Depart the cathedral city of Exeter and follow one of the oldest surviving canals in Britain, taking in Devon’s premier wetland.


Flat, mostly off-road and with the option of returning by train, this route makes the perfect springtime cycle ride.

Exe estuary, Devon
The Exe Valley Way runs alongside Exeter Ship Canal, one of Britain’s oldest artificial waterways Alamy

An easy-to-follow, flat cycle route from the centre of Exeter to Powderham Castle.

8 miles/13km | 1-2 hours | moderate

1. Island park

Start at Exeter’s quaint quayside. The Customs House Visitor Centre offers historical information about the city and the quay, the latter dating to Roman times when a natural sandstone ledge was used to load and unload boats.

Follow Sustrans Route 34 as it leaves the quay and passes through the Riverside Valley Park on an island between the River Exe and Exeter Ship Canal. The canal was opened in 1566 to allow boats to reach Exeter and subvert weirs that were built on the river so that boats would be forced to dock at Topsham.

The River Teign surrounded by autumnal foliage, near Fingle Bridge in Dartmoor National Park, Devon, England

2. Bird spotting

As you pass the Double Locks pub you will see some bird blinds beside the cycleway, ideal for spotting kingfishers or herons among the reeds.

Where the cycleway crosses the A379, follow signs for Sustrans Route 2 towards Dawlish Warren.

3. Bikes on boats

After two miles you will come to an idyllic lock keeper’s cottage. From here, if you wish, you can take a foot ferry (which permits bicycles and operates on weekends in the winter) to historic Topsham.

Back on the trail, look out for Brent geese, lapwings and otters at the storage pool in the Exminster and Powderham Marshes Nature Reserve.

Look out for kingfishers along the water/Credit: Getty

4. Flora and fauna

After passing the Turf Hotel, the trail crosses the railway line and joins a small quiet lane. This passes Powderham Castle deer park, home to 600 fallow deer as well as oak, chestnut and copper beech.

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5. Retrace or rail

After one mile, the cycleway resumes at Starcross and leads to the railway station where you can put your bike on the train back to Exeter.


Exe estuary bike route and map.

Exe estuary map


Christopher Ridout is a walker and writer with a keen interest in history and mythology.