Tarka Trail



walking the Tarka Trail

The majority of the Tarka Trail follows existing footpaths and bridleways. the North Loop is all walking terrain, while the South Loop offers a choice of walking or cycling and a relaxing train ride to finish.

The Tarka Trail is intended to be walked in an anti-clockwise direction starting out from Barnstaple and taking the North Loop walking north to Lynton on the northern coast via the Two Moors Way, through Exmoor National Park. There are no major towns between Barnstaple and Lynton but you will pass through several villages and hamlets.

Barnstaple to Lynton via Exmoor National Park (North Loop)

The route leaves Barnstaple for Bishop’s Tawton then traverses Codden Hill, the highest point in the area. To begin with you will be following public footpaths through working farmland, navigating streams and valleys. Eventually you will start to climb as the trail enters Exmoor National Park. The trail then opens out into some of the most stunning, natural countryside views, where, at the highest points, you will be able to see the South Wales coast to the north, The Bristol Channel and the North Devon coastline to the west and the Dartmoor tors to the south.

Around this point you will pick up the Two Moors Way, a path that links Dartmoor in the south with Exmoor in the north. This will then carry you down into the picturesque coastal villages of Lynton and Lynmouth. The two villages are very much linked, but one settlement sites at the top of the hill and the other at the bottom. They are physically connected by road and a fully working, Victorian, water powered rail lift.

Lynton to Braunton along the coast path (North Loop)

From Lynton you will pick up The South West Coast Path which offers a completely different experience to the previous Exmoor walk. This stretch stays on the coast path which for the majority of the time sticks closely to the cliff edges that dominate that part of the coastline. The going can be steep, tough and in parts, quite exposed.

You will experience the magnificent Valley of Rocks, an ancient and jagged stretch of coastline before arriving at Combe Martin – a picturesque, traditional Devonshire fishing village. After this you will start dipping in and out of several little fishing villages and towns along the coast as the cliffs reduce and start turning into coves and beaches.

The route then takes you through the Victorian holiday town of Ilfracombe where Damien Hirst’s Verity statue resides. Woolacombe is next, then Putsborough, then the world famous surfing village of Croyde Bay.

From Croyde the path follows the headland round to Saunton Sands, then along to Crow Point – a tidal estuary where the two major rivers in the region meet the sea. the trail then heads north through the fascinating wildlife habitat of Braunton Marshes until you reach the village of Braunton.

Tarka Trail North Loop

Braunton back to Barnstaple (South Loop)

From Braunton, the Tarka Trail becomes a shared use path suitable for both walkers and cyclists. The flat, tarmacked path follows the river Taw into Barnstaple and then back out toward Bideford where it picks up the River Torridge.

The stretch between Bideford and Great Torrington is full of twists and turns as the path follows the undulating River Torridge through woods and valleys. This is the original home of Tarka The Otter from the novel and the area is still inhabited by otters now (though it is often very difficult to catch a glimpse of one)

The tarmacked path eventually turns into a gravel path before reaching Meeth halt. This stretch is open to horse riders. After Meeth, it is back to public footpaths which eventually arrive in the ancient market town of Okehampton on the fringe of Dartmoor National Park.

After Okehampton, the trail turns north as it makes use of more public footpaths to edge toward Eggesford.

Eggesford to Barnstaple

The purpose of the Tarka Trail is to give visitors to North Devon a chance to experience everything that is great about the region and the last stage is no different. This is a train journey on the Tarka Line rail service – possibly one of the most picturesque train journeys in the country. The track runs between Barnstaple and Devon’s principal city Exeter. You can choose to sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery until you arrive in Barnstaple, or you have the option of jumping on and off at the stations along the route to sample some of the locally made food and drink produce – part of the North Devon Foodie Guide.

Tarka Trail South Loop

Short Walks

If the whole trail is not for you, then it is fairly easy to jump on and off the Tarka Trail at several points where you can just walk short sections. Devon County Council have produced a PDF leaflet containing several short, circular walks that incorporate sections of the Tarka Trail and are usually based on visiting villages along the trail.

Download short circular walks PDF

Walking conditions

You will encounter a variety of walking conditions. Muddy footpaths, grassy footpaths and gravel footpaths. Both the Two Moors Way and the South West Coast path can reach great heights and the South West Coast Path can be very exposed in places.

How long does it take to walk the Tarka Trail?

There are too many factors to give an accurate time, but based roughly on covering 20 miles per day, it could be achieved in approx. 9 days.

Most people tend to do sections of the Trail such as Barnstpale to Lynton via the Two Moors Way which is approx 24 miles and can be achieved in under 8 hours (depending on fitness).

If the whole trail, or even sections of the trail are too much for you, then there are some smaller, circular routes along the trail that can be achieved in 2-4 hours.

Does the Tarka Trail offer any facilities?

Once out in the countryside and on the moors there are very few facilities in the way of toilets, shops, cafes etc. You will be passing through or near villages that may have a village shop. The larger towns of Barnstaple, Lynton, Ilfracombe, Braunton, Bideford, Torrington and Okehampton offer all the facilities you will require including toilets, accommodation, parking, fuel, shops etc.

Do mobile phones work on the Tarka Trail?

In general, yes. Most of North Devon has a good mobile phone signal and GPS works well too. However, it is worth considering that there are some ‘shadows’ where the signal weakens, in particular around Exmoor where signals are disrupted by hills, so please do not rely on your phone. If using GPS, we offer a downloadable file containing co-ordinates which work on mapping apps and GPS devices.