As the River Torridge tumbles towards the coast, it passes some of North Devon’s loveliest towns and villages before meeting the sea. The biggest of these towns, once North Devon’s principal port, is Bideford, with its ancient stone bridge
and working harbour.
It’s easy to see why Bideford is so popular with visitors and locals alike, as the narrow streets cascade from its historic pannier market towards the quayside in a jumble of antique shops, cafe’s and cosy pubs. Charles Kingsley’s description of Bideford as “The Little White Town, which slopes upward from its broad river tide” paints a picturesque one hundred & fifty year old image of the town that has not changed much to the present day.
However, Bideford is now definitely in the 21st century with its new Torridge Bridge, its recently enhanced quay area, excellent shopping, a variety of restaurants, and the lively pubs & themed bars where you can eat in or go alfresco.
Then there are the theme parks like The Big Sheep & Atlantis Adventure, The Milky Way and so much more, which adds up to make Bideford a great place to stay in or visit.
You could enjoy a stroll around the town exploring the narrow streets on Bideford’s heritage trail and visit the brightly coloured shops along the way, selling local fudge, arts & crafts and fresh local produce. Or for those of you who enjoy some present day retail therapy, you could pay a visit to the Atlantic Village Shopping Outlet where you can purchase the latest designer clothing, sportswear, household goods and
If you are feeling energetic, you could take a cycle ride or a walk on the Tarka Trail and stop for a spot of lunch and a beer at one of the many traditional pubs along the route, often supplied by acclaimed micro-breweries in the local area.
Alternatively, you could visit the Burton Art Gallery with its Tourist Information Centre, view the various artists’ work on display, or peruse the free museum. Then walk around Victoria Park with its excellent colourful floral displays. Take a trip to Lundy Island on the MS Oldenburg, the ferry that regularly makes the 14-mile journey to the island and back. This will enable you to see Bideford, Lundy and the
surrounding area from a very different perspective.
North of Bideford and south of Westward Ho you’ll discover Northam which is thought to have been the site of an Anglo-Saxon castle, and boasts many unique buildings today. Here you’ll discover the Northam Burrows Country Park which lies at the western edge of the Taw Torridge Estuary. Lying within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty the Burrows forms an integral part of the
newly designated United Nations Biosphere Reserve.
The Burrows provides one of the access points for the two miles of Westward Ho! Beach, thus combining the best of opportunities for land and marine leisure activities. The main ramped access point to the beach is available from the town of Westward Ho! The Park is open to pedestrians at all times but there are restrictions on vehicles. The Burrows Centre is open from the end of May to early September and the
toilet facilities from Easter to the end of October.
Westward Ho! is a beach resort geared up to cater for every tourist’s needs. With seaside shops, and a range of food outlets and great accommodation Westward Ho! is a popular family beach with a blue flag status. Made up of a long sandy beach backed by a pebble ridge with Northam Burrows Country Park accessible at one end this beach offers sand, rock pools and nature. RNLI Lifeguard service is available from May to September and the beach is popular with windsurfers, surfers and swimmers. Dogs are permitted from October to April
on the whole beach, and all year round at the Northam Burrows end. There is ample car parking and disabled parking close to the beach.
The wonderful surf that runs on to Westward Ho! draws surfers from miles around, and with designated surfing areas the beach caters for every activity. The surf is also home to wild sea bass, attracting anglers from all over the country. Equipment for bathing, surfing and angling is readily available from local outlets.
On the other side of Northam are the quaint, narrow streets and drangs of Appledore where there are many fishermen’s cottages, some of which date back to the Elizabethan era. Where the Taw and Torridge rivers meet, sits this delightful quayside village. Appledore boasts a small but great range of shops, pubs, guesthouses and art galleries. A thriving fishing and trading village since the 14th century, Appledore has been a famous boat-building centre for many years and the shipyard is still active today. Picturesque Appledore provides a peaceful
base from which to explore North Devon, and with Westward Ho!, Northam and Bideford as neighbours – completes Bideford Bay.