If you’re searching for your next great off-road adventure in the UK, look no further. Exmoor has a rich and deep history of generally being a wild and untamed corner of our little island; a place with heather-clad hills that cluster alongside a dramatic coastline with tumbling cliffs and where tucked-away valleys hide gloriously green dells, ancient villages and a glorious pub or two. Best of all, since Exmoor became a protected national park in 1954, off-road cyclists are today able to find the very best trails without fear of industrial eyesores hindering the free feeling of flying down the rocky hills and over the wide open moors.
As part of our series in collaboration with komoot, the route planning app for runners, bikers, and long-distance hikers, we’ve sought to find you the very best off-road cycling routes in Exmoor, calling upon the help local expert Mark Gibbs. Mark is quite the authority in Exmoor, he started racing competitively on road and MTB at 15 years-old and he still races over three decades later. For the last 11 years, he’s lived in and toured these moors while running his own repair shop. If you’re thinking of hitting the trails in Exmoor, be sure to get yourself a tune-up from the man with the route plans at exmoorbikerepair.co.uk.
The Five Best Off Road Cycling Routes
- Forest to Coast
- Grabbist Hill Peak
- Twisty Tour to the South
- Croydon Hill Circuit
- Glorious Gravel Ride
Forest to Coast
This off-road ride gives you the best of both worlds when you’re on the coast. It starts outside St. George’s church and quickly gets onto some dirt paths. The rout takes in steep forest climbs and then, while heading down from Dunster, you’ll pass Bat’s castle and scale Black Hill before enjoying the sweeping descents with stunning views across the Bristol channel and on to Wales.
One of the most varied and rewarding routes in Exmoor, plus it goes past a couple of iconic spots. Just before you hit the beach, I’d recommend checking out Torre Cider Farm and Café, a great spot to refuel! Once you’ve eaten (and maybe had a quick tour), hop back on the bike and peel up to the sea front and coast along Blue Anchor Bay.
Grabbist Hill & Peaks
Check out the elevation on this one! You can actually see the three peaks of this ride (plus a bonus peak as a starter). This is a gravel ride which starts with some particularly steep climbs but goes on to reward your efforts tenfold. Once you’ve reached the peak of Grabbist hill, take in the views in every direction before enjoying the rapid descent which will bring you along steadier forest tracks with a load of momentum behind you.
After that, it’s a series of fun descents and quick climbs to power through, all with breathtaking views across one of the wildest sections of Exmoor. This is great for newer riders since its technically not too tricky, but it’s still very enjoyable for anyone!
Winding Gravel Tour
This is a beautiful gravel ride with a mix of forest, open landscape, lake and riverside tracks. You’ll start by heading south along some woodland paths, sticking a bit more to the winding gravel peripheries until you reach the quiet little village of Luxborough. From here, it’s an epic climb up Blagdon Hill with a really long and satisfying descent to Wimbleball Lake. Stick with the path by the water and follow alongside the River Haddeo and later River Exe as they meander through the valleys.
This route includes a few detours which are mapped with a dotted line. All three ‘off-grid’ sections are following fun trails, don’t worry! As you peel away from the river, make a beeline across the open, undulating fields until you’re back at the route’s central cross-section. The final leg follows Washford River north and then swings through some very quiet back lanes to loop home.
Croydon Hill Circuit
Okay, time for a short and snappy route which is a perfect outing for sunrise or sunset (maybe bring a head torch for the latter).
You’ll shoot over from Dunster and quickly climb a little over 400m to the peak of Croydon Hill. There’s a brilliant trail which sweeps back around the contour of the hill, spiralling you down into Dunster.
The views are incredible, and if you do go for it in the morning, it really is worth it to stop in the historic picture post card village of Dunster for a coffee and cake or a cream tea.
Glorious Gravel from Minehead
This is a glorious gravel ride from Minehead, starting through Dunster then quickly climbing on beautiful forest tracks up over Croydon hill. There are lots of options to get to the top on a network of graded gravel tracks and the route is very quiet with frequent sightings of deer and lots of bird species. Here, the distant views of the channel and Wales are a sight to behold.
The route drops on back roads in to Luxborough then there’s a steady climb through the Chargot estate. This is one of the biggest pheasant shoots in the country and as a result the trails are immaculate.
After a loop around the estate, you’ll be ready to head through the choppy forest which then rapidly descends back in to Nutcombe Bottom, one of the best woodlands for cycling (or running!) in the UK and home to England’s tallest tree. Spin on through and wind your way back up to Dunster.
Komoot: Your Route to Adventure
Komoot is an app that lets you find, plan, and share adventures with the easy route planner. Driven by a desire to explore, and powered by the outdoor community’s recommendations, it’s komoot’s mission to inspire great adventures making them accessible to all.
New to komoot? For a free regional bundle (worth £8.99) simply follow this link to komoot.com and create your free account today.