Tarka Trail

The Tarka Trail


otter at Halsdon Nature Reserve

  • What is the Tarka Trail?
    The Tarka Trail is a 180 mile, sign-marked trail that makes use of existing routes and paths to follow the route taken by the fictional character Tarka the Otter from the book by Henry Williamson.
  • What is the purpose of the Tarka Trail?
    The route of the Tarka Trail has been planned in such a way as to enable visitors to experience the variety and diversity the region has to offer. From the rolling hills of Exmoor, the dramatic cliff walks of the South West Coast Path, the meandering rivers Taw and Torridge and the picturesque Tarka Line rail service.
  • Who owns the Tarka Trail?
    The Tarka Trail is not owned by any single organisation. Some sections of land are privately owned with public access. Some sections run through towns and villages such as Barnstaple, Okehampton and Lynton. The trail shares paths with the South West Coast Path, the Two Moors way and Route 27 and 3 of the National Cycle Network. Sections run into Exmoor National Park, Dartmoor National Park and National Trust land. Funding comes from a variety of local organisations.
  • Who is responsible for the Tarka Trail?
    Responsibility for the Tarka Trail largely falls to Devon County Council. Some public rights of way will be privately owned with the landowners responsible for upkeep. Large sections of the trail, particularly around Exmoor and the South West Coast Path are owned and managed by The National Trust.
  • What is the best part of the Tarka Trail?
    This depends on your own personal preference. You may prefer the challenge of hill climbs in Exmoor, or the adrenaline rush of walking the South West Coast Path, or you may prefer the beauty and tranquility of the rivers and woods around Torrington. Others may prefer visiting the shops, markets and cafe of the towns and villages along The Tarka Trail.
  • Where does the Tarka Trail start and finish?
    The Tarka Trail starts and finishes in Barnstaple in North Devon.
    As a figure-eight loop, the central crossing point is based around Barnstaple which is the principal town in the region.  From here you can start and finish both the north loop and the south loop, though it is possible to start and end at any point along the trail.
  • What villages are on the Tarka Trail?
    Barnstaple is the main town and official starting point of the trail, but you will also visit Bideford, Great Torrington, Okehampton, Eggesford, Lynton, Combe Martin, Lee Bay, Ilfracombe, Woolacombe, Croyde, Saunton and Braunton.
  • Can you walk the Tarka Trail?
    Yes. You can walk all of the The Tarka Trail with the exception of the last stretch between Eggesford and Barnstaple which makes use of the Tarka Line rail service.
    The Tarka Trail follows existing footpaths and bridleways with public rights of way through towns, villages and open countryside.
  • Are dogs allowed on the Tarka Trail?
    Yes, dogs are allowed. There are several places where you will be crossing private, working farmland where the land owner may ask for dogs to be on a lead. However, the vast majority of the trail would be safe for well behaved dogs to be walked off-lead. Please be aware that the shared use section between Braunton and Meeth is used by cyclists so extra care and vigilance is required.
  • Are the routes suitable for dogs?
    Surfaces can change from flat tarmac to craggy cliff walks. There are many sections which pass through working farmland with grazing sheep and cattle, where dogs will need to be under close control. When crossing fences, some stiles do not have dog facilities so your dog may need to climb or be carried over. Not all accommodation on route will accept dogs. The old railway section between Braunton and Meeth is perfectly safe for dogs, but take care to avoid cyclists.
  • Is the Tarka Trail hilly?
    Yes, in parts it can be particularly hilly, especially around the Exmoor section and parts of the South West Coast Path. The section between Saunton and Braunton is very flat and then the shared use section between Braunton and Meeth is also very flat.
  • Where can you cycle on the Tarka Trail?
    The section between Braunton and Meeth is an old disused railway line that has been tarmacked and has very few gradients making it ideal for cycling. This is Route 27 of the National Cycle Network.
    There is approx. 30 miles of tarmacked surface, then the trail continues to Meeth over rough ground.
    From Braunton, you can park in the main village car park then access the trail via Station Road. The cycle section ends at Meeth Halt, where there is also a small car park. On average, the ride should take around about 3 hours.
  • What type of bikes can use the trail?
    The Braunton to Meeth section is suitable for all types of bicycles. If you have panniers, a trike or are pulling a carrier of any kind, please be aware that the access gates only allow a width of 1.5m. Anything wider may not get through.
    Motorised or powered vehicles of any type are not permitted.
  • What maps cover the Tarka Trail?
    The Tarka Trail features in a number of OS Explorer maps, including 139, 126, 127, 113 and OL 9. visit the Ordnance Survey website for more information.
  • Are there any guide books?
    There are lots of guide books available for walking and cycling routes. Visit our Tarka Trail Books and Guides page.
  • Will I need a compass, walking boots and other outdoor gear?
    Parts of the southern loop around Okehampton and back up to Eggesford will require a compass and outdoor gear as will the section between Barnstaple and Lynton. The South West Coast Path and the old railway sections are fairly easy to follow, but will still require warm and waterproof clothing in the winter.
  • Are any sections dangerous?
    Many sections are near water so will require care. Parts of the South West Coast Path are exposed to cliff edges and steep drops, but are used safely by many people on a daily basis. There has been some damage to some of the South West Coast Path due to erosion and bad weather. In these cases, the path will either be closed or a diversion will be in place. Some of the more rural, inland routes can become very muddy and difficult to walk on after heavy rains, so a compass or GPS would be useful in the event of having to detour.
  • Who was Tarka the Otter?
    Tarka was a fictional otter in a novel by Henry Williamson published in 1927. While Tarka is the focal point, the book goes into detail about the beautiful surroundings Tarka lived his life in. The book has been adapted into film and an opera and has more recently been adapted into a children’s book. Find out more
  • Are there still otters in the area?
    There are many otters living along the Tarka Trail, in particular in the areas around the River Torridge. Here is an article on how best to spot otters. The Wildlife Trust has more information on Otters.
  • Are there any organised or guided holidays?
    There are several companies that can arrange organised holidays. Some also offer guided holidays. There are some listed on the holiday companies page.
  • What’s the best way to get around?
    Bus and car are the best options to access sections of The Tarka Trail. Take a look at our public transport page for more information. As some of the starting points for walks are rural and remote, car remains the best way to access most places. Parking in smaller villages and on many B roads is quite limited, but most of the A roads have parking places and the larger towns have ample parking. Some popular locations such as Fremington Quay and Instow will fill up quickly on a nice day.