… following our Editor
I had booked this cottage during lockdown, planning on joining a walking holiday around the North Devon coast, but once I got back on the bike, I forgot about walking and that was it. My imagination was re-fired and we were off on a girlie bike trip!
DAY ONE – FRIDAY
Friday ride down. Through Highclere, country roads, avoiding main arteries and traffic. Leisurely coffee at Honey Street Mill Cafe. My first time there and not my last. Lovely crafts, candles, scents, tie dyes….from which I had to be extracted.
We skipped Cheddar Gorge as time was going on and we wanted to avoid the Bank Holiday traffic, along the A39, through the Quantocks, onto the coast road, through Watchet, lovely Blue Anchor bay….miles of golden sandy beach, and quite deserted. Strange for a sunny August Bank Holiday in Devon. Perhaps they’ve all gone to Wales?
Then a little light entertainment approaching Porlock Hill. I am relieved Salli had not told me we were ascending this hill. I believe our friendship would have ended right there as I would have bolted in the other direction and probably gone to Wales.
I vaguely knew about Porlock Hill from friends in the club. Legendary, apparently, a rite of passage. Then I forgot about it. We were going to be tourists on this trip. Amiable amblings around Devon and Cornwall. A holiday after all. Ummm…..
So I was on it before I knew it. ‘Gradient 1 in 4’ the signpost read, in red. ‘Caravans advised to use toll road’ it said. So, of course, we were going over it. Trustingly, I followed. Actually it was ok to start with, I just kept a steady low and even speed in 1st gear and didn’t stop. It reminded me of a steep minor road on my Irish trip in 2015 (reported on these very pages), once you are on it you are kind of committed.
I remember thinking, oooh wouldn’t want to do that in the rain and in traffic… and was feeling quite smug. But we weren’t done, it turned out. Another hill reared its ugly head and this had traffic so I had to stop. This was when I discovered I had wooden arms and my right hand was kind of locked on the front brake. As I slowly released it, the front wheel started to rise, as is normal. The only problem was that my wheel just kept rising….and rising…. almost perpendicular, it felt. So then I started praying or maybe swearing, I am not entirely sure. I tried the back brake but didn’t entirely trust it on such a steep gradient, I felt a tad unstable. So I just revved up, engaged and away! Hurray!
Numerous other Porlocks on minor roads after that, very hilly here – and gravel and potholes. Deserted, unnamed roads where only bikers and cars lost with satnavs go.
Final arrival at the cottage. Idyllic, though again tested by gravel. Fortunately we negotiated some tarmac parking for the week. Online grocery delivery. Bright idea that and a hot dinner. End of day one and collapse into bed.
DAY 2 – SATURDAY
Easy day. Swam in morning. Lovely pool at the cottage. Peaceful with wonderful country views out of every window.
We went into Ilfracombe to see Damien Hurst’s Verity. Tourist element. Box ticked. Not my thing really. It’s a seaside town and was hot, rammed with holidaymakers, potbellied semi-naked bodies and the usual seaside knick knacks. Glad to leave. So that is where everyone was spending the Bank Holiday! We returned to the calm and tranquillity of the cottage.
DAY 3 – SUNDAY
Eden Project 80 miles there and 80 miles back. We left early with a lovely ride down the Atlantic Highway coast road. Again the roads were clear. Lovely sweeping bends and good road surface. The day was sunny and hot. Once parked up we crammed our gear into the useful but undersized lockers for bikers and walked around the park in shorts and t-shirts.
Although the Eden Project doesn’t extend over a huge area, I still managed to walk 6 miles that day. Very well set out. Beautiful biomes – Mediterranean and tropical rainforest, then a walk around the outdoor gardens showing climatic plantings, with zip-wire dare-devils screaming as they passed over our heads. Highly amusing.
Note: Devon has lots of hills and bends, with steeper gradients than Wales, or parts of Scotland I have ridden (if those appeal ask Salli for her routes).
DAY 4 – MONDAY – EXMOOR
Bank holiday Monday. The plan was to go to Tarr Steps with the clapper bridge, 3,000 years old…. anyway we couldn’t find it so there went the history slot. Over the week, we kept coming across signposts to Tarr Steps but it was always 5 miles away…. Exmoor was dark and foreboding. Riding up and down hills with multiple cattle grids, the overcast cloud adding to the mystique of the forest roads and the moorland… roads carved through ancient forests….like Snowdonia or Game of Thrones country.
DAY 5 – TUESDAY – DARTMOOR
Princetown gaol dark and striking. Bovey Tracey. Connector roads. Hilly holes. Steep. Twisty. Spoilt in Wales. Hard to see here, vegetation obscuring vision. Getting better at uphill starts on sharp bends. Yippee!
A lot of cafes were closed, including the one at Widecombe in the Moor, where Salli had planned lunch, so we found a community kiosk with enormous pasties which defeated my tour leader.
DAY 6 – WEDNESDAY – COASTAL CRUISING
Appledore… as lovely as it sounds.. coffee and crafts… on down the Atlantic Highway… Torridge. Then onto Boscastle where we lingered a while. Reminiscent of tv serials and a youth-hostelling trip in the early 90s. Still lovely. Then onto Tintagel, full of commercialised myth and legend… we did not stop. Bodmin and Jamaica Inn were too far today so we returned to the cottage. Lovely to have a single base rather than a different one every night, it makes a difference.
Our trip was a thoroughly good mix of fun, adventure, gravel, nadgery green roads, hilly, tight turns, golden sands, and gravel, gravel and more gravel…. we are spoilt in Wales! But we were lucky with the roads too – a useful passing place would always present itself in sight of an oncoming tractor. Thank you Salli for these marvellous routes, just wonderful – 1,200 miles across Devon and Cornwall, pasties, clotted cream teas, ice cream… bliss! When are we going back?
on a KTM Duke 790, following Editor/Tour leader Salli G on her Triumph Trident 660
First published in Slipstream October 2021