Rugged moorland, a historic prison, a large, former county town founded with a monastery and a generous helping of legends; Bodmin is Cornwall’s largest inland town with a rich past.
The town’s name derives from the establishment of a monastery here in the 6th Century by St Petroc, which yields Bodmin’s alternative name of Petrockstowe, and in the Cornish language the town is known as Bosvena.
While Cornwall’s capital was transferred further west to the growing cathedral city of Truro in the late 1800s, the town built on the success of tin mining has remained a key destination for the people of North Cornwall.
The nearby granite moorland of Bodmin Moor is home not only to Cornwall’s highest peak, Brown Willy, but also no less than two legends. The Beast of Bodmin Moor is said to be a large panther-like black wild cat, and according to Arthurian legend, Excalibur was thrown to The Lady Of the Lake by Sir Bedivere in Dozmary Pool.
With picturesque Cornish coastlines within cycling distance both to the north and south, the glorious wild expanse of Bodmin Moor to the east, and much-forgotten inland lanes and tracks to the west, Bodmin is a great place to base yourself for exploring North Cornwall.
The abundance of traffic-free cycleways further add to the appeal, often converted from old railway and tram lines, in this wonderful part of the Westcountry that’s best enjoyed outside of peak summer season.
Moor to estuary (36 miles)
Inland moor, valleyside forest, a tidal estuary and many winding Cornish lanes in between; the variety of terrain and landscapes on this 36-mile route is pretty astounding.
Off-road highlights include the spectacular Goss Moor nature reserve, with its chalky white gravel double and single track multi-use trails, a thrilling descent of the forestry roads through Bishop’s Wood, and a gentle return to Bodmin from Wadebridge along the flat and traffic-free Camel Trail.
There’s a significant mileage of rural lanes in between these sites, which are anything but flat, though thankfully typically quiet. All that climbing does mean you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views though, so choose a clear day for this ride if you can.
While there are off-road sections along the route through Goss Moor, Bishop’s Wood and along the Camel Trail, these are all pretty well-surfaced gravel, so a sturdy hybrid, tourer or gravel bike would be ideal.
History buffs will delight in the sights en route, with an optional short hike to the impressive Castle an Dinas Iron Age hill fort, and a visit to Cornwall’s largest prehistoric standing stone, the St Breock Downs Monolith.
There’s plenty to see for wildlife lovers too, with a selection of both heathland and estuary species abundant across these varied landscapes and the farmed countryside that links them.
Keen to try some Cornish delicacies on your travels? While most of the route feels pretty remote, avoiding busier coastal hotspots, there are some great places for refuelling. Pick up some saffron buns from the Real Food Garden farm shop after leaving Bodmin, enjoy a proper Cornish pasty from Barnecutts in Wadebridge, and don’t forgo afternoon tea, as served at the Camel Trail Tea Garden close to the end of the route.
Mountain biking trails at Cardinham and Lanhydrock (19.4 miles)
Don’t let the title of this one fool you; though the singletrack trails through Cardinham Woods and around the woodland in the Lanhydrock Estate may have been originally designed for mountain bikes, this is a route that can be enjoyed on any sturdy, wide-tyred bike, including hybrids and gravel bikes.
Mostly following beginner friendly blue-rated trails, these carefully built tracks are hard packed and a little stony. This means that they’re great to ride year-round if you want to avoid the worst of the slop on more natural bridleways and byways, though it’s best to pack your waterproof socks as there’s likely to be a puddle or two in the wetter months!
While Cardinham Woods certainly features more climbing and descending as you wind your way around the edges of the river valley, the trail options at Lanhydrock are generally flatter, so better suited to families with young riders or those with a more limited gearing range.
You can find a cycle hire centre in Lanhydrock, where you can pre-book both adult mountain bikes and a range of children’s bikes.
Just a short stretch of road separates Cardinham Woods and Lanhydrock (and a hill, as it is Cornwall after all), so it’s easy to ride both areas in a single ride, both conveniently pedal-able from Bodmin.
Enjoy the woods on the turn in autumn for a vibrant display of colour, or through the winter as you’re never too far from town. Multiple great cafe stops along the way also mean that you’re never too far from a warming hot chocolate, hearty bowl of homemade soup or glorious cream tea!
Both Cardinham Woods and Lanhydrock Estate have pay and display car parks, though for this route we propose you can ride out of central Bodmin to enjoy them both in a larger loop, showcasing just how accessible these trails are from the town.
Helman Tor, the Luxulyan Valley, Fowey and Lostwithiel (31 miles)
Heading to the south coast to visit the quaint port town of Fowey, this 31-mile mixed terrain route reveals some real hidden gems of North Cornwall, if you’re willing to put the climbing in to reach them!
Visit the rocky granite outcrop of Helman Tor with its expansive views over the surrounding countryside, the hilltop gravel along the Saints Way, the converted tram track cycleway through the enchanted Luxulyan Valley alongside the River Par, and the peaceful bridleway through Tywardreath Marsh nature reserve, all before the rocky descent into lively Fowey.
Make the most of the many eateries in the popular town before making your ascent out of Fowey and back inland, over the hills to the antiques hub of Lostwithiel. The final stretch takes you past the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery, which hosts an unmissable cafe, and a wonderful road descent to cross the 15th century Respryn Bridge over the River Fowey.
While there are a few short sections of more technical terrain that would probably be preferable on a mountain bike, a gravel bike is well suited to this route as there are many miles of linking lanes too.
The loop starts and ends from Bodmin Parkway train station for easy access via public transport, but if you’re starting in central Bodmin it’s easy to link up to the route using National Cycle Route 3 through the Lanhydrock Estate.
Bodmin is easily accessible by train, with the nearest station, Bodmin Parkway, 4.5 mile (7.2 km) cycle away. If visiting by car, Bodmin is located just off the A30, Cornwall’s central road artery.
More cycling experiences in Kent, Cornwall and Norfolk
Bodmin is just one of our highlighted locations that's perfect for cycling. Here's Cycling UK's full set of cycle-friendly hubs, with accredited facilities and promoted routes.
Cornwall: Bodmin; Helston; Penzance and Marazion
Kent: Canterbury; Dover; Lenham and Hollingborne; Otford; Wye
Norfolk: Cromer; Diss; Fakenham; Hunstanton; Swaffham; Thetford; Wroxham and Hoveton
If you fancy a challenge, try our 230km bikepacking route exploring the rugged landscapes and fascinating heritage of west Cornwall.
EXPERIENCE is a €23.3 million project co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF, €16 million) through the Interreg VA France (Channel) England Programme 2014-2020, boosting visitor numbers in six pilot regions across England and France. This project will harness the experiential tourism trend to extend the season (October – March), generating 20 million new off-season visitors spending €1 billion across the Channel region by June 2023.