This wonderful hiking trail rambles through Mid Devon’s glorious, rural countryside, taking in hidden sights and passing through tiny villages. Starting on the very edge of Dartmoor, the 45-mile (72 km) trail winds through forgotten landscapes and follows ancient footpaths for a serene adventure.
Starting at Okehampton, a Dartmoor border town with a quarrying history, the Way sticks to undulating, pastoral paths through old farming communities until it reaches Stoke Canon, just north of the Roman city of Exeter. There’s nothing particularly challenging on this hike although few sections are flat. Instead, it’s a peaceful way to pass a long weekend.
I’ve split this Collection into three stages to align with settlements and amenities. The middle stage is the longest, at 19.6 miles (31.5 km), to link North Tawton with Crediton. You could split this in two, by staying at Coleford around the stage’s halfway mark. I’ve also planned the hike from west to east but you could just as easily walk in the opposite direction.
You start from Okehampton, a historic market town on the very northern edge of Dartmoor National Park. The town has a good choice of supermarkets, restaurants and accommodation, and is a hub for hikers and cyclists in the warmer months.
The first stage ends in North Tawton, the former home village of the poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. A delightful little settlement, it embodies the tranquillity of the Devonshire Heartland Way. In the second stage, you hike through verdant farmland to reach the River Yeo (one of the many rivers of this name) and hike into Crediton. This thriving community has seen many industries in its history and you’ll find it snuggled in the Creedy Vale.
The third stage is the shortest at just 11.1 miles (17.8 km) and first skirts the stunning Shobrooke Park with its glorious lakes and peaceful views. You then follow the River Creedy briefly before heading to the ancient village of Brampford Speke and on to Stoke Canon.
Medieval churches, thatched cottages, old manor houses and sweeping parkland are all highlights on this hike. It’s an adventure for daydreamers and best completed in the late spring to early autumn months, where the hedgerows burst with life, the woodlands are most verdant and the skies are full of birdsong.
Largely rural, there are enough village pubs to keep you fed but all accommodation should be booked in advance. It’s worth noting that there’s a youth hostel in Okehampton, usefully at the exact location of the hike’s start: the train station.
While getting to the beginning by train sounds logical, Okehampton station hasn't benefitted from regular services in decades. However, in March 2021, the government announced plans to restart services as soon as possible. If the station isn't open by the time you want to hike, take the number 6 bus from Exeter Bus Station to Okehampton; it’s an hour-long journey. Exeter itself has a mainline train station serving London, Bristol and Penzance.
Crediton, at the end of stage 2, has a branch line train station a short distance from Exeter. Use the number 55 and 55B buses from Stoke Canon to return to Exeter city centre. Should you want to hike the stages individually, you can also utilise the 5B bus from North Tawton to Exeter, which takes around one hour and 20 minutes.
This first stage meanders north east from the market town of Okehampton, up across undulating farmland and past gorgeous old hamlets. Pass through the charming Sampford Courtenay and cross the serene River Taw to finish in pretty North Tawton.
Start at Okehampton train station. A set of steps lead down from the railway and a bridle path takes you east, to a towering viaduct over the East Okement River. Cross Charlotte’s Bridge and take a lane north before crossing the railway and heading to Stockley Hamlet.
The trail heads north east from here on a mixture of quiet lanes and field footpaths. Undulating, you’ll often have lovely views over the folds in the hills. A lane takes you north west, crossing the railway again, and deposits you in Sampford Courtenay. This little village has an interesting history as the start of the 1549 Western Rebellion and, perhaps more immediately important, a pub.
The Way bounds off across fields in a zig-zag to Honeychurch, reaches north east and then south east to meet the River Taw. Cross at the old Yeo Bridge and hike down into North Tawton, formerly home to Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.
The easiest way to reach the start, at Okehampton, is to take the number 6 bus from Exeter bus station or a train, if the station has reopened (due 2021). Okehampton has several supermarkets, plenty of cafes and pubs, and a good range of accommodation options, including a youth hostel at the station. As the route is rural, I advise taking lunch with you on this stage.
In North Tawton, you find a small local store and three pubs. There are several accommodation options but booking is essential.
This stage is almost 20 miles long (32 km) to make the most of the excellent amenities at Crediton. However, you can easily cut it in half if you’d prefer, and stay in Coleford, just north of the trail. With only one option for accommodation there though, booking is crucial. You could also stop at Yeoford and catch the train into Crediton for the night.
This hike takes in fairly gentle undulations and has several pub stops en route, should you be in the mood for a sit-down lunch. The low hills offer some wonderful views over this rural landscape with fields of cows and crops everywhere.
Leave North Tawton via a lane to the north and hike uphill to Ashridge, where you find a half-hidden manor house with fascinating gate posts. The Way leads across Ashridge Moor, where low hedges offer wonderful views across the rolling fields. Cross farmland to reach Zeal Monachorum, a gorgeous little village, largely thatched.
Next, head to Tuckingmill Bridge and hike north alongside a stream before doing a sharp turn and hiking up over a hill to Clannaborough Cross. Footpaths across fields take you south to Paschoe House, a stunning 18th-century manor hidden away from everything but nature. Rather grand, if you’re feeling fancy, stop for an afternoon tea.
The Way continues on tracks and footpaths to Colebrooke, a small village. Coleford, to the north, has a hotel if you’d like to break up the stage. Alternatively, hike on to Yeoford, along a lovely stretch of old railway that runs adjacent to the current railway. Yeoford has a pub and a train station that can take you to Crediton; another option for breaking up the stage.
From Yeoford, hike east on the trail as it meanders about, eventually rising to Posbury and its Iron Age hillfort, Posbury Clump. Now a clump of trees, this little village is rather sweet. A lane takes you to Uton, on the River Yeo, where the footpath leaves the road and heads across riverside fields into Crediton.
Crediton is a thriving town with supermarkets, pubs, restaurants and accommodation options. It also has a train station serving nearby Exeter and bus services to local towns. If you’re doing this stage by itself, you can reach North Tawton from Exeter via the 5B bus.
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The final stage of the Way meanders across the rural landscape from Crediton to Stoke Canon, taking in both the Rivers Creedy and Exe on the way. This is a gentle ending to an already peaceful expedition, with quaint villages and serene fields the main sights.
Head out from Crediton to the north east, arriving promptly at Shobrooke Park. The Way cuts through the southern edge of the park, but if you have time, do stroll around more comprehensively as the grounds are stunning.
Head east to reach Shobrooke itself, with its holy well and pretty church. After the village, follow the trail south to the River Creedy, between Newton St Cyres station and the eponymous village. Find the old stone bridge here with its pedestrian cutouts, but take the path just before it, which leads along a field edge.
Leave the river to cross the railway line to Langford and Upton Pyne, both small villages that time seems to have forgotten. Upton Pyne is absurdly pretty with its thatched cottages and you leave it via a track and footpath eastwards, to its neighbour, Brampford Speke.
A footbridge takes you across the River Exe, out of Brampford Speke and across the fields to Stoke Canon where the Way ends. This sweet little village is bordered by both the Exe and the Culm and is worth wandering about as you await the number 55 or 55B to take you south to Exeter.
If you’re looking for a pub for an end-of-hike celebration, the Stoke Canon Inn is a perfect choice. Staffed by volunteers, this community-run pub has won awards and serves good food.