Barnstaple is only a couple of miles from Tawstock. This happy market town is forever expanding with a number of supermarkets on the outskirts, and household names popping up on the high street. Once a busy port, the town has developed over the years to become a thriving and lively place to visit and shop. Barnstaple has a lovely mix of old and new, which is best shown in its historic Pannier Market. Built in the 19th Century the market has a high glass and timber roof on iron columns. Originally limited to a vegetable market, today there are antiques, crafts and general produce sold on varying days of the week. The Pannier Market runs the entire length of Butchers Row, a selection of bakers, fishmongers, butchers, florists and greengrocers. This lovely street is a great place to walk along and capture the essence of Barnstaple as a flourishing market town.
Barnstaple is also home to a multi-screen cinema, the Queen's Theatre, leisure and tennis centre and a bowling alley. Trains regularly leave the town's station, travelling along the pretty Tarka Line to Exeter, where you can journey south to Plymouth, north to Edinburgh or east to London.
There are a number of popular attractions that are well worth visiting within a few miles of Barnstaple. Broomhill Sculpture Gardens lies in a valley just outside the town. Surrounded by woodland and streams, the garden features a number of international and local sculpture projects, as well as an excellent restaurant. Another excellent place for all the family to enjoy a day trip is Arlington Court. Run by the National Trust, the Regency house holds an impressive collection of horse drawn vehicles and beautiful gardens. Owned by the Chichester family for more than 500 years, Arlington has over 20 miles of footpaths, trailing around lakes and bridges. The Victorian garden is where you will find an abundance of colourful flowers and produce, which is used in the tea rooms.
Situated on the River Torridge estuary, Bideford is a quaint town with various shops, restaurants and galleries. Running alongside the river, the town has a lovely country feel. Boat trips regularly leave the town in the peak summer months and the area is wonderful for walking and cycling.
The original long bridge built in the 15th Century links the east and west of the town. Made up of 24 arches, all varying in size, the bridge has become popular with visitors who like to watch the starlings, which nest underneath.
On the edge of Bideford is the Atlantic Village, a large shopping outlet housing more than 30 retailers and an adventure park for children. For a fun family day out head to the Big Sheep, situated just off the A39. This fun filled attraction has something for everyone, including sheep racing, lamb feeding, beer tasting, train rides, horse whispering and a farm safari, as well as so much more.
At the mouth of the River Torridge is Appledore, a pretty seaside village, home to shipbuilders and Hocking's ice cream, which is only sold in North Devon. This charming village's only connection to the mainland is a wonderful peninsular surrounded by salt marshes, which are part of a world biosphere site, and a stunning coastline. Home to narrow cobbled streets and colour-washed cottages, the village has a few excellent pubs, including the Beaver Inn, where you can enjoy fresh fish beside the river. The Appledore Book Festival held every autumn is also a popular draw for visitors with many famous names coming to the village.
A little further along the North Devon coastline is Westward Ho! Named after Charles Kingsley's novel, the village is the only place in the British Isles to legitimately have an exclamation mark in its name. Westward Ho! has a gorgeous beach, which is popular for surfing and swimming. The clean sands are protected by a large pebble ridge and grasslands, which lie within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The car-free cobbled streets of Clovelly have made it a wonderful place for visitors to walk and admire the relatively untouched landscape that was once a thriving North Devon fishing village. The main cobbled street, which is only accessible on foot, has a series of cottages built into the steep side of the valley that drops more than 400ft down to Clovelly Pier. Home to a cluster of shops, café and public house the village is a lovely place to visit. You may even catch a glimpse of the locals using a sledge to transport their goods to their houses on the main street.
The North Devon beaches are well known around the world for their clean water, golden sands and excellent waves. All within a 30 minute drive of The Stables are Woolacombe, Croyde and Saunton, three of the most beautiful beaches to found in the UK.
Woolacombe beach stretches along the North Devon coast for more than three miles, meaning you are almost guaranteed, no matter what time of year you visit, to find a spot to sit back and relax, as you watch the waves lap against the shore.
For something a little bit different head to Saunton Sands, which lies next to Braunton Burrows, which are designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Like the other North Devon beaches, Saunton attracts lovers of the surf, thanks to the clean swell along this part of the coastline. It is also dog friendly 365 days of the year.
Situated between Woolacombe and Saunton is Croyde, a small village with an excellent beach. Slightly smaller and more sheltered than the other two beaches, Croyde is bordered by a set of large sand dunes.
Just seven miles from the cottages is Instow Sands. This pretty beach located at the estuary where the rivers Taw and Torridge meet is great for families. Only a few small waves ever reach the sands, which are sheltered by the sand dunes, so young children can happily play in the calm waters.
All these beaches are located within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and can be accessed either by car, or on foot via the South West Coastal Footpath.
Stretching for four miles from Hele Bay to Lee Bay is Ilfracombe, a seaside resort with a beautiful harbour. This pretty town was extremely popular in the Victorian era, which is annually celebrated in a weeklong festival, where the locals dress up to remember when Ilfracombe was one of the most fashionable holiday resorts in Britain.
The high street at Ilfracombe has plenty of shops and cafés to browse in, but it is by the harbour that the town really comes into its own. Fresh seafood can be enjoyed in several of the restaurants and tea rooms, and there are lovely galleries and shops to peruse. Towering more than 60ft above the harbour is 'Verity,' a bronze statue crafted by artist Damien Hirst, who also has a restaurant situated on the seafront, called '11, The Quay.' As well as all this, Ilfracombe has its own theatre, leisure centre and cinema.
From Ilfracombe harbour you can set sail for Lundy, a small populated island in the Bristol Channel. This beautiful place is excellent for walking, as well as seeing a variety of rare flora and fauna and wildlife. The entire island has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Nature Reserve and Marine Conservation Zone. Inhabited by only a few locals and visitors the island has a wonderful pub where you can enjoy a nice meal or watch the day go by.
On the eastern edge of Ilfracombe is Tunnels Beach, which can only be accessed via four hand carved tunnels built in the 1820's as a way to reach the beautiful sheltered beach and tidal bathing pool. Children and adults alike will love playing in the rock pools, swimming, snorkelling or even fishing. Located alongside the blue flag beach is a café and soft play centre.
Exmoor dramatically meets the sea at the Valley of the Rocks where some of the highest cliffs in Devon fall into the Bristol Channel. Located on the edge of Lynton and Lynmouth the valley features a series of rocks and a herd of feral goats. This wondrous area is thought to be the result of coastal cliff recession but adults and children love to make shapes out of the unusual rocks. At the Valley of the Rocks you will find a great tea-room, serving excellent cream teas and the Lynton cricket ground.
When visiting the Valley of the Rocks it is worth spending some time in Lynton and Lynmouth. Linked via the Cliff Railway, the two villages are full of craft shops, galleries and cafés.
Walk along the Lyn Valley from Lynmouth and you will arrive at Watersmeet, a stunning river gorge where two of Exmoor's rivers collide. Stretching out for more than 2,000 acres, the area is great for seeing some of the National Park's beautiful waterfalls and wildlife. You can also stop for a cream tea at Watersmeet House, run by the National Trust.