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Camel Trail

camel trail sign

Family Adventures Await on Cornwall’s Camel Trail

Cornwall offers no shortage of stunning cycle routes but none quite as popular amongst families as the gently graded Camel Trail. Winding 18 miles largely traffic-free between Padstow and Wenfordbridge along a disused railway line, this trail lets you confidently ride through enchanting woodlands, across babbling creeks past Cornish beaches with plenty of fun stops along the way.

Our guide describes the highlights of biking the full Camel Trail or shorter sections achievable for smaller legs, along with bike hire outlets, route maps plus insider tips for an awesome active day out enjoying Cornwall’s magic from the saddle.

signpost on camel trail

Getting To and Accessing the Camel Trail

Getting to the Camel Trail is a breeze with multiple transportation options ensuring accessibility for all. If you’re opting for a convenient car journey, refer to the Camel Trail leaflet or map to navigate your way. The facilities and parking section provides valuable information on car parks and trail access points.

The main places to pick up the trail are:

By train:

Disembark at Bodmin Parkway station, a key stop on the main line. From here, the enchanting Bodmin and Wenford railway awaits, offering a nostalgic steam train experience. Make sure to check the timetable in advance, as the steam trains operate at varying times throughout the week. Alternatively, pedal your way from Bodmin Parkway to Bodmin Town by following signs to Lanhydrock and picking up route 3, the Cornish Way.

By Bus:

You rely on the extensive bus network linking nearby towns and villages. Consult the Traveline South West website for comprehensive information on timetables and tickets.

The Camel Trail map, featured in the trail leaflet, is an invaluable resource pinpointing access points.

The gritted, largely flat trail surface makes it accessible to most basic bikes including children’s stabiliser models or trailers. Visitors bring their own bikes or hire them from outlets detailed below.

camel trail map

Bike Hire and Support Along The Trail

Several bike hire centres and repair shops operate seasonal outlets all providing kids bikes plus various family bikes accommodating toddlers in seats or trailers like tandoms. Useful outlets include:

  • Padstow:
    • Padstow Cycle Hire: Located on S Quay in Padstow, this shop offers a wide range of bikes for hire, including hybrids, tandems, and children’s bikes. Prices start at around £15 per day. Opening hours are Monday to Sunday 9:00am to 5:00pm.
    • Trail Bike Hire: Also located on S Quay, Trail Bike Hire offers a smaller selection of bikes but with a focus on quality brands. Prices start at around £20 per day. Opening hours are not listed.
  • Wadebridge:
    • Camel Trail Cycle Hire – Wadebridge: Situated right at the start of the Camel Trail in Wadebridge, this shop is a popular choice for cyclists. They offer a wide range of bikes, including electric bikes, and prices start at around £15 per day. Opening hours are Monday to Sunday 9:00am to 5:00pm.
    • Bridge Bike Hire: Another conveniently located shop near the start of the Camel Trail, Bridge Bike Hire offers a good selection of bikes at competitive prices. Prices start at around £10 per day. Opening hours are Monday to Sunday 9:00am to 5:00pm.
    • Wadebridge Bike Shop: Located on the Camel Trail at The Platt, Wadebridge, this shop offers a good selection of bikes for hire, including electric bikes. Prices start at around £15 per day. Opening hours are Monday to Saturday 9:00am to 5:00pm, Sunday 10:00am to 4:00pm.
camel trail cycling
  • Bodmin:
    • Explore by Bike: Located in the Priory Car Park in Bodmin, Explore by Bike is a family-run shop with a friendly atmosphere. They offer a good range of bikes, including trailers and tag-alongs for children. Prices start at around £15 per day. Opening hours are Monday to Sunday 9:30am to 5:30pm.
    • Trail Munki: Located on the Carminnow Road Industrial Estate in Bodmin, Trail Munki is a bit further from the Camel Trail but they offer a wide range of bikes, including electric bikes and mountain bikes. Prices start at around £20 per day. Opening hours are Tuesday to Friday 10:00am to 5:30pm, Saturday 10:00am to 4:00pm, closed on Monday and Sunday.
    • Camel Trail Cycle Hire – Bodmin: Located on the Camel Trail at the Golf Course, Bodmin, this shop offers a good selection of bikes for hire, including electric bikes. Prices start at around £15 per day. Opening hours are Monday to Saturday 9:00am to 5:00pm, Sunday 10:00am to 4:00pm.

These are just a few of the many cycle hire shops that are located along the Camel Trail. With so many options to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect bike to rent for your cycling adventure.

Here are some additional tips for planning your Camel Trail cycle hire:

  • Book your bike in advance, especially during peak season.
  • Let the shop know your height and inside leg measurement so they can size you up for the right bike.
  • Wear a helmet and follow the Camel Trail’s safety rules.
bike on camel trail

Sections of the Camel Trail

The full 18 mile route poses a long haul for tiny riders. Instead families may opt to tackle shorter sections of the Camel Trail interspersed with fun pitstops.

Padstow to Wadebridge

The scenic stretch of the Camel Trail between Padstow and Wadebridge offers cyclists a delightful journey through the picturesque coast of Cornwall. Covering approximately 5.5 miles, this segment is renowned for its breathtaking views, diverse flora, and historical landmarks.

Starting in Padstow, cyclists are greeted with the charming harbour town’s vibrant atmosphere and the sweet scent of seafood wafting through the air. The trail then winds its way alongside the Camel Estuary, providing riders with panoramic views of the water, sandy shores, and bobbing boats. The tranquility of the estuary is a welcome contrast to the bustling harbor.

As cyclists pedal further, they’ll encounter the lush woodlands of the Camel Valley, where the trail meanders through dense foliage, creating a shaded canopy overhead. The air is filled with the soothing sounds of rustling leaves and birdsong, offering a serene escape from the everyday hustle.

One of the highlights of this section is the iconic Camel Bridge, a historic structure that spans the river and marks the transition into Wadebridge. This charming market town invites cyclists to explore its quaint streets, enjoy local cafes, and perhaps take a break by the riverside.

heading to padstow by bike

Wadebridge to Bodmin

Leaving Wadebridge, cyclists will pedal through undulating landscapes, passing through farmlands and meadows. The trail follows the course of the River Camel, offering intermittent glimpses of the water and creating a peaceful atmosphere. The open fields and rolling hills provide a stark contrast to the coastal scenery encountered in the Padstow to Wadebridge stretch.

Upon reaching Bodmin, cyclists can explore the town’s rich history, including the Bodmin Jail and the Bodmin Beacon nature reserve. The town’s charming streets provide a delightful setting to relax, refuel, and soak in the local atmosphere.

Overall, the Wadebridge to Bodmin section of the Camel Trail promises a diverse and immersive experience, combining the tranquility of the countryside with glimpses of Cornwall’s industrial past.

Bodmin to Wenfordbridge

Departing from Bodmin, cyclists traverse the picturesque Camel Valley, surrounded by rolling hills and landscapes. The trail leads through woodlands, where the dappled sunlight filters through the trees, creating a tranquil and immersive environment. Nature enthusiasts will appreciate the diverse flora and fauna that line the path, providing a serene backdrop to the ride.

As cyclists continue, they’ll encounter the enchanting Goss Moor, a designated Special Area of Conservation. This expansive and ecologically rich area showcases diverse habitats, including heathland and wetlands. The trail weaves through this natural haven, offering a unique opportunity to appreciate the region’s biodiversity.

Approaching Wenfordbridge, cyclists will find themselves near the edge of Bodmin Moor, a rugged and wild landscape steeped in history and folklore. The juxtaposition of the moor’s untamed beauty against the calm flow of the River Camel creates a captivating atmosphere.

Wenfordbridge itself is a quaint hamlet, serving as a gateway to the Camel Trail’s inland stretches. Cyclists can take a break at the charming tea rooms, explore the local surroundings, or simply enjoy the peaceful ambiance before deciding whether to continue their journey or turn back towards Bodmin.

tide out at camel trail

History of the Camel Trail

The trail follows the route of a former railway line that was part of the London and South Western Railway’s network. The railway line, originally built in the 1830s, served as a vital link for transporting slate and other goods from quarries in Bodmin Moor to the bustling port town of Padstow.

The railway played a crucial role in Cornwall’s industrial development, facilitating the transportation of minerals and goods between inland quarries and coastal ports. However, as the demand for rail transport declined in the mid-20th century, the Bodmin and Wendford Railway, which the Camel Trail now occupies, faced closure.

In the 1960s, the railway ceased its operations, leaving the tracks and infrastructure in disuse. Instead of allowing the railway to fall into neglect, local enthusiasts and conservationists saw an opportunity to repurpose the route. In the 1980s, the tracks were transformed into a recreational trail for walkers and cyclists, creating the Camel Trail as it is known today.

The Camel Trail officially opened in 1986, and since then, it has become a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and visitors seeking a leisurely way to explore the scenic beauty of Cornwall. The trail’s conversion from an industrial railway to a recreational path represents a successful example of repurposing historical infrastructure for modern enjoyment.

Today, the Camel Trail stands as a testament to Cornwall’s industrial heritage and the community’s commitment to preserving and repurposing historical assets. It offers a unique blend of natural beauty and historical significance, attracting cyclists, walkers, and nature enthusiasts from near and far who can now appreciate the trail’s storied past while enjoying its picturesque present.

bridge on camel trail

Camel Trail Map

camel trail map

Explore Cornwall’s cycling routes with the “Cornwall Cycle Map,” featuring the Camel Trail, Clay Trails, and Mineral Tramways. An essential guide for cyclists, uncovering diverse landscapes and individual day rides.

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Frequently Asked Questons

How long does it take to cycle the Camel Trail? – On average, it takes about 2 to 3 hours to complete the full Camel Trail, which is approximately 18 miles long, stretching from Padstow to Wenford Bridge. However, many cyclists choose to break the journey into shorter sections and may only ride part of the trail.

Is the Camel Trail hard? – It is generally considered to be an easy and family-friendly cycling route. The trail follows a disused railway line, providing a relatively flat and well-maintained path that is suitable for cyclists of various skill levels. The gentle gradients and smooth surfaces make it accessible for beginners, families with children, and casual cyclists.

Other Nearby Attractions

When you are in this part of Cornwall, think about visiting some of these places too:

  • National Lobster Hatchery – Located in Padstow at one end of the Camel Trail, this unique visitor centre offers glimpses into tanks housing lobsters at varying life stages and explains the hatchery’s conservation efforts.
  • Bodmin Jail – Cornwall’s original 18th century prison has imposing buildings and displays explaining convict transportation ships, executions, escaped prisoners and the jail’s grim history.
  • Lanhydrock House – Just inland midway along the trail, explore this stately Jacobean mansion with ornate rooms, expansive gardens, wooded parkland and trails beside the River Fowey.
  • St Breock Downs – Escape the crowds into this tranquil nature reserve alive with birdlife, accessed from Wadebridge. Spot animals grazing the heathland from several viewpoints.
  • Cardinham Woods – Near Bodmin, veer off from the Camel Trail to explore these enchanting woodlands – home to Soapy Smith’s cave. Kids will love the natural play trail while adults enjoy peaceful walks under the forest canopy.
  • Jamaica Inn – Made famous by Daphne Du Maurier, parts of this smugglers’ inn near Bodmin Moor date from 1750. The menu features Cornish ales and you can even stay overnight.
  • Colliford Lake – Hire paddleboards, take scenic wildlife walks or enjoy a family picnic on the beach at this reservoir’s woodland park, found a short detour from the Camel Trail near Bodmin.

It’s important to note that the time it takes to cycle the Camel Trail can vary from person to person, so some may finish more quickly, while others may take longer. Additionally, if you plan to stop and explore the charming towns of Padstow or Wadebridge along the way, or if you take breaks to enjoy the scenery, your total cycling time will be longer.

Throughout the journey, cyclists will find numerous opportunities to pause and appreciate the natural beauty of Cornwall. Whether it’s the estuary’s tranquility, the woodlands’ serenity, or the town’s charming character, this segment of the Camel Trail promises a delightful experience for cyclists seeking a blend of nature, history, and culture. As a reminder, cyclists should be mindful of other trail users and adhere to trail etiquette to ensure an enjoyable experience for all.

Whether tackling the entire 18 mile route or simply pottering short sections interspersed with family diversions, the traffic-free Camel Trail offers every generation the perfect active ingredient for an idyllic Cornish mini-break built on two wheels.

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