Quite frankly superb singletrack through Castle Drogo and Drewston Wood. Dartmoor XC.

I've been on Dartmoor a week, convinced that it should have good riding but so far it has proven elusive. Trails shown on the maps seem not to exist on the floor, or are just boring when you do find them. Muddy tracks between farms, or ones that morph into friggin sheep paths to nowhere. But a few tentative rides at Castle Drogo were suggestive of hidden goodness, so last night I put the lights on the bike and set off to see if my theory was correct.

Well, well, well Castle Drogo eh? Who'd have thought that the ridge path would be so good. Indeed I put it above any Surrey singletrack, and that includes Leith, Holmbury or Box Hill. That's praise indeed, so why? Well the views riding up the ridge for one. You're on a steep slope looking down on the river Teign, and that adds a dimension of trepidation. The anti-clockwise climb around the estate adds height slowly, going to a maximum of around 220m, so not exactly Alpine. The surface, though, is fantastic; all weather granite and bench cut. But then you get to Drewston Wood. Here the path forks; a steep drop straight to Fingle Bridge, or the longer loop. You'd think I'd say go steep, but nope, not here. Steep is fun but it's too steep and hemmed in by trees to go for it. The left fork is simply brilliant. Steep enough not to pedal, singletrack enough to weave, and with a sharp drop down the ridge makes for excellent concentration. And it's dark enough for lights even in the day. It's a cracking ride.

Right, left or back again; it's all good riding.

OK, so Muddy you've found a mile of excellent singletrack that's equal to any in Surrey, why bother visiting otherwise? Ha ha! The other side of the valley is why, the drop down from Cranbrook Castle. Perhaps a mile descent down a steep ridge. The trail being cut into pure granite bedrock with a lose rubble surface. In perhaps 1km it drops getting on for 200m. Unrideable going up you at least get the chance to fuel up on free trailside billberries. Turn around and it's just rubbly, rocky fun going down, a real test of your braking skill. Go too slow and the rocks bounce you around; go too fast and you'll have to drift through the corners. Get it right and you deserve that pint at the pub. Indeed has there ever been a better location for a pub? Right at the base of three "did you see that!" descents.

Say it quietly, but I'm enjoying the riding here better than I did at Dolgellau. The loop around Drogo is equal to Pont Scethin for views, and is a more challenging trail surface overall. Pont Scethin has its' share of exposed rock, but you get more of it here. And personally, whilst Coed Y Brenin is fun, this place I find better for many reasons. The main one being it feels more natural even though it plainly isn't. It feels like a trail that's never been ridden before. It has enough exposed rock and bad weather to actually make riding a mountain bike feel like mountain biking for once. I love riding rock. It just feels proper good.

Really, Drogo? Good place to ride? You bet.

The track gets lairy in places.

But facing up to reality it's not a mecca for mountain bikers. The Drogo estate isn't set up for an influx of cyclists. One or two a day certainly, but more than that and you'd stuff it up literally. When I say "singletrack down a ridge" I mean just that - very narrow indeed. Meet somebody coming the other way and your ride would be stuffed. It's easy to avoid people simply by going when Drogo is closed, but that kills normal day time rides doesn't it? Rather interestingly the ridge path is promoted as being an ideal place to walk children and babies! I'd agree with that as my seven year old managed it. So perhaps this puts people off riding it, thinking it tame beyond belief. But a 3km/h walk is a tad different to hacking through on a mountain bike at 30km/h. Then the jagged granite beds, sharp drops and closeness of the trees adds a different dimension to it all.

It's brilliant but slightly flawed. A place for the likes of me, lucky enough to be here solo. Promote it, get a few people here, and the character would die. So, keep it quiet please.

What would I, with my limited experience of the area, suggest you bring in terms of equipment? Big tyres for one as there are an awful lot of square edged rocks and water/drainage bars here. This isn't really a place for your lightweight XC racer with carbon rims. Think big. Full suspension is also good for once, as is a dropper post - indeed this is the first place where I've felt my dropper to be a good investment. Lights, even during the summer as the weather can close in and some of the wooded valleys get dark early. I've taken lights on every ride and used them on every ride. Waterproofs and spare clothing are also a good bet; the weather closes in ridiculously fast when it is of a mind to. And if you are going out for more than a few hours, or even thinking of riding on the moor proper [Postbridge comes to mind] then food and lots of water are a must as eateries can be few and far between. You have to be pretty self sufficient here and confident in your abilities. Dartmoor is a harsh place, even in August. What it must be like on a winters' day?

There are bike shops around, so you need not suffer too much. Okehampton has a decent enough one, as does Tavistock [or Tavistoxfam as it should be called]. Chagford even has a wheelbuilder. Naturally all shops are small affairs so don't expect too much in terms of products on offer, but certainly enough service to get you up and running again. Plus if you are renting a property there's always the internet for home delivery of spares.

The funny thing is that the blog sites and general postings from riders riding in Surrey can state quite boldly not to go out in the Surrey Hills alone. You never know what can happen! It's dangerous out there. Well how silly is that? I'm guessing people that think you cannot ride solo in Surrey either lack confidence, or have not actually ridden anywhere proper like here. Ride the moors on Dartmoor and you realise how populated Surrey is. You're not far from help in Surrey whereas here you can be isolated very, very quickly. Anybody who says not to ride solo in Surrey is, quite frankly, not to be listened to.

Must mention here what my ten year old daughter is up to as I write this. We're on a farm, so she's just been out collecting fresh laid eggs. Off then to feed the horses just as a vet rolls up. She's been hanging out with the vet for an hour now. They've checked the horses, are now doing the chickens medicine. Don't get that every holiday. First time ever I've seen her looking both serious and content. My seven year old is running around with a pair of binoculars spying on them, pretending to be James Bond.