Tarka Trail

The Tarka Trail, 180 miles long, follows in the footsteps of the character “Tarka” the Otter from Henry Williamson’s famous novel and passes through North Tawton, West Devon.

Henry Williamson was born in South-East London in 1895 and enjoyed the Kent countryside from a young age. Henry Williamson spent a holiday in North Devon just before the outbreak of the First World War and was enthralled by its wild beauty. His novel Tarka the Otter brought Williamson the prestigious Hawthornden Prize for Literature in 1928.

Tarka the Otter: His Joyful Water-Life and Death in the Country of the Two Rivers

Remains a highly influential novel by Henry Williamson, first published in 1927 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons. The original edition featured illustrations by Charles Tunnicliffe.

Former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes discovered Henry Williamson’s ‘Tarka the Otter’ in the library of Mexborough grammar school, and this became his bible for the first two years. [1]

The Two Rivers refers to The River Taw and River Torridge. 

The book begins and ends in the vicinity of Torrington in the North of Devon.

Tarka Trail

Tarka Trail splits into two loops centred at Barnstaple, North Devon, and is an excellent way to walk and explore the wild beauty of the Devon countryside.

Going counter-clockwise from Barnstaple, the North Loop heads inland along the tidal section of the River Taw. The Trail takes you through little villages with cob and thatched cottages, and rocky deep-cut lanes and wooded valley paths until it reaches breathtaking Exmoor National Park; famous for its Lorna Doone Valley.

The South Loop runs through North Tawton, Bondleigh, Sticklepath, Belstone, Dartmoor, Okehampton, Jacobstowe, Hatherleigh, Iddesleigh, Meeth, Petrockstowe, and Torrington, West Devon. The Tarka Bridge crosses over the River Taw.

Follow the signposted Trail of Tarka the Otter through North Tawton EX20 2DT.

Tarka Trail Route Map and Information

Tarka Trail Circular Routes PDF map and information booklet available to view and download, featuring 11 easy to follow circular walk locations.

You may be interested in reading:

Where to stay and enjoy the trail:


[1] Ted Hughes – Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.