Fingle Bridge woods makes a lovely walk with a great pub for lunch or a snack. It’s about 19 miles from the eco lodges and combines well with Castle Drogo. In fact, the National Trust’s Castle Drogo land goes all the way to Fingle Bridge, and meets up with Woodland Trust land. It’s now under joint management. Continue reading “A walk at Fingle Bridge”
Here’s another local pub: the Copper Key in North Tawton. The pub does Sunday lunches and sandwiches in a traditional setting. There’s a beer garden out the back, and a pool table. Continue reading “The Copper Key Pub, North Tawton”
Here’s a local pub whose sign outside actively welcomes muddy boots and paws. It’s the New Inn in Roborough, about 7 miles from the eco lodges. Continue reading “The New Inn at Roborough, another lovely pub serving good food”
Belstone Cleave, on the edge of Dartmoor, is beautiful even when it’s raining or cold. And unlike the moor itself, is sheltered from the worst of the wind. Belstone also boasts a welcoming pub serving 50 kinds of whiskeys – should you need re-warming after your walk. Continue reading “Belstone Cleave and the Tors Pub”
Climb the hill to Torrington and reward yourself with a coffee at the Plough Arts Centre or perhaps a cake from our favourite bakery, Sandford’s in the square.. Continue reading “Climb the hill to Torrington for tea and cakes”
Here’s a lovely spot for a river-side picnic 6 miles from the cottage and lodges, at Bondleigh.
This little woodland is owned by the Woodland Trust, and as such has public access. That means you can wander off the path – indeed right down to the Taw – without worry. It’s a pretty small wood, but you could combine a picnic with a Bondleigh Walk too. There’s room to park (just) at the second gate (the Bondleigh end) some big trees, and a lovely peaceful atmosphere.
If you want something similar by even closer, try the Big Tree Walk at Haywood Wood, Eggesford, just 4 miles from us (and easier to get to by bike).
This circular Devon dog walk is fairly easy terrain, with wide paths and no styles. But it does have a couple of gates – and a couple of hills in it too, so you’ll get a bit of exercise!
You’ll start about 2 miles from the cottage and lodges. You can borrow a bike, or drive. Turn right out of our drive, and keep going until you get to the Methodist Chapel at Stable Green. Just opposite the chapel take a left, at right angles to the road, steeply downhill into Hollocombe – not the one that almost doubles back on you when you reach the chapel. Head down into Hollocombe and leave your bike or park opposite the house at the bottom of the valley and just before the stream. Take a lead because you may encounter livestock or tractors. OS Explorer map 127.
We set off through Hole Wood. It’s a bridle path, meaning it’s fairly wide and flat, though it can be muddy. You go through conifers, roughly following the stream – Hollocombe Water. When you get to some out buildings turn left, walk downhill and through the gate. There were pigs here! Great hairy things. I was on my guard, ready to warn everyone, but the kids didn’t seem concerned and even scratched the lazy beasts’ bellies through the fence. Hey – that’s my role isn’t it – lying around in the sun and being tickled on the tummy?
So anyway, swiftly on to the footbridge (for me) or the ford (for those who like to splash) and then a right turn and walk up the lane on the other side.
Don’t get side-tracked here by the diverted footpath sign looking like it wants to send you up a steep hill. Not that I mind hills but there are others coming… No, just stay on the lane, which is still a bridle path, and go through the farm buildings and on. Where the lane divides, ignore the track curving uphill and stay on the concrete driveway.
You’ll soon come to a hairpin turning, almost back on yourself that takes you down to the water again.
Enjoy the flowers in the hedgerow, but when you reach the footbridge watch out for rotten planks!
You’ll come across a pretty pink thatched cottage – turn right alongside it and follow the path that takes you up the hill. You walk through conifers first, then broadleaved woodland with speckled wood butterflies and dappled sunshine, and eventually come out at a gate. Pause for a pant if you like, then go through the gate, shutting it behind you and follow the edge of the field.
You come to the farm buildings at Redland and another pretty Devon thatched cottage. Walk with the farmhouse on your right, following the track through a gate and around the buildings until you get to the lane. This will take you back to the public road, but both are pretty much as quiet and grassy as each other. When you do get to the road turn right and head back, downhill, to where you started. It’s a steep and windy Devon lane, so be ready for cars but you probably won’t even get a sniff of one.
This Devon walk, good for dogs, adults and kids, starts at Speke Cross in Wembworthy, just a couple of miles from Wheatland Farm.
To get there:
Right out of the drive, right at the first cross roads (Tinker’s post), bear right at Lane End – a Thatched farmhouse. Carry on over and down the hill, and up into Wembworthy on the other side. Turn left through the village, until you see the playground on your left. Leave your bikes, or car, near the playground, then cross the road at the junction and follow the footpath sign towards Wembworthy Down.
You’ll go past the houses that front onto the road and along a lane until you get to a new barn on your left. Just past the barn the footpath has been redirected – take the kissing gate into the field and follow the signs. It’s a bit different from the OS map here, but clear enough.
When you go through a metal gate, and the path no-longer seems to go straight on, head downhill to the gate in the middle of the hedge at the bottom of the field. It seems to have lost it’s waymarker, but you can’t get too confused – there aren’t any other options!
Through the gate (don’t forget to shut it) turn left, along the field margin, heading towards another gate. On this one you can just glimpse the yellow waymarker badge.
Go through this gate and follow the hedge line. The field falls steeply away from you down into the valley.
Here there’s a stile into a steep corner field. The dogs (2 labradors and Muttley) managed to wriggle a way through. On our March walk there were daffodils flowering in the grass here – not the native ones though.
Follow the old hedgerow into the corner of the field where the stream is. Snow drops flower here early in the year. Look for hedgerow flowers and spring turns to summer.
You’re in amongst trees here, and it’s a good place to stop for a coffee – if you’re that way inclined! Watch out for woodland flowers – wood sorrel and wild garlic in spring. When you’re rested, follow the well-marked path to a stile into Stone Wood plantation – forestry commission land and therefore open access.
The path brings you out onto a forestry commission track. Turn right, downhill. You’ll soon come across a large wooden gate, which you go through.
You’re temporarily leaving open access forestry land and crossing farmland again. But the public footpath follows the river valley – to another gate.
Once back in the plantation the forestry track takes you uphill through conifers. Bear right when you meet the next track, roughly following the stream below you.
Just follow the track, keeping the stream closeby, and you’ll come across a stone bridge crossing the stream. Your path heads downhill to cross it.
As you start to head uphill after the bridge (and small gate), look to your right. In the field (and unfortunately off the public right of way), is the trunk of an enormous tree, now sadly toppled. It’s still an awesome sight though.
You walk uphill here through trees until you come to a gate in the corner of the field and near the main house. That gate takes you back onto the farm drive. The footpath now skirts the property, returning you past the the new barn seen at the start of your walk, to the start point.
The Big Sheep is a family day out with lots to see and do for kids from toddlers to teenagers. And one of the nice things about it is that you can do some things together – like the twister ride which has seats for adults and children as young as three (height restriction).
There are lots of animals to see up close, including lambs (of course) and piglets.
If it’s wet there’s a ‘soft play barn’ with the usual ball pits and 3 great slides – a gentle (but surprisingly fast) one and two ‘freefall’ slides for more adventurous kids.
Outside there are go karts and the enormous bouncing pillows.
For older children try Battlefield Live – for kids (and parents) over 8 years old.
It’s is like paint balling but without the bruises and pain. You get state-of-the-art eye-safe guns that fire invisible infra-red beams up to 200 metres (with great sound effects). There’s 7 acres for your battle to rage in, full of forts, bunkers and barricades plus real military sound affects and lots of military vehicles as well as natural cover.
The Big Sheep also has a sister attraction, just up the road, called the Ultimate High, where you can try mountain boarding and climbing.
The Big Sheep is a working farm, and there are shows throughout the day (when the presenter said the show about rams was going to last 45 mins my heart sank – but it was actually entertaining and informative).
And of course there’s always the brewery, and shop, to visit. Plus there’s free wifi if you need to stay in touch.
If you’re holidaying with your dog, you might want to take advantage of the free kennel facilities (first come first served) – there’s also shaded parking and a large dog walking area.
So all in all, it’s not quite the major theme parks, but then you shouldn’t have to spend half your day queuing either.
The Big Sheep is about 22 miles from the cottage and lodges, or about 40 mins drive. It’s easy to find, on the A39, 2 mins west of the new Bideford Bridge. It’s well signed (ex39 5ap) if you’re using SatNav.
The main season runs from the end of March to the end of October. In the winter it’s open weekends and school holidays – check their website for details.
See more at the Big Sheep Website.
This Devon walk starts about a mile from the cottage and lodges. You can borrow a bike, walk or drive – just take care not to park blocking the gates where the walk starts. Turn left out of our drive, go past the farm shop, then right, down towards Hollocombe (before you reach the main road). Enjoy the flowers in the hedges! You’ll see a footpath sign on your right. There’s room to park a car opposite it – you set off through the gate. If you’re taking a dog, take a lead too, because you’ll be going across pasture where there may be livestock. OS Explorer map 127.
You’ll set off across glorious grassland, rich with clover, and campion, sometimes awash with a snow of white dandelion clocks and in late spring dotted with stichtwort in the hedgerows. The path is well-marked though there are a couple of heavy farm gates.
Follow the map and the signs, passing a fallen down cob barn and another building that now seems to be just a chimney stack. You go down a lane between these 2 buildings and out onto another, turning right before strking off across another field.
In spring the flowers are like a garden border here in the hedgerows and fill them up with vibrant colours. Need a bit of garlic? Ransomes grow along one side of the track.
Look out for the laid hedges too – with young hedgerow trees left standing. Managing hedges this way is much better for wildlife, particularly blossom and the insects that depend on it.
You’ll come to a gate into woodland. There’s a lovely barrel of a path through a deep-sided track overhung with trees. And this is where the bluebells start in May. These are the beautiful delicate native bluebells, not the larger more robust Spanish incomers.
You’ll soon hit a path running close to the stream, Hollocombe Water. Turn left for a bit, continuing through woodland.
Then there’s another well-marked track heading back up the wooded hillside. It comes out on the road, past patches of primroses lighting up the bank.
On the road, turn left and head back up hill to the start point. A bit of a slog at the end here, but you’re nearly there. And you can always call in at Fiona’s farm shop for refreshments on the way home.
Here’s a beach trip for a day when the walk is part of the fun. This one won’t offer you miles of sand, and there are no ice cream stalls, but then there aren’t many people either (and you can always get refreshments at the pub on the way back).
Start your walk at Horn’s Cross, on the A39 between Bideford and Buck’s Cross. You can get the bus (more instructions at the end). Or you can drive. If driving, park considerately – this is a small hamlet. You can park at the pub if you’re a customer.
You’ll be heading off past the pub anyway, down to the beach through Peppercombe, owned by the National Trust. Where the track forks just past the pub, stay left (not through the 5 bar gate) and follow the path. In spring it’s alive with wild garlic, wood anemones, primroses and celandines. Later in the year you’ll find red campion and other woodland plants and butterflies.
The path takes you alongside a stream, past a couple of quaint little cottages, then across a field, down another wooded section and so to the beach. It’s about half a mile, and well signed at every turn.
The island you see on the horizon is Lundy, also part of the North Devon Biosphere Reserve.
The beach itself is stony, except for patches of sand at low water, so this is a walk and picnic lunch rather than a bucket and spade excercise. When you’ve had enough of building encampments with the cobbles, you can wander north east along the beach until you find a bit were the cliffs dip down and a brick-built dam holds back a small pond. From here you can pick up the coast path back up the other side of the combe. You’ll take a narrow, sometimes very muddy path along the top of the cliffs this time, coming out about half way up the combe. When you reach the main track turn left and head up hill.
If you don’t want to retrace your steps, keep left where the track forks and you’ll walk back to the start point along the other side of the combe.
Horn’s Cross is about 25 miles from your Devon self catering accommodation – you can drive or go by bus.
Car free Devon day out
Get the early 5B bus from Winkleigh to Bideford, then get the 319 service to Horn’s Cross (usually about 11.30 – check up to date timetables). These are both stagecoach services, so get a day rider ticket for North Devon that lets you get on and off stagecoach buses all day. Walk down to the beach for a picnic, but make sure you know the time of the last bus back! And for a really good car free day out, make Peppercombe the start of a lovely 2-3 hour one-way walk along the south west coast path to Westward Ho, then pick up a bus from Westward Ho back to Bideford in time for the last bus back to Winkleigh (about 16:30). This is a great day out – we’ve done it ourselves.
Designed between 1910 and 1913, it took 20 years to build. Sadly, Drewe died, aged 76, a year after it was completed. The family gifted the house and grounds to the National Trust in 1974. It was the first 20th Century property they took on.
Drogo was special because the Edwardian building was designed by Edwin Lutyens. Lutyens was arguably Britain’s greatest 20th century architect. It’s a thoroughly modern castle he designed here – no dungeons! Yet it’s an awe-inspiring piece of design, with touches like interior courtyards to give natural light and internal windows build to suggest an older rambling building that has been built onto. I think my favourite room was the switch room, with all the old fashioned wiring. The wooden fittings in the kitchen, in use up to the 1960s, reminded me of my grandmothers’ house, though hers was somewhat less grand…
The formal garden is one of the highest in England – Drogo is so high that although a fig tree cloaks one of the castle walls, its fruits don’t ripen.
But there are plenty of flowers in the borders,and you can play croquet on the enormous circular croquet lawn (hire equipment from the visitor centre – June to September).
But if other people’s grand houses are not your thing, exploring the grounds may be. Drogo is perched high up on the northern fringe of Dartmoor, overlooking the Teign Valley. You can hike down to the river, maybe even walk to popular Fingle Bridge if you’re feeling energetic. The visitor centre sells leaflets with details of walks if you don’t trust our own nose. You can’t take your dog into the house or the formal gardens, but elsewhere dogs on leads are welcome.
The Trust, of course, has a cafe as well as a shop on site. There are often optional extras such as tours of the roof or boiler rooms (and an explanation of how Castle Drogo is hoping to go carbon neutral) or seasonal trails for children. The house sometimes has a cast of actors explaining what life was like in this Dartmoor mansion.
Winter opening: Castle Drogo grounds and tea room(but not the house) are open at weekends in January and February, and on extra days (sometimes including the house) around the Christmas break
Summer opening: from mid March to the beginning of November Castle Drogo is open most days.
Castle Drogo is about 17 miles from our Devon eco lodges and cottage.
You can get a good taste of Dartmoor around Meldon Reservoir, yet choose how adventurous you want to be. Walk around the reservoir, head for the High Willhayes (the highest point in southern England), walk down to the viaduct or explore the geology of the valley.
The area around Meldon is a SSSI. There’s a hazel wood with bluebells in spring (and a good population of dormice) just north of the Meldon Viaduct.
Here’s a link to a circular walk from Okehampton to Meldon and back.
Meldon Viaduct now carries the Granite Way cyclepath (going from Okehampton to near Lydford).
Anglers can fish for brown trout during the season. It’s free, but you need an Environment Agency rod licence for anyone over 12.
Meldon Reservoir is about 17 miles from our Devon cottage and eco lodges. There’s a car park, which has public loos.
The huge beach at Northam Burrows Country Park, near Westward Ho! is about 40 mins drive away from the cottage and lodges at Wheatland Farm. It can be almost empty outside peak season, and even in August there’s plenty of room. At one end you’ll find a surf school, at the other loads of empty beach. At low tide there is plenty of sand. Parking is easy – there’s a car park (small charge in the summer – cheaper than Saunton Sands and a lot closer too). At the far end of the car park there is a really worthwhile interpretation centre / shop as well as public loos (closed in the winter).
Westward Ho! takes its name from the Charles Kingsley novel – ie the novel came first. But it’s probably the beach you want rather than the town, which is a little uninspiring (unless you like arcade games). Northam Burrows is famous for it’s pebble ridge made of rounded cobbles cast up by the sea. If you’re there in May, you may catch the ‘Pot Walloping Festival’where locals gather to throw the previous winter’s dislodged cobbles back up onto the ridge – traditionally, this protects their grazing rights.
Walking the South West Coast Path
The first mile or so of the South West Coast Path, from Westward Ho! to Cornborough Cliff, has been made an easy – access level path. Beyond that it’s more challenging. If you are sure of foot see our post on a great walk from Horn’s Cross(off the A39) back to Westward Ho! that you can do as a one way if you take the bus out.
Rudyard Kipling spent several of his childhood years at Westward Ho!, and scenes from Stalky and Co. were written about this coastline, which he knew from attending the United Services College here.
Northam Burrows and Westward Ho! are about 23 miles from our cottage and eco lodges. Take the A386 to Bideford and go through the town to the roundabout joining teh A39. Head straight over and keep going until you see a sign and right hand turn for Northam (don’t take the turning to Appledore). Follow signs for Northam Burrows Country Park as you go through the village.
Bus: Well,it’s not seamless, but it’s doable. Get the 5B stagecoach service from Winkleigh to Bideford and change on the Quay to The First 1 service for Northam and Appledore. There’s a bus on the golf links road and you walk down through the Country Park from there. It adds a bit of exercise, so not necessarily a good option for young children or anyone carrying loads of beach gear.
Halsdon Nature Reserve is one of the nearest of the Devon Wildlife Trust’s reserves to Wheatland Farm. Otters are sometimes to be seen from the hide overlooking the River Torridge, and orchids and bluebells abound in the woods in spring. Continue reading “Halsdon Nature Reserve”
The National Trust’s Finch Foundry is the last working water-powered forge in the country. On one of their regular guided tours you can find out what it really means to have your nose to the grind stone or to be pole axed.
Finch Foundry is in the village of Sticklepath, on the edge of Dartmoor. When it’s raining, this will show you what all that water was used for! The leat would originally have driven up to 10 water mills.
The forge made argricultural tools right up until the 1960s and is a sight to behold. They say the vibrations were powerful enough to shake glasses off the shelves in the next door pub. If you catch one of the guided tours you’ll see one of the hammers in action.
This is a small National Trust property, but well worth a visit. There’s a tea room in the grounds, and also Thomas Pearse’s summer house. That’s the Tom Pearse from the Widdecombe Fair song (plus Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all). He was a local serge maker, making the red material used to dress the British army.
There are also lovely woodland walks from the Forge. One takes you to Okehampton, where you can visit the Museum of Dartmoor Life. Or you can follow the river valley along to the village of Belstone (where there’s a pub that does food). Every November the Forge hosts the Sticklepath Fire show – a performance on a huge set which is burnt at the end of a fabulous fireworks display. The Foundry is usually open from mid-March until early November between 11:00 and 17:00 every day except Tuesday. There are tours about once an hour.
Finch Foundry is about 13 miles from our eco lodges and cottage. This National Trust property sometimes puts on events – check out our what’s on listing for details…
Sticklepath, Okehampton, Devon EX20 2NW
Telephone: 01837 840046
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… Continue reading “Puffing Billy to Bideford 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. Continue reading “Instow to Fremington on the Tarka Trail”
Walk or cycle from Barnstaple to Fremington Quay on the Tarka Trail, and enjoy an ice cream at the cafe. You get fabulous views out over the mouth of the Taw River, see beautiful butterflies and flowers in summer, enjoy easy walking and a lovely cafe at the end. Continue reading “Barnstaple to Fremington on the Tarka Trail”
This is why we call it the big tree walk! This douglas fir was planted around 1840 and is to be found in the Heywood Forestry Commission woodland about 4 miles from Wheatland Farm. This is an easy going walk which you can do with a push chair. But it’s better if you can cope with a scramble because then you can get down to the River Taw and climb to the top of a Norman Motte and Bailey castle.
Heywood is between Eggesford Station and Wembworthy – about 4 miles from the eco lodges. Just ask us to point it out on the map. You can cycle there on our free bikes. If you take the car there’s easy parking. Trails are marked. The Forestry Commission say their circular walk takes 1.5 hours, and it might at an amble. Follow the red posts, turning right at one by a downhill woodland path off the main track. You’ll soon come across the ‘big tree’. Hard to miss it! It was part of the Egggesford estate and was planted around 1840.
Push chairs and anyone with limited mobility should go straight on after the tree to the motte and bailey….
If you take the tiny path just beside the tree and head downhill some more you’ll come to a steep scramble or slide through bushes and rhododendrons. It takes you to the bank of the Taw. There’s a little river-shingle beach – a fabulous picnic spot in the summer and an essential ‘stone chucking’ spot. It’s not deep enough to swim, but suitably attired you can certainly cool off!
Then either retrace your steps or walk down stream along another path that goes alongside the river until you come almost to a stone bridge. This bit can be muddy. Zig zag back up hill on another well trodden path, and when you rejoin the main track, turn right and walk on to the motte and bailey castle. There are steps up to the top and you get some good views of the surrouning countryside.
There are 3 paths back from here – the one you came on, the next one which will take you back to where you turned off to get to the big tree (and then back to the car par), or one the other side of the mound which goes on through woodland and ends up on a quiet stretch of road. From here you walk for a couple of hundred metres back uphill along the road until you get back to the car park.
Lydford Gorge is the deepest gorge in the south west of England, with the White Lady waterfall tumbling 30m (90ft). It’s been voted the No. 1 most romantic spot in Devon and Cornwall and is about 21 miles from Wheatland Farm’s eco lodges.
The main attraction of this National Trusts property is its grounds and a spectacular walk that takes you through woodland trails to the famous While Lady waterfall, then follows a deep-cut ravine alongside the river Lyd.
Legend says anyone falling into the Lyd who sees a woman in white with long flowing tresses standing in the waterfall will not drown! Presumably if you do drown you don’t get to say whether or not you saw her…
You’ll need proper footwear – it’s narrow in places and can be slippery, especially after rain. The full walk is not suitable for people with severely limited mobility, although there is a gentler path from the second entry to the waterfall. The return path takes you alongside crystal clear fast flowing water – look out for baby trout in the stream. At the end you’ll find the Devil’s Cauldron – a shorter but booming waterfall that has cut itself a cauldron shape cavern in the rock. You can go to a viewing platform along a walk way – it’s fabulous! The walls are covered with moss and liverworts, and the whole thing is quite an experience. There’s a bit where the National Trust have (courageously?) not included a fence – so you’ll be pleased of the handrail!
You can take your dog to Lydford Gorge, but an infirm or elderly pet might struggle with the narrow slippery paths. You’ll definitely need a lead.
During school holidays there will often be family activities running, such as woodland sculpture workshops.
Lydford Gorge is on the north western edge of Dartmoor. You could easily spend a day here, or combine a visit with other Dartmoor attractions. You could even bike it from Okehampton along the Granite Way.
Free entry to National Trust members. Day ticket for a family was about £23 in 2017. There are loos at the entrance, and a teashop.
Postcode: EX20 4BH
Telephone: 01822 820320
Lydford Gorge is also close to the Black a Tor Copse walk on Dartmoor – you don’t have to approach it from the Meldon Reservoir.
RHS Rosemoor is just 11 miles from our cottage and lodges, and makes a relaxing day out, or you can combine it with other attractions in nearby Torrington (walks, exploring the Tarka Trail at Puffing Billy, Dartington crystal, The Plough Arts Centre). You can get there by bus from Winkleigh – the stagecoach 5B service stops right at the gate. Continue reading “RHS Rosemoor gardens”
This walk starts in Bondleigh, crosses fields to a bridge over the Taw, follows the river, then returns to the village along Devon lanes crowded only with wildflowers.
You start near the church and set off along a footpath weaving between the houses and then crossing fields to the River Taw. There are some lovely country views, an old stone bridge, and winding lanes. This walk has a couple of stiles and some gentle hills but is not particularly challenging.
Bondleigh is about 5 miles from our cottage and lodges. This charming walk might make a good 1.5 hour dawdle.
Braunton Burrows, the core of the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, is quite unlike anywhere else in the region. It’s a weird dune landscape carpeted with flowers in summer and with a uniquely wild atmosphere in winter. Continue reading “Braunton Burrows dune system”