Discovering the Best Things to Do in Barnstaple (2023)


Best Things to Do in Barnstaple

Welcome to Barnstaple, the charming heart of North Devon. This picturesque town offers a delightful blend of rich history, natural beauty, and a thriving community. In this ultimate guide, we will take you on a journey through the best things to do in Barnstaple, making your visit a memorable experience.

Whether you’re an avid history buff, a nature lover, a foodie, or a family looking for fun, Barnstaple has something for everyone. From historical landmarks to outdoor adventures, delicious local cuisine, family-friendly activities, and vibrant events, we’ve got you covered.

So, let’s embark on this exploration of Barnstaple and discover the gems that make this town a must-visit destination.

1. Exploring Barnstaple’s Historic Sites

A Walk Through History: Barnstaple’s Historical Landmarks

Barnstaple boasts a rich historical heritage, and you can start your journey by exploring its iconic landmarks.

Barnstaple Castle: A Glimpse into the Past

At the heart of the town, you’ll find Barnstaple Castle, a medieval gem with a history dating back to the 11th century. While the castle itself is in ruins, its historical significance is palpable. Take a leisurely walk around the castle grounds and imagine the events that unfolded here centuries ago.

Heritage Trail: Exploring the Town’s Historic Buildings

As you meander through the town’s charming streets, you’ll come across a fascinating array of historic buildings. Many of these structures have been beautifully preserved, giving you a glimpse into Barnstaple’s architectural past. Keep an eye out for the Georgian and Victorian architecture that dots the town.

Pilton House and the Historical Pilton Village

A short stroll from the town center will lead you to Pilton House, an elegant manor that dates back to the 18th century. Explore its splendid gardens and learn about its remarkable history. While in Pilton, don’t miss the chance to wander through the quaint and historic village, which is known for its scenic beauty and the annual Green Man Festival.

As you delve into Barnstaple’s history, you’ll find yourself captivated by the stories of the past and the architectural wonders that have stood the test of time.

Quote: “History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.” – Lord Acton

2. Enjoying Nature and Outdoor Activities

Embrace the Great Outdoors in Barnstaple

Barnstaple’s natural beauty is a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts. The town is surrounded by lush landscapes, and there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors.

Tarka Trail: A Scenic Cycling and Walking Route

The Tarka Trail, named after the famous otter in Henry Williamson’s novel, is a must-visit for nature lovers. This 180-mile long trail meanders through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in North Devon. You can opt for a leisurely walk, a bike ride, or even a horseback adventure. Along the way, you’ll encounter stunning river valleys, woodlands, and wildlife.

Rock Park: A Tranquil Oasis by the River

For a more relaxed experience, head to Rock Park, a serene riverside park with well-maintained gardens and picturesque walking paths. It’s an ideal spot for a picnic, bird watching, or simply unwinding amidst nature’s beauty.

Beach Days at Saunton Sands and Croyde Bay

Barnstaple is also a gateway to some of the most beautiful beaches in North Devon. Saunton Sands and Croyde Bay are renowned for their golden sands and excellent surf. Whether you’re a surfer catching waves or a sunbather enjoying the scenery, these beaches offer a perfect seaside escape.

Barnstaple’s natural beauty and outdoor opportunities make it a paradise for nature enthusiasts. Whether you’re exploring the Tarka Trail, relaxing at Rock Park, or soaking up the sun at the beaches, there’s no shortage of outdoor adventures to be had.

3. Dining and Local Cuisine

Savor the Flavors of Barnstaple

Barnstaple’s culinary scene is a delightful fusion of traditional Devonshire fare and modern gastronomy. Don’t miss the opportunity to savor the local flavors during your visit.

Must-Try Dishes in North Devon

Start your culinary journey with traditional North Devon dishes. Sample the famous cream teas, featuring scones served with clotted cream and jam. You’ll also find a variety of pies, pasties, and seafood dishes, with locally caught fish and crabs being the stars of the show.

Top-Rated Restaurants and Pubs in Barnstaple

Barnstaple offers an array of dining options, from cozy pubs to fine dining establishments. The town’s restaurants pride themselves on using fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. Some popular spots include “The Custom House,” “SQ Bar and Restaurant,” and “The Coffee Cabin” for a quick bite.

Farmers’ Markets: Exploring Local Produce

For a taste of the region’s freshest produce, don’t miss the farmers’ markets. Barnstaple’s Pannier Market is a local favorite, featuring stalls brimming with fruits, vegetables, cheeses, artisan bread, and more. It’s an excellent place to shop for souvenirs and unique local products.

Barnstaple’s culinary offerings are a reflection of its rich agricultural heritage and coastal location. Whether you’re indulging in Devonshire classics, dining at top-rated restaurants, or exploring local markets, your taste buds are in for a treat.

4. Shopping in Barnstaple

Retail Therapy in Barnstaple

Barnstaple is a haven for shoppers, offering a delightful range of retail experiences. From high street stores to charming boutiques, you’ll find it all.

High Street Shopping: Boutiques and Chains

The heart of Barnstaple is home to a diverse range of shops, from well-known high street brands to charming independent boutiques. Explore the historic Pannier Market, which hosts a mix of artisanal crafts, antiques, clothing, and much more.

Craft Fairs and Artisan Shops

If you’re in search of unique, handcrafted goods, Barnstaple has an array of craft fairs and artisan shops waiting to be discovered. These local artisans create one-of-a-kind jewelry, pottery, textiles, and artwork. It’s the perfect place to find distinctive gifts or souvenirs to remind you of your Barnstaple visit.

Shopping Centers and Markets

Barnstaple also offers modern shopping centers, such as Green Lanes Shopping Centre, where you can find a wide selection of stores, from fashion to electronics. Additionally, the town hosts regular markets, like the Craft Market and Real Food Market, where you can browse and shop for unique products and delicious local treats.

Whether you’re in the mood for a shopping spree, searching for one-of-a-kind treasures, or simply exploring the local market scene, Barnstaple has shopping experiences to suit every taste.

5. Family-Friendly Activities

Fun for the Whole Family in Barnstaple

Barnstaple is a destination that caters to families with a wide range of activities and attractions suitable for all ages.

The Milky Way Adventure Park

The Milky Way Adventure Park is an exciting theme park located just a short drive from Barnstaple. It’s a great place for family fun, featuring rides, indoor and outdoor play areas, and live shows. The park is known for its thrilling roller coasters, and there are also opportunities to learn about the stars and planets in the on-site planetarium.

Exmoor Zoo: A Wildlife Adventure

For animal lovers, a visit to Exmoor Zoo is a must. This zoo specializes in the conservation of endangered species and offers a chance to get up close and personal with a variety of animals. The zoo’s beautiful natural setting in the heart of Exmoor National Park makes it an educational and enjoyable experience for the whole family.

Children’s Play Areas and Parks

Barnstaple is dotted with children’s play areas and parks. Rock Park, mentioned earlier, is not only a tranquil place for a leisurely stroll but also a great spot for kids to play. Other parks like Yeo Valley Community Woodland and Pilton Park offer green spaces, playgrounds, and recreational areas for families to enjoy.

Whether you’re seeking adrenaline-pumping adventures or a day of wildlife encounters and outdoor play, Barnstaple has plenty of options to keep the whole family entertained.

6. Festivals and Events

Barnstaple’s Vibrant Calendar of Events

Throughout the year, Barnstaple hosts an exciting array of festivals and events that showcase the town’s culture, traditions, and community spirit.

Barnstaple Fair: A Time-Honored Tradition

The annual Barnstaple Fair is a tradition dating back centuries. It’s a lively event featuring thrilling fairground rides, carnival games, and an electric atmosphere. The fair typically takes place in September and is a fantastic experience for visitors of all ages.

Music Festivals and Cultural Celebrations

Barnstaple is no stranger to music festivals, arts exhibitions, and cultural celebrations. Keep an eye on the local events calendar, and you might find yourself attending a folk music festival, a craft fair, or an art exhibition, all of which offer a chance to immerse yourself in the town’s cultural tapestry.

7. Where to Stay in Barnstaple

Your Home Away from Home

To fully enjoy all that Barnstaple has to offer, you’ll need a comfortable place to stay. Luckily, the town has a variety of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s preferences and budget.

Hotels, B&Bs, and Guesthouses

Barnstaple boasts a selection of hotels, bed and breakfasts, and guesthouses offering a range of amenities and services. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious stay or a cozy and welcoming atmosphere, there are options to meet your needs.

Self-Catering Cottages and Holiday Parks

For those who prefer a more independent experience, self-catering cottages and holiday parks provide the perfect solution. These accommodations allow you to have your own space and prepare your meals while enjoying the tranquility of the countryside.

Camping and Glamping Options

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast and want to be close to nature, Barnstaple also offers camping and glamping options. There are campgrounds with scenic views and glamping sites with comfortable amenities, combining the joy of outdoor living with modern comfort.

No matter your accommodation preference, you’ll find a welcoming place to stay in Barnstaple to make your visit memorable.

8. Travel Tips for Visiting Barnstaple

Preparing for Your Trip to Barnstaple

Before embarking on your journey to Barnstaple, here are some essential travel tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable visit.

Getting to Barnstaple: Transportation Guide

Barnstaple is easily accessible by road and rail. The town has a train station, providing convenient connections to major cities in the UK. If you’re driving, the town is well-connected by road, and parking options are available.

Weather and Best Times to Visit

Barnstaple experiences a mild maritime climate, with generally pleasant weather year-round. However, for the best experience, consider visiting during the spring and summer months when the weather is most favorable for outdoor activities.

Local Etiquette and Useful Phrases

To make the most of your visit, it’s always helpful to be aware of local customs and etiquette. The people of Barnstaple are known for their warm hospitality, so a few polite phrases and gestures can go a long way in building connections with the locals.


In conclusion, Barnstaple is a hidden gem in North Devon that offers a diverse range of activities and attractions for visitors of all interests and ages. From exploring historic landmarks to enjoying the natural beauty of the Tarka Trail, savoring local cuisine, and partaking in family-friendly activities, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Barnstaple’s vibrant calendar of events, diverse accommodation options, and practical travel tips make it a destination that’s well worth exploring. Whether you’re planning a short getaway or an extended vacation, this charming town is sure to leave you with lasting memories and a desire to return.

So, pack your bags, embrace the adventure, and come discover the best things to do in Barnstaple. Your journey starts here!

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