Appledore, Instow and Westward Ho! Cottages
Once described as the ‘little, white fishing village’ by Victorian novelist Charles Kingsley, Appledore still has the feel of a welcoming small community. Its whitewashed terraces on the quay have changed little since Kingsley’s day, while the maze of narrow lanes that drop down to the water are densely packed with pretty cottages painted in different pastel hues, their frontages hung with baskets of overflowing flowers.
What’s there to do in Appledore?
The joy of Appledore is in soaking up its wonderful position. It sits where the Taw and Torridge rivers meet the sea, so you’re never far from the water’s edge. If you fancy a bit of adventure, Appledore Sails offers private sailing trips in a traditional (and locally) built lug sail boat around the beautiful Torridge Taw estuary. Skern Lodge is the place to head for heart-racing fun, including climbing walls, rafting, a high ropes course and many other activities. You can also dedicate an entire day to learning kayaking or surfing.
When the weather isn’t great, children (and craft-loving adults) will love a trip to Sea Green. Josie, who owns the gallery, is passionate about making use of recycled objects, and runs workshops in which you can craft mosaics using glass, ceramics and gemstones. Another rainy day option is The North Devon Maritime Museum and if you’re visiting in mid-September to October, the Appledore Book Festival is a real treat.
Like its neighbour Appledore across the estuary, Instow is defined by its position. It’s where the rivers Taw and Torridge meet and the resulting expanse of water is the village’s natural playground.
Sailing boats and catamarans head out in summer and, at low tide, the golden beach is revealed, offering families a long swathe of soft sand – perfect for paddling and building castles.
What’s there to do in Instow?
Instow is a village to explore at a gentle pace. Stroll along its pretty front to drink in the views of the estuary or pause to admire the beachfront cricket ground and remarkable thatched pavilion – one of the oldest in the country. Given Instow’s position on the estuary, it’s no surprise that the big event of the year is a maritime one. The Appledore & Instow Regatta, first held in 1885, is a relaxed but competitive event that promotes old traditions of boat-building while hosting lots of nautical fun and excitement.
The Tarka Trail is one of the country’s longest traffic-free walking and cycling paths and Instow is right on it. It follows the route of the old Southern Railway track which halted at Instow Station (amazingly it linked the village with Waterloo Station in London!) before continuing on to Bideford.
Westward Ho! Cottages
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.
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.