We pride ourselves on the routes we offer from our cycle hire centre. On either the Southern route to Bideford or the Northern route to Braunton, we think you will experience some of the best of the Tarka Trail and have the chance to explore the beautiful estuary of the rivers Taw and Torridge.
En route to either Bideford or Braunton for refreshment, you can take in the countryside Devon is so famed for and enjoy a truly great day out! You can enjoy the peace and quiet of this beautiful corner of Devon, and with the level, traffic-free cycling, it’s perfect for families and less experienced cyclists. The Tarka trail is a bird watchers paradise, with stunning river estuary scenes, and don’t forget to keep an eye out for evidence of the trails former use as a railway line!
You can read more about both routes below & use the map to plan your stops along the way. You can also download a PDF (231kb) of the map using the button below.
The Northern Trail follows the trail on the opposite side of the estuary up towards Braunton Burrows. To access this northern route you can follow the cycle path opposite the hire depot. To cross the old stone bridge into Barnstaple turn right and follow the cycle path past Pizza Hut and over the river. Alternatively to cross the new bridge turn left take the cycle path to the end of the train station car park and follow the brown/wooden signs to Braunton. This will take you under two colourful underpasses. After the second underpass follow the sign, right, to Braunton. Please note the new bridge has a dedicated cycle path alongside the road
whereas the old stone bridge does not.
At low tide watch hundreds of birds feeding on the mud bank at Ashford strand (2-3 miles). The Braunton Inn (3.5 miles), offers a chance to relax in the large gardens looking across the estuary towards Fremington and Instow. Further along past the marine camp, on the left side of the trail, are several viewing platforms offering the chance to experience the local wildlife. At 6.5 miles you arrive at the bustling town
of Braunton for further refreshments or shopping.
Crow Point is a very rewarding extension accessed via a quiet public road and toll road. This is a chance to picnic on the raised river bank to observe swans, ducks and moorhens in the drainage channels. Imagine the old quay at Vellator or take a glimpse at Braunton’s medieval great field and on to see the dunes at Braunton Burrows.
The Southern Trail starts on the cycle path opposite the hire depot. Take this cycle path to the end of the train station car park and follow the brown/wooden signs to Bideford.This will take you under two colourful underpasses. After the second underpass follow the sign, left, to Bideford.
Cycle from historic Barnstaple along the shores of the Taw & Torridge estuary for 3 miles and you will arrive at Fremington Quay. This picturesque stop offers a welcoming cafe and outdoor play area for the younger cyclists. Fremington Quay was once the port for unloading ball clay, where you can see a lime kiln and if you are lucky a rare kingfisher. Onto Isly Marsh, now a RSPB reserve and pass the site of a former power station at Yelland.
Instow with its sandy beach is an ideal place to while away a few hours having a leisurely lunch in one of the many pubs and restaurants. The trail crosses the road at the southern end of the Instow promenade. To access the sea front you will need to turn right off the trail and wander back up through the village. The views over the estuary towards Braunton Burrows and Appledore are magnificent. Appledore is a quant resort which has been famous for ship building for centuries. It is possible to catch a ferry across the estuary from Instow during the warmer months.
We leave Instow past the historic signal box and cycle towards Bideford, 3 miles further on. To explore Bideford you must cross the 14th century bridge built by the Grenville family. Bideford offers many restaurants and pubs as well as large park with an outdoor childrens paddling pool, (summer months) and a chance to wander up through the working quay and visit the Kingsley statue.
Back on the trail we cross the Landcross viaduct over the river Torridge and meander through the Torridge valley encountering tunnels and a variety of scenic bridges. After 4 miles you will reach Torrington station which has now been converted into the Puffing Billy cafe.