Situated on the River Barle, not far from Court Farm, Tarr Steps is one of those spots that people love to visit again and again. While the bridge is the focus of visits there is a lovely circular walk which takes about an hour and the Tarr Farm Inn for refreshments which has a tea garden to enjoy if the weather is good and Liscombe Farm Icecream Parlour is close by, a must visit on a hot summer day! For that special experience we recommend an early morning or late evening visit when there will be fewer people and more wildlife!
The History of Tarr Steps
Tarr Steps is a clapper bridge which is the longest bridge of this type remaining in Britain. It is first mentioned in Tudor times but many believe it is much older than this. It may well have formalised a prehistoric crossing of the Barle. Consisting of 17 spans and totalling 180 feet (55 metres) in length, it is built of large stone slabs laid on piles of boulders with no mortar. Some of the slabs weigh up to two tons but this has not stopped them being washed downstream when the River Barle floods, most recently in 2012 and 2016. It has been restored each time and detailed plans now exist to help with this process.
Tarr Steps is approx. 5 miles from Court Farm, midway between Exford and Dulverton just off the B3223. It is signposted to the right on the B3223 as you cross Winsford Hill from Court Farm. Note that the public car park is about 5-10 minutes walk from the bridge (downhill on arrival but uphill on departure) although there is limited disabled parking down by the bridge itself and it is possible to drop people there before returning to the car park.
Apart from the bridge there is a lovely circular walk along the banks of the River Barle which takes about an hour to do. We normally do the loop in a counter-clockwise direction, heading through the picnic area below the Tarr Farm Inn. This takes you on a path alongside the river heading up stream. You will pass the rare ‘Exmoor money trees’ which are well worth a look.
The river is home to a lot of wildlife including birds and insects. You will often see pond skaters at the edge of the river and numerous butterflies in the summer months.
At some points the path splits and while one part takes a higher route the other part stays lower and you can follow the edge of the river. When the river is high we recommend the higher route. Eventually you come to a small stream with a gate and also a small wooden bridge leading to a meadow. Follow the path through the meadow as the river bends round to the right. to bridge over the River Barle.
You next come to a gated bridge which crosses the river. Go over the bridge, remembering to shut the gates and turn left and follow the path back along the opposite side of the river. After a short while you will cross another stream and the path rises and deviates from the river for a while and passes through some fairly dense bushes and trees before descending back to the river bank.
Eventually you will start to catch glimpses of Tarr Steps again and soon you can cross the bridge back to your starting point.