Tarka Trail

A walk through Exmoor National Park and along the heritage coast, beginning and ending in Barnstaple.

7 to 9 nights
77 miles
Moderate to Moderate / Demanding

From £590 per person

Discover the available tours

About this route

The Tarka Trail combines the ancient oakwoods, heather-covered hills, and secluded river valleys of Exmoor with one of the most spectacular stretches of coastline in the country. Between beaches of golden sand, secluded coves tuck in behind lofty headlands and waterfalls plunge into the sea.

These gorgeous landscapes are alive with wildlife: Exmoor ponies, horned sheep and roe deer; kestrel, skylark and heron; and of course the elusive otter – relatives of Williamson’s Tarka the Otter, perhaps, after whom the trail is named. This is a wonderfully fulfilling walk, supported by charming villages.

© Contours Walking Holidays Tarka Trail map
Circular trail beginning at Barnstaple
77 miles (123 km)
2nd January to 24th December

Holiday highlights

Visiting the largest sand dune system in England, Braunton Burrows, famously featured in Henry Williamson’s Tarka the Otter.

Following the wonderful coastline between Lynmouth and Ilfracoombe, including ‘Great Hangman,’ the highest point on the South West Coast Path.

Admiring the variety of rich environments, from North Devon’s Biosphere Reserve, the heather-covered expanse of Exmoor and the Taw Estuary.

Available tours

CodeTourDurationDifficultyPrice per person
TARK1 A circular trail beginning at Barnstaple 7 nights, 6 days walking Moderate / Demanding£590
TARK2 A circular trail beginning at Barnstaple 8 nights, 7 days walking Moderate£675
TARK3 A circular trail beginning at Barnstaple 9 nights, 8 days walking Moderate£755

Tarka Trail 7 nights, 6 days walking

£NNN per person
  • Itinerary
  • What's included?
  • Extra nights?
  • Tour facts
  • Travel info
  • Weather

Travel to Barnstaple where your first night's accommodation has been booked

Day 1

Barnstaple to West Buckland(L). 11 miles (17.5km)

Day 2

West Buckland(L) to Challacombe(T). 12.5 miles (20km)

Day 3

Challacombe(T) to Heddon's Mouth. 18 miles (29km)

Day 4

Heddon's Mouth to Ilfracombe. 12 miles (19km)

Day 5

Ilfracombe to Croyde. 13 miles (21km)

Day 6

Croyde to Barnstaple. 13.5 miles (21.5km)


Depart from Barnstaple after breakfast

Your Itinerary

This itinerary lists our preferred overnight stops for this tour. Sometimes there may be a shortage of available accommodation in a preferred location, in which case we will transfer you from the trail to your accommodation and back again at no extra charge. Overnight stops marked with a (T) will always require transfers as standard.

Overnight stops marked with an (L) have very limited accommodation, and therefore more often than not will also require a transfer, particularly on bank holidays and weekends. We will use non-transfer accommodation wherever possible.

The daily mileages quoted are average trail miles only and do not include the distance from the trail to your accommodation. We do not expect you to have to walk more than a mile from the trail to your accommodation; should your accommodation be further than this, transfers will be provided as standard.

Below are the additional costs that may apply depending on your requirements. Dog friendly tours are subject to a Daily Dog Charge, which will be listed below if applicable. Our standard prices per person are based upon two people sharing a room; if you are walking on your own, or are part of a group but require a room of your own, then the Solo Walker or Single Supplements apply respectively:

A note about transfers
Solo Walker Supplement
£40.00 per person / per night
Single Supplement
£30.00 per person / per night

You can add rest days at any of the overnight stops:

Extra night (Standard)
£50.00 per person / per night
Extra night (Heddon's Mouth)
£60.00 per person / per night

What's included?

  • 7 nights' accommodation in en-suite rooms (where available) in selected B&B’s, hotels, inns and guesthouses along the trail, or a short distance away via taxi provided at our expense.
  • Breakfast each day.
  • Door to door luggage transfer.
  • Maps with the route marked on and a guidebook or route notes describing the trail.
  • An information pack containing an itinerary, instructions on how to find your accommodation each night and a kit list.
  • Detailed travel instructions on how to get to the start of your holiday and back from the end of it.

Extra Nights & Rest Days

If you would like to extend your holiday, spend more time exploring the sights and sounds of North Devon and the Tarka Trail, or simply relax and soak up the atmosphere, an extra night is the perfect solution.

Barnstaple is a good choice for a rest day. It is a lovely old market town with some fine buildings, a few interesting shops and an entertaining museum. The Pannier indoor market operates 6 days per week under splendid architecture. The market has been operating since Saxon times, but has remained unchanged for around 150 years.

You can add rest days at any of the overnight stops:

Extra night (Standard)
£50.00 per person / per night
Extra night (Heddon's Mouth)
£60.00 per person / per night

Tour Facts

Total distance: 77 miles (123 km)
Duration: 7 nights, 6 days walking
Minimum daily distance: 11 miles (17.5 km)
Maximum daily distance: 18 miles (29 km)
Code: TARK1 Grade: Moderate / Demanding
Season: 2nd January - 24th December
Start of holiday: Barnstaple
End of holiday: Barnstaple

Travel Information

Useful information and travel links that will assist you in your plans to travel to the start of the holiday and back from the end of it are sent to you with your full tour pack. A summary is given below:

By Air - The most convenient major city and international airports are Exeter and Bristol.

By Rail - There is a rail station at Barnstaple.

By Bus - Various bus services run to and from Barnstaple.

From London - Trains run from London Paddington station to Barnstaple.

Return To The Start - The Tarka Trail is a circular tour beginning and ending in Barnstaple.

Weather Information

To find out more about the weather forecast for your chosen holiday's general location, please see the following websites:

  • MetCheck - This website allows you to look up detailed weather information for specific locations as far as six months in advance.
  • Met Office - This website shows regional area forecasts a few days in advance, with a general UK forecast description of up to 30 days in advance.
  • Mountain Forecast - This website shows what the forecast is like up on specific hills and fells, and offers forecasts a few days in advance.

Customer reviews from the Tarka Trail

“We’ve done coast to coast , Cleveland Way, Isle of Wight , St Oswald’s Way... but Tarka trail is the best so far , up there with the coast to coast . Every day was different and beautiful; we've seen deer, hares and great egrets, to name just a few, and loved every minute.”
Ms Catley, UK
“We had a wonderful time. Thank you so much. I doubt we ever could have found such great places to stay on our own. We will definitely use Contours again.”
Mr Vogel, USA
“Great variety of scenery and walking in a lovely area. Coastal walking quite tough due to the constant steep ups and downs but spectacular all the same. As always Contours arrangements worked seamlessly every time.”
Mrs Bell, UK
“Very well organised and nice places to stay. Great variety of countryside and coastline.”
Mr Hicks, UK
"Lee Bay, Devon" by Jutta Orth (2019)
"On the Way to Ilfracombe" by Jutta Orth (2019)
"On the Way to Combe Martin" by Juergen Kalinski (2019)
"December Colours on Exmoor" by Juergen Kalinski (2019)
"Approaching Ilfracombe" by Juergen Kalinski (2019)
"The Red Devons are Watching" by Juergen Kalinski (2019)
"Between North Molton and Simonsbath" by Michael Vogel (2018)

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