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Is this Devon's longest gravel trail?

Gravel trail

Running for eight miles, the continuous trail from Bittaford to a man-made lake, the Puffing Billy Trail is a continuous stretch of gravel track with no turn offs, junctions, or styles to cross, making it a contender for one of Britain's longest gravel trails.

How to ride it?

The short loop is 30km.

The tramway begins in the village of Bittaford in southern Dartmoor. A wooden gate marks the start of the trail. Ahead is the peak of Western Beacon (accessible on foot). Turn left after the gate and begin following the bed of the old tramway.

Being an old railway track, you won't have any steep gradient changes to deal with and the flat, constantly wide trail is easy to follow. At the top, the tramway flattens as you approach Red Lake.

At Red Lake is a mini mountain, known as Red Lake Volcano, and is the wastage from the mine excavation.

Red Lake, Dartmoor

Once at the top you can track back a few hundred metres, peel off on a different trail, and ride 3 miles off-road to the village of Shipley Bridge. Then join the National Cycle Network no. 2 back to the start.

Or you can simply turn around and cycle all the way back down the tramway.

We've put together a more challenging 60km loop that begins in Princetown and travels south to Ivybridge, where you pick up the trail. View it here

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How did it get there?

Red Lake, on the Southern Moor, is the last remaining evidence of a china clay mine. The mine dates back to 1905, when two entrepreneurs found clay deposits and estimated the china clay's worth to be £3m.

A single-gauge railway was constructed and opened in 1911, ready to take mine workers and the excavated clay from the pit at Red Lake to the village of Ivybridge.

By 1933, most of the clay had been extracted and the mine closed, leaving behind the remains of the Red Lake tramway, a mountain of spoil now covered in heather, the foundations of workers huts, and Red Lake, the open mine which has gradually filled with rain water.

Opening of Red Lake tramway

Are there local amenities?

Puffing Billy Cycles is located just outside Bittaford if you need to pick up spares.

The are no cafes or water facilities at the top of the trail, and the lake water may not be suitable to drink as there are reports it contain arsenic.

If you have to drive to the trail, there is a small car park at the gates of the trail, or you can take the train from Plymouth to Ivybridge station (15 minutes) or from Exeter to Ivybridge (1 hour journey).

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