Let's go to Westward Ho!
The only town in the UK with a name that ends in an exclamation mark, Westward Ho! has plenty to shout about. The big attraction is the beach. A real family favourite, it’s one long strip of sand backed by a pebble ridge, with the natural paradise of Northam Burrows Country Park accessible at one end.
The town’s unusual name comes from the title of a book by Victorian writer, Charles Kingsley, which proved so popular that developers of the Northam Burrows Hotel and Villa Building Company proposed naming their new site after the story. Visit today and you’ll discover it’s just as popular now as it was in the late 19th Century. A town that truly deserves an exclamation mark!
What is there to do in and around Westward Ho!
With soft sand, rock pools and unspoilt nature, the beach is the town’s big attraction. It enjoys blue flag status and a RNLI Lifeguard service between May and September. Little wonder it’s so popular with windsurfers, surfers and swimmers. And your four-legged friend need not miss out either. Dogs are permitted from October to April on the whole beach, and all year round at the Northam Burrows end. The surf is also home to wild sea bass, making the beach a popular spot for anglers.
If you fancy a bit of peace and quiet and the chance to explore a natural paradise, head to the north end of the beach. Here you can access the Northern Burrows, a scientifically important area which juts out into the mouth of the estuary. A site of special scientific interest (an SSSI), it boasts sand dunes, salt marsh, grassland and rocky shore and is teeming with wildlife, including rare plants, insects, birds and stunningly vivid lichen.
Discovery of a different kind is available a short drive north east. The Lynton & Barnstaple Narrow Gauge Steam Railways is, without debate, one of the world’s most picturesque steam rail journeys. First opened in 1898, it closed in 1935 but reopened to visitors in 2004 thanks to the work of passionate enthusiast volunteers, who have plans to fully restore all 19 miles of it between Lynton and Barnstaple. Today you can board the train at Woody Bay, an original L&B station, and enjoy two miles of breathtaking Exmoor scenery – hills clad in heather, buzzards swooping over wooded valleys and deer grazing in fields. Disembark at Killington Lane Halt and stroll around the lovely village of Parracombe (and maybe have a pint at the Fox & Goose) or stay on the train for the return journey. This is the really exciting bit – when the steam engine climbs a 1 in 50 gradient to Woody Bay. Old-fashioned thrills and spills!
Where are the best places to eat and drink in Westward Ho!
You can’t visit Devon and not enjoy a cream tea. Westward Ho! doesn’t disappoint in this respect. Tea on the Green is a genuine one-off, a perky retro style café that’s open from 11am for morning coffee, light lunches and epic cream teas. This latter category is what customers book for – teas named after famous film stars (The Hepburn, The Grant and The Taylor) that come on large cake stands, overflowing with filled rolls, quiche, meringues, decorated fairy cakes, scones, butter cream and strawberry jam. We’re pretty confident you won’t need another meal that day!
When you’ve managed to work up an appetite again, check out The Pig on the Hill. A thoroughly modern take on a pub, it combines the sophistication of a restaurant with the warm welcome of a boozer. Spacious, stylish and relaxed inside, it serves up wholesome burgers, open sandwiches, Devon steaks, locally landed fish dishes and tasty vegetarian options and desserts. Ale enthusiasts will enjoy beers from the Country Life Brewery (based in Abbotsham near Bideford) – and there’s also Devon Red cider and delicious Luscombe juices.