The Tarka Trail is a family friendly bicycle trail, that begins in Braunton, North Devon, and ends in Meeth, not so far from Dartmoor.
It is 32 miles long. There are a few inclines along the way, especially in and around Torrington, but nothing too serious. The track is mostly tarmacked and flat and largely follows the old railway track, so there is plenty of space.
The track follows both the river Taw and Torridge for some time. The trail is named after Tarka the Otter, the well known character in Henry Williamson’s famous book of the same name, who used to cruise up and down these rivers.
There are many places to stop off along the route, to eat and drink, take in the beautiful views, or simply grab your breath!
Beginning in Braunton, the trail starts at Tesco and heads towards Barnstaple. It passes Chivenor marine base and Braunton Inn (which can be a great place to end the ride, but not at this point!) running alongside the Estuary.
If the winds are favourable it wont take long to reach Barnstaple. Here you can take a quick pit stop at Tea By The Taw, probably the closest and most accessible cafe in Barnstaple. However, this is early in the trip, so maybe skip this stop, the next isn’t far off.
Barnstaple & Fremington
Cross the river Taw over the bridge, following the trail signs, take a right to access the trail again and ride alongside the Estuary heading West. A few miles on is Fremington cafe, where there is an amazing selection of sumptuous cakes! They also have a full menu. It is located on the edge of the estuary and is a great place for a quick cuppa, or refreshments, whilst sitting outside admiring the view across the Taw.
From Fremington, the trail continues past Instow, where there are quiet places to rest along the estuary and on Instow beach. In and around Instow, there are shops and pubs, with great views of Bideford, Appledore and the boats moored on the Torridge.
From here we continue past Bideford, where there are many cafes, pubs and artisan shops, which makes it well worth a visit. There is a lovely cafe on the trail that runs past Bideford, alongside an old train, and there is also a pub close by. Bideford is interesting with a rich maritime history, not forgetting the odd Pirate or two!
Torrington and the surrounding area
Passed Bideford, on the trail towards Torrington and crossing the bridge, we see the river Torridge bending off into the distance, flanked by thick oak wooded hillsides.
The ride from the bridge, past Torrington, is stunning, riding through oak woods, alongside the bending Torridge, and past idyllic villages and hamlets like Weare Gifford.
Catch a glimpse of a darting, luminous king fisher, or splash of a jumping trout, or salmon, or, dare I say, an otter (maybe a descendant of Tarka himself!).
Maybe stop at one of the nearby cafes, like the Puffing Billy, situated near Torrignton. There is also plenty of parking here if needs be.
Passing Torrington the ride becomes a little more arduous as the the trail ascends, but it is not steep. The track is still flat and well maintained, with plenty of seats to stop off for a quick rest.
The trail from Torrington to Meeth passes through some stunning Devon countryside. Make sure you bring some refreshments and a snack as it is more rural and isolated than the rest of the trail.
But, fear not, at the end of the ride emerges Meeth, in proper rural Devon, where the Bull and Dragon welcomes you, and you can enjoy a well deserved pint!.
Now, do you ride back to Braunton, or have you organised a lift!?