Fingle Bridge, Dartmoor - paddling, walks and cycling. Take a picnic, or visit the pub!*
*COVID:19 update – at time of publishing (August 2020), Fingle Bridge Inn is open for takeaway and outdoor seating only and the National Trust public toilets remain closed. Please check the Inn’s website and the National Trust website for updates on opening. The car parks are still open and the National Trust requests that visitors to Fingle Bridge respect social distancing measures.
Address: Drewsteignton, Exeter EX6 6PW
Cost: free entry, free parking
Facilities: Toilets, Parking
Open: all year round
Refreshments: Fingle Bridge Inn; Drewe Arms pub (in village 5 minutes’ drive from Fingle Bridge); picnic spot
I’ve decided that some places look just as good in the rain – Fingle Bridge over the river Teign seems to suit a drizzly Saturday afternoon and if you’ve got young children who love water, the chances are you’re going to get wet anyway!
No ‘things to do with the kids in the Westcountry’ blog would be complete without mentioning Fingle Bridge – a National Trust beauty spot on the edge of Dartmoor National Park. For one thing, it’s a free day out (unless you pop into the Fingle Bridge Inn for satisfying pub grub and a drink with the prettiest views), with walks through the unspoilt woodland to suit every ability and picturesque views of the river and Teign gorge.
There are safe, shallow areas for children to paddle, several little river beaches to be discovered, places to picnic, and an easy cycle route from Fingle Bridge to Clifford Bridge and back again (4 miles total) alongside the river.
It’s a dog-walking haven, and the path alongside the river to Clifford Bridge is buggy-friendly so long as it can handle a rough surfaced track.
Getting there is easy until you pass the little village of Drewsteignton (home to another great pub, The Drewe Arms) – from there it’s a couple of miles of narrow lanes, and then be warned that parking at Fingle can be a bit of a bunfight! There’s a small amount of parking reserved for customers of the Fingle Inn, and the rest is a case of ‘wedge your car considerately against the bank the best you can’ – better to arrive early on fine weather days and in the school holidays.
Or, you can take on the ultimate driving in public challenge – squeeze your car over the bridge (yes, you can drive over, unless you drive a Hummer - it’s a great spectator sport watching nervous drivers have a go) – there’s plenty of parking the other side.
Walking-wise, you’ve got lots of options. You can cross the bridge from the pub side, take the path on your left and walk the buggy/cycle/flat route alongside the river to Clifford Bridge (there’s nothing at the end to speak of, but it’s a really pretty walk, and when you come back to Fingle there’s the reward of the pub at the end when it’s not closed due to COVID!).
Or, cross the bridge and take one of the right-hand paths, you’ll find lots of little river beaches to explore along the way. These aren’t circular routes so if walking with little legs, go half as far as you’re prepared to walk then double back on yourself.
If you’re feeling fit, there’s the longer walk to National Trust Castle Drogo from the pub-side of the bridge – I haven’t taken this route myself, but I hear there are steep and narrow sections through the gorge. Babies and toddlers would need to be in carriers and older children need to be good walkers.
And for those looking for a more relaxing kind of day, Fingle Bridge is the perfect place to take a picnic – take a picnic rug, find yourself a spot alongside the river and enjoy the views (and of course, the obligatory paddle in the river!)
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Dartmoor river picnic spot
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