More national coverage for Cycling in Devon, this time from an article in the Guardian.
Lesley Gillilan takes a relaxed ride around Plymouth’s historical hotspots
Length 2 miles (plus an extra 3 miles to Saltram)
Duration Between 30 minutes and half a day (depending on stops and detours)
Start Barbican harbour
Finish Royal William Yard
Who’s it good for? A day out with partners or friends, or families with kids
Map OS Landranger 201 or Explorer 108
Barbican harbour to Royal William Yard
The short urban ride from Plymouth’s Barbican harbour to Royal William Yard can take less than half an hour but it’s a great introduction to Britain’s “Ocean City” – its rich maritime history, its two river estuaries (the Plym and the Tamar) and the watery splendour of Plymouth Sound, one of the world’s finest natural harbours.
Following the Waterfront Walkway, the ride is an established part of National Cycle Network route 27, but in a push to make Plymouth more appealing to cyclists, it’s just been treated to a Lottery-funded upgrade – adding waymarked signs and cycle lanes. Local bike shop and cafe, Rockets and Rascals, has introduced a cycling hub at either end of the route so riders can pick up a hire bike on the Barbican and drop it off at Royal William Yard (or vice versa). And numerous connecting cycle routes mean you can easily extend the ride into the Devon countryside or across the river Tamar into Cornwall.
I started at Royal William Yard, an iconic 1830s naval victualling depot now being redeveloped as an urban waterfront village. Bumping across cobbles, I passed through the arched entrance, and ventured on to Cremyll Street in Georgian Stonehouse – one of few areas of the city to survive the Plymouth blitz.
Dedicated cycle lanes took me up to Millbay, a former red light district currently being cleaned up with shiny new apartments. At the entrance to Millbay port – where you can catch a ferry to Brittany – it gets a bit busier (there are plans to divert cyclists on a safer route) but within minutes I was on the quiet, traffic-calmed streets of Plymouth Hoe, with its seaside park, cliff-hung terraces and spectacular views.
Here, I stopped to look down at Tinside Lido, an art deco classic open to swimmers in the summer (adults £4, kids £3) and up at Smeaton’s Tower, an 18th-century lighthouse often open to the public. On the parkland by the tower, where Sir Francis Drake finished a game of bowls before setting off to defeat the Spanish Armada, I watched a massive navy frigate slide past Drake’s Island.
Nipping around the Royal Citadel, a 17th-century fort still in use, the ride drops down to the cobbled streets and salty quays of the Barbican’s Elizabethan harbour, where cafe tables spill on to waterfront pavements, fishing boats jostle with super-yachts and flags fly over the Mayflower Steps.
From here, you can take a ferry back to Royal William, or push on to the National Trust’s magnificent Georgian mansion at Saltram , via a section of the Plym Valley Trail. Later, back at Royal William Yard, I took another detour to Admiral’s Hard, where I boarded the little foot ferry that chugs across the Tamar estuary into Cornwall and the Mount Edgcumbe Estate. With 865 acres of seaside country park, the estate offers miles of free, easy off-road cycling – lined with picturesque ruins, woodland, deer park, forts and views across the bay.
For more information head to visitplymouth.co.uk
How to get there
Plymouth is on the First Great Western mainline between London Paddington and Penzance. Brittany Ferries runs a route between Roscoff and Plymouth (from £29 one-way).
Where to eat and drink
Plymouth has a number of new restaurants, some opened by celebrity chefs and all on the waterfront route. At Royal William Yard, Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall’s River Cottage Canteen serves seasonal dishes, local produce, line-caught fish and has views of the waterfront; and theRoyal William Bakery serves pastries, soups, pizzas, pies and fresh-bread breakfasts in a chamber of the old slaughterhouse. On the Hoe, the Dome, a former observatory visitor centre, is the venue for Gary Rhodes’s Kitchen and Bar – serving everything from teas and tapas to lunches and fine dining. Mitch Tonks’s latest and largest Rockfishventure, a blend of takeaway, posh chippy and seafood restaurant, is at the entrance to the Marine Aquarium. Around the corner, the Tanner Brothers’ Barbican Kitchen in the Plymouth Gin Distillery has fresh local dishes.
Where to stay
In Royal William Yard, a choice of loft-style apartments is offered by Blue Chip Holidays, including 73 Brewhouse, a duplex with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and views of the harbour (three-night breaks from £314). In Tavistock, Browns has rooms from £119.
Things to check out
On the Barbican, head for the National Marine Aquarium. Nearby, the Black Friars Gin Distillery offers tours of the medieval building home to Plymouth Gin since 1793. From the Mayflower Steps, take a Sound and Tamar Cruising (01752 253153, tamarcruising.com) trip past the dockyards of the Tamar estuary or a ferry across the Sound to the Rame peninsula. From Plymouth station, explore the scenic line to Calstock, Gunnislake and the Tamar Valley with Great Scenic Railways; take your bike on the train and cycle back (around 15 miles).
Rockets and Rascals has hire options from £15 a day (including locks and helmets).