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Car Free Days Out in Devon

There's something magical about a day out by train. Whether you are old enough to be nostalgic about train journeys, or young enough for a train journey to be a novelty, the train makes a great day out in Devon. With a holiday in Devon, it's not just where you go – it's how you get there that counts!

Exeter to Plymouth

Those staying in holiday cottages in South Devon should check the timetable and hop aboard to travel the coast of South Devon from Exeter to Plymouth which takes about an hour. Browse the shops in Plymouth City Centre, take a stroll on the Hoe and explore the waterfront at the old Barbican before getting back onboard for the return journey.

The train from Exeter St David’s runs on tracks first laid down by GWR, later dubbed “God’s Wonderful Railway” for the stunning route it takes through the West Country. Best views are on the left-hand side of the train, but look right shortly after departing Exeter to see the lovely Powderham Castle with its oaks and deer park.

As the estuary opens out a mile wide, the shining mudflats are visited by oystercatchers at low tide. Skirting the estuary the train passes through Cockwood – little more than a country pub and a post office – then Dawlish Warren’s red sandstone cliffs can be seen.

At Teignmouth the train heads inland along the banks of the Teign to charming Newton Abbot with its racecourse. The new locomotives make light work of Daintry Bank, the third steepest incline on British railways. After crossing the Dart the train finally cruises into Plymouth station. If you want to stay on for one more stop, the journey goes over the famous Royal Albert Bridge, constructed in 1859 by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, before stopping at Saltash station.

Exeter to Barnstaple

The Tarka Line runs for 39 miles from Exeter to Barnstaple where the line then becomes the Tarka Cycle Trail which ends at Meeth.

The trip runs through rural Devon with sandstone rocks and red soil around Exeter giving way to green rolling hills with grazing cattle and sheep further north. Small villages with thatched cottages, sprawling farms and local wildlife can all be seen through the panoramic train windows.

The line connects Exeter Central and Exeter St David’s with wonderful sounding places such as Newton St Cyres, Crediton, Yeoford, Copplestone, Morchard Road, Lapford, Eggesford, Kings Nympton, Portsmouth Arms, Umberleigh, Chapelton and Barnstaple. There are plenty of opportunities for walks around Eggesford, afternoon tea at Umberleigh, cycling at Crediton or sightseeing and shopping in Barnstaple and Exeter.

Plymouth to Gunnislake

Although this trip starts in Devon, it runs along the Tamar Valley boundary between Devon and Cornwall and finally ends in Gunnislake, Cornwall. It takes in some remarkable sights and engineering feats along the 14 mile journey.

Leaving Plymouth City Centre it runs west to Devonport with its historic Royal Naval Dockyard then to Keyham and St Budeaux. After fleeting views of Brunel’s Royal Albert Bridge, the line heads north and crosses the Tavy viaduct to Bere Ferrers and Bere Alston before reaching Calstock. The award-winning Morwellham Quay attraction is within walking distance from Calstock along the river, or continue your journey into Cornwall with views of market gardens and steep sided valleys. The village of Gunnislake has a couple of small shops and pubs to linger over a crab sandwich before the return journey.

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

Find Gillian on Google+, and Twitter.

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