Braunton to Instow Walk: guide and tips

View of very blue River Torridge

The Braunton to Instow walk is part of the South West Coast Path, although this segment actually doesn’t run by the Devon coast. Away from the cliff paths, it traverses along an old railway bed, now dedicated paths for cycling and hiking, leading from Braunton to Barnstaple, and then on the other side down to Instow, which is located on the Taw-Torridge Estuary. 

This paved path runs along the Tarka Trail, offering amazing views of the beautiful banks of rivers. You will cross the River Taw at Barnstaple and walk down to Instow. From Instow, you’ll be able to enjoy spectacular views over the River Torridge.

There are plenty of challenging trails on the South West Coast Path, but this certainly isn’t one of them – as this is a cycling trail, it is pretty much completely flat. 

Braunton to Instow Walk: complete directions

Saunton Sands and Braunton Burrows

Large beach at Saunton Sands

Many people who walk this North Devon route hope to see Saunton Sands and Braunton Burrows, which are two of the most beautiful places to visit in Devon. These are not actually on this route – you can follow my Woolacombe to Braunton walk guide in reverse if you would like to see them. They are easy to access from Braunton.

Braunton

Swans in North Devon Countryside ner Braunton

This route actually begins in the village of Braunton. This is a small, but popular village, due to its position on the Tarka Trail and proximity to the coast. From Braunton Village, you will join the cycle route, which is a disused railway track into Barnstaple.

Tarka Trail Cycle Route

River view of Taw near Braunton

The Tarka Trail Cycle Route spans from Braunton all the way into Barnstaple. This is a really easy hike, being completely flat. The first part isn’t exactly scenic – a military compound takes up the first two kilometres and blocks out the river – but soon you’ll have some fantastic views over the Taw to enjoy (on the other side there’s a sewage plant, which also isn’t all that scenic!). 

After a couple of hours walk, you’ll end up in Barnstaple. 

Barnstaple

Barnstaple

You’ll reach the bridge over the River Taw before you get to Barnstaple. This is also close to Barnstaple Railway Station, which has a connection with Exeter. 

The actual path doesn’t go into Barnstaple town, but it’s worth visiting the town. The ancient market town is the largest in North Devon, and there are a host of things to do here.

Things to do in Barnstaple

  • Arlington Court, a country mansion run by the National Trust, with a carriage museum on site. 
  • The Barnstaple and North Devon Musem. 
  • The Pannier Market
  • Queen Anne’s Market, which was established in the 1800s. 

Places to stay in Barnstaple

The Park Hotel is a modern four-star hotel with plenty of services and amenities and bright, spacious rooms. Click here to read more.

The Barnstaple Hotel is another modern property with modern, clean rooms and an outdoor pool. Click here for more information.

Taw Bridge

The Taw Bridge spans the river by Barnstaple. It’s a busy bridge, but there is a converted railway track turned walking footpath that runs alongside. When you reach the other side, you just need to follow the path as it ventures right. Then, carry on walking down this side of the bridge.

River with Braunton in the background

This eventually reaches Instow, but there are some interesting things to see on the way. Keep looking over the river, as it’s a beautiful location and you’ll see some superb views! 

Fremington Quay

Fremington Old Railway Station on Tarka Trail near River Taw

Fremington Quay is a disused railway station sitting along the cycle path. It’s a beautiful spot to enjoy the staggering views over the water. The South West Coast Path continues, staying close to the river, and eventually going in between some tunnels.

Instow

Torridge RIver by Instow Beach

At the end of the cycle path, you’ll end up in the pretty village of Instow, which is one of the most beautiful places to visit in North Devon. Walk towards the water, and you’ll come to a high street with a couple of pubs and a cafe, as well as Instow Sands. This isn’t a coastal beach, but as the village sits on the Taw-Torridge Estuary, there’s plenty of water nearby! 

Instow sands are beautiful and from here, you can enjoy epic coastal views! Westward Ho! is nearby, and you can also see beautiful beaches like Saunton Sands. 

You won’t quite join the coastal route from Instow – you’ll need to walk the distance to Bideford cross the Torridge Bridge, and hike back round to Appledore, and then to Westward Ho! before you reach the coastal path again. You can see my Instow to Westward Ho! walk guide here.

Where to stay in Instow

View of Instow beach right by the river

There are lots of country cottages in the area, such as Holiday Home Clearwater. Click here to read about it!

Tarka Trail Camping is a large campsite on a farm, just off the Tarka Trail. It’s in a beautiful location, and they accept walk ins for hikers. 

Instow Barton is a friendly bed and breakfast with comfy rooms, amiable hosts and beautiful gardens. Click here for more information.

The Commodore Hotel is a comfortable hotel with modern rooms and a restaurant on site. Click here to read more.

How to get back from Instow to Braunton

From Instow’s position on the Taw-Torridge estuary, it’s easy to get back to Braunton. The 21 bus connects both villages, calling at Barnstaple en route (where there is a rail service to Exeter). 

You can also take a taxi – try BLINE taxis on 01271 322 117.

There are lots of good circular walks in Noth Devon, but unfortunately, there’s no way to make this one, as the river gets in the way! So if you are not carrying on from Instow you will need to take a taxi or bus back.

Where to stay in Braunton

The Brookfield is a popular B&B with comfy rooms and friendly hosts. Click here for more information.

The George Inn is a guesthouse with boutique rooms, and it serves a delicious breakfast every day. Click here to read more.

All you need to know about the Braunton to Instow hike!

This is one of the easiest sections of the South West Coast Path, as it is flat most of the way. Therefore, it’s a great one to try if you don’t want anything too strenuous – you can also cycle the entire route! The next walk is Instow to Westward Ho! (guide coming soon), or on the other side, you could hike from Woolacombe to Braunton. Be sure to check out the rest of my South West Coastal Path guides too, or take a look at my North Devon road trip itinerary for another way to see this part of the country.

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