Puffing Billy to Bideford on the Tarka Trail

This gently down-hill walk or bike ride crosses the Torridge at Beam Weir, made famous in Henry Williamson’s book Tarka the Otter, before meandering along the valley, through a long tunnel, across another bridge and into the former station at Bideford, where there’s a 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:
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 pub 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 pub (01805 281461).

From here to Bideford is about 5 miles. Whether walking or cycling, set off passing in front of the pub on the tarmac path that was once the railway track. Watch out for the Giants in the Forest, put up in the trees in 2013.
Giants in the trees on the Tarka Trail near Torrington
You’ll soon come to the bridge at Beam Weir. 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 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.

Tunnel on Devon's Tarka Trail, Landcross

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 a bridge where people often fish the tidal waters, than pass close to saltmarsh and a reedbed as you approach Bideford. The trail takes you right to the old station, where there’s a cafe in an old carriage. If that’s not open, the 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, 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.