The Tarka Trail enables quiet exploration of the north Devon countryside as described by Henry Williamson in his classic tale, 'Tarka the Otter'. The 290km route forms a large figure-of-eight circuit centered on Barnstable and takes in many of the places visited by Tarka during his epic journey in the story. The Trail offers the perfect opportunity to see the locations described by Henry Williamson, many of them little changed since he was writing in the 1920's. Short sections can be walked as part of a day out, while longer sections make a wonderful walking weekend. Public transport serves many locations to enable day or weekend walks. For the more serious walker who relishes the challenge of completing the whole Trail, there is the happy prospect of a full two week walking holiday.
The southern loop follows the former railway line from Barnstaple to Bideford around the shore of the Taw / Torridge estuary, before heading inland along the Torridge valley. It passes through the heart of rural Devon to Okehampton, crosses part of north Dartmoor, and them follows the River Taw from its source back to the estuary and Barnstaple (the last 32km being a train journey on the Tarka line from Eggesford). The northern loop leaves Barnstaple through rolling countryside to the open grass and heather moorland of Exmoor. From here it follows the river valleys down to Lynmouth, and then the dramatic cliff coastline westward via Ilfracombe and Braunton before reaching the Taw / Torridge estuary and returning to Barnstaple.
The Trail offers a wonderful variety of scenery including typical Devon with it's deep sunken lanes, rolling hills and farmland of patchwork fields; riverside meadows and peaceful woodland contrasting with dramatic coastline and the open moorland of Dartmoor.
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