PUBLISHED: 09:00 22 November 2014
In the latest of DEVON LIFE’S series of features supporting Visit Devon we take a look at Barnstaple
Barnstaple, is the oldest borough in the United Kingdom and was originally referred to as “Barum”, but the name changed in the 10th century, when “Barnstaple” was first officially recorded. It is believed to derive from the Old English bearde, meaning “battle-axe”, and stapol, meaning “pillar”, referring to a post or pillar set up to mark a religious or administrative meeting place.
The market town, which sits beside the River Taw, has flourished ever since. The town possesses a wonderful mixture of Victorian, Medieval and Georgian architecture and is proud to be a multiple winner of Britain in Bloom.
For visitors, it boasts invigorating heritage walks with family and friends, a regular Pannier Market which showcases local produce, arts and crafts and the town is lined with plenty of bustling shops, cafés and bistros.
Why not explore the 1,000-year-old history of Barnstaple?
Barnstaple Museum is free and hosts both natural and human history relevant to the area as well as pop-up art collections by local artists.
Winter opening hours: Monday -Saturday, 10am-6pm.
Barnstaple Heritage Centre offers a more hands-on experience which is perfect for families. Visitors can explore a “Journey Through Time,” experiencing Saxon Life in Barnstaple, a Medieval Market, merchants trading at the Tome Stone, the Civil War, and of course, John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera.
Under 7s free, Children £2.50, Concessions £3.00, Adults £3.50 and Families £10.
Winter opening times Tuesday – Saturday.
Whether you are a passionate pedaller or a casual cyclist, the Tarka trail to Braunton is perfect for all abilities with its flat, off-road route that runs along the banks of the River Taw. The route is six miles long and great for nature lovers with wintering birds such as curlew, redshank, dunlin, golden plover, Brent geese and even the rare spoonbill all regularly spotted.
Tarka Trial Cycle Hire, Barnstaple Railway Station. Tel: 01271 324202
A foodie’s paradise, every year Barnstaple plays host to Food Fest, which celebrates the finest chefs and producers North Devon has to offer. Don’t worry if you didn’t catch this years event, Barnstaple’s Pannier Market is open Monday to Saturday and sells everything a enthusiastic foodie could need from preserves to local organic produce.
The town itself is host to exceptional gastro pubs, restaurants and teashops where hospitality is at the forefront and your welcome genuine. For a gorgeous afternoon treat the Cream Tea Café makes excellent handmade cakes, scones and tea time treats. After dark, try traditional Italian restaurant Giovanni’s, run by Vincenzo Ferracuti; the restaurant has been in Barnstaple for the past 15 years and the food and welcoming atmosphere is a hit with locals and tourists alike.
Barnstaple is full of excitement all year round. You can enjoy the thrills and excitement of kart racing at North Devon Raceways or visit Exmoor Zoological Park which exhibits the infamous Exmoor Beast! For the green-fingered amongst you, Heddon Hall Gardens and Marwood Hill Gardens are open on a regular basis throughout the year, showcasing nature through the seasons and are both so diverse in their offerings (showing everything from bog land to exotic flowers) that the gardens are sure to appeal to every type of guest.
So why not visit Barnstaple this weekend? This ancient market town has enough going on to thrill and surprise you. n