Discover one of Britain’s most scenic railway lines in the heart of tarka’s Devon
Inspired by Henry Williamson’s Tarka the Otter, the Tarka Line hugs the River Taw for 39 miles from Exeter to Barnstaple, passing attractive villages and breathtaking scenery, with the added bonus of a real ale pub at each of the 14 stops. Pick up a Tarka Line timetable at Barnstaple or Exeter and plan your stops. If you’re planning to make a day of it, consider visiting two or three pubs and perhaps leave time for a walk. Over a weekend you should have time to do all the stops.
Board the train at Barnstaple and grab a window seat. After a few minutes hills appear sprinkled with livestock. Cross the River Taw before Umberleigh, a charming village with a pub overlooking the fast flowing river. Williamson talks of how the huntsmen pursuing Tarka gathered at such pubs along the river before setting off in pursuit.
Eggesford is rich in history. In 1854, when the railway first opened, the local landowner made it a condition that all trains stopped here in return for allowing the railway to pass through his land. Today trains still have to collect tokens to continue. The Fox and Hounds Hotel is a short walk from the station and serves local guest ales, cider and hearty meals. Don’t forget to collect your Tarka Line stamp at each pub to claim your souvenir!
Back on the line enjoy the scenery as the train meanders along the River Taw. The next three stops before the market town of Crediton provide a chance to experience village pub atmosphere in the heart of Devon.
Enjoy a pint of Otter in the 16th century Old Malt Scoop Inn in Lapford or a cosy cider by the open fire at the Devonshire Dumpling at Morchard Road. Both provide tranquil settings for a stop-off, but if time is tight press on to the village of Yeoford, where a pony and trap wouldn’t look out of place tied up outside the Mare & Foal pub.
The line continues to Crediton then on to Newton St Cyres, where you’ll find the Beer Engine, built in 1850 and a fully-fledged brewpub since 1983. You can even get takeaway beer.
Exeter marks the end of the line, and boasts a wealth of pubs dotted along the quayside with views of the River Exe – another of Devon’s rivers once frequented by otters and loved by Henry Williamson as he tracked Tarka’s footprints along the riverbank.
Walk in Eggesford: 2 miles
Turn left out of the station and walk along a narrow road towards Fourways junction, passing farms and a nursery. Turn left at the Tarka Trail signpost and follow the footpath until you meet a footpath leading down to a church: All Saints Eggesford. Follow the path back to the station passing the river on your right.
Rolling hills, lush fields, rivers, brooks, stony arched bridges, farmland and woodland.
How to get there By car: From the M5 south take the A361 to Barnstaple or continue on to Exeter. Park at either station, approx £1.20 for one day’s parking
By public transport:
Barnstaple is served by buses and trains from Exeter. Trains run to Exeter from Bristol and London.
The Fox and Hounds Hotel
Eggesford, Chulmleigh EX18 7JZ % 01769 580345 foxandhoundshotel.co.uk
The Mare & Foal Yeoford, Nr Crediton EX17 5JD % 01363 84348 www.mareandfoal.co.uk
The Beer Engine Sweetham, Newton St Cyres EX5 5AX
% 01392 851282
Ordnance Survey Landranger Maps 180 and 192. Grif ref: SS 565 335
You can ask for a Rail Ale Trail leaflet or information at any ticket desk along the line.
% 01752 233094