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The Far West - Along the Two Castles Trail

From Lifton near the Cornish border to secluded Stowford.

Distance 6.4 miles (10.4km)

Minimum time 3hrs

Ascent/gradient 165ft (50m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Fields, green lanes and country lanes

Landscape Undulating farmland and wooded river valleys

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 112 Launceston & Holsworthy

Start/finish SS 387851

Dog friendliness Dogs to be kept under control at all times

Parking On Fore Street (the old A30) opposite post office in Lifton

Public toilets Lifton village, and Dingles Steam Village

1 Cross over Fore Street to walk down North Road (by the Lifton Hall Hotel). Follow the lane past the primary school to reach Glendale Nursery, and turn left before the nursery car park. Follow the lane gently uphill until you see a public bridleway sign through a gate right. Turn right, and follow the edge of the field (hedge left) until you see a bridge over the River Wolf across the field; cut right to cross the river. The Wolf was dammed in 1990 to form Roadford Lake, to the north of the A30. It's a lovely spot, with a gift shop and tea room, and excellent sporting facilities and footpaths.

2 Follow the well-signed track, through woodland, uphill away from the river. It leads into a broad green lane, which bends sharp left and continues slightly uphill to pass the entrance to the car park at Dingles Steam Village. Join the tarmac lane to pass the café and buildings of Dingles at Milford Farm (left). This 'celebration of working steam in the countryside' is open 10:30am-5:30pm daily (except Fridays), Easter to 31 October. There are marked footpaths along the banks of the Thrushel and Wolf rivers signed off the trail here. The lane ends at a road (Hayne Bridge to the right). Turn left and walk uphill until you see a gritty track (signed 'Public bridleway') right.

3 Turn right to pass Arracott (right) and go through a gate onto a straight green lane, which ends at another gate. Turn right through a gate to enter a plantation of young indigenous trees. The path runs downhill to the bottom corner of the field - if you look sharp left you get a good view of the Gothic mansion at Hayne, rebuilt in 1810, and the seat of the Harris family from the reign of Henry VIII until 1864. There are some splendid 18th-century monuments to members of the family in Stowford church. The path leads through a group of huge beeches and oaks, to emerge by a white cottage (left). Carry on down the drive to meet the lane opposite Lamerton Foxhound kennels.

4 Turn right to cross the River Thrushel on Stowford Bridge, then turn steeply uphill to find the beautiful, secret Church of St John the Baptist (left). Dating from the 14th century, this was restored in 1874 by Sir George Gilbert Scott, architect of St Pancras station, at a cost of £4,000. He was involved in restoration work at Exeter Cathedral at the time. The 19th-century interior woodwork (copied from earlier examples) is said to be some of the finest in England. Look out for the wonderful views towards Cornwall, and the 1770 sundial over the door. Don't miss the inscribed Stowford Stone, found by the entrance to the churchyard, believed to date from the 6th or 7th centuries.

5 To continue on to the Royal Exchange, leave the church and walk on through the village, past the village hall (left) keeping to the main lane, to pass the Stowford House Hotel. Just over ¼ mile (400m) on you will reach the old A30. Turn right for the pub.

Lifton, just 4 miles (6.4km) from the Cornish border, is a somewhat unprepossessing place. It seems to have suffered from its time fronting the old A30, for many years the main route into Cornwall, and you get the feeling that it's still recovering from the aftermath of traffic overload. Yet the Two Castles Trail, a long-distance walking route that runs between the Norman castles at Launceston and Okehampton (both worth a visit), passes through the village, and within minutes you can lose yourself in that remote and little-visited strip of green, rolling countryside that lies between the new and old A30 routes.

While you're there

Go and see Okehampton Castle, which lies at the Devon end of the Two Castles Trail and is a great place to explore. Once one of the largest castles in the county, and home of the Earls of Devon in medieval times, the substantial ruins include the Norman motte and the remains of the keep, as well as the 14th-century hall. As an added bonus the castle, managed by English Heritage, enjoys a delightful setting with woodland walks and a riverside picnic area.

Where to eat and drink

The Royal Exchange, the half-way point on this walk, is a 16th-century coaching inn, with great views east into Cornwall. It is a free house, serves a good range of food, and welcomes families. The Arundell Arms Hotel in Lifton, another old coaching inn, has been one of the country's premier game fishing hotels for over 50 years, and you definitely feel a bit out of place in your muddy boots.


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