There’s a good chance that affiliate links are scattered throughout this post. If you click on one I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you and I’ll definitely be using it to buy bike gear.
A few years ago, I landed a three-month housesit in Southwest England. It was during a rough patch in my life when I had just broken up with my boyfriend, didn’t have a job, and frankly felt a bit lost. But those three months turned out to be some of the best in my life!
I had two black labs to keep me company, a beautiful old stone house to care for, and my bike to explore the surrounding areas.
One of my favorite adventures during that visit was cycling the Grand Western Canal from Lowdwells Locks all the way to Knightshaye’s Court past Tiverton and back. The Tiverton Canal winds past quaint villages, over stone bridges, through meadows, and under a lush canopy of trees all the while following a picturesque waterway canal. It was such a fun way to spend a day and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting southwest England.
Grand Western Canal Map + History
The Grand Western Canal runs for 11.5 miles from the hamlet of Lowdwells to the town of Tiverton.
Also known as the Tiverton Canal, this gravel path passes through beautiful countryside and quaint villages.
The Grand Western Canal was a project started in the early 1800’s that intended to link the waterways of Bristol in the northwest to the English Channel in the south. It would have allowed boats to bypass the perilous Cornish Peninsula and deliver goods in a faster, safer way.
However, due to financial problems and engineering difficulties, only a small portion of the Canal was completed by the 1830’s and the hope of connecting the two channels was soon abandoned.
Today, the Canal is designated a Country Park and a Local Nature Reserve. It’s one of the most popular countryside attractions in Southwest England and is a haven for wildlife.
The Tiverton Canal also offers a glimpse into history with historic sites like old bridges, limekilns, and even a living heritage experience on a horse-drawn barge.
Cycling the Grand Western Canal
The Grand Western Canal is a multi-use towpath that is shared by pedestrians, cyclists, and boaters. I personally think that the best way to experience the Grand Western Canal is by bike.
The entire path is flat so it’s an easy pedal and since the scenery is so beautiful and varied, a bike allows for an all-encompassing experience. The Canal is dirt, not paved, so it’s best to have a bike with gravel tires (ie not a road bike).
Where to start
I was lucky in that my housesit basically started at the far end of the Grand Western Canal by the Lowdwells Locks. I started there and biked the 11 miles to Tiverton and Knightshayes Court and then 11 miles back. It was a full day and I took it slow and enjoyed the ride.
If you don’t want to do 22 miles, you can park at any of the half dozen parking areas along the canal. Sampford Peverell (don’t you just love English town names?) would be a good starting/ending place. It’s almost exactly halfway along on the canal, so a pedal into Tiverton is about 5.5 miles and another two miles to Knightshayes Court.
Where to rent a bike
If you don’t have your own two wheels, Abbotshood Cycle Hire, located in the Globe Inn in Sampford Peverell, rents out bikes steps away from the Canal. They offer a wide range of options including regular bikes, tandems, e-bikes, and kid’s bikes. They also have free parking on-site and include helmets free of charge.
What to see on the Grand Western Canal
Just cycling along the Tiverton Canal is a great experience, but here are a few interesting things to keep your eyes out for:
- Waytown Limekilns: The Waytown Limekilns are on the far end of the Canal near the Luwdwells locks, but they’re pretty cool to see. I couldn’t find much information on them online, but there is an info plaque on the Canal path that tells their history of them.
- The Hickory Inn Pub: Located in the little town of Halberton, this pub is a great place to stop for lunch or a pint of refreshing English ale. They have great food and friendly service.
- Horse-Drawn River Barges: Watching the horse-drawn river barges glide down the river is a pretty fun sight to see.
- The Flying Pickle Deli: I loved this little deli located on the corner of Gold and Barrington in Tiverton. They serve delicious salads and sandwiches and their coffee is amazing!
- Canal Tea Rooms and Gardens: Treat yourself to a nice English Tea on their cute outdoor patio.
Exploring Knightshayes Court
As you pedal into Tiverton, the Canal ends, but your ride isn’t over yet! Pull out your phone and get directions up to Knightshayes Court. Victorian estate-turned-National Trust museum is about two miles from The Flying Pickle (see above) and slightly uphill.
Once you get there, park your bike in the parking area and then get exploring!
Walk the grounds
The grounds at Knightshayes are beautiful with views out over Devon and gardens galore. Be sure to visit the walled kitchen garden as well as the sculpture garden on the other side of the mansion.
If you’re feeling up for a little hike there are a number of different walking routes through the Parklands and Impey Woods. For kids (or kids at heart) there’s a really cool natural playground called Four Oaks made out of fallen trees.
Tour the mansion
DO IT. The entrance fee into the Knightshaye manor is ￡12 and it’s definitely worth it. Medieval, dramatic, and oozing with history, seeing the interior of this impressive ‘house’ is pretty cool. You can read more about the history here, but even if you’re not a history buff, it’s worth walking through.
Eat ice cream
Taste a few of the ice cream flavors in the Conservatory Tea Room and then take your cup or cone and go sit outside. You’re welcome.
Other ways to explore the Tiverton Canal
The Grand Western/Tiverton Canal can also be explored by foot or by boat.
If you want to paddleboard, kayak, or float down the Grand Western Canal, you need an Unpowered Boat Permit, which you can learn about here.
A final option for exploring the Tiverton Canal is to ride on a horse-drawn barge. This is a unique living heritage experience and a great way to see the canal.
Have you explored the Grand Western Canal or visited Knightshayes Court? What did you think? Leave a comment below!