Located where the River Taw joins the Torridge, Barnstaple is within easy reach of Exmoor National Park and the Tarka Trail. It has a characterful historic town centre with some impressive buildings including the Victorian Butcher’s Row. Stroll along Queen Anne’s Walk to the “Tome Stone” where deals were “struck”, visit the remains of the castle and browse the shops in the Green Lanes Shopping Centre.
Here are our 5 worthwhile reasons to visit Barnstaple:
- Foodies will enjoy a visit to Barnstaple Pannier Market, said to be one of the top 10 food markets in the UK. Open Monday to Saturday, the famous 98 metre-long Victorian hall is filled with stalls offering locally made cheeses, organic lamb and beef from Middle Campscott Farm, organic veggie boxes and Rose’s homemade preserves. Opposite the market hall is the quaint “Butcher’s Row” which now houses fishmongers, veg shops, a florist, butchers and delicatessen.
- The Tarka Trail is a series of traffic-free footpaths and cycle trails that run through Barnstaple. Altogether they cover 180 miles making it easy to cycle west to Braunton or south to Bideford and Meeth. There are plenty of cycle hire shops nearby and the route includes beautiful river valleys, woods, moorland, coastal cliffs and sandy coves. What better way is there to discover Devon’s natural beauty than this?
- Arlington Court one of the most visited National Trust properties. The neoclassical country mansion houses all sorts of family collections from seashells to model ships. Outside, enjoy the formal Victorian Gardens, conservatory and walled garden which provides produce for the Tea Room. The Carriage Museum has an excellent collection of carriages for all purposes, the pièce de résistance being the gilded State Coach. There are regular demonstrations of carriage driving and horse-drawn carriage rides can be taken around the estate.
- North Devon’s beaches are a great reason to visit Barnstaple in the summer! Beyond the spectacular dunes at Braunton Burrows Biosphere Reserve, the golden sandy beach at Saunton Sands stretches for 4 miles from the Taw Torridge estuary. It’s the perfect place for a walk, a picnic or for reading a good book in the sun.
- Check out the programme at the Queens Theatre in Barnstaple – you’ll be surprised at the quality of performers it attracts and the seat prices are a bargain! The theatre dates back to 1493, when travelling players, minstrels and troubadours would have entertained this farming and fishing community. Nowadays it hosts shows by comedienne Dawn French, singer Elkie Brooks and a variety of entertaining plays such as Noel Cowards’ “Private Lives”.
5 fun facts about Barnstaple
- Barnstaple claims to be the oldest borough in the UK, but there are other contenders.
- The town supplied five ships to fight the Spanish Armada in 1588. The ships sailed from the Quay (now Strand promenade) to join Drake’s fleet.
- Barnstaple once had its own mint which operated from 955 to 1099 AD. The farthing, halfpennies, pennies and silver coins it produced are now extremely rare and valuable.
- Barnstaple’s 11th century motte and bailey wooden castle was rebuilt in stone in the early 12th century. All that remains of today is the tree-covered mound and the dry moat.
- The Tarka Trail is named after Tarka the Otter, a fictional creature that lived on the River Torridge. The book by Henry Williamson was later made into an epic children’s film which was filmed in the area.
What do you think of when someone mentions Barnstaple? Do you recall it as a historic town or a modern shopping centre? Let’s hear your opinion please!