Hope people find this useful. If it's wanted I can do the same for Taunton to Bristol as well?
OK, so there are loads of ways of getting from Exeter to Taunton whilst you’re doing your LEJoG, but as a Taunton resident I thought I’d detail what in my mind would be the best 4 routes depending on your criteria. (There are others if you want more climbing, over the Blackdowns for example, that are frankly wonderful but you will pay for them!) I am not going to say “just go up the A38”, yes it’s probably the fastest, but it’s not the best in my view and has a few very short fast dual carriageway sections that are really raced by the locals making it rather an inhospitable road in my mind.
On to the routes:
Option 1 – The quiet main road way
From Exeter (and this works really well if you’ve taken Robs Passage) take the A396 up to Tiverton, then onto Bampton, then the B3227 through Wiveliscombe and on to Taunton. It’s easy to follow on fast wide roads that are generally not very busy. The A396 can get a bit bad at times and small rolling hills can mean angry drivers behind you though…
Food stops at Bickleigh Mill, The Bridge house and Bampton, and The Coffee Engine at Milverton Sawmill
There is an NCN route that sort of matches the Tiverton-Bampton-Taunton section, but it goes up onto the hills and, whilst being very pretty, is an absolute sod but does take you through Knighthayes and its National Trust Café.
Option 2 – Tiverton Canal
As Option 1, follow the A396 from Exeter, but at Tiverton divert onto the Tiverton Canal path and follow this all the way to the end and onwards along NCN3 to Taunton. Canal tow path is generally a good surface for touring bikes but some of the bridges can be very narrow on the tow path and you are technically meant to get off and walk through them (though no one does!)
Food stops at Bickleigh mill, the Canal Tea Rooms in Tiverton
A slight variation if you really like climbing, with the added benefit of an absolutely stunning view, is rather than doing the A396 there’s a lane out the back of Silverton (the Old Butterleigh Road) that goes over the biggest hill possible through Butterleigh and drops into the back of Tiverton (on the Exeter Hill road).
Option 3 – Uffculme route
Rather than going to the west of the M5 this one goes to the east of it. From Exeter follow the old A38 (yes I know I said I wasn’t going to say this!) now labelled as the B3181 through Cullumpton and Willand. At the top of Willand take the road to Uffculme. Then from Uffculme take the lanes through Nicholashayne, Sampford Moor and into Wellington. From Wellington go out to Nynehead and follow the lanes out to Norton Fitzwarren and into Taunton (mostly NCN3 apart from the very end).
Option 4 – East of the motorway, with added café
As option 3 follow the old A38 out of Exeter through Broadclyst and up towards Cullumpton, just after the Merry Harriers in Westcott, divert onto the lanes and follow these through to Kentisbeare, skim Ashill, and on to Culmstock. From Culmstock cycle up the hill and pick up option 3 route at Nicholashayne.
The café is at Culmstock in the local store and is fantastic.
As an aside if you’ve done Robs Passage and want to do options 3 or 4, depending where you come out on the A396 you can cut across to the B3181 at 2 easy points (there’s other ways but don’t go through Bradninch, there’s some sharp and nasty climbs):
1. From Stoke Cannon, go to Ratsloe, up to Killerton house then onto B3181
2. From Silverton drop down to Killerton then onto the B3181
Both of these have the added plus of going past Killerton house, with its National Trust café…
Just to note the last 2 route maps start at a different point in Exeter so the mileage is probably not comparable to the first 2.
Specific board for this popular undertaking.
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I like this idea of local riders providing routes thru their local area. As a ‘newbie’ in the very early stages of planning a Lejog i have struggled to find a ‘go to’ place for routes. If it was possible from a forum architecture perspective i would like to be able to dip into a section and choose my preferred routes for each county as opposed to finding an entire End to End route.
Thanks, that's very useful. I've looked at similar options that avoid the A38 but it's always nice to have the benefit of local knowledge. I'd also be interested in your recommendations for onward journey to Bristol.