One of Barnstaple's landmarks is Long Bridge which was built in 1280 and still carries traffic across the River Taw. In 1905 a strict speed limit was imposed by the bridge trustees of just 2mph! Heavier traffic now bypasses the town on the new bridge which was opened in 2007.
With such an interesting history (Barnstaple provided five ships to fight the Spanish Armada in 1588), the town has some ancient architecture. The Church of St Peter and St Paul was built in 1318 and has a strangely twisted spire, said to have been caused when lightning struck in the early 1800s.
St Anne's Chapel is one of the oldest surviving buildings, dating back to the 14th century. The ornate Queen Anne's Walk, established in 1713 as a merchant's exchange; the colonnaded Penrose Almshouses built in 1627 and the lovely Georgian Guildhall are worth a second look. Barnstaple's prosperity as a thriving port allowed a theatre to be built, where William Shakespeare and his company performed in 1605.
The town itself is a tangle of small alleyways and narrow streets, which are now mostly pedestrianised. The Green Lanes Shopping Centre serves most of North Devon. Look out for the Pannier Market with its iron framework and glass roof. It sells different items each day, from crafts and books to antiques and general produce. Opposite the market is Butcher's Row which originally housed 33 butcher's shops and stretched for 98 metres. It now sells fresh produce including locally caught fish, meat and flowers.
Things to do in Barnstaple
The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon is in a splendid building with mosaic floors and decorative fireplaces. As well as local history it contains the Regimental Collection of the Royal Devon Yeomanry.
Enjoy the great outdoors around your Devon holiday cottage by hiring a bicycle and exploring the Tarka Trail. If walking is more your cup of tea, the South West Coastal Path offers scenic walks towards Braunton in one direction or Instow and Bideford in the other.
Just down the A39 Atlantic Highway is the town of Bideford which is built on a steep hill overlooking the quay. This historic town also has a long bridge connecting East-the-Water with the main town of Bideford. The spans vary in size, depending upon how much money the sponsoring wool merchant contributed!
One of the best things to do in Bideford is to take a trip on the MS Oldenburg to Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel. This remote island has abundant wildlife including rare puffins. Explore the remains of Marisco Castle, the lighthouses and inscribed standing stones in the Beacon Hill Cemetery.