Barnstaple and South Molton Cottages
The River Taw is one of Devon’s finest rivers. As it meanders peacefully northwards it passes through Devon’s beautiful hinterland. This is the Devon of Williamson’s Tarka the otter, of thatched cottages, arched bridges, country pubs and those classic rolling whalebacked hills. One of the best ways to see it is from the Tarka Line from Exeter to Barnstaple, a popular branch line. Get off at unlikely sounding stops and walk or cycle into perfect countryside.
As it nears the coast the Taw passes through Barnstaple, North Devon’s ancient capital. It has been many things in its long history: wool trading port, pottery capital, plasterwork centre of excellence and furniture town. These things may be long gone but the artefacts remain: fine plaster ceilings, Barumware pottery and a local museum brimming with precious items. It’s a great day out.
One thing remains, however, and that’s Barnstaple as market town and meeting place. The high street has all the big names but the pannier market is where it’s at. Shop the old fashioned way and find the time to meet local farmers selling their excess produce or local growers offering a taste of the best of Devon. Together with the nearby foodie honey pot that is Butcher’s Row, Barnstaple is the centre for fabulous, fresh and local stuff to eat.
Come evening time there’s plenty to tempt you out of your cosy holiday cottage. Take in a show at the Queen’s Theatre, catch a gig at The Factory, watch a movie, dine on tapas, Italian, Mexican (and anything else you fancy) or dance around the handbag (if that’s your bag). It’s all here.
Further down the river brings you to the confluence of the Taw and Torridge, north Devon’s mighty estuary. The rivers empty into Bideford Bay between the beaches at Westward Ho! and Saunton Sands, meaning you’ve got a lot of choice when it comes to the seaside if you base your holiday in the Taw Valley. North of the rivers lie the sands of Croyde and Woolacombe, while the southern bank offers a wilder, more deserted experience, with coastal walks, hidden valleys and empty coves.
Walking boots or bucket and spade? It’s up to you.