The Camel Trail is Cornwall’s most frequented cycle route. Here’s why it’s so popular for bike rides, walking and running.
With summer coming to an end, me and Henry ventured to North Cornwall to cycle from Wadebridge to Padstow on The Camel Trail. I’ve been wanting to do this for ages. Most of all, I’m hoping it’ll be the first of many mum and son biking adventures.
Cycling together’s been fun so far. It’s become a new way for us to enjoy the outdoors together. As Henry’s relatively new to biking, heading to Cornwall’s most loved cycle trail seemed like a good choice. The aim being to help him become more confident on his bike, and to get used to cycling further.
Where Does The Camel Trail Start and Finish?
The Camel Trail starts at Wenford Bridge, on the edge of Bodmin Moor, and ends at Padstow. It passes through Bodmin and Wadebridge. From start to finish, the Camel Trail is 18 miles long and is 5.5 miles from Wadebridge to Padstow. Some do it all in one go, or like us, in sections. It’s popular with cyclists, walkers and runners, and is one of the few flat routes in Cornwall.
The Camel Trail is safe, traffic free, and family friendly. It has good accessibility too, and is suitable for wheelchair users.
Can You Hire Bikes For The Camel Trail?
There are several bike hire places in Wadebridge offering bikes for all ages and preferences. Whoever you choose, they’ll certainly make sure you’re well equipped for your ride. The cycle hire businesses are easy to find and are near the opening of the trail, by Lidl’s supermarket. If you want to start the Camel Trail at Padstow, bike hire is available there too.
As for what bike you should use on the Camel Trail, I’m no expert but I’m sure road bikes are fine. The Camel Trail from Bodmin to Wadebridge is no longer bumpy, the surface has been sorted. This has made it more suitable for road bikes. It’s a smooth ride from Wadebridge to Padstow too.
Where to Park.
Again, if you’re starting at Wadebridge, I’d suggest the carpark behind Lidl, called Piggy Lane. Just drive through the Lidl car park, and it’s at the back. Parking costs are reasonable. I opted for 3 hours and paid £3.00.
Where To Get Food and Drink between Wadebridge and Padstow.
There are plenty of benches and places to stop and admire the view on the Camel Trail. If you’re wanting a break halfway, there’s the Atlantic Coast Express (ACE) at Penquean Quarry. The ACE is a converted goods carriage so very much in keeping with the heritage of the Camel Trail and Estuary. They serve hot drinks and cakes aplenty. There’s also Cornish crepes and soup.
The Atlantic Coast Express is seasonal, so do check for opening times before you leave.
When it comes to days out, there’s always the option of a picnic. We love a bit of al fresco eating and I had my trusty Wenjie rucksack all packed up for our half way point at Padstow.
Cycling from Wadebridge to Padstow.
Setting off on what turned out to be a lovely sunny day, I couldn’t wait for Henry to experience the Camel Trail. I’ve previously run here on my lunch breaks and it proved to be a good flat trail route for intervals.
As The Camel Trail is part of the National Cycle Network, it gets quite busy. Cycling etiquette means that you stay on the left. This allows for 2 way traffic and the opportunity for others to overtake you.
The Camel Trail from Wadebridge to Padstow is actually a disused railway line. I bet it was a pretty train route in its time too, although it was used to transport sand to inland farms, rather than people. Even so, I like that it’s being used for another purpose now.
The Camel Estuary.
The views are always good along the Camel Estuary. The scenery changes as you leave Wadebridge, from what looks like empty, salt marsh to more golden sandy banks synonymous with Padstow. The Camel Estuary naturally takes on a different look at high tide, and from month to month, with the changing seasons. Making our way along the trail, we could see the beaches of Rock and Daymer Bay, as well as glimpses of Padstow.
The Camel Estuary is an excellent place for nature lovers too. An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it’s an ideal place for birdwatching enthusiasts. We spotted a few swans during our bike ride, but it’s not unusual to see Peregrines and Osprey.
A Pitstop at Padstow.
As we approached Padstow, we were definitely ready for our lunch. Despite regular requests from Henry for a break, we didn’t stop en route for long. I was determined to get to Padstow and have our picnic there. I liked the idea of wandering into town and maybe grabbing an ice cream. Instead, we ended up sitting on a bench by the cycle drop off, looking out at the estuary. It proved to be very relaxing, I could’ve stayed for quite a while.
Needless to say, Padstow’s an ideal place to grab a Cornish pasty to keep your energy up for the return journey. Alternatively, there’s quite a few pubs and places to eat in Padstow. It’s a pretty Cornish fishing town and well worth a stroll.
The Return Journey from Padstow to Wadebridge.
For some reason, cycling back to the car seemed to take no time at all.
It really doesn’t take long to cycle the 5.5 miles from Wadebridge to Padstow. I guess how long it takes depends on who you’re with and your level of fitness. I think it took us about an hour to do one way, and much less time on the way back! In total, I think it took us about 2 hours.
With Henry being a new cyclist, he occasionally stops abruptly, without warning. Being behind him, this meant I had to brake fast too.
In true Penny style, my balance was off and ended up falling into a ditch on the side of the trail! With legs akimbo (classy) and thorns in all the wrong places, I couldn’t stop laughing. I couldn’t get out of the ditch either. This was even more embarrassing 🤦🏻♀️.. Thankfully, a man stopped to lend me a hand.
Anyway, moving swiftly on – we landed safely at our car. Our legs were slightly aching – we’re not used to cycling for lengthy periods. It was good to to tick cycling from Wadebridge to Padstow on the Camel Trail, off our to do list. I
think we’ll be back again.
Have you ever cycled the Camel Trail? Alternatively, do you have another favourite place to cycle in Cornwall?