Tarr Steps - History and Facts | History Hit

Tarr Steps

Antara Bate

10 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Tarr Steps

The Tarr Steps are a clapper bridge across the River Barle, that dates back to around 1000 BC. There is an old story, according to which the devil created the Tarr Steps as part of a bet with a giant that lived in the area. The hike is one of the most popular in Exmoor National Park.

Tarr Steps history

Tarr Steps is a 17 span clapper bridge and is constructed entirely from large stone slabs and boulders, the longest of its kind in Britain. The name ‘Tarr’ is thought to be derived from the Celtic word ‘tochar’, meaning ’causeway’.

The river has silted up over the last century and often now comes over the stones in times of flood. The bridge has had to be repaired several times as stones of up to two tonnes have been washed up to 50 metres downstream.

There is no definite date of origin to the Tarr Steps, with various theories to support different ages. Some date it back as far as 1000BC in the Bronze Age. The official listing is to the medieval period. One rationale for the suggestion of a prehistoric date includes evidence that a number of prehistoric tracks passed through here, although the presence of a bridge as a result of this remains debatable.

Tarr Steps today

Tarr steps is a popular destination for walking in the area for those exploring Exmoor National Park. The beautiful wooded valley of the River Barle is also worth exploring for its wildlife, as is the heathland of Winsford Hill and its wild ponies in the surrounding countryside.

There are a variety of walking routes available for different abilities, including the popular circular walk from Dulverton to Tarr Steps.

Getting to the Tarr Steps

The Tarr Steps are situated towards the southern aspect of Exmoor, near Withypool, around five miles from the large town of Dulverton. There is a car park and toilets close to the bridge, reached from the B3223 road.

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