This section of the Tarka Trail is a great family bike ride as it is very flat and completely traffic free. There is parking available in Braunton, Bideford and Instow, as well as refreshments and facilities at various points. The route we took was just under 20km each way.
We parked in Braunton at Velator Quay (close to Quay Cafe) and joined the Tarka Trail off road path here. The cycle trail is well surfaced, flat and signposted. The path takes you away from built up areas and along the side of the Taw estuary. The views are beautiful and there are lots of picnic spots at the water’s edge where you could stop for a snack and play as needed.
Barnstaple is roughly half way on this section of the trail. It would provide a good place to join the trail as lots of parking, facilities and cycle hire etc are available. You cross the Taw on a roadside bridge here and the cross winds can lead young children to feel unstable on their bikes, so it may be a good idea to ride alongside them or get them to walk and push over the bridge.
You immediately rejoin the cycle trail and follow the River Taw on its other bank. We stopped at Fremington Quay where there is a large grassy area with tables for picnics, a play area, public toilets and Fremington Quay Cafe serving out of the old railway station.
The cycle path takes you over a bridge at Fremington Quay, with picturesque fishing boats bobbing about and on to join the banks of the Torridge as you head towards Bideford. There is a road crossing at Yelland Power Station that is gated for safety. Here you can head to Sandbanks Cafe for treats if needed.
As you approach Instow there are opportunities to head to sandy dune beaches from the trail, and the Instow tunnel was a great hit with the children testing out their echoes!
At Instow there is a road crossing (gated) and here we headed to the right to the parade of shops by Instow beach, and bought cakes and ice creams from John’s Deli.
We sat on the water front benches at Instow and refuelled and played, before retracing our steps and heading back to Braunton on the trail. The return leg was very windy and made for hard cycling as both head and cross winds fought us, but the rapidly changing tide along the rivers proved a fantastic diversion as we watched the views change.
Back in Braunton we bought fish and chips before heading to the beach at Saunton Sands to picnic and play before heading home.
This section of the trail is a must visit of you’re in North Devon – it would be brilliant in shorter chunks for those with pushchair/wheelchairs or littler legs. There are so many places along the route to explore with nature reserves, beaches and wetlands. We will definitely be returning to explore more!