The 2008 North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival, from May 1-9, will feature 66 guided and speciality graded walks ensuring all levels of ability can discover the region's beautiful and diverse scenery on foot. Around two-thirds of the outings are new, su

The 2008 North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival, from May 1-9, will feature 66 guided and speciality graded walks ensuring all levels of ability can discover the region's beautiful and diverse scenery on foot.Around two-thirds of the outings are new, such as a 5.1 mile route taking in the gardens and wooded valley of Arlington Court, the National Trust property, near Barnstaple.Other new walks this year include a six-mile walk, High Beacons and Cairns,which climbs to the highest point on Exmoor with a good chance of seeing red deer; and Springwatch Territory, which passes by some of the North Devon landscapes around Hatherleigh featured in the BBC animal and wildlife series with Bill Oddie.There will be free outings during two special Celebration Days over the Bank Holiday weekend. The first on Saturday,May 3, will be at RHS Garden Rosemoor, Torrington and includes two free walks, one around the garden with a member of their team and another with a festival guide exploring the environs of Rosemoor. Also on offer are a walk around Rosemoor with local professional photographer, Ross Hoddinott, on flower and garden photography, and a free illustrated talk about the South West Coast Path by walker and writer Paddy Dillon. On Sunday, 4 May walking break specialists, HF Holidays, one of the festival sponsors, will host an open day at Holnicote House, near Selworthy with four free walks led by their guides. A new venture for 2008 is a four-day, 35mile walk along the Exmoor section of the South West Coast Path from Minehead to Combe Martin including meals and accommodation at the Yarn Market Hotel, Dunster. Speciality walks include A Taste of the Wild Food on May 4, which will provide an eye-opening experience into the world of bushcraft and wild food with a 5.6 mile walk down woodland paths to discover the origins and uses of British flora and fauna both in cooking and medicine. Steam train enthusiasts will enjoy the Light Railway to Gardens and Old Church, also on May 4, which takes in a ride on the narrow gauge Barnstaple to Lynton Railway and a walk around Parracombe. Some of the outings follow sections of the 80mile Tarka Trail or explore Doone Country, an area of Exmoor made famous by RD Blackmore's novel. There are also several flower and wildlife discovery walks through the Taw and Torridge river estuary and the North Devon Biosphere while favourites such as the map reading navigation day and trip to Lundy Island are being repeated. The Walking Festival is organised by the North Devon Marketing Bureau with West Country Walks.Reservations can be made online at www.walkingnorthdevon.co.uk or by calling the Tourist Information Centre at Ilfracombe on (01271) 863001 or Bideford on (01237) 477676 (10am-5pm). For a copy of the festival programme call West Country Walks on (01271) 883131 or email bryan@westcountrywalks.co.uk. Accommodation suggestions can be found on www.northdevon.com or for a copy of the North Devon & Exmoor Guide call (01271) 336070.