Torridge Estuary Rail Trail

About this route

This walk follows the Tarka Trail between Instow and Bideford.

Getting Around

A regular bus service operates between Bideford, Instow and Barnstaple. During most of the day buses run approximately every half an hour. The bus stop is in Bideford on the quay, opposite Kingsley House. From Barnstaple, catch the bus at the bus station in Silver Street.

Instow (pub and shops); East-the-water (pub and shops); Bideford (all facilities).
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OS Maps

Explorer (1:25000) no. 139 Bideford, Ilfracombe and Barnstaple
Landranger (1.50000) no. 180 Barnstaple and Ilfracombe

For More Information

Interesting information

Whilst in Instow, just past the post office, you’ll see the Instow signal box. Built in 1861 it has the distinction of being a listed building, very unusual for a signal box. Threatened with demolition when the railway closed, it was saved by the efforts of a local pressure group.

The railway was built in 1855 to link Bideford with Barnstaple and became part of the London and South Western Railway. Passenger services ended in the 1960s but the line was retained for clay trains into the 1980s. It now forms part of the Tarka Trail, a route following the wanderings of Tarka the Otter in the book of that name. This part of the railway is also used as part of the South West Coast Path as an alternative to the ferry crossing between Instow and Appledore.

Further down the track you’ll come across the entrance to Tapeley Gardens. Open to the public at certain times, the italian style gardens were established by the mother of John Christie, the founder of Glyndebourne.

Bideford has an attractive location, seen to advantage from the track. Described by Charles Kingsley as ‘the little white town’, it rises on the hillside above the estuary. The medieval Long Bridge enhances its setting. Its 24 arches are each of different span, said to be because local parishes paid different amounts towards its building, the span width reflecting the amount of money supplied.

Photo of old trains on the platform at Bideford Station
Bideford Station Copyright Ron Strutt

You can explore more in this area

Photo of a lapwing

The Taw-Torridge Estuary

This extensive estuary has a typical range of saltmarsh communities, with plants such as glasswort, sea aster and sea rush
Photo of the top of a waymarking post for the Coast Path and Tarka Trail

Tarka Trail walking route

Inspired by Henry Williamson’s much loved novel ‘Tarka the Otter’ which was based on real places, this 163 miles/261kms recreation
Photo of cyclists on the Tarka Trail alongside the estuary at Instow

The Tarka Trail (Braunton – Meeth)

Stretching for over 52km / 32 miles from Braunton to Barnstaple, then to Instow, Bideford, Great Torrington and on to
Photo of the shoreline on a pebble beach

Northam Burrows Country Park

The Northern Burrows is a scientifically important area which juts out into the mouth of the estuary. It is a