Walk: Tarr Steps, Exmoor National Park

Walk alongside a winding river through deep forests on a seven-mile loop from the magical Tarr Steps to the Somerset village of Withypool

5th July 2017
Difficulty
moderate
Distance
7 miles
Duration
4 hours

Tarr Steps is one of Exmoor’s true hidden treasures and a firm favourite with visitors – once you’ve discovered it you’ll find yourself drawn back time and time.

Tucked away down a narrow lane five miles from Dulverton, the steps are an ancient clapper bridge – large flat slabs of stone placed on stone supports – across the River Barle, which dates back to around 1000 BC. Local legend says the five-tonne slabs were placed here by the Devil to win a bet with a local giant (apparently Old Nick still has sunbathing rights on its stones).

Tara Steps, Somerset
Tarr Steps in the Somerset countryside

This gentle ramble meanders alongside the river before looping through Withypool and climbing for gorgeous views over Exmoor. 

1. From the pub

Walk down to Tarr Steps and turn right, picking up the path running north alongside the River Barle. Follow this clear path as it snakes alongside the river. The woods either side of you are teeming with life. Dormice thrive among the mature hazel and blackberry, otters feed in the water and you may see rare barbastelle bats at dusk.

Dormouse
Those with a keen eye will spot dormice along the trail
2. Oxbow 

After two miles you reach an area of open grassland in an oxbow of the River Barle. Walk diagonally right across the field, then head uphill. Turn left halfway up the hill, go through a gate and follow a path through woodland. The path now weaves higher above the river, through a series of gates, until farm buildings start to appear on your left. Turn left at the road and walk into Withypool

Withypool Bridge, Somerset
Withypool Bridge, Somerset
3. Back to the steps

Continue past the Royal Oak Inn and tea rooms, then walk over the bridge. Carry on over a cattle grid and uphill along the road, signed Hawkridge. The road climbs steeply uphill and affords beautiful views over Exmoor. After 1.5 miles go over another cattle grid, ignore a left-turn for Tarr Steps, and carry on downhill. 

After Westwater Farm, turn left on to a stream-side path, signed to Tarr Steps. Go through a gate and continue straight on uphill, following signs. Keep on this path as it continues through fields and over stiles, with views over the wooded banks of the Barle. When you come to Parsonage Farm, turn sharp left, signed Tarr Steps. Go through a gate and continue ahead on the path. After ¼ mile turn right and head downhill, through a gate, then take a left at the lane and follow this to Tarr Steps, where you can enjoy crossing this ancient clapper bridge before returning to the pub for a rewarding pint.

River Barle
River Barle joins the River Exe at Exebridge

Learn more about Tarr Steps

Images: Getty

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