Distance: Approx. 18 miles (one way)
Typical Duration: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: EasyStart: Bodmin Gaol
Route: National Cycle Route 32: The Camel Trail
Attracting over 250,000 cyclists a year, the Camel Trail is one of the most popular traffic free cycle routes in England… and for good reason. Meandering its way from Bodmin to Padstow, the trail follows the old railway line through the green corridors and wooded valleys of the River Camel to the hustle and bustle of Wadebridge. Leaving Wadebridge, the trail hugs the sandbanks of the Camel Estuary offering views of the vastly diverse ecosystem, ending in the busy harbour-town of Padstow.
Slopes, inclines and tricky bits
Approximately 18 miles long, the Camel Trail is suitable for even the seriously unfit and uncoordinated. Given that much of the trail uses the old track bed of the Padstow to Bodmin railway line that was torn up after the Beeching cuts of the early 1960s, the route is virtually flat and easy to navigate.
If anything, the most difficult part of the trail is actually the link between the Bodmin Parkway and the start of the trail. If you can, start in central Bodmin close to the old Victorian gaol where there is ample free parking. From here, the trail is a flat ride with well-maintained gravel surfaces and tarmac.
Look out for…
Sadly no camels en route, but there is an extraordinary array of wildlife and birdlife to be appreciated along the Camel Trail. Look out for signs of evasive animals such as the fox, badger, rabbit and deer as well as the inconspicuous Wren and the regal Mute Swan. The River Camel and the estuary are a hub of activity as dippers, kingfishers and a large number of little egrets and local herons make their living on the broad sandbanks.
Camel Valley Vineyard
A must for winedrinkers, the Camel Valley Vineyard offers tours and tastings of their vast selection of red and white wines as well as their award winning sparkling wines. Wobbly legs and fuzzy feelings may make the rest of the trail difficult to cycle so try not to plan too much cycling after a tasting session.
Situated at the lowest crossing point of the River Camel, Wadebridge is a 14th century medieval bridge resplendent with charm and history. Rumour has it that the bridge was built on sacks of wool but it is more than likely that it was built using the profits of the wool trade at the time. Wadebridge is a bustling rural town with plenty of watering holes and cafes offering a welcome break from the Camel Trail.
After setting up shop in Padstow, Rick Stein’s fare has become somewhat of a highlight on the Camel Trail. In summer, you can easily queue for up to 20 minutes to get into one of his 4 restaurants (one is a take away) but if you can get your hands on some fish and chips…its well worth the wait!
Cycling the Camel Trail will take between 2 and 3 hours at most if your speed is about 12mph. You don’t necessarily have to factor in a return journey as there is an hourly bus service from Padstow to Bodmin (No 555). However, you’ll only be able to take your bike on board if the bus has a rack. You can avoid all the hassle by hiring a bike from one of the many shops in Bodmin or on the trail.
The Camel Trail is on National Cycle Network 32 and is regularly signposted with the route number on a red square background. The Camel Trail forms a small part of the spectacular Cornish Way which is part of the National Cycle Network.
With thousands of people visiting the Camel Trail each year, it does tend to get busy so watch out for walkers, birdwatchers, baby buggies, horses…well you get the point.