Barnstaple reflected in water - photo by Stephen Ring


Tarka Line

Barnstaple is the principal town of North Devon. Take a scenic train journey to visit its fine historic market, interesting independent shops and eateries.

How to visit by train

Barnstaple is at the end of the Tarka Line, which is named after the iconic otter from the book by Henry Williamson, who lived in North Devon and set the book in its rivers. You will see why as you travel from Exeter St Davids through lush green river valleys, you can imagine otters playing in the cool waters. You may not see any otters on your journey but if you keep your eyes peeled, you may see buzzards and possibly deer.

Once in Barnstaple, the town centre is a short walk from the station. Barnstaple has its fair share of high street chains, but the real delights of the town can be found by searching out more unusual places to shop and visit.

Just the other side of the bridge as you walk into town is the newly expanded Barnstaple Museum. Collections on Barnstaple and North Devon life as well as various exhibitions throughout the year can be found in this fine building and it well worth stopping off at on your way into town.

From here, head down Boutport Street then into the High Street to the historic Pannier Market and Butchers Row. This large indoor market in one of the town’s most iconic buildings has recently reopened following a £2.5m refurbishment. Running for over 150 years, the Pannier Market is open every Tuesday to Saturday, from 9am to 4pm.

Just outside the Pannier Market is Butchers Row. This row of covered shops was once solely occupied by butchers but these days it houses some wonderful independent shops selling everything from chillies to cheese.

By now you will probably be feeling a bit peckish so cut through Cross Street to The Strand and find Queen Anne’s Café by the river. Housed in Queen Anne’s Walk, a beautiful Grade 1 listed building dating from 1708, this lovely café serves food all day from hearty breakfasts through to afternoon tea.

After lunch, a pleasant way to while away another couple of hours would be to explore some of the little independent shops the town has to offer. Back on Cross Street is Barnstaple Antiques and Collectors centre which is full of antiques and curios.

Another little gem is Tarka Books on Bear Street which stocks a huge array of second hand and new books. Fans of vinyl will want to look out Discovery Music, behind the Imperial Hotel in Litchdon Street.

You may want to take a taste of Barnstaple home with you and, for us, the best place to do this is to head to Trevissick’s in Boutport Street. This artisan pie shop makes pies to traditional North Devon recipes including the fabulously named Barnstaple Raymond Pasty.

There are plenty of other little gems in the town to discover, just take the time to explore all its narrow lanes to find your own favourite.

You’ve probably worked up a thirst by now so before you hop on the train why not pop into the Corner House on the corner of Boutport Street and Joy Street, not far from the Pannier Market. This friendly pub, popular with locals, is built on the site of the old east gate to the town and is famous for its cask ales, particularly Draught Bass.

From here, give yourself around 20 minutes to get back to the station in order to catch your train back. If you want to combine your day trip with a visit to the coast, there are buses from Barnstaple to the lovely seaside town of Ilfracombe.

Coming by train

Barnstaple station is on the Tarka Line.

1hr 10 minutes from Exeter St David’s
55 minutes from Crediton

The town centre is a 10 minute walk from the station.

Buying Tickets to Barnstaple

Exeter to Barnstaple



Off-Peak Day Return. Valid after the morning peak, and anytime weekends or Bank Holidays.

Great fares from further afield




Adult Off-Peak Day Return

Fares explained

1hr 55min

Approximate journey time




Adult Off-Peak Day Return

Fares explained

2h 15min

Approximate journey time


Tarka Line

More Destinations

  • Church at Eggesford


    Eggesford is halfway along the Tarka Line – stop off for a countryside walk in this lovely part of Devon. There are also some great options for local accommodation – including staying in the station’s old Ticket Office.

  • Crediton Station Tea Rooms


    Crediton is a lively market town that benefits from a thriving high street full of independent shops. The town is a short walk from the station (which has a great tea rooms – pictured) but it is well worth the trip for its crafts, gifts, antiques, delicatessens and more.

  • Princesshay shopping centre

    Exeter Central

    Exeter Central station is located right in the heart of the city, just a short walk from the Princesshay shopping centre (pictured above – photo: Visit Exeter) and the city’s magnificent cathedral. Attractions include John Lewis and other major retailers, the historic quayside, and tours of the city’s medieval underground passageways.