GREAT TORRINGTON In Tarka the Otter Country!

About this route

Torrington is positioned on the Tarka Trail. The Tarka Trail is a long-distance footpath route which forms a figure-of-eight through northern Devon of some 180 miles, following the route taken by Tarka the Otter in the book of that name. Tarka was born and died near Torrington, so in one sense this is the beginning and end of the Trail. This walk starts with a short bus ride to form a circuit based on the town, crossing various parts of the Torrington Commons and using a length of the Tarka Trail.

Getting Around

Torrington has good bus links to Bideford, Barnstaple, Okehampton, Plymouth and Exeter, as well as smaller towns and villages in northern Devon.

Great Torrington : all facilities; Taddiport : pub; Torrington Station : cycle hire facilities, refreshments, car park and pub.
2 stiles; two steady climbs.
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OS Maps

Landranger No.180 Barnstaple and Ilfracombe (1: 50,000 scale)
Explorer No.126 Clovelly and Hartland (1: 25,000 scale)

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Interesting information

Weare Giffard is a long, picturesque village on the floor of the Torridge Valley. The village has a pub.

The railway from Bideford to Torrington was completed in 1872, and gave the town a direct link all the way to London. Beyond Torrington a narrow gauge mineral line extension was built to the clay quarries at Meeth and Peters Marland, and this was rebuilt as a full-size passenger railway in 1927. All passenger services ceased in 1963, and clay traffic in 1982. Since then, the line has become transformed into a cycle and walkway, part of the Tarka Trail. It is also suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs, which can use it for many miles in both directions from Torrington Station.

For those interested in the Tarka story, it is worth diverting to the right  along the Tarka Trail for a short way to the next Torridge bridge. Along this part of the walk Beam Aqueduct can be seen, which carried the Rolle Canal over the river. It was in the shadow of this aqueduct that Tarka was born.

Taddiport bridge is said to be medieval (13th century), but has also been attributed to the 16th century. Originally it carried the main road to Torrington from the south.

The old toll house is next to the bridge. Cross over the road here and take the footpath immediately opposite, known as the Rolle Road. Rolle Road follows the line of the former Rolle Canal. This was built for Lord Rolle between 1820 and 1824 and stretched for 7.5 miles/12 km between the tidal Torridge and Heasland Moor, a little upstream from Torrington. It was abandoned with the coming of the railway in the 1870s, some of its course being used for the railway, but here it was filled in and used as a road. This length of Rolle Road is suitable for cyclists, pushchairs and wheelchairs, although it is a little rough in places. It may be accessed from Taddiport or Town Mills.

The memorial is for the soldiers who died at the Battle of Waterloo. Presented by the ladies of Torrington, it was erected three years after the battle, in 1818, and asks for “peace for the souls of the Heroes !!!”

The wall on the right surrounds the site of Torrington Castle. First documented in 1139, it was destroyed in 1228 but rebuilt, although it later fell into disuse. The walls and mock battlements were added in the mid-19th century by Lord Rolle as an added attraction for the town.

The Town Hall in Torrington was built in 1861 on the site of a previous one, in a Georgian style to go with the rest of the street. It contains the original Shambles yard, once the meat market for the town.  While most of the street is 18th century in age and style, there are some older buildings. Notable is the Black Horse Inn, almost opposite the Town Hall.

Photo of flooded lanes at Weare Giffard
Weare Giffard Copyright Jonathan Billinger

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