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Hike empty moors, rugged coast, and serene countryside — Tarka Trail

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Hike empty moors, rugged coast, and serene countryside — Tarka Trail

Hiking Collection by Kit P

10

Tours

67:49 h

152 mi

13,925 ft

The Tarka Trail is an enchanting hike that winds through the ever-contrasting and wildly-beautiful landscape of North Devon.

Inspired by Henry Williamson’s novel ‘Tarka the Otter’, the 180-mile (290 km) route follows Tarka’s adventure through an area of spectacular countryside and coastline that's been designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

Passing through Exmoor National Park, and skirting along the northern edge of Dartmoor National Park, the figure-of-eight loop takes you through glorious patchwork farmland, into empty moorland, along stunning coastline, through ancient woodland, along wildlife-rich rivers, and past some delightful villages and medieval towns.

The terrain along the Tarka Trail is particularly varied; from challenging coastal cliff hiking to flat tarmac trails and isolated moorland to gentle pastures, it's exceptionally diverse. The entire trail is clearly waymarked, though, making navigation easy.

The northern loop takes you east from Barnstaple, over Exmoor to the rugged coastline, and then follows a breathtakingly-beautiful section of the South West Coast Path back to the start.

The southern section continues alongside the saltmarshes and mudflats of the Taw/Torridge Estuary from Barnstaple to Bideford, and along a shared-use section that covers 31 miles (50 km) of former railway line between Braunton and Meeth.

The trail then travels inland to arrive at the edge of the high moor. As the River Taw rises on Dartmoor, the trail returns with it; passing through otter country to the Tarka Railway Line at Eggesford. The railway journey to Barnstaple is the final leg of the south loop.

In this Collection, I've split the entire trail into 10 stages. Of course, you can split up the route into as many days as you are comfortable with. You can also walk any single stage, or a couple of stages, in isolation.

If you're planning to arrive by public transport, you can catch a train to Barnstaple, which offers connecting services around the country.

If you're planning to arrive by car, your best bet is to negotiate with a hotel or B&B a rate to stay for a night either side of your hike in Barnstaple and leave your car for the duration. Alternatively, there are long-stay car parks in and close to the town. If you need something to read in the evenings, 'Tarka the Otter' is probably the most appropriate choice.

On The Map

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Tarka Trail

145 mi

12,700 ft

12,500 ft

Last updated: November 29, 2021

Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Barnstaple to Brayford — Tarka Trail North Loop

    Difficult
    06:49
    15.4 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,600 ft
    925 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The first stage of the Tarka Trail has plenty to challenge your fitness and offers lots of lovely countryside.

    

    From Barnstaple, you follow the River Taw past the Grade I-listed Long Bridge, one of the largest medieval bridges in Britain. You head out of town and into a delightful patchwork of fields

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    07:56
    17.2 mi
    2.2 mph
    2,000 ft
    2,200 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Winding through farmland, woodland, moorland, and finishing on beautiful coastline, this ever-contrasting hike has plenty to pique your interest.

    

    From Brayford, you hike straight into the breathtakingly beautiful Exmoor National Park.

    

    You climb steadily for around 2.5 miles (4 km) to Setta Barrow and maintain

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    07:26
    14.8 mi
    2.0 mph
    2,800 ft
    3,150 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This Highlight-filled hike explores a majestic stretch of Exmoor coastline. It's undulating and strenuous but exceptionally beautiful every step.

    

    From Lynton, the trail follows the South West Coast Path for the entirety of the hike and takes you past some wonderful sights.

    

    Along the coastline, you see

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    07:35
    16.4 mi
    2.2 mph
    2,075 ft
    1,975 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage has many ascents and descents that will challenge your fitness and technical ability.

    

    From Combe Martin, you rejoin the South West Coast Path with a sharp climb and follow as it climbs high onto clifftops and drops deep into hidden coves.

    

    You begin at Combe Martin Beach, a picturesque bay surrounded

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    07:13
    17.1 mi
    2.4 mph
    675 ft
    850 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stunning stage brings the northern loop of the Tarka Trail to its epic conclusion.

    

    Whilst the landscape on this hike might be flat in comparison to recent stages, there is some hefty distance to contend with, which is sure to test your stamina.

    

    From Croyde, the trail rejoins the Coast Path and follows

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    06:18
    15.1 mi
    2.4 mph
    525 ft
    450 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This leisurely hike marks the first stage of the Tarka Trail’s southern loop.

    

    Taking you along the wildlife-rich Taw Estuary and continuing beside the River Torridge, this stage has plenty to keep you entertained.

    

    This area of saltmarsh and intertidal mudflats has become an important haven for birds such

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    05:28
    12.7 mi
    2.3 mph
    850 ft
    550 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage affords a sumptuous sense of solitude as the trail explores remote Devon countryside.

    

    Before you leave Great Torrington, it's worth exploring the small market town, especially its church, St Michael’s; a Grade II-listed building with a fascinating history dating back to 1259. I haven't included

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    07:37
    17.5 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,325 ft
    1,125 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The atmosphere is peaceful and the terrain is undulating on this delightful stage.

    

    From Dolton, the trail winds through farmland pastures and passes the odd hamlet until you reach the Medieval market town of Hatherleigh, which is an interesting place to explore and a perfect place to stop for lunch.

    

    The

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    06:15
    13.9 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,275 ft
    1,475 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    With beautiful scenery, abundant history, and a dash of folklore, you may find yourself spellbound on this stage.

    

    From Okehampton, the trail skirts into Dartmoor National Park and ascends East Hill, where it's worth taking some time to admire the view, explore the Roman fort, and find the spot where a

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    05:13
    11.9 mi
    2.3 mph
    825 ft
    1,000 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    A hike and a train ride through picturesque countryside brings the Tarka Trail to a delightful conclusion.

    

    From North Tawton, you follow the River Taw for almost the entirety of the hike, albeit with a few diversions, passing through a wonderful patchwork of countryside.

    

    A few miles before Eggesford, it

    by Kit P

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Questions and Comments

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    10
  • Distance
    152 mi
  • Duration
    67:49 h
  • Elevation
    13,925 ft

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Hike empty moors, rugged coast, and serene countryside — Tarka Trail

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