Only a couple of months ago, my parents took the brave move of packing up our family home of 20 years and moving down to Devon to be by the sea. Bideford, a historic port town on the estuary of the River Torrington is 20 mins from Barnstaple and just over an hour from Exeter and on what’s known as the Atlantic Highway.
Nestled by little seaside villages of Appledore, Northam and the kite-surfing mecca, Westward Ho! it also just happens to be slap-bang in the middle of the Tarka Trail. The trail is 180 miles in total, or 290km for the cyclists among us, of car free tarmacked paths (of which 48km are suitable for cyclists) from Braunton to Meeth, what was otherwise the old North Devon railway line.
I decided to take my bike down for a few days over Christmas and with such mild weather I didn’t really have an excuse to not get out and explore. Having had quite a tough hilly ride in some stormy winds the day before, my Dad and I opted to try the Tarka Trail from Bideford to Barnstaple, where we then re-joined the roads back, a straightforward 30km loop.
The trail is well sign posted from the town, having crossed the old Bideford bridge into East the Water to join at the old Railway Station, now a popular cafe stop by those on route.
The paths are wide enough to suit both walkers and cyclists alike and well maintained, so much so I don’t recall a single pothole. The views out along the Torrington are fantastic, showing the breadth of the estuary as you make your way towards the larger port town of Barnstaple. The old railway line is still obvious today with many of the old halts still in place along the route, allowing a rewarding rest for those that may need it.
Compared to the short sharp climbs of the local roads in the surrounding area, the Tarka Trail is a welcome break of totally flat terrain. Although it may get a little boring after a while, the traffic free, scenic route is a welcome break from the norm.
And, should you wish riding the Tarka Trail yourself, keep posted for news of my parents holiday lets soon to be launched.
NB we did go off road slightly as we came towards Barnstaple, please be aware that this is apparently a ‘no bikes allowed’ path – we happened to completely miss the sign at bottom but were obviously well informed by some locals at the top 😉