Puffing Billy to Bideford on the Tarka Trail

This gently down-hill walk or bike ride is our favourite part of Devon’s Tarka Trail to do from Wheatland Farm. Bridges, tunnels, cafes…and it’s off road too.

You’ll start at the Puffing Billy cafe, cross the  RiverTorridge at Beam Weir, made famous in Henry Williamson’s book Tarka the Otter, before meandering along the valley, through  the old railway tunnel, across another bridge and into the former station at Bideford, where there’s a  (summertime) cafe in an old railway carriage.  Bike back again, or if on foot, cross Bideford’s famous long Bridge and come back on the bus.

Getting there from Wheatand Farm

Either drive or take the 5B bus from Winkleigh to the Puffing Billy stop just the far side of Great Torrington. Puffing Billy is the name of the cafe here, once the station buildings. If you walk you can get the bus back. If you want to cycle you’ll have to go out and back again. If you don’t have your own bikes, you can hire some from Torrington Cycle Hire, just opposite the cafe (01805 281461).

From here to Bideford is about 5 miles. Whether walking or cycling, set off passing in front of the cafe on the tarmac path that was once the railway track.

You’ll soon come to the bridge at Beam Weir.  Watch out for kingfishers and herons. If you’re there really early and it’s quiet you may see an otter. In the evening, bats hunt for moths along the river bank.

A bit further and you’ll come to a wooden bench, one of 30 pieces of art  originally commissioned for the trail as part of Sustrans’ Art in the Travelling Landscape project.
Near hear you can detour into the woods on a permissive path that takes you to Weare Giffard. There’s a rack to lock your bikes to.

Sing your way through the Tarka Trail tunnel

You’ll go through a tunnel, then down to Landcross (had enough? you’re close to the bus route again here – just come off the trail and cross over the Torridge on the road bridge. A few metres on the bus stop is on the corner)

You’ll cross the Torridge again over the Iron Bridge where people often fish the tidal waters, then pass close to saltmarsh and a reedbed as you approach Bideford. The  Tarka Trail takes you right to the old station, where there’s a cafe in an old carriage (summer months and some weekends). If that’s not open, there is a pub close by and plenty of other cafes etc over Bideford Long Bridge in the town itself.

If you walked, you can catch the 5B bus back from Bideford Quay – just cross the bridge, turn right and you’ll find the bus stops.
Puffing Billy is about 15 miles from our eco lodges and cottage at Wheatland Farm, but if you take the bus your day out starts a mile and a half away at the Winkleigh Bus stop. If you’re car-less and have young children with you we can sometimes run you down there.