clockwise loop. A map (and details of the clockwise direction) are given on the Bude Bike Hire routes page (see above).
Alternatively, a more detailed description of the loop in both directions is available.
(see detailed route description)
Bude - Week St Mary loop
Week St Mary is a charming Cornish settlement with village shop (by the village green), nearby church, public toilet, and a pub. (village website:
The outward route to Week St Mary is on National Cycle Network route 3 (marked with blue NCN cycle signs and a red 3) as far as Marhamchurch. Between Marhamchurch and Week St Mary it follows NCN304. The 15 mile (24km) loop is very scenic but does involve several hills.
It starts at the Tourist Information Centre in Bude's canal-side Crescent car park, and runs south on the Bude cycleway, goes past Bude Bike Hire and on to join minor roads at Helebridge. From there it goes up the hill to Marhamchurch and on south on the same road for 7.5km to Week St Mary.
You can return to Bude either via your outbound NCN304/3 route or take a very scenic (equally hilly) alternative route back to Marhamchurch on very minor roads via the hamlets of Titson and Harlake. A map (and details of the route) are given on the Bude Bike Hire routes page (see above) or
see detailed loop description
Quiet road circular rides
There are a multitude of other quiet
lane/road circular rides that can be
taken from Bude. Some will be
added to this website in due course.
One way to access them is to join up with the groups of cyclists who go out on a weekly basis. These are not organised rides, just small groups of friendly cyclists who meet up to ride together and newcomers/visitors are welcome to join them.
One group starts from River Life Café* at 10am each Tuesday. Many are retired and they ride at a leisurely pace, doing 10-15 miles. Some take tea/coffee materials for the whole group, others take biscuits, and they stop for a coffee break midway. The group cycles at the pace of the person who is feeling least fit on the day and some push their bikes up the the hills (no ride around Bude is without hills).
( * the café is next to Bude Bike Hire at the cycle centre at Pethericks Mill,
about 400m along the cycleway
that starts from near the Tourist Information
Centre in the Crescent car park)
Another group goes a bit faster and a bit further but is still very much a social ride on minor country roads/lanes. They meet by the entrance to Morrisons (off Stratton Road) at 10am each Sunday and tend to ride for 2 to 3 hours doing 20+ miles (occasionally up to 30 miles but only if those present have the energy and time to do that).
There is also a predominantly off-road mountain bike club - Bude Mountain Bike Riders, - also called Dept. 26.
Each Wednesday evening they have a social off road mountain bike ride usually a couple of hours long, starting at 7.00pm all year round, rain or shine - reasonable lights required for the winter months.
On Saturday mornings there is an early birds mountain bike ride, meeting at 7.30am for an early morning blast around the local trails. All abilities welcome, ride normally lasts approx 2hrs.
Both these rides start from the Southfork cycle shop in Landsdown Road, Bude.
The contact number for Dept. 26 is 07832 654221 or email
The website is www.budecyclingclub.co.uk
Links between local villages
This section lists some off-road or quiet-road links between Bude and nearby settlements.
These are documented on a separate Local Links page.
Long distance cyclists
Bude is a convenient overnight staging post for cyclists taking the scenic route up (or down) the west coast of Cornwall and Devon.
Many are doing the 'End-to-End' (Lands End to John o'Groats). Some are cycle-touring in the South West and many are from Europe.
Many of these European cyclists are following the Dutch 'Hart van Engeland Route' illustrated cycle guide that takes them from the Hook of Holland, via Harwich, London, Stonehenge, Bristol and Bude, to Lands End.
Others are following the European 'VéloWest' branded route from North Devon via Holsworthy, Bude, Bodmin Moor, the Camel Trail, Goss Moor, the Eden Project, Lanhydrock and then back over Bodmin Moor to Launceston, Brent Tor and Tavistock.
Either way, Bude's plentiful supply of accommodation (hotels, guest houses and campsites), shops and restaurants gives plenty of choice to relax after a day of spinning the pedals.
The next morning there are several choices of route onward. NCN3 (National Cycle Network route 3) is one - but there are alternatives, especially going north.
One route north, taken by many end-to-enders, with a John o'Groats deadline, is to head straight up the A39 (known and signed locally as 'The Atlantic Highway').
The advantage is no map reading as it is the main road all the way. The disadvantage is the fast traffic pushed close to cyclists on several stretches of narrow, double-white-lined road with blind bends. At approx 26 miles from Bude town centre to Bideford, it is not even the shortest route.
The National Cycle Network signed route 3 (also branded with VéloWest logos) is quieter but much longer (approx 45 miles). This goes eastwards on quiet roads via the villages of Marhamchurch and Bridgerule, the town of Holsworthy and the village of Sheepwash before running north to join the Tarka Trail near Petrockstowe, 12 miles from Bideford. NCN3 is shown on Ordinance Survey maps and is not detailed here.
An alternative is a significantly shorter route (approx 31 miles) on equally quiet (or even quieter) roads going east via Stratton, Holsworthy Beacon, Thornbury and Shebbear and then northeast to join the Tarka Trail 8.5 miles from Bideford. This is an extremely scenic route.
(see detailed route description)
The shortest (and least energy intensive) route is to go north from Bude to Kilkhampton (taking a minor road via Poughill & Stibb that avoids using the A39), then through speed-limited Kilkhampton on the A39, then eastwards on very minor roads to join the Bradworthy to Landcross road 9 miles south of Landcross. Thence down to Landcross (the last 8 miles is gently downhill) and then 1.5 miles to Bideford on the Tarka Trail.
(see detailed route description)
There are two National Cycle Network route options going south from Bude (towards the Camel Trail). One is to take the coast road south from the Crescent car park (signed NCN3). This option has some stunning coastal views before it cuts inland to cross the A39 at Wainhouse corner.
It also gives views of some astounding cliff geology at Millook (geology students visit on field trips). However, it also has some quite steep and long hills (notably the one up from Millook - you need low gears for this!) and is exposed to crosswinds in westerly gales.
The alternative, especially in wet windy weather, is to take the inland NCN3/304 route. This starts (as NCN3) from the Tourist Information Centre along the canalside cycleway, passing Bude Bike Hire, and on to Helebridge and Marhamchurch.
Beside the Bullers Arms pub in Marhamchurch the NCN routes split; turning left here takes you on NCN3 to Holsworthy and then northwards to the Tarka Trail and Bideford; going straight on takes you on the inland southbound NCN304 towards the Camel Trail and Bodmin via Week St Mary. This inland alternative possibly involves just as much uphill as the coastal route, but the hills come at you in gentler, more manageable chunks! The two alternatives join up about 2 miles north of Hallworthy.
After Hallworthy, NCN3 uses narrow quiet roads/lanes up to the disused wartime Davidstow airfield (where there are two museums relating to the war and wartime aircraft), past Crowdy reservoir and over some wonderful moorland terrain before splitting again into two alternatives just before St Breward. The eastern split continues on the moorland (taking in an ancient clapper bridge) to the village of Blisland, with its excellent old pub, and then down to join the Camel Trail at Merry Meeting. The other route descends via St Breward to the northmost point of the Camel Trail at Wenfordbridge. Take your pick!
For cyclists who are up for a 60 mile excursion, there is a documented ride which uses the inland NCN3/304 route to ride down to the Camel Trail and then returns via minor roads that are closer to the coast. This return does involve a couple of miles on the A39 (to avoid following the coastal NCN3 up the famed northbound Millook ascent!).
(see detailed route description)