Instow to Fremington on the Tarka Trail

This is an easy going walk (or cycle) with options to explore part of the South West Coast Path and detour around a Devon nature reserve. You’ll end up at Fremington Quay cafe, a thriving cafe.

Getting there (for a walk):
Either take the 5B bus from Winkleigh, or drive to Instow and use the pay and display car park.

Getting there (cycle):
Take your own bikes or do the route in reverse, hiring bikes at Fremington Quay. You’ll have to retrace your steps though, as no-one seems to do one-way cycle hire. And you’ll need to stick to the Tarka Trail as bikes aren’t allowed on the Coast Path.

We recommend getting there by bus. Tickets are really reasonable and you get a unique trip through the transition zone of North Devon’s Biosphere reserve, with fabulous views of the countryside – the 5B is almost always a double decker, giving you unparalleled views over the hedges. And the view as you go over Bideford Bridge is spectacular.

Instow is the first village stop after you leave Bideford. Ask the driver to let you off at the east end of Marine Parade – easiest to be on the lower floor now and smile nicely as there isn’t a formal stop there (if s/he insists on going on to the formal stop you just walk back down the hill until you get back to here).

The walk proper…
Railway gates on the Tarka Trail at Instow
You’ll see the old railway line, now the Tarka Trail. You can start walking here. (If you take the straightforward route along the Tarka Trail and amble, you’ll be at Fremington in under 2 hours.) Alternatively, walk along marine parade and the sea front, enjoying the clinking of stays on the moored boats and the view across the water to Appledore. Follow the coast until you get to the far side of Instow.

Here, you’ll have another choice. If unencumbered by buggies etc, follow the South West Coast Path through dunes topped with marram grass and along the coastline. You can rejoin the Tarka Trail fairly shortly after the cricket ground, or say on the Coast Path until you loop back just before the RSPB’s Isley Marsh Nature Reserve.

If you need smoother going, join up with the Tarka Trail now – turn left off the road where you see a beach cafe. Stay on the road side and shortly on your right you’ll see a pedestrian gateway onto the Trail. If you miss that, carry on along the road (it may be a private road, but it’s a public footpath as well)and join the trail where a road crosses it just before the cricket ground.

Once on the Tarka Trail the walk is pretty open and straight.
Cycling the Tarka Trail between Instow and FremingtonWatch out for wildflowers like tansy, willowherb, toadflax, wild carrot and many others in summer.

Assuming you’re on the trail…

Just outside Instow you’ll come across Instow Pond – a picnic site with a shelter made of traditional cob, and a wetland area where swallows hunt insects during the summer.
Before you get to Fremington, look out for a set of steel kissing gates and an information board on your left. This is the start of a permissive path around Home Farm Marsh, owned by the Gia Trust and managed primarily for wildlife. The walk takes you back to the coast, then along and finally back to the Tarka Trail again at another set of steel kissing gates ( and probably adds a kilometre to the overall walk).

From there, keep on the Tarka trail until you reach Fremington Quay, once the busiest port between Lands End and Bristol.

Now the buildings are a cafe with fascinating displays and photographs from times gone by, incluidng pennyfarthing and other early bicycles (suspended from the ceiling).
The cafe is open most days in the summer, most weekends in the winter, and closed most Mondays outside peak season. Ring them on 01271 378783 to be sure.

To get there, cross the bridge over Fremington Pill (the river here). Even if you don’t want a coffee, go in and look at the pictures of how things use to be. The cafe doesn’t like you using the loo or eating at the tables unless you’re a customer, but there’s a picnic site a few metres further on (on the left) and a public loo at the base of the tower.

Getting home again:
If you’re catching the bus back from Fremington, go back over the Pill and take the footpath up the hill (not along the side of the Pill) on the left hand side. We’ve done this bit with a pushchair and it was fine. If you walk up the West side (the side the cafe is on) you end up with a longish walk through modern housing before you reach the bus stop. A brisk 10 minute walk should cover it, so if you set off with 30 before the bus leaves you’ll be able to amble and still have loads of time to hail the bus.

Follow the path through beech trees and past a few houses until it narrows and runs alongside an unmade up road. Go through the gap in the fence and walk on the road (much easier) over a small bridge up to the main road.
The bus-stop is called the New Inn on the timetable, and this pub is almost opposite where your road joins the main road. Actually the bus goes from outside the Fox and Hounds pub a bit further to the left and across the road.

How far is it?
If you take the bus, your day out starts just a mile and a half from our eco lodges and cottage! If you’ve got young children with you do ask, and we’ll see if we can run you to the bus stop…

By car, Fremington is about 22 miles from us, and counter intuitively Instow is about 23. The last bus back is usually about 16.20 from Fremington – but please check online.