Cycling the Camel Trail to Padstow
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While we were down in Cornwall in SW England we were keen to seek out, and cycle along The Camel Trail. It’s a beautifully well-kept, 18 mile traffic-free cycle path in-between Padstow and Wenfordbridge running along two disused railways – the ‘North Cornwall Railway’ and the ‘Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway’.
One section of which dates back to 1834 – one of the oldest bits of railway in the world! Sadly though the trail has nothing to do with camels, but instead is named after the Camel Estuary, the route of which it follows. Anyway we wanted to find out all about it. So what was it like? Want to see our CORNWALL itinerary then here you go?!
First step – hiring a bike!
We were staying in the middle of the trail just outside Wadebridge so decided to hire at this midway point rather than driving over to Padstow. The plan being to cycle east from Wadebridge to Bodmin, and then all the way back again west past Wadebridge to Padstow. Finally doing the last leg east back to Wadebridge to drop off the bikes and pick up the car. Simples!
You can of course start at Padstow and cycle all the way east to Bodmin and back. But doing it our way meant be could always “sack off” one of the legs if we wanted too. Although apparently some of the Padstow/Wadebridge bike shops have an agreement that they’ll allow other companies’ bikes to be dropped off with them if you did need to cut your bike ride short for any reason.
Which Camel Trail bike hire company?
We went with the guys at ‘Camel Trail Cycle Hire’ with both Bridge Bike Hire and Bike Smart being very close by. The idea was to hire a tandem bike, but even though we were in school term time there were unfortunately none available. Instead we happily took a Raleigh Pioneer hybrid bike each. No drama but top tip – book ahead if there’s a particular bicycle you’re after. Or indeed any bike at all if it’s peak season!
So where is The Camel Trail and is there a map?
Check out The Camel Trail PDF map in full (smaller image below). Download and print out the map above so it’s to hand as you cycle along. Alternatively you can probably just pick up a paper copy from one of the many cycle hire shops dotted along the trail.
Where does the camel trail start and finish?
There isn’t really a start and finish point. You can tackle the Camel Trail from either direction. So from Wadebridge it was a toss of a coin whether we should go to Padstow first or Bodmin? Bodmin is ever so slightly more uphill so we headed there first through the woods. The idea being we’d have a rewarding fish ‘n’ chips from Rick Stein’s when we finally got to Padstow. As it happened we instead stocked up on lunch in the Bodmin Sainsbury’s after a delightful tea stop at the Camel Trail Tea Gardens (black number ‘1’ on the map above). It was noon. We were hungry. And Rick Stein’s fish ‘n’ chips were now 12 mile away! Too far.
The section from Wadebridge to Bodmin is only 6 miles. Below is the starting point just down from Bodmin jail. We cycled a little bit further into Bodmin to find the Sainsbury’s! You can’t quite see it in the signage below but the trail is also part of the National Cycle (routes 32 and 3).
How long does it take to cycle the Camel Trail?
The most commonly cycled section is between Padstow and Bodmin. This is 11.25 miles in length. This will take most people a leisurely 1h 40 minutes one-way. If like many people you go from Wadebridge > Bodmin > Padstow > Wadebridge (enabling you to pick up and drop off your bikes) this amounts to 22.5 miles and would take 3h 20 minutes without any breaks.
Are the trails suitable for all bikes?
As you can see the trails are flat, well-surfaced and wide enough for everybody to happily go backwards and forwards. We saw every type of bike imaginable. From hire bikes like ours which were hybrids through to tandems and mountain bikes. Others were pootling along on folding bikes and speedier people on cross road bikes. A road bike might not be as comfortable as there were some bumpier bits on the way to Bodmin. Either way it felt like a lovely place to be!
On the way we even got lucky and saw a train from the Bodmin & Wenford railway pulling up.
The long stretch all the way to Padstow
From Bodmin to Padstow, back via Wadebridge, is a full 12 mile. Fortunately now downhill but into an ever so slight headwind. Still – we were hardly racing along and we intended to have lunch just along the estuary past Wadebridge. Before getting to Padstow you’ll pass the ‘Atlantic Coast Express’ coffee stop which sits alonside a small slate quarry (image at the top of this post). This spot gives some great views over to Padstow and even sells cream teas. Find out the correct way of eating them at my ‘jam or cream first‘ post. A little further along we crossed this old railway bridge and then it’s just 1 mile or two to Padstow! Mind your hat on this bridge! Mine almost blew off into The Camel below!
And finally those fish ‘n’ chip in Padstow
There’s a bike park as you arrive in Padstow so the small village doesn’t become strewn with locked up bicycles. We left ours there and wandered past Rick Stein’s fish ‘n’ chips shop. I thoroughly recommend trying some as they are absolutely delicious (we’d actually eaten there the night before). From Padstow it’s then just the 6 miles home to Wadebridge – preceded by a coffee and cake 1 mile out at that ‘Atlantic Coast Express’ coffee stop mentioned above. We were aware the ride was almost over and we wanted to prolong it just a little bit longer 🙂
Has anybody cycled The Camel Trail? Maybe you’ve done the whole thing including the uphill leg up to Wenfordbridge? Either way we were more than happy with our 25 mile bike ride from Wadebridge > Bodmin > Padstow > Wadebridge.
Check out our other cycling related posts including cycling up Alpe d’Huez and biking around the olive trees in Monopoli, Italy. If you live up in North Hertfordshire you might want to try cycling The Greenway, a 13.6 off-road loop around the world’s first garden city. Or if you want to try something a little more water-based then check out my article on coasteering in the county of Devon, just next-door!
Or check out this 2020 post for 10 other UK cycle route ideas courtesy of some local travel blogger friends.
Alternatively if you’ve like to keep your feet planted firmly on the ground head just up the coast to explore the legends of King Arthur and Merlin at Tintagel Castle.
If you like taking part in more organised excursions then check out the three related trips below. They don’t necessarily include ‘The Camel Trail’ but will show you the many beautiful spots nearby.