A car-free Devon holiday, for active people, spring, summer or autumn
You can without a car...
Here are some outline ideas for a weeks holiday in Devon without the car. They are based on two adults who are keen to bike and use the bus or train, but can be adapted for families too. If these catch your imagination, we'll help you sort out the details when you book.
Kayak on the Torridge... walk parts of the Tarka Trail... get into Exeter for a museum... shop in Bideford or Barnstaple pannier markets... walk a section of the coast path... visit RHS Rosemoor... even re-live the last major battle of the civil war in the Cavalier town of Torrington!
Arrive at charming Eggesford Station, on Devon's picturesque Tarka Line between Exeter and Barnstaple. We'll collect you and take you to the farm. Or if you've come with your bikes it's about a 4 mile ride - we'll send you detailed directions when you book. Once at Wheatland Farm, relax with scones and a cup of tea, if you've ordered ahead from the farm shop (or supermarket) your supplies should already be in your accommodation. Or you can buy something from nearby Fiona's farm shop. If you didn't bring your own bikes we'll set you up with ours.
Set off on the first day of your North Devon adventure! Catch the 9ish bus from Winkleigh (1.5 miles from your lodge - take the bikes and lock them up near the bus stop. Times change by a few minutes every so often, but we'll help you check up to date information). Buy an all-week North Devon Megarider ticket for stagecoach services (about £9.50 in 2011) and set off for Puffing Billy, a stop the far side of Torrington. Puffing Billy was old Torrington station, but is now a pub by the side of the off-road cycling and walking route- the Tarka Trail. You can walk, or hire bikes at Torrington Cycle Hire, the other side of the trail from the Puffing Billy (full day adult price £11 in 2011). Head right, along the trail, and enjoy a 5 mile walk/ride to East Yarde, where there is a really lovely cafe (if you want to check it's open ring 01805 601778 or 07972786306). In spring there will be wild garlic and primroses by the wayside, in autumn the wooded walk is lit up with colour. Enjoy a local lunch, then head back. Be back in time to get the last bus back to Winkleigh (usually around 17:00 but please check!). Don't forget the King's Arms and the Seven Stars, in Winkleigh, if you want refreshment before coming back to the farm!
Relax! It's not a great day for public transport, so get up late, take a free guided walk around our Popehouse Moor Nature reserve (we can almost always fit this in to suit). Maybe have Sunday lunch at the Kings Arms, or try the Lymington Arms near Wembworthy, both just a short ride away. Read a book, listen to music, BBQ...
Catch the 9ish bus from Winkleigh and go to Bideford Quay (315 service again), then take the 319 service from Bideford Quay to Horn's Cross. There's usually a wait for the bus - enough time to take in life on the Quay or get a coffee at the nearby Burton Art Gallery. At Horn's Cross set off past the pub and take the wooded footpath that winds down through the beautiful coombe. Branch right when you find the South West Coast path and enjoy a glorious (and sometimes strenuous) coastal walk to Westward Ho!. Allow 2 - 4 hours depending on your speed! From Westward Ho! you'll need to catch one of the frequent buses back to Bideford (if it's a different operator you'll need to buy a separate , but it's not much - probably less than you'd pay to park your car). Last bus back to Winkleigh leaves Bideford around 17:00.
Bideford and beyond - on the early bus again, and up to Bideford. This time cross Bideford old bridge and join the Tarka Trail the other side of the river (well signed). There's a bike hire shop just by the river (01237 424123). Hire a bike (£11 for full day adult hire in 2011) and explore the estuary on this coastal stretch of the Tarka Trail. It's only 3 miles to sandy beaches at Instow, or 7 to the lovely cafe at Fremington Quay, once the busiest port in the South West outside of Bristol. Along the way you'll find picnic spots and artwork - always a good escuse for a quick stop! Or if the tide's not running fast, maybe hire Kayaks from the cycle shop (yes, they do those too) and paddle up river under the Iron Bridge. Last bus back from Bideford to Winkleigh is usually around 17:00.
Pack a picnic and head off to the Devon Wildlife Trust's Halsdon nature reserve. Take the 315 bus to Dolton, pick up supplies if you need to, or visit the pub, then walk along the lanes to the reserve - about 2 miles. In the reserve there's a path along the river and a hide, from where otters are sometimes seen. The grassland has wonderful butterflies and in spring the woodland flowers are fantastic. Last bus back from Dolton usually around 17:40. Or if you don't mind a few miles on proper roads, borrow our bikes and to the whole thing with pedals. Halsdon is only about 7 miles from the farm.
This is for the energetic amongst you. Bus to Barnstaple and then the 308 service to Braunton, getting off at Caen Street Tourist Information Centre, then walk on the South West Coast Path out to Braunton Burrows - the heart of the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve where over 400 different species of flowering plant have been found. If you have a GPS you'll find it handy amongst the towering sand dunes of this strange landscape. Challenge yourself to find Venner's pool - it's quite a surprise if you do, complete with goldfish and water lillies. Leave time to get back to Barnstaple - last bus that stops at Winkleigh leaves around 16:30, though trains run later to Eggesford. Get a map of the dune system at tourist information in Braunton (or ask to borrow ours). If that's all too adventurous, try one of the alternatives below.
We'll take you back to the station and put you on the train to Exeter - there's plenty do do there too if you're not short of time. Kayak on the river (hire available from the historic Quay), or walk to the Turf Pub along the river Exe, one of the few pubs in Devon that you can't reach directly by car!
Wet weather alternatives:
You know what they say about weather - no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. Well, that's OK to some extent, but it's true these ideas work best when it's fine. So here are a few wet weather alternatives:
Take the bus (separate ticket heading south, unless you've bought the slightly more expensive 315 weekly ticket at the start of your stay), or bike or get a lift (we can sometimes help out) to Eggesford station, then spend a day in Exeter. Explore the fabulous architecture of the Cathedral (take a guided tour), maybe explore the caves, shop on colourful Gandy Street, or maybe have lunch at the Phoenix Art Gallery.
Or brave the showers and try the Tarka Line ale trail - pubs with good beer near stations on the Tarka Line. Ask for a leaflet or see online.
Or maybe just enjoy Torrington (get there on the 315 bus - as usual). Excellent bakeries, the Plough Arts Centre where there may be a midday film, Torrington 1646 - the civil war experience - will be open even if it's wet. And on a working day you can see fine glass being produced at Dartington Crystal on a tour of the factory.
home t. 01837 83499, email firstname.lastname@example.org, Wheatland Farm, Winkleigh, Devon, EX19 8DJ.