Walk - Barnstaple - Short Estuary Walk

2.9 miles (4.6 km)

Barnstaple Station - EX31 2AU Ashford

Easy - A walk as long or as short as you want to make it, mostly on a level tarmac path along the Taw Estuary.

A walk as long or as short as you want to make it, mostly on a level tarmac path along the Taw Estuary. Look out for wildfowl and waterbirds as you walk past saltmarsh and tiny rocky beaches to the Tarka Inn. For dedicated walkers, the route continues through a once-bustling port and around marshland reclaimed from the sea, to Braunton Burrows, the UK's largest dune system with a wealth of rare plants. They are all excellent walks in autumn, when migrant waders and other waterbirds can be seen in the marshes, and flocks of noisy finches feed in the trees and bushes. Look out for a rare bird of prey, such as a hobby, hunting above the swifts and swallows gathering ready for their long journey south. 

There are a range of wonderful places to lay your head near the Coast Path for a well-earned sleep. From large and luxurious hotels, to small and personable B&B's, as well as self-catering options and campsites. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

Herton Guest House

Spacious former farmhouse, full of character, comfort and charm. Close to Coast Path,long stay parking available. A hearty breakfast to set you up for the day.

The Old Vicarage B&B

The Old Vicarage B&B is an early Victorian house with spacious guest accommodation, modern en-suite facilities, free parking and free Wi-Fi, located just a short stroll from the town centre.

The Poplars B&B

Close to the town with its pannier market and situated in a quiet rural setting. Our Edwardian house enjoys easy access to the Tarka Trail making it an ideal stop over for walkers.

Bennings B&B

Friendly, family run B&B. Double and twin rooms, both en suite. No charge for Wi-Fi. Great location and generous breakfast for your next day's walk!

Trojen Bed & Breakfast

Relax in our B and B situated half a mile from Coastal Path in a quiet cul de sac in Braunton. Private lounge/ diner and super King ensuite with views of estuary to Appledore

Marsdens Devon Cottages

One of Devon’s leading agencies with over 450 cottages in popular locations including Croyde, Woolacombe, Braunton and Lynmouth. Book online today!

The Laurels B&B

A warm welcome will greet you from this family owned B&B in the heart of Braunton within easy reach of village facilities and the magnificent local beaches.

Silver Cottage B&B

A charming two double bedroom B&B, private sitting room, kitchenette, terrace and shower room. A warm welcome for walkers. No extra charge for single night stays or single occupancy

North Cottage

Close to the Coast Path, village centre with restaurants & pubs, beach and golf course. Double, single & twin rooms, available Wifi.

Interactive Elevation

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.

Public transport

Buses run regularly between Barnstaple Station and Braunton, stopping at Ashford, Chivenor, Wrafton and Velator. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the train station and bus stop symbols, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.

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