Wayfarers rejoice, one of the chief reasons that Devon is a major domestic holiday destination is down to the sheer number of its wonderful walking trails. So, if you are planning to stay in a self-catering holiday cottage in Devon this season, take notes from our inspiring guide to our favourite five circular walks in Devon.
With two coastlines, the South West Coast Path wriggles its way around the fringe of the county in the north and the south! In the north of the county, you have the circular (half-paved) Tarka Trail, and some enchanting wild inland circuits out on Dartmoor and Exmoor. We know some lesser-known gems too, that are well worth the effort if you are holidaying in the same part of Devon. The lure of these bold, natural walks is hard to deny, so read on to uncover some of the most delightful walking trails in the county of Devon.
Stay at one of our self-catering holiday cottages in Devon. Some have special features for walkers, like a boot room and storage facilities for outdoor apparel – others may have maps, walking sticks, and compasses to borrow. Whether you are travelling to Devon with your partner for a romantic break or have brought the dog along to accompany you on some serious treks, we have the perfect holiday property for you.
Length: 180 miles (30 miles paved). Difficulty: easy (paved), easy/moderate/challenging (unpaved)
The daddy of them all, this giant circular walking and cycling trail is situated in North Devon. The Tarka Trail originates in Meeth in Mid Devon and its paved section stretches 30 miles in a northerly direction to Lee Bay (near Ilfracombe). It was inspired by the titular otter of Henry Williamson’s lovely book that was set in locations all along the trail: just north of Great Torrington is the bridge where the fictional otter was born, and there is also Rockham Bay, where the wreck-strewn beach is described. If you are a fan of the book, time well-spent on the trail really brings the tale to life as you get to experience the same environs as its sleek and furry hero. If you cut across the River Torridge in Bideford, you can see a statue of Tarka the Otter on the quay.
Other highlights on the trail include the colossal dune system at Saunton Burrows, the railway café at Bideford Station (with its stranded train carriages), the beach at Instow, the wooded section with its railway bridges and saltmarshes, that hugs banks of the winding River Torridge between Bideford and Torrington. For cyclists who want to cover even more ground in a day, there are places to hire a bike along the trail. The unpaved section of the trail, which makes up the majority, is definitely lesser-known and although it’s waymarked, the pathway diverges from the former railway track into the green lanes and bower ways of Mid Devon as it ventures back east then south and round to Barnstaple for a second time, before ending up back at Meeth.
It’s a long trail and one that ought to be done in tidy pieces if you are staying in the local area at a holiday cottage. It’s a true gem and great for spotting birds and wildlife in the varied habits through which the Tarka Trail meanders. Take your dog along for the fun too, they will adore the lovely lush green spaces and places.
Stay in: Church Tower Cottage, Bideford. Sleeps: 4 guests + 1 dog
Length: 2 miles Difficulty: Moderate
Codden Hill is a giant ‘whale-backed’ hill and from its flat summit, you can see the whole region of North Devon. Views stretch west across Bideford Bay, the twin rivers of the Taw and Torridge as they swim out to the Atlantic between Saunton Burrows and Northam Burrows Country Park, as well as over the rooftops of Bishops Tawton and Bideford. To the south is the ancient landscape of the Taw Valley, where the poet Ted Hughes once lived, with its farm properties and family lineages can be traced back to Roman times according to Roger Deakins: that way lies Green Man country. To the north and east are the fringes of Exmoor with pine plantations in the foreground. There are several trails on Codden Hill and if you pick out the small car park near the summit, you can follow the main trail up to the marker at the top of the hill. Follow the trail to the village of Bishops Tawton and follow the road to either Landkey or head south where you will encounter a choice of bridleways back to the summit. If you love views, this is a grand, fresh experience and the climb is steady rather than steep, so the ascent can be pleasant for all to enjoy. Codden Hill isn’t all that well known but is frequented by bird lovers, joggers and trekkers. There are no facilities at Codden Hill, so make advance preparations. You aren’t far from pubs like The Castle Inn in Landkey and The Chichester Arms in Bishops Tawton either for a post-walk treat.
Stay in: Betty’s Cottage in Bishops Tawton | Sleeps: 5 guests
Length: 3.5 miles Difficulty: moderate
Head to the pub at Fingle Bridge a few miles down the hill below Castle Drogo on Dartmoor for a superb walk that can be completed in under two hours, even a single hour if you are a racehorse. The beginning of the trail is at Fingle Bridge and you can either pick up the trail on the east or west side of the bridge. If you begin on the nearside, there are fewer ascents (somehow). The riverbank walk is dominated by thick woodland along the banks of the fast-flowing River Teign and along some sections, the river is far below as you gradually ascend the sides of the gorge. There are a few sections that may challenge elderly trekkers, as there are some rocky scrambles but nothing that would trouble most visitors. This isn’t suitable for parents that don’t want to heft large prams over rocks. It’s a bewitching trail and you can leave the path to head further out to Castle Drogo and more open swathes of Dartmoor National Park. You have the Fingle Bridge Inn at the start and end of the trail for a hearty meal to enjoy too!
Stay in: Buckley Lodge near Teignmouth | Sleeps: 3 guests
Length: 6.5 miles. Difficulty: moderate
This impressive circular walk is located close to the East Devon Way, another one of the West Country’s lovely and long national paths. The trail originates at a village car park in the village of Newton Poppleford’s which is famous for the King Alfred daffodil which has been produced there since the end of the 19th century. The village is also known to horticulturalists and garden fanatics for its market gardens, some of which survive to this day.
The path takes in apple orchards, lines of poplar trees, Venn Ottery Church, the 11th-century St Gregory’s Church, Tipton Vale, the partially restored Tipton Mill, mill leats, races, and a fish pass to allow salmon passage upriver around the weir. The path’s elevation climbs to 130 metres but has long steady ascents and descents, so on the whole, none of this path presents serious challenges to seasoned wayfarers.
Stay in: Folgate at The Old Workshops near Exmouth | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 1 dog
Length: 2.5 miles. Difficulty: easy.
For those who love nothing better than a stroll by the waterside, a walk alongside Plymouth Sound is a great choice for city lovers. Start at the National Aquarium and keeping the water on your left, you will take in the sights, sounds, and scents of this beautiful natural harbour. You will see the Mayflower Steps, where the Pilgrim Fathers set off to establish a settlement in the Americas, Tinside Lido – which is one of the UK’s finest outdoor swimming pool complexes, Plymouth Hoe Lighthouse, and the strange colonnaded viewpoints below the boardwalk where you can watch the waves and large ships set off from the harbour out to the horizon. Turn inland to cut back towards the Barbican, which is an ancient part of the city where many interesting pubs and restaurants have opened to ply their trade in fine food and drink to visitors. Plymouth is a great shopping destination too, so bring your credit cards if you fancy a browse after you’ve enjoyed a refreshing, easy walk. Head back to the aquarium after a leisurely walk around the city marina and then it’s time to return home to enjoy your holiday property to the maximum.
Stay in: Huccaby Lodge in Plymouth | Sleeps: 2
A walking holiday is a great way to get to know the county. We have merely skated the surface of the myriad of walking trails in Devon in our guide. There are so many more, so please visit our other inspirational guides for even more trails and some excellent ideas for days out all across the county.
Are you ready to book your break in Devon? Whether you’re in search of a luxury cottage with a sea view, a celebration house or our best dog-friendly properties, browse our extensive range of self-catering holiday homes in Devon and find your perfect fit!