Walking The Tarka Trail, North Devon
Luggage Transfers cover the Tarka Trail circular route from Barnstaple. Established in 2009, we move thousands of bags each year for visitors walking and cycling throughout the South West.
Below, you’ll find more information about walking the Tarka Trail and a popular itinerary, as well as a link to our walker friendly accommodation for the entire route.
Juliet Elliott cycled the Tarka Trail in 2021. You can read more about her aventures here.
Walk or cycle the Tarka Trail
The Tarka Trail is a figure of eight route which follows the trail travelled by Tarka the Otter made famous in Henry Williamson’s novel. The route can be walked or cycled in its entirety or split into two loops, North and South, each offering stunning countryside, open landscapes and deep woodlands. The North offers the highlights of Exmoor and the North Devon coastline, whilst the South heads further inland deep into North Devon skirting the area of Dartmoor before returning to the North Cornish coastal town of Barnstaple. For ease of starting point it is suggested that both routes are started in Barnstaple which has a branch train line connecting to the main line at Exeter. Cycle hire is possible from Barnstaple for those wishing to tour by bike. It is not essential to start here though, and local providers may deliver and collect bicycles from alternative locations along the route. The Tarka Trail makes a nice alternative or detour from walking on the South West Coast Path.
Tarka Trail Northern Loop
Leave Barnstaple and follow the river Taw to Bishop’s Tawton. From here follow the trail to through the roadways, valleys and fields onwards from Landkey with its thatched mill cottages onwards to Charles and its 15th church, before walking to the village of Brayford.
Today you spend your day walking through a variety of landscapes alongside rushing streams, hiding in the shade of the woods and then heading across fields as you enter Exmoor National Park. There is extraordinarily little contact with the outside world as you enjoy the tranquillity and feeling of isolation. Ancient imposing barrows are the only evidence of human inhabitancy along the route. Today’s finishing point will lead you alongside the river Lyn back to civilisation and into Lynton and Lynmouth on the South West Coast Path.
A challenging day lies ahead with some tough terrain, but you are rewarded with outstanding views both back across Exmoor and the Bristol Channel. Tales of smugglers abound as you climb down from the high wooded valleys into Heddons Mouth. Views across to Lundy Island can be seen on a clear day as you scale Great Hangman one of the highest points on the North Devon coastline. As you round the headland the pretty village of Combe Martin welcomes you.
Again, another challenging day awaits you with a lot of the time spent walking through wooded valley with amazing waterfalls and bridges. The sea and little beaches and coves offer welcome glimpses on the high clifftops as you continue your way to the well-known surf haven of Croyde.
The final day of the North Tarka Loop, whilst the terrain is easier the mileage is longer than the other days. The route follows the South West Coast Path along to Braunton Burrows which is a UNESCO site of Natural and Scientific Interest. A gentler walk past RMB Chivenor, home of the local Search and Rescue helicopters. At the end of your walk you finally reach Barnstaple. Take a while to enjoy this ancient market town with its many restaurants, museums and hotels.