Explore Devon on Foot or Rent a Bicycle
The Tarka Trail is a series of footpaths and cyclepaths around north Devon, England that follow the route taken by Tarka the Otter in the book of that name. It is a figure-of-eight route, based on Barnstaple, and covers some 180 miles of path. The route covers a wide variety of landscapes, including: wooded river valleys, rugged moorland, coastal cliffs and sandy bays. Walking varies between easy and strenuous, depending on the location, but, in general, it is comprehensively waymarked. The trails are now a popular tourist destination and bicycle hire businesses are available for those who wish to cycle along suitable sections of the trail. A section of the Trail is part of National Cycle Network route number 27 and forms part of the Devon Coast to Coast Cycle Route, a 102-mile route from Ilfracombe, in the north, to Plymouth, in the south, largely using former railway lines.
Several sections of disused railway line have been utilised to create the trail. These have the benefit of being relatively flat, with only small uphill and downhill gradients. The paths also run across many former railway bridges, which command notable views over various rivers and valleys. A number of the stations on the route have been restored or rebuilt.
The Tarka Trail cycle track (also part of the South West Coast Path), which follows the course of the rail line from Barnstaple to Torrington, passes over Fremington Pill via the old London and South Western Railway iron bridge (railway line closed 1982; dismantled 1987) at Fremington Quay on the old Barnstaple to Torrington railtrack bed. The original railway was first planned in an Act of Parliament in 1838, and laid in 1846 connecting the Penhill with Barnstaple at a cost of £20 000. A number of boats are moored here (in the Pill). The 'Quay Cafe' is located here.
Fremington Quay was once important in the import and export of many goods. It had railway sidings, cranes, etc., for the export of china clay and 'import' of coal. Between the early to mid-twentieth century it was the busiest (tonnage) port between Bristol and Lands End. In later life an abattoir was located here. The quay now has been redeveloped with a restaurant and facilities to enjoy wide views over the Taw estuary. It is now a Conservation Area having been designated such in 1996.
A Complete Network
A number of other local walking routes intersect or coincide with the Tarka Trail:
South West Coast Path – runs between Ilfracombe and Bideford
Two Moors Way – route runsthrough part of the way through Exmoor
Dartmoor Way – this route runs between West Devon Way
Two Castles Trail Little Dart Ridge and Valley Walk
Using public transport for at least part of their journey means that walkers can plan walks which start and finish at different places, rather than have to circle back to their start point to collect their cars. Most towns and villages along the Tarka Trail have bus services, although some of these may not be very frequent - so it is always wise to make you travel plans before setting out on a long trip.