Walk - Barnstaple - Short Estuary Walk

Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.

Route Description

  1. From the front of Barnstaple Station turn left and follow the signs for the South West Coast Path and the Tarka Trail towards Braunton and Ilfracombe, through two underpasses and onto the new bridge across the River Taw.

Barnstaple railway station is the terminus of the Tarka Line, a 39 mile long branch line, from  Exeter St Davids. From 1874 to 1970 it was known as Barnstaple Junction being the junction between lines to Ilfracombe, Bideford, Taunton and Exeter.

The Station Master’s Cafe at Barnstaple station was opened in 2008 by Mike Day in one of the 'closed' areas of the station building. In 2009 it appeared in The Guardian’s list of the ten best station cafes.

In May 2007 a new bridge over the River Taw was opened as part of congestion-relief scheme designed to take road traffic away from the town centre. The 5 span bridge is almost 450 yards long.

  1. At the end of the bridge turn left and follow the path along the old railway track beside the estuary.

The South West Coast Path follows the disused track of the London & South Western Railway Branch Line that ran between Barnstaple and Ilfracombe. The branch opened as a single-track line in 1874, but was so popular that it needed to be upgraded to double-track in 1889. Trains such as the Atlantic Coast Express and the Devon Belle both started and terminated at Ilfracombe. For nearly a century the line brought much-needed revenue into this corner of the county before being closed in 1970. Passenger numbers had dropped dramatically in the years following World War Two. This was due to a massive increase in the number of cars using Britain's roads.

  1. After you have passed the last buildings out of Barnstaple, the path to the right a couple of miles ahead will take you up to the road at Ashford, from where you can catch the bus back to Barnstaple for the shortest version of this walk (2¾ miles one way, or 4.25km).

Continuing on the path for a further 500m will lead you to the distinctive castellated towers of The Braunton Inn. Before being renamed and reopened in 2012, it was known as The Tarka Inn. Originally called Heanton Court, it had been an ancient manor house for distinguished families descended from King Edward IV. During the 19th Century, the great house began to be let out to farmers, its castellated towers making it one of the grandest farmhouses in North Devon. In the 1930's, pleasure flights to Lundy Island would land in the grounds.

Nearby refreshments

Barnstaple, Ashford's Trelawney Garden Centre, pub and restaurant in Wrafton, pubs, restaurants and tearooms in Braunton

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