Trail Running in Devon - Part Four
In the fourth part of trail running in Devon I share two more of my favourite running locations, Haldon Forest and the beautiful Teign Gorge.
The tranquility of a deep wooded valley.
The perfect place to leave the noise of the world behind.
A few miles outside of Exeter is Haldon Forest which has a really nice network of hiking, mountain biking and running trails. I especially enjoy coming here to run as we can bring the kids along for some fun on their bikes and afterwards we can have a picnic or grab something to eat at the cafe. The forest has two 5km designated running loops that are sign posted throughout, although there are lots more trails to explore too.
Forests are such peaceful places to run.
I particularly like it here in the early morning or late evening.
A good option for a run with kids on their bikes is the Discovery Trail that starts from the main carpark. It's a small loop of about 1.5 miles and so if the kids are with me I'll run lots of laps. Jacob is now older and so likes to head off to the mountain bike trails with Gav but he still enjoys cycling alongside too.
Most visitors to Haldon Forest head to the main carpark on the A38 side of the forest but you can also take the A380 and head over to Mamhead. Here you'll find a stunning viewpoint with some lovely views over the Exe Estuary and East Devon. Just off the main trail, and not far from the viewpoint, is a 100 foot tall obelisk built in 1742 to assist sailors navigating the estuary. At the Mamhead area of the forest no cycling is permitted and so it's nice for a walk with smaller children. We walked and ran here lots during our kids toddler stage and it's where I did some of my first runs when returning to running after childbirth. If like my family you love cycling too then don't worry as there are plenty of mountain biking and easier cycling trails in other parts of the forest. I just think it's great to have an area for the little ones to run around more safely.
Family forest run.
If you run at Haldon expect some steep climbs! If you do have kids coming along on bikes there are some less hilly loops so make a plan before setting off. The Discovery Trail is manageable for most kids although you might have to give really little ones a helping hand. There are toilets and a bike hire shop and lots of other activities too, including kids play areas, a kids Gruffalo orienteering challenge, high ropes, Segways and off road mobility scooters can be hired. My two also love to run about in amongst the trees and play in the dens. There's a fee for parking at the main carpark, although other parking areas like Mamhead are free.
Running, hiking and cycling are all great ways to stay healthy whilst exploring beautiful surroundings and I'm a big fan of all three. I think the team at Haldon Forest do a great job of welcoming runners and they even have a dedicated page for running on their website →
The official trails are clearly signposted from the carpark but I have included an example run.
Haldon Strava route →
Haldon Forest on parkrun day!
The Teign Valley
The beautiful Teign Valley and Gorge is such a lovely area and I absolutely love it here. The noise of the river tumbling down the valley is so peaceful and it's such a nice spot for a relaxing rambling style run. I always like to take my time and enjoy the views as it's so tranquil and really is a lovely area of Devon for a run.
There are a few route options depending on the length of run and I've included a route that follows the river but also takes in views from both sides of the gorge. The route is about ten miles although there are lots of possibilities to shorten or lengthen it as there are quite a few paths criss-crossing the woods. As it's a loop you have a few start and finish options too. I like to start in the pretty village of Drewsteignton, which has a pub, a restaurant and a little village shop for post run refreshments. There are other options too, including Castle Drogo's main carpark or the carpark at Fingle Bridge. If you do start at Drewsteignton you'll follow the Two Moors Way footpath down into a valley and then climb back up before reaching the Teign Gorge and joining the route on the Hunter's path. Here you can run the route in either direction.
The Hunter's Path on the northern side of the gorge.
If you start by heading west and run the loop in an anticlockwise direction then the route passes just below Castle Drogo, which sits on the northern side of the gorge. The Hunter's Path is a real highlight of the run and crosses the moorland of Piddledown Common where you'll enjoy gorgeous views over the gorge and you'll also pass the rugged outcrop of Sharp Tor.
The views over the gorge are superb.
The route takes you down off Piddledown Common to the bottom of the gorge and along a path next to the river. Eventually you'll reach Fingle Bridge, a pretty packhorse bridge which has a nice little inn on the north bank. When you reach the bridge you'll probably want to continue along the very welcoming flat trail alongside the river but instead my route takes you off to your right and up a very steep and long climb to the top of the southern side of the gorge. When you reach the top of the climb you then run along the undulating woodland paths with more views across the gorge. You then drop back down to the river and return to Fingle Bridge. This return path by the river is so good underfoot that it's actually a good spot for tempo or fartlek type sessions and it's such a bonus to do a workout right next to the water. Once back at Fingle Bridge you cross over and run up the road a little way until you see a path on your left that climbs up through the woods back to the top of the northern side of the gorge. You then head back through the woods to Drewsteignton.
Running east along the valley towards Fingle Bridge.
Running along the southern side of the gorge after conquering the long climb up!
Gav running west along the bottom of the gorge towards Fingle Bridge.
The climb through the woods from Fingle Bridge back up the northern side of the gorge.
Because my route take you up both sides of the gorge there are some really steep climbs which are very challenging! For an easier less hilly run you can park at Fingle Bridge and stay down next to the river. You have the option of an out and back run or you can run along both banks of the river to make a loop. Personally I like the hills, as up high the views are so worth the extra effort!
The trails beyond this route follow the river towards Dunsford and you can also run in the other direction towards Chagford, so you have plenty of scope for a lengthy riverside run. The entire valley is really nice but the gorge near Castle Drogo is my highlight and one of my favourite running spots in Devon.
The Teign Gorge Strava route→
I hope to post some more running locations soon and perhaps a few of my favourites outside of Devon. Thanks for reading and good luck with your running,