We hope our London-Land’s End Cycle Route will encourage people of all walks of life and abilities to cycle. All route sections in the guidebook are graded regarding their nature (on-road/off-road), terrain (flat/hilly) and things to see and do on the way. This allows everyone to identify the most suitable route sections and/or to identify where the individual challenges lie. Most route sections will be suitable to cycle with any cycling equipment, but occasionally there might be things in the way which could make your ride miserable.
This webpage addresses all possible issues and provides very specific information for which we didn’t have space in the guidebook itself. Unfortunately, such listings become a whole shrine of “can nots” while we’d like to achieve the opposite and enable people to head out and explore. While reading the information below DO NOT BE PUT OFF by it! The information is there to plan your journeys better and to make these more enjoyable!
If you are looking for a disability cycling support service for people of any age or disability, we can highly recommend the coaches of FREETRIKE in Devon. This service uses specialist cycle equipment and takes you onto various sections of our London-Land's End Cycle Route in Devon.
TAKING BICYCLES AND ADJUSTED EQUIPMENT ON TRAINS
The concept of our London-Land’s End Cycle Route is highly reliant on the concept that you can easily take cycles on the train. In Britain, bicycles can be taken on trains free of charge, but spaces are limited. There are also additional limitations in place during peak hours and naturally, for those wishing to bring adjusted equipment. On some routes, you can reserve a space for a bike (and on some routes you must!), on other routes you cannot. Below some specific information about the routes you are likely to travel on with our guidebook.
If you start out cycling westbound from London, it is likely that you'll at some stage take the train back towards London. The long-distance service between Penzance in Cornwall and London Paddington station is now operated by Great Western Railway. From 2016 it is compulsory to make bike reservations for the long-distance GWR-trains between Penzance and London Paddington.
The long-distance diesel trains of Great Western Railway have a compartment in the front or rear of the train with spaces for six bicycles, as pictured above. You can make reservations up to four spaces per party. We have positive feedback from cyclists bringing trailers and tandems on this route, but all made bike reservations in advance and reserved two spaces per large item. The diesel trains between Penzance and London Paddington have direct access from our route at Newbury, Taunton, Plymouth, Truro, Redruth, Camborne, Hayle and Penzance stations. At Theale, Yatton and Bridgwater access to these direct long-distance trains is limited to a couple of trains per day.
If you board the train to London Paddington from Bristol Temple Meads, Bath Spa or Reading, the story can be different, as new electric trains are introduced to replace the diesel trains. You may still be lucky to be welcomed by a diesel train with its special bike compartment, but it likely that you'll travel on new trains in the very near future. On these trains, you can expect a layout on which you have to hang your bike on a hook, the "Cross Country or Virgin long-distance train" set up, see the first picture below. This set up is problematic for special equipment and is also very cramped for large bike frames. Cross Country and Virgin head for Birmingham and beyond and have direct links with our London-Land’s End Cycle Route at London Euston, Bristol Temple Meads, Taunton and Plymouth stations, reservations essential.
On other train services in the London-Land's End area, for example on connecting Great Western Railway trains in the southwest (from Bradford on Avon, Barnstaple and Newquay) and trains between London and Dover and London and Harwich you’ll have to place your equipment in the disability areas, often next to the toilets at the end of a passenger carriage, for example as in the last picture above. Sometimes this space will be marked as cycle space, sometimes it won’t. You may be treated with ample space or you may be treated with cramped space. Unfortunately there is no single standard and making bike reservations on these routes is often not possible. Travelling during the quiet hours of the day (between 11 am and 3 pm or after 7 pm) is preferable on these routes. Transport takes place on first come, first served basis; an adventurous and flexible mind is desirable!
To be able to travel from Paddington to the east or north, you may want to take your bicycle on the London Underground. Please be reassured you can take normal bicycles on the Circle Line between Paddington, King's Cross-St Pancras and Liverpool Street stations, whatever railway staff will tell you further afield. Please note you can only take normal-size bikes on this section of the London Underground and only between 9.30 am and 4 pm and after 7 pm (Mon-Fri, in weekends at all times). As this line lies just below street surface, at Paddington and Liverpool Street, you only need to carry the bikes up and down some short stairs (no long escalators!). At King's Cross-St Pancras, lifts are provided. It is easy to avoid any Underground issues, as our guidebook provides a circular cycle route connecting Paddington, Euston, King's Cross-St Pancras, Liverpool Street, London Bridge, Waterloo and Victoria stations. Allow two hours between any arriving and departing train to cycle stress-free on these routes.
BARRIERS ON THE WAY
Those responsible for cycle path infrastructure in England sometimes come up with some very odd barrier design. The idea behind these barriers is either to keep motor cycles and motorised joy riders off the paths or to make cyclists slow down to walking speed (for example when there is a road ahead). Most of the time, these barriers can be passed freely by cyclists, but there are some exceptions in which the barrier becomes a barrier to cycling in itself. Only a handful of barriers on the entire route require taking off pannier bags and lifting of regular bicycles. These barriers are all clearly listed in the guidebook, with alternative routes listed as well.
Barriers potentially difficulty to pass with tandems, recumbent bikes or tricycles and with trailers are listed below in our full overview of barriers on the route. Note 50% of issues can be found on the relatively short route between Dover and London. By browsing the pictures, you can judge for yourself whether the barrier might be problematic for any equipment you are riding. You'll also be occasionally exposed to some small differences in height, such as a raised kerb as pictured below. This type of small barriers are not listed in the listings on this page.
The list below is as comprehensive as possible, but if you feel we missed out on an important issue, please take a picture and contact us. Please note we can accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by any traveller as a result of information or advice contained in the guidebook or website.
Section 1: Dover – Canterbury (52.7 km / 32.1 miles)
This section has a very high number of barriers on its way, well above average!
0.5 km: You’ll have to squeeze through this narrow gap in the fence on the Dover Promenade.
Alternative: Continue straight on for 300m on the promenade cycle path. Then turn through wider gap and cycle back on the promenade road to re-join the route at the other side of the fence.
0.9 km: There is a very steep climb ahead on which all will end up walking.
Alternative: Turn right onto the main road (according to route 1). The gradient is gentler on this main road, but you are exposed to serious main road motorised traffic. The main route will re-join this road after 1.3 km.
2.9 km: At the White Cliffs of Dover Reserve you’ll find three similar barriers as pictured above. There are also some short steep climbs in the approach to these barriers. At the end of the White Cliffs of Dover area, you’ll also have to pass a barrier as pictured immediately below.
Alternative: Stay on the road after 2.9 km, bypassing all barriers. The main route will re-join this road after 3.6 km.
24.5 km: In Sandwich we use a footpath to avoid a one way restriction, but this path starts with the steps as show below. Also notice the narrow passing width between the posts.
Alternative: Turn right at the lights against the traffic flow, but use the pavement. Note this pavement is pretty narrow as well. The main route will re-join this road after 24.8 km. Another alternative is to follow the route-1 signs on a long detour around town, but this will expose you to some serious main road motorised traffic.
48.7 km: The path into Canterbury has some narrow and steep sections, possibly muddy after heavy rain. At the end of the path, after 51.3 km, you’ll have to pass the barrier as pictured below.
Alternative: Straight on in Fordwich and first road left (Sturry Road, A28). You’ll be exposed to serious main road motorised traffic from here. Very narrow cycle lanes on Sturry Road don’t make you an inch safer, pavements are also very narrow. Turn left into Brymore Road to re-join the route after 51.3 km (in bend to the right, turn right onto cycle path). Alternatively, take the train between Sandwich and Canterbury.
Section 2: Canterbury – Rochester (71 km / 43.6 miles)
This section has a very high number of barriers on its way, well above average!
5.0 km: Two identical barriers on the Crab & Winkle Way may be difficult to pass for some.
Alternative: None, other than taking the train between Canterbury and Faversham.
23.2 km: Two identical barriers on the cycle path into Faversham may be difficult to pass for some. Note the cycle path itself can be muddy after heavy rain.
Alternative: Use the Barriers Avoid Route as shown in the guidebook.
25.8 km: Three similar barriers on arrival in Faversham.
Alternative: Straight on via road, at T-junction right, turn right again at traffic lights and re-join route at the end of Court Street. You’ll be exposed to serious main road motorised traffic on this route, but wide pavements are available all the way.
37.0 km: A must lift barrier on the cycle path just west of Conyer.
Alternative: Turn left after 35.3 km and use country lane route via Teynham to avoid. Make your way back to the main route using the map on page 34 of the guidebook.
41.0 km: Some rough surface in the approach to Sittingbourne, including the barrier as pictured below which can only be avoided by using the raised earthwork on the right.
Alternative: Turn left after 39.8 km and use country lane southbound to Snipeshill Estate. Make your way back to the main route using the map on page 34 of the guidebook by keeping right as much as you can. Alternatively, take the train between Teynham and Kemsley.
44.7 km: Some interesting bars on the bridge over the railway in Kemsley.
Alternative: Follow the bend to the left after 44.4 km and turn right at the T-junction at the end, passing Kemsley station on your left. At the next junction you can re-join the main route after 44.9 km by turning left. You’ll be exposed to serious main road motorised traffic on this route, but wide pavements are available all the way.
52.6 km: No chance to use the gated area of this barrier, you must go across the cattle grid. The path ahead can be overgrown as well.
Alternative: Turn right after 52.3 km and use the country lanes via Windmill Hill by using the map on page 36 of the guidebook.
57.4 km: No less than ten so called A-frames await you on your journey through the Riverside Country Park, all of the type as pictured below. Don’t be pulled off by these barriers if you are able to pass. The scenery is fantastic and compensates greatly for the inconvenience!
Alternative: Turn left and use Lower Rainham Road up to the point where the cycle path starts on the right hand side of this pretty busy road (after 61.3 km). This is where you re-join the route. Alternatively, take the train between Rainham and Gillingham (see map on page 37 to re-join route).
Section 3: Rochester – Woolwich ( 52 km / 32.1 miles)
This section has a very high number of barriers on its way, well above average!
11.2 km: Two A-frames as pictured above between Lower Higham and Gravesend.
Alternative: There is no point of cycling this whole route section if you can’t pass through these barriers. Take the train either in Rochester or Lower Higham. Given the route with some problematic barriers ahead, you may well want to stay in the train all the way to Woolwich Arsenal station.
15.2 km: A fascinating short route section takes you across an area of derelict industrial buildings in Gravesend. Watch the uneven surface!
Alternative: None; see above. Skip whole route section 3 as required!
20.3 km: Yes! This is only the warming up for what is further ahead on route section 3. You’ll find two of this barrier type as pictured below on this short section on the course of a former railway (another one after 20.9 km).
Alternative: Good news! The alternative route is straight-forward! Simply follow official route 1 signs to Dartford. This is the dotted route as pictured on the map on page 40.
33.2 km: Another beauty! This one requires taking off pannier bags of any bicycle. Once beyond this, you can enjoy the great views of the Thames Path. Note the path is narrow with rough surface in places. After 38.7 km you can have another go taking off your pannier bags, as you’ll be treated with another monster-barrier of exactly the same type!
Alternative: An alternative route is marked on the middle map on page 41. Again, without being on the Thames path, there is not much joy in cycling this route section. Just take the train all the way to Woolwich Arsenal and cycle route section 6 from there….
43.9 km: The last of our selection of crude Thames Path barriers! Once again, taking off pannier bags of any bicycle is required here! Further ahead, you’ll pass another two A-frame-barriers, but frankly, if you can deal with this monster as pictured below, these are piece of cake!
Alternative: An alternative route is marked on the right map on page 41. Again, without being on the Thames path, there is not much joy in cycling this route section. Just take the train all the way to Woolwich Arsenal and cycle route section 6 from there…
Section 4: Harwich – Maldon (82 km / 50.5 miles)
42.2 km: Just to compensate for all the “barrier misery” between London and Dover, there is nothing like it on this route section! Most pleasant of all is passing through the original Roman Gate in Colchester…
Alternative: Not required.
Section 5: Maldon – Woolwich (76 km / 46.9 miles)
60.2 km: Walking on a grass path for 400 meters and passing through two farm gates at either end is of the path is required. Check the route updates to ensure you don’t go wrong here!
Alternative: Turn left after 59.1 km and use Hainault Road to return to the main route after 60.6 km, see map on page 51. You’ll be exposed to serious main road motorised traffic on this route.
67.9 km: The Barrier of Barking is notorious for having to take all pannier bags of any cycle and even then, you might not be able to fit the bicycle through! After 68.2 km, just 300 m further, there is the bridge across the Northern Circular Road, on which the ramps consist of kerb-height steps, all about two metres away from each other. So, after every step, you have two metres of gentle slope before having to take the next step. This system is in place on both sides of the bridge.
Alternative: For both the barrier and the bridge, alternative routes are provided on pages 52 and 53 of the guidebook.
76.0 km: The Woolwich pedestrian tunnel has deep steps on either side. The lifts have been out of order for years and there is no sign that these will be repaired in the near future.
Alternative: Simply use the free Woolwich Ferry at the same location. Line up among the cars and do not enter the pavement. If you join the pavement, you end up dragging your bicycle up and down the steps on the ferry itself!
Section 6: Woolwich – London Bridge (20 km / 12.4 miles)
7.7 km: You might have an issue passing through these poles.
Alternative: Join the pavement on the right hand side of the road about 100m back (at dropped kerb) to pass through the wide gap on the right hand side.
Section 7: London Bridge - Kingston (30 km / 18.6 miles)
There are no noticeable barriers on this route section across Central London, but multiple dismounting will be required to cross some busy main roads, for example Tooley Street at London Bridge station, Blackfriars Road and Parliament Square. Also be prepared for some kerb-humping (either up or down).
18.3 km: A narrow footbridge is even made narrower with some poles.
Alternative: Make your way through grass of park to main road ahead. Turn left and re-join main route after 18.5 km. You’ll be exposed to serious main road motorised traffic on this short route.
Section 8: Kingston – Windsor & Eton (42 km / 26.3 miles)
14.9 km (before Staines): The Weybridge-Shepperton pedestrian ferry has a high step. You’ll be required to lift your bicycle on and off yourself, although the ferryman might give you a hand.
Alternative: Use the alternative route in the guidebook, fully shown on page 66.
9.0 km (after Staines): A narrow passage near Runnymede might be difficult to pass for some users.
Alternative: Use official route 4 between Staines and Egham, although this will take you on a serious main road (A308) with severe motorised traffic. Wide pavements are available most of the way.
10.4 km (after Staines): There is a very steep climb ahead on which all will end up walking.
Alternative: None, you have to use this steep path to get into Windsor Park without cycling on a busy main road. Take the train between Staines and Windsor as required, but you'll miss out on Windsor Park.
Section 9: Windsor & Eton – Reading (38 km / 23.5 miles)
9.3 km: Two A-frames with a narrow passage on this cycle path between Bray and Maidenhead.
Alternative: After 8.9 km, keep to the right (Bray Road) a pretty busy road. In a bend to the right, turn left and keep left. Re-join the main route after 10.4 km by turning right after the bridge. See also the map on page 71.
14.4 km: The route through Maidenhead has various bars barriers, with narrow passage in places.
Alternative: Using Shoppenhangers Road all the way between 11.5 km and 15.4 km. This is the yellow-coloured through road on the map on page 71. You’ll be exposed to serious main road motorised traffic on this route. Alternatively, take the train between Maidenhead and Reading.
Section 10: Reading – Great Bedwyn (55 km / 34 miles)
Much of this route section is on the towpath of the Avon & Kennet Canal. This towpath is narrow in places, sometimes very close to the edge of the canal. There are also some viaducts over the canal and towpath with headroom issues. Most of the way, the surface is gravel. There are also some short grass sections or sections with a very narrow line of gravel, see pictures below.
2.2 km: The first of three notorious barriers on the outskirts of Reading (see picture below) can now by bypassed by using the new route. After 0.3 km of route section 10, at the end of the path through main shopping area, do not turn left as in the guidebook, but turn right onto the bridge (Canal Street) and turn immediately left onto the tow path on the north side of the canal. This route is now officially signposted as route 4. It will take you to the way point after 2.3 km; simply go through the tunnel under the viaduct and follow the tarmac cycle path as listed in the directions of this way point. Note the GPS-tracks still feature the old route in the guidebook!
3.0 km: The next two barriers on the outskirts of Reading are truly notorious; taking off pannier bags of any bicycle is required here. It is better to walk luggage and bikes beyond the two barriers in one go, so don't repack bags until you have found the second barrier around the corner from the first!
Alternative: After 2.6 km, turn left up the ramp to use the alternative route as highlighted on the maps on pages 74 and 75. Re-join the main route near the Cunning Man pub after 5.9 km.
36.8 km: Beyond the locks, the quality of the tow path deteriorates, not suitable for trailers, etc.
Alternative: Turn left and use signposted on-road route 4 to get to Kintbury. The pack GPS-tracks provided tracks for both the towpath and the on-road route.
Section 11A: Great Bedwyn – Alton Priors via Avebury (34 km / 21 miles)
Much charm of the route comes from the route via Fyfield Down Reserve between Marlborough and Avebury. As highlighted in the guidebook, part of this route is on grass and rough gravel, including a steep slope on rough surface. Some pictures of this stretch below. The guidebook provides a fine tarmac alternative. There are no barrier issues on this route section.
Section 11B: Great Bedwyn –Alton Priors via Stonehenge (68 km / 42 miles)
There are no barrier issues on this route section, but access to Stonehenge is not straight-forward. The last 500m of the journey to the ancient monument can only be done by foot via grass paths (or obviously by car/taxi from Amesbury). Cycles will need to be left behind in Amesbury or 500m from the site. See also our route-updates.
Section 12: Alton Priors – Bath (52 km / 32 miles)
Once again, much of this route section is on the towpath of the Avon & Kennet Canal. Between Devizes and Bradford on Avon, the surface is rough in places, with some narrow sections as well, sometimes very close to the edge of the canal. Heading into Bath, the towpath can be very busy. There are no barrier issues on this route section.
Section 13: Bath - Bristol (22 km / 14 miles)
Cycling for all as it should be; no issues to report!
Section 14: Bristol - Cheddar (59 km / 36 miles)
This route section has numerous A-frame as pictured below, especially on the Strawberry Line section. The A-frames are just mentioned briefly, with info on alternative routes.
10.8 km (Avon Gorge): Alternative: None, take the train between Bristol Temple Meads and Yatton
31.4 km (Clevedon): Alternative: After 30.9 km, go straight on and turn right onto Strode Road to re-join the route after 32.8 km
47.5, 47.6, 48.5, 48.9, 51.8 and 52.0 km (six A-frames in total, all on the Strawberry Line): Alternative: None, take the train between Yatton and Bridgwater
Section 15: Cheddar – Taunton (60 km / 37 miles)
The route between Bridgwater and Taunton is on the towpath of the Taunton and Bridgwater Canal. This towpath is narrow in places, sometimes very close to the edge of the canal. There are also some viaducts over the canal and towpath with headroom issues, see picture. There are no barrier issues on this route section.
Section 16: Taunton –Dulverton (51 km / 31 miles)
As outlined in the guidebook, this section is hard-going because of the hilly terrain. You must be comfortable with steep climbs and descents, mostly on-road via very quiet country lanes, see picture below. There are no barrier issues on this route section.
Section 17: Dulverton – Barnstaple (55 km / 34 miles)
Once again, very hilly terrain! The route via Tarr Steps (as pictured below) has two extreme climbs as outlined in the guidebook. To cross the Tarr Steps, walking with the cycle over uneven surface (stone slabs) is required. An alternative route is provided in the guidebook, featuring one extreme climb.
35.6 km: Two barriers of this type very close to each other in Barnstaple; very narrow passage at both!
Alternative: 50 m before the first barrier, turn right onto footpath and car park of “Wickes", continue straight on beyond “Argos” and at end of car park, turn left onto cycle path. Keep going straight on to re-join route after 35.9 km.
Section 18: Barnstaple - Sheepwash (42 km / 26 miles)
The Tarka Trail brings relieve from all the climbing and descending on Exmoor. Most barriers on this trail have been removed years ago and you should have a clear run most of the way. There are some gates you’ll need to be able to open. You’ll find these at Yelland (after 7.5 km) and beyond Torrington (after 13.6 km, 17.6 and 18.6 km). There are no alternatives for these gates. There is also one very narrow passage at Instow (after 10.1 km). Alternative is following the main road parallel to the trail and re-joining the trail at Westleigh. Away from the Tarka Trail, near Sheepwash, there are some short steep climbs and descents to conquer.
14.5 km: To cycle the extra route to Westward Ho! Beach from Bideford (see page 113), you'll find some high steps with a ramp on your way when leaving/entering the Tarka Trail from Bideford station.
Alternative: You can bypass the steps by either using the footpath link 500m before the station (when travelling from Barnstaple on your right) or by cycling 300 m beyond the station, using the ramp down at Bideford Kayak Hire. Both alternative routes are narrow (tow path width).
Section 19: Sheepwash – Plymouth (86 km / 53 miles)
Hilly terrain again! Away from the empty country lanes, there are plenty of cycle paths on former railway paths which make excellent cycling. These are the Granite Way between Okehampton and Lydford, the Drake Trail between Tavistock and Yelverton and the Plym Valley Way north of Plymouth. There are no notorious barriers on this section we are aware off, but, as the amazing countryside on this section always takes our breath away, we might have overlooked some important issues.
Section 20: Sheepwash – Crackington Junction (47 km / 29 miles)
Again, hilly terrain, most notoriously south of Bude, see picture. The hills are the main issue for anyone using adapted cycles. You MUST know your own capabilities and limitations. If you found the Exmoor sections hard to complete, DO NOT enter Cornwall and finish your ride with the easier Devon Coast-to-Coast (see section 18 and 19) as required. There are no notorious barriers on section 20 we are aware off.
Section 21: Crackington Junction – Blisland (38 km / 23 miles or 34 km / 21 miles)
Once again; you’ll find various extreme climbs here, especially on our route via Tintagel Castle. The route via Bodmin Moor is slightly easier. Skip this route section if you are after an easy ride. There are no issues with barriers on this section.
Section 22: Blisland – Newquay (69 km / 42 miles)
“The Camel Trail gives you the only truly flat ride in Cornwall.” This is not 100% true; in its 26 km you climb/descent about 70m! It is a great cycle trail though with amazing scenery and no barriers to report. Between Padstow and Newquay the climbs are less severe than in section 20 and 21, but can be an issue for those with adapted cycles.
Section 23: Newquay – Penzance (71 km / 44 miles)
The journey continues with the same characteristics as above. The climbs are not severe, but definitely there! Short easy and flat sections with amazing scenery are the Mining Trail near Bissoe and the coastal path between Marazion and Penzance, see the guidebook. There are no barriers to report.
Section 24: Land’s End Round Trip (51 km / 32 miles)
The final stage of the route features once again some severe climbing. Note our route via Cape Cornwall (see picture below) is strenuous, with some short stretches on steep, uneven and possibly muddy surface. Alternative tarmac routes (but without Cape Cornwall) are provided in the guidebook. There are no barriers to report.