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The lowdown: North Devon's Tarka Trail

Published on August 8, 2016
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Lycra at the ready, wheels ready to roll … there’s a proliferation of new foodie pit stops on the north Devon leg of the 180 mile cycle trail. Here are some of our faves that are worth pumping up your tyres up for


The Tarka Trail is one of the country’s longest continuous cycle paths, and forms part of the Devon Coast to Coast cycle route. It covers 180 miles, but we’ve focused on the 30 mile section from Bideford to Ilfracombe. Let’s go!

Whistlestop Bideford

You can set off anywhere of course, so we’re starting at Bideford, where Tea on the Train is a rather lovely opportunity to have morning coffee in an old railway carriage. It’s open most days in summer, but sporadically the rest of the year.

Instow calling

Sticking on the old railway line, it’s not far to the little seaside village of Instow where award-winning Johns of Instow has recently opened a new cafe on this side of the water. The menus feature many of the goodies it sells in the deli and you can also book a picnic in advance from the website.

While you’re at Instow, pick up a Hocking’s ice cream – the van is always on the seafront in summer. Just off the trail at Instow is the environmentally friendly stately home of Tapeley Park which is the new home of the Exmoor Beastro, north Devon’s exciting spot for feasting on food cooked over open fire.

Anchors aweigh

At Instow seafront (depending on tide times), take the opportunity to lock up your bike and catch the little passenger ferry across to picture-postcard Appledore. You’ll find another Johns deli and cafe and the small but perfectly formed The Coffee Cabin.


Barnstaple ahoy!

Leaving Instow, follow the trail along the edge of the estuary where stunning scenery and abundant bird life will keep you going – even if the winds are whistling, as they often are here – and head to Fremington Quay Cafe. A vintage station style cafe with good quality food and ice cream. About 20 minutes (depending on how fast you’re pedalling) further, you’ll reach Barnstaple. Keep going under Taw Bridge and cross over the medieval Barnstaple Long Bridge where you’ll pop out by the chintzy and charming, Tea by the Taw for door-stopper sarnies and huge slabs of homemade cakes served by very jolly ladies.

Also just round the corner is Boston Tea Party, which is good for speciality coffee. We like its new range of gluten-free cakes, including The Ambassador (pictured above), which tastes like a Ferrero Rocher. If you’ve any bike issues, check out The Bike Shed at Barnstaple Square, which in addition to having everything you’ll need cycle-wise, has a nice little cafe that serves the excellent Crankhouse Coffee and does a good line in bagels. For a seafood lunch, try Fatbelly Fred’s which is open on Friday and Saturday lunchtimes (or evenings the rest of the week).


Along the river to Braunton

New on the trail is the Waterside Cafe at Chivenor where Venetian chef Jimmy Bellieni and family have set up a lovely little daytime gaff for coffee, breakfast and afternoon treats. After refreshment, keep going and you’ll reach Braunton, which is stacked with good places to stop.

From the new Stoned Pizza (pictured above) with its woodfired oven, which does take-aways as well as having room to sit down, to Squires Fish and Chips, which, to sit-in or take-away, is one of our faves in the whole fish-battered world. Just across the road from Squires is its sister restaurant SQ, which has modern menus, a buzzy vibe and a grown-up bar. Sit on the first floor sun terrace in good weather and treat yourself to a decent break from the saddle.

Also in Braunton is Bistro du Coin which is open for coffee and croissants from 10am-1pm from Wednesday to Saturday. Or for full-on fresh, we like Wild Thyme Cafe  which does healthy and hearty brekkies, lunches, smoothies and good coffee. The George Inn  has just been bought and reimagined by the OHH Group which has some excellent dining pubs in its stable. We can recommend the bavette steak if you’re in need of a protein fix.

Love from Marjorie

Seaside here we come!

Fully refuelled, it’s time for a bit of serious pedalling towards the beaches. The route takes you up some steep hills at this point, but once you are at the top, you’re free wheeling to Georgeham, where The King’s Arms awaits with a cold beer. Our fave pub for miles, call in to see landlord Steve Cave and crew. They do a very good lunch or dinner, where a lot of the veggies and salads come fresh from its polytunnel and gardens.

Right along the beach

The route from Georgeham takes you along some stunning scenery past Putsborough Sands where you can drop down to the little cafe and public loos, or carry on along Marine Drive to Woolacombe where a Bar Electric is a good stop. On weekend evenings, keep going to the s Barricane Beach Cafe, which serves Sri Lankan curries on the shell beach (Thursday to Saturday only), while in the daytime it does tea, bacon rolls and the like. Take your own blanket to sit on.


And to finish? Pedal on (heavy-going hills this way), via piratey Mortehoe (the chippie is good here by the way) to Ilfracombe where Love From Marjorie X (pictured above) is a new find for coffee and cake, as well as themed evenings such as Indonesian nights.

Also try

Sutton Harbour

We took a wander around the cobbled streets of Plymouth's waterfront and discovered foodie delights among Sutton Harbour's maritime history


Chic, yachty and in a stunning seaside setting, Catherine Jones sauntered round Salcombe in search of cracking crab and a room with a view