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Ideas for Things to do in Barnstaple

things to do in barnstaple

Find some great things to do in Barnstaple

If you are looking for things to do in Barnstaple, I hope that this post will help with some suggestions. Nestled amidst the rolling hills of North Devon, Barnstaple offers a delightful blend of history, charm, and outdoor adventure. Explore the bustling Pannier Market, a haven for local crafts and fresh produce, or delve into the rich tapestry of the town’s past at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon.

For the active souls, the scenic Tarka Trail beckons with cycling and walking opportunities, while the nearby Exmoor National Park promises dramatic landscapes and encounters with wild ponies. Whether you crave historical intrigue, vibrant markets, or a taste of the North Devon countryside, Barnstaple offers something for everyone. So lace up your walking shoes, grab your curiosity, and get ready to discover the captivating charm of this delightful North Devon town.

Unveiling History’s Treasures: The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon

barnstaple museum

Step back in time and delve into the rich tapestry of Barnstaple’s past at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon. Housed in a beautifully preserved 17th-century building, the museum boasts an impressive collection that unveils the stories of the people, places, and events that shaped this North Devon town.

Wander through interactive exhibits that showcase the region’s maritime heritage, from the days of intrepid smugglers to the bustling port activity of the past. Admire fascinating archaeological finds, including Roman pottery and medieval weaponry, that paint a vivid picture of life in Barnstaple throughout the centuries. Dedicated sections delve into the town’s social history, highlighting the lives of ordinary people and the industries that fueled Barnstaple’s growth and development.

The museum isn’t just about static displays; it’s a place where history comes alive. Engaging temporary exhibitions explore diverse themes, while family-friendly activities keep younger visitors entertained and curious. Uncover hidden gems within the museum’s collections, such as the impressive costume gallery showcasing traditional North Devon attire, or the captivating collection of toys that transport you back to childhood memories.

Whether you’re a history buff or simply curious about the local culture, the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon offers a captivating journey through time. With its engaging displays, interactive exhibits, and dedicated staff, the museum provides a window into the soul of Barnstaple and the stories that continue to shape this vibrant North Devon town.

“A-Z of Barnstaple” by Denise Holtonand Elizabeth Hammett offers a captivating journey through the history, places, and people of Barnstaple. From its quaint streets to significant landmarks, they weave a rich narrative, shedding light on the town’s heritage. This book is a must-read for anyone curious about Barnstaple’s cultural tapestry.

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A-Z of Barnstaple

A Shopper’s Paradise: Exploring the Barnstaple Pannier Market

barnstaple pannier market

Immerse yourself in the vibrant energy and local charm of Barnstaple Pannier Market. This covered marketplace, dating back to the 12th century, is a sensory feast for the curious shopper. Step inside and be greeted by an explosion of colours, enticing aromas, and the friendly banter of local vendors.

Rows upon rows of stalls overflow with an abundance of fresh, locally sourced produce. Pick up plump berries, crisp vegetables, and fragrant herbs just harvested from nearby farms. Stalls overflowing with artisan cheeses, cured meats, and freshly baked bread will tempt your taste buds. For a touch of the exotic, explore stalls offering international spices, specialty foods, and unique condiments.

The Pannier Market isn’t just about food. Discover an array of handcrafted treasures, from locally made pottery and paintings to hand-knitted scarves and woolen hats. Support local artisans and find one-of-a-kind souvenirs that capture the essence of North Devon. The market also boasts stalls selling antiques, vintage clothing, and unique collectibles, perfect for treasure hunters and bargain seekers.

Beyond the shopping, the Pannier Market offers a glimpse into the heart of Barnstaple. Chat with friendly vendors who are passionate about their products, learn about local traditions, and soak up the lively atmosphere. Grab a coffee and a pastry from one of the market cafes and watch the world go by, savoring the authentic charm of this historic marketplace.

Nature’s Playground: Exploring the Tarka Trail


Lace up your walking boots or grab your bike and embark on an adventure along the Tarka Trail. This scenic, traffic-free route, stretching for 18 miles between Barnstaple and Meeth, follows the course of the River Taw, offering a delightful escape into the heart of the North Devon countryside.

Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or a leisurely stroller, the Tarka Trail caters to all abilities. The mostly flat, well-maintained path is perfect for a family outing, allowing you to explore the beauty of the North Devon landscape at your own pace. Cycle alongside the meandering River Taw, stopping to admire tranquil stretches of water teeming with birdlife. Keep an eye out for playful otters frolicking along the riverbanks, a delightful reward for observant explorers.

The Tarka Trail isn’t just about the journey; it’s a gateway to hidden gems. Quaint villages along the route offer a chance to sample local delicacies in charming cafes and pubs. Stop by historic bridges, remnants of a bygone era, and marvel at the engineering marvels that connect communities. For the more adventurous, designated trails branching off from the main path lead to secluded waterfalls and hidden coves, offering a chance to truly commune with nature.

Inspired by the beloved novel “Tarka the Otter” by Henry Williamson, the trail offers a unique opportunity to connect with the literary heritage of the region. Information boards along the way share excerpts from the book, bringing the story of Tarka’s adventures to life as you navigate the same landscapes.

So, breathe in the fresh country air, soak up the stunning scenery, and embark on a journey of discovery along the Tarka Trail. This traffic-free route offers a chance to disconnect from the hustle and bustle and reconnect with the beauty of the North Devon countryside.

A Journey Through Time: Arlington Court and the Carriage Museum

arlington court

Step back in time and experience the grandeur of a bygone era at Arlington Court, a National Trust property nestled amidst the rolling hills just outside Barnstaple. This magnificent Jacobean mansion, built in the 17th century, boasts a rich history and offers a captivating glimpse into the lives of the aristocratic Chichester family.

Explore the beautifully preserved rooms, adorned with intricate tapestries, period furniture, and priceless artworks. Imagine grand balls held in the opulent Great Hall, and picture elegant ladies strolling through the manicured gardens. Interactive exhibits bring the house’s history to life, allowing visitors to experience the daily routines of the household staff and the evolution of the property over the centuries.

Beyond the main house, Arlington Court boasts extensive grounds waiting to be explored. Wander through formal gardens bursting with vibrant blooms, lose yourself in the tranquil beauty of the woodland walks, or enjoy a picnic lunch amidst the picturesque scenery. For budding historians, the on-site Carriage Museum is a treasure trove. Admire a collection of horse-drawn carriages used by the Chichester family throughout the years, each meticulously restored and a testament to craftsmanship of the past.

Arlington Court offers a captivating blend of history, architecture, and stunning natural beauty. Whether you’re fascinated by grand houses, love exploring lush gardens, or simply enjoy a day out in the countryside, this National Trust property promises a memorable experience for all ages. Find out more about other great National Trust properties in Devon.

Rock Park: A Green Oasis in Barnstaple

rock park barnstaple

Rock Park, a delightful public park gifted to Barnstaple in 1879, offers a welcome escape right in the heart of the town. Standing proudly at the entrance is a grand obelisk, a testament to the park’s rich history. Bordering the River Taw, Rock Park boasts scenic walks and lush green spaces ideal for picnics, leisurely strolls, or simply relaxing amidst nature. Children will be thrilled with the extensive playground equipment, while the energetic can enjoy a game on the sports pitches. Rock Park truly caters to everyone, making it a popular spot for locals and visitors alike.

Marwood Hill Gardens: A Short Trip, A World of Beauty

marwood hill gardens

Just a short journey from Barnstaple lies a horticultural haven – Marwood Hill Gardens. These captivating gardens, boasting a vibrant display of plants and flowers, offer a delightful escape for all ages. Wander through themed areas bursting with colorful blooms, or lose yourself in the tranquil peace of the peaceful woodland walks. Children can unleash their energy in the dedicated play area, while the cafe provides a refreshing pitstop for weary explorers. Marwood Hill Gardens, with its enchanting atmosphere and captivating beauty, promises a memorable experience for any visitor.

A Glimpse into the Wild: Exmoor National Park on Barnstaple’s Doorstep

tarr steps

Escape the urban bustle and immerse yourself in the untamed beauty of Exmoor National Park, just a short drive from Barnstaple. This vast expanse of rolling hills, rugged moorland, and dramatic coastlines offers a haven for wildlife and a playground for outdoor enthusiasts.

Explore the heather-clad moors, a designated Dark Sky Reserve, and marvel at the breathtaking spectacle of a star-studded night sky. Hike along scenic trails that snake through valleys and lead to hidden waterfalls. Keep an eye out for Exmoor’s iconic wild ponies, roaming freely across the landscape and adding a touch of magic to your exploration.

For the adventurous, Exmoor offers a variety of activities beyond hiking. Test your skills with rock climbing on dramatic cliffs, try your hand at kayaking or paddleboarding on tranquil lakes, or cycle through the picturesque countryside. Horse riding enthusiasts can explore the moors on horseback, experiencing the landscape from a unique perspective.

Beyond the natural beauty, Exmoor boasts a rich history waiting to be discovered. Explore charming villages nestled amidst rolling hills, each with its own story to tell. Visit medieval castles that stand sentinel over the landscape, remnants of a bygone era. Explore prehistoric sites that offer a glimpse into the lives of early settlers.

Exmoor National Park is a place to reconnect with nature, challenge yourself with outdoor activities, and create lasting memories. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker, a wildlife enthusiast, or simply seeking a scenic escape, Exmoor offers something for everyone, just a stone’s throw away from the charming town of Barnstaple.

A Day at the Beach: Woolacombe Bay’s Golden Sands


Unwind, soak up the sun, and create lasting memories at the golden sands of Woolacombe Bay. This award-winning beach, stretching for three miles along the North Devon coastline, is a haven for beach lovers, surfers, and families alike. Sink your toes into the soft, golden sand, feel the refreshing ocean breeze on your face, and let the sound of crashing waves lull you into a state of relaxation.

For the active adventurer, Woolacombe Bay offers a playground of possibilities. World-renowned surfers flock to these shores to catch the impressive Atlantic waves, while families can enjoy a splash in the shallow waters. Test your balance with stand-up paddleboarding, explore hidden coves accessible only by kayak, or try your hand at coasteering, a thrilling activity that combines cliff jumping, swimming, and rock scrambling.

Beyond the water, the beach offers plenty of activities to keep everyone entertained. Build sandcastles with the little ones, participate in beach sports like volleyball or frisbee, or simply relax on a deckchair and soak up the sun. For those seeking refreshments, a variety of cafes and restaurants line the promenade, offering delicious food and beverages with stunning beach views.

Woolacombe Bay isn’t just about the beach; it’s also a gateway to exploring the surrounding area. The South West Coast Path, a national trail offering breathtaking coastal hikes, starts right at Woolacombe. Explore charming villages nestled amidst rolling hills, or visit nearby attractions like the Milky Way Adventure Park for a fun-filled family day out.

Whether you’re seeking a relaxing day of sunbathing, an adrenaline-pumping adventure on the waves, or a chance to explore the beauty of the North Devon coastline, Woolacombe Bay offers something for everyone. This award-winning beach promises an unforgettable experience and lasting memories for all ages.

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