From the south coast of Devon to the highland of Exmoor, the Exe Valley Way follows many of The Exe's many tributaries. Once you leave behind Exeter with its grand cathedral and university, the trail criss-crosses over the river many times, passing through steeply wooded valleys and unspoilt countryside, small villages and market towns. The best time for this walk is in the Spring and Autumn for best views across the valleys. The Exe Valley Way is described here from south to north but can be walked from either direction. Our standard itinerary takes you from Starcross to Exford. At Exford, there is the option of a 15 mile linear walk to the Exe's source, high in the Exmoor National Park.
From Starcross, the Exe Valley Way follows the river upstream. On your right are fantastic views across the Exe Estuary, teeming with birdlife. On your left, the setting is more rural, of fields and marshes. A couple of miles in is Powderham Castle, with its grand medieval staircase, a stunning eighteenth century music room and the original Victorian Kitchen. The Route continues along the towpath of the Exeter Canal for the next 5 miles, and the landscape becomes more and more urbanised approaching Exeter.
The cathedral stands tall above Exeter, across the river. The once busy industrial Quay has been transformed into a place to relax and enjoy, with its eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and cafes. History and heritage, arts and culture, sports and leisure are aplenty in Exeter, with narrow Saxon streets thousand year old churches and underground passages that once fed water to the city and many more. The Path crosses the river to St David's Train Station and continues out of the town to cross back to the other side of the river at Cowley Bridge. The urban sprawl is now replaced by fields, meadows and woodland. The Route follows a less rigid line along the river, criss-crosses over it several times and there are the occasional rises, offering great views across the valley.
The Route passes through the churchyard in Brampford Speke and crosses over the river, where there is a diversion to Stoke Canon. The valley is wide and flat here, and the Route runs along fields and minor roads before it crosses the river back to Thorverton.
Thorverton was once an important village thanks to its proximity to the then London to Cornwall road! This importance accounts for the wonderful range of old buildings, which have survived. Enjoy the sun overlooking the pretty little green and stream, which run through the village. From here, the Route climbs on a minor road, offering superb views across the valley and back out to the sea, before dropping down to the valley floor and continues on the road, passing Bickleigh Castle, a beautiful 11th century castle with an equally impressive garden.
The Route crosses the River Exe here on a lovely stone bridge rebuilt in 1809 after severe flooding washed away much of the original structure. It is just about wide enough for cars to cross in single file. The village, just south of the bridge, is well worth a minor detour. The Route continues upriver, much of it through woodlands, to Tiverton.
Tiverton has a rich history; it grew in prosperity through the wool trade and there are many impressive buildings in the old town, some dating as far back as the 15th century. Tiverton Castle, first built in 1106, has been remodelled and enlarged in subsequent centuries. It was dismantled and rebuilt as a country home after the English Civil War to prevent it being used again for military purposes. The Route from Tiverton to Bampton runs alongside the river, along a minor road. The sides of the valley here are more wooded. North of Cove, the Route climbs out of the valley before dropping back down. North of Halfpenny Bridge, the trail leaves the River Exe temporarily and follows one of its tributaries, the River Batherm, to Bampton.
Bampton is a small and friendly town; much of the town was razed to the ground during The English Civil War and rebuilt most 1645. It thrived in the 18th century from the woollen trade and when that died, quarrying took over in the 19th century, as a major source of employment. The Route climbs out of Bampton over farmland, offering superb, extensive views across valleys, before dropping down to cross the River Exe again at Exebridge. Shortly after, it follows another of the Exe's tributaries, The Brockey, between two hills to village of Brushford. The Route enters Exmoor National Park, just after the village and follows The Barle, another of The Exe's tributaries.
Dulverton stands between the rivers Barle and Exe which converge a mile or so down the valley. It remains an attractive old town with many interesting buildings, boasting a wide range of traditional shops over a number of streets. The Route continues along the Barle from Dulverton along the bottom of a steep-wooded valley. A number of castles had once occupied strategic points on this section of the valley but have long since been dismantled and very little remains. Just after the mount where Brewer's Castle once stood, the Route leaves the wooded valley bottom and climb through fields and woods to the hamlet of Hawkridge. The views open up to adjoining valleys.
From Hawkridge, the Route runs gently up and down the sides of the river valley, following the higher Two Moors Way route to Withypool, across fields and minor roads. The views of surrounding hills and moorland are tremendous. (The lower Two Moors Way though runs alongside the Barle and takes you pass the famous medieval clapper bridge of Tarr Steps. Seventeen huge flat stones span across this fifty-five foot wide river; it is a popular attraction.)
Withypool is a totally unspoilt pretty little Exmoor village, with lime-washed rendered, slate-roofed houses. A beautiful six-arch stone bridge spans the River Barle. The "Olde Worlde" petrol pumps and Tearooms add to the look of a bygone age. The Route passes through the village and up the hill, over the moorland of Room Hill before a long and winding descent to Exford.
Exford is a delightful little village; like Withypool, completely unspoilt. Famous for its hunting, shooting, fishing and riding, it is worth spending extra days here to explore the Exmoor National Park or walk to the source of the River Exe, to complete the Exe Valley Way.
To walk to Exe Head, you must return to Withypool and follow the Two Moors Way northwards, to Simonsbath. The route takes you over the moor with tremendous views over Sherdon Water and Bightworthy Burrows before eventually dropping down to the Barle to approach Simonsbath through Birchcleave Wood.
This is one of the remotest villages on the Exmoor National Park. The houses are scattered over a wide area rather than around the church as is often the case with villages. From Simonsbath, the Route follows a tributary of The Barle before climbing steeply out onto and across the moors to reach Exe Head. Once at the source, you can either return to Exford on the same route or continue on the Two Moors Way to Lynmouth.
To continue on to Lynmouth, from Exe Head, the route crosses over Dure Down, enjoying panoramic views. The route drops briefly into a river valley before coming back up again along Cheriton Ridge. Note that navigation could be difficult when visibility is poor! The Route leaves the moors behind after the sleepy hamlet of Cheriton and descend into a woodland beside Hoar Oak Water. As the route climbs out of the woodlands, glorious views of the sea pull you Lynmouth.
Starcross is at the start of the walk. It is at least 3 hours by train from London Paddington, depending on the time of day of travel.
Exeter St David is on-route at 10 miles into the walk. It is just north of the city. It is at least 2 hours from London Paddington and 3 hours and 20 minutes from London Waterloo, depending on the time of day of travel.
Tiverton Parkway is 8 miles and approximately 15 minutes by car to Tiverton, and 32 miles and approximately an hour by car to Exford. Tiverton Parkway is at least 2 hours from London Paddington.
The National Rail Map provides a map of the rail network for you to plan your journey.
The nearest National Express long distance coach stops are listed below.
From Starcross: Starcross (0 miles), Dawlish (4 miles), Exminster (4.5 miles)
From Exford: Minehead (9 miles), South Molton (12 miles)
National Express has a route network with over 1,000 UK destinations. The best value tickets will be secured with advance booking.
Starcross is easily accessible by car, being less than 15km fro junction 31 of the M5 motorway.
We may be able to arrange car parking at your accommodation in Starcross for the duration of your walking holiday. This will be subject to availability and may incur a small extra charge.
It is possible to return to Starcross from Exford by travelling from Minehead to Taunton by bus and then Taunton to Starcross, by train changing in Exeter. The local accessible transport service Moor Rover, offer transport between Exford and Minehead and you will need to pre-book your journey with them. We will aslo be happy to get quotes and book a return journey by taxi for you if you prefer.
We offer of itineraries for the Exe Valley Way to suit all walkers. These range from a challenging 4 day hike to a much more relaxed 8 day stroll.
Basic navigational and map reading skills are recommended.
The route is waymarked, however the stretch to Exe Head takes you onto Exmoor where it is important to take extra care, particularly in bad weather or poor visibility.
It is possible to walk the Exe Valley Way all year round, but accommodation options may be limited between November and February. Care is needed in winter on Exmoor.
We specialise in providing walking holidays in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Pembrokeshire and Somerset. We are enthusiastic about outdoor pursuits and have experienced climbing, canoeing, skiing, caving and potholing and windsurfing as well as walking throughout the UK, France, Spain, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand.
We use our experience to provide self-guided, pack-free walking holidays, tailored to the requirements and abilities of our clients.