9th September, 2020

Visit North Devon by train from Exeter

This article is more than 3 years old.

Instow by Stephen Ring

Beautiful North Devon is easy to reach on the scenic Tarka Line from Exeter to Barnstaple.

When you arrive, treat yourself at Barnstaple’s excellent station cafe and then head out on day trips including:

The Tarka Trail

Cyclists on Tarka Trail

Take an easy stroll or bike ride on the Tarka Trail, right from Barnstaple station. This beautiful traffic-free trail, a former railway, runs alongside the estuary of the rivers Taw and Torridge.

Explore by bike
Hire a bike from Tarka Bikes (booking essential) at Barnstaple station. Or bring your own bike on the train (two bikes allowed per train or more at the train manager’s discretion, first-come-first-served).

Great local food
Stop off at Fremington Quay Cafe (2.5 miles from Barnstaple station) for fantastic food and great views over the River Taw. Their indoor seating has just re-opened and they’re serving takeaway too (check their Facebook page for the latest). The cafe is housed in a recreation of the old station building which served the quay.


Instow beach, looking across to Appledore

Watch the boats and wading birds, try crabbing from the quay or wander the sandy estuary beach (pictured). There are some great places to eat and drink like John’s of Instow. Then sit back and enjoy the views across the water to Appledore.

6 miles from Barnstaple on the Tarka Trail | Or 20 minutes from Barnstaple railway station on buses 21, 21A or 5B. Look up bus times


Ilfracombe harbour on sunny day

Visit this picturesque fishing port, often described as North Devon’s cultural hub thanks to its galleries, theatre and top restaurants. As well as its harbour, Ilfracombe boasts several beaches to explore (note: Tunnels Beach currently closed).

There are also a wide range of boat trips you can book for an extra adventure.

Take the 21 bus from outside Barnstaple railway station. Be in Ilfracombe in an hour. Look up bus times


Lynmouth harbour

Visit Lynmouth on the North Devon coast with its rows of charming fishing cottages and shops that cluster around the pretty harbour of gently bobbing boats. Lynmouth is elegantly connected to the neighbouring village of Lynton by the Cliff Railway, the highest and steepest fully water powered Victorian railway in the world.

From Barnstaple town centre, take the 309 or 310 bus. Be in Lynmouth in just over an hour. Look up bus times

Lynton and Barnstaple Railway

Lynton and Barnstaple Railway

Experience the delights of an authentic Victorian steam train on a journey through the beautiful scenery of Exmoor. It’s the only steam railway in the UK where passengers travel in Victorian railway carriages designed in the 1890s. Read more and book your trip.

From Barnstaple town centre, take the 309 or 310 bus and ask for Martinhoe Cross, opposite Woody Bay station. Be there in 40 minutes. Look up bus times. After your trip to the railway, you could carry on the bus to Lynton and Lynmouth.

Planning your trip – the train from Exeter

All of these day trips start by taking the train to Barnstaple on the scenic Tarka Line. Trains run regularly seven days a week and depart hourly from Exeter St Davids and Exeter Central (Monday-Saturday, less frequent on Sundays). The Off-Peak Day Return fare to Barnstaple is £11.30.

Remember to travel safely this summer – face coverings must be worn on public transport and in indoor spaces at stations unless you are exempt.

If you can, please buy your ticket online on the GWR app or website. Please also remember to wash your hands and use social distancing. Read more on GWR’s Coronavirus advice page.

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