The look on our cycling guests faces, when they first become acquainted with our wild and undulating landscape, is one that we’ll never tire of.
Bewilderment, excitement, trepidation and sheer joy. They’re the feelings you can see etched onto their faces. And the feelings they speak of when we ask them whether this is what they expected our ‘back garden’ to be like…
Now I know what you’re thinking, I’m bound to wax lyrically about the cycling in West Dorset. After all, it is the home of On the Rivet - our cycling retreat.
But it’s also home to a great number of long winding climbs and short sharp gradients. Along with spectacular views and stunning scenery. All which make me proud to call West Dorset our cycling home, and what is most definitely a road cycling haven.
So, for those of you who may not have experienced what West Dorset has to offer the keen road cyclist. Or even for those who have, and would love a new route or two to try. Well, then this post is for you. As I’m bringing you not one, not two, but three great cycling routes to give a go.
1. Cycling from West Bay, the home of ‘Broadchurch’, to Sherborne via Beaminster
(The route on Strava)
This route begins from Westbay near Bridport.
Upon leaving the bay, venture north through Bridport towards Gore Cross. At this point you then need to head northeast through the sweeping lanes of Melplash towards Beaminster.
On arrival in Beaminster the choice is yours in terms of route out and severity of climb. The climber’s favourite is White Sheet. Although not very long (1.5 miles) it reaches 26.3% elevation half way up, which will give those legs of yours a nice little test. Less aggressive is Museum (B3163) - a steady climb with 3 uphill elements with a chance to rest between.
If you don’t fancy the climb, tunnel road is your best option. Once through the tunnel, take a sharp right, which takes you up on to the ridge above Beaminster. At the end of the ridge you’ll hit the downhill to Corscombe. From here you can enjoy the quiet winding lanes through Halstock and the resevoir at Sutton Bingham.
Then hop over the A37 and arrive at the historic town of Sherborne for a well-deserved coffee stop at Oliver’s café.
After your coffee stop, head down towards the train station before finding Pound Road to Thornford and Yetminster. These lovely quiet lanes will lull you into a false sense of security. As once you cross the A37 – heading for home – you’ll be met with three climbs in quick succession.
The first is Evershot Hill with an average gradient of 4% and a maximum gradient of 11%. Followed by Evershot Hill, which has an average of 6% and 12% in places. Finishing with Catsley Lane climb with another 4% average and 8% in places.
Now back on the ridge above Beaminster, it’s all-downhill from here. Just simply retrace your tracks back to Westbay, for a well-earned ice-cream!
2. Cycling from and to Bridport via Hardy’s monument
(The route on Strava)
A favourite loop (40 miles) among our guests, is from the market town of Bridport to the furthest point of Winterborne Abbas. This route will take you away from Bridport via Allington and then works its way to the tranquil villages of Loders, then Uploders.
After a steady start to loosen the legs you’ll reach the savage climb of Eggerdon Hill. To point out, riders manage this with varying degrees of success. On our retreats, some choose the support vehicle for the particularly steep part, which reaches a max gradient of 18%.
But once at the top, you are rewarded with breathtaking views of the coast and country. Followed by a spectacular lengthy stretch along the Roman Road – perfect peleton conditions.
After arriving at Winterbourne Abbas, the climbing starts again to Hardy's Monument. The climb begins gently, although there is a sting in the tail – ramping up just when you need it the least!
From Hardy’s, head towards Littlebredy - a beautiful country spot, and a good point to stop and refuel. When heading out you’ll discover the pretty villages and the twists and turns of the Bride Valley.
Then head back towards Bridport via Litton Cheney where you will hit one last climb, White Way. It’s a stinker. Whilst relatively short, it is pretty punishing on tired legs, reaching almost 21% at its most severe.
The route then takes you down into Bridport for a well deserved rest.
3. Cycling from and to Abbotsbury via Portland Bill
(The route on Strava)
This loop starts at the top of Abbotsbury Hill. You will find a layby here – there’s usually an ice cream van parked in it. But you’ll have to wait for your ice-cream…
You’ll embark on a fast decent into Abbotsbury following the road to Portisham. The road is undulating but nothing significant, unless the wind is against you. Breathtaking glimpses of Chesil beach make this stretch a real feast for the eyes and the views get even more amazing when you reach Portland Beach Road.
To your left is Portland Marina and to the right is Portland Beach. The view doesn’t last that long before you begin the ascent of ‘Road to the Heights’ - a favourite competitive hill climb. At maximum elevation the road hits 27.1% as it snakes around 3 hairpins, towards an awe inspiring vantage point. The view on a clear day takes in the Jurassic coast all the way back to Lyme Regis. It’s a beauty.
Circumnavigate the island clockwise or anti, taking in the lighthouse at Portland Bill. This should take no longer than 30 minutes. Exit the island and head back to Abbotsbury via Chickerell.
The climb back to the ice cream van is a fantastic mile long ascent gaining452ft and maxing out at 18.2%.
Once you get to the van, the only other upgrade to make should be of the 99’er variety!
There you have it. 3 beautiful, fun, and in parts challenging routes. Routes that show why West Dorset is becoming the UK cycling Mecca it deserves to be.