Tarka Trail

Looking across River Torridge to Appledore, from the Tarka Trail, Instow, National Route 3Route Details

  • From - to: Braunton to Meeth via Barnstaple
  • Distance: Just over 30 miles
  • Terrain: Disused railway path. Tarmac and finely packed stone surface
  • Access: Barnstaple railway station
  • National Cycle Network: National Routes 3 and 27

Route Description

This route gives you superb views across the mouth of the Taw Estuary and features several wonderful sculptures and shelters created for the route; the perfect place to rest and enjoy the surroundings.

Travelling the route you will experience many wildlife habitats including estuary mud flats and salt marshes, oak woodland, hazel coppice, hedges, ponds, streams, ditches and meadows.

Beginning in the pretty village of Braunton, the route is incredibly easy to follow. It's also flat and traffic-free, making it very suitable for families.

Your journey will continue along the banks of the River Taw, passing through Chivenor and crossing the tributary river Yeo on the new swing bridge at Barnstaple. A detour into Barnstaple town centre is a worthwhile visit, taking in the Pannier Market and the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon.

The route then takes you up the Torridge Estuary, passing Instow and Bideford.  These are great places to stop off for refreshments with lots of cafes and restaurants. 

Do not miss the Puffing Billy, a relaxed pub at the former Torrington railway station.  It is right on the Tarka Trail and the restored waiting room serves as the restaurant. There is also a goods brake van, coal truck and buffet carriage on a restored stretch of track.

You can either leave the Tarka Trail on the line of the old tramway route and finish in the beautiful town of Great Torrington or continue on the route across the river on the railway to where the path currently ends at Meeth. 

If you would like to read more about the Tarka Trail, Devon County Council have a good Tarka Trail page on their website.

Art trail​

The Tarka Trail is now home to 30 wonderful, functional artworks designed and created by 8 local and regional artists. The works help to enhance an existing resource, enriching the experience of both tourists and locals who use the path. All the artworks have been made with locally sourced materials and are distinctive to their locale. The project has invested in 13 communities along the trail. The waymarkers give people information about the local facilities available and encourage people to explore the environment around the trail.

Katy Hallett,  developed a series of animal seats in the Peters Marland area which reflected the clay works and the Tarka story. She ran workshops at 3 local schools involving some 60 children in the design and realisation of the benches.

There was substantial community involvement with 3 local schools designing and making a series of benches. The benefits for all those children who had the opportunity to work on the project are many, not least in fostering a sense of ownership and pride in the work and their environment.

The project partners were Sustrans and North Devon Coast and Countryside Services (NDCCS). 

Things to See and Do

The Tarka Trail is one of Sustrans Art Trails. Along it you will beautifully designed benches and shelters by Katy Hallett, Ben May, John Butler, Geoff Stainthorp and Paul Anderson.

Related maps and guides

Route gpx download

This route is available as a gpx download that is compatible on all major gps devices.

Download: Tarka Trail.gpx

Bike hire

To make sure everyone gets the most out of their time by the water, please ensure you follow the Towpath Code.

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Map covers the North Devon area of the South West region of England.


The Tarka Trail is one of the country's longest continuous traffic-free walking and cycling paths, and forms part of the Devon Coast to Coast Cycle Route.

30 miles