What to See and Do in North Devon



The Village

Barnfield lies in the heart of North Devon in Bratton Fleming. It’s a picturesque 10-minute drive into the centre of Barnstaple in one direction and a similar length drive in the other direction to the wild moorlands of Exmoor. Travelling west to get here: it’s a 45-minute drive from M5 Junction 27. Travelling East from Cornwall, just take the Atlantic Highway to Barnstaple. Full directions are sent to all guests ahead of their booking.

Bratton Fleming is a village of around 1200 friendly residents. It’s just far enough inland to not be filled with visitors during the season, but near enough to the main beaches to ensure you can be walking across the sands of at least half a dozen fine beaches, within half an hour.

The house is a Grade II listed, thatched longhouse. Long houses are traditional Devon farmhouses.  As the farmer’s family grew, they converted parts of the animal barns and built new ones making the house longer and longer, hence the name ‘Longhouse’.  In previous centuries, the livestock would live in one half of the house and the family in the other. Barnfield’s front door is still wide enough to admit cattle although it’s been 200 years since they last stepped that way.

The village still has a friendly village shop that seems to sell one of everything and is very handy for locally baked bread, delicious pasties, milk and anything else that is suddenly required. It also has a Village Green with children's playground, a community woodland with bird hide and a chuckling stream that children will love to paddle in and make dams. There are lots of wonderful scenic walks around the village along flower-filled country lanes, woodlands, bridleways and footpaths.

Although we assume that guests will use their cars, there are hourly bus services to Barnstaple in one direction and Lynton in the other. Sitting high up on a bus allows passengers the chance to see over the top of the high Devon hedge banks and enjoy some wonderful views.

Sadly there isn’t a pub in the village these days, but there are two very good pubs serving fine ales and good food using local produce within a few-minutes drive – the Black Venus in Challacombe and The New Inn, Goodleigh.

There are Tesco, Sainsbury and Lidl supermarkets in Barnstaple, the first two are happy to deliver your on-line grocery order to the cottage.

Things To Do

Sand and Surf

Another day - another beach. If you know North Devon, you’ll know about its beaches. If you don’t know North Devon, you are in for a lovely surprise – lots of lovely surprises in fact. The strip of Atlantic Coast that runs between West Somerset and North Cornwall boasts long strips of golden sand that frequently win UK beach awards, as well as offering some of the best surfing and body boarding experiences in country. Whether your favourite beach toy is a bucket and spade or surfboard, you’ll just love North Devon’s beaches and all within an easy drive of Barnfield Cottage. Here’s a list of our favouites. There are enough for every day of the week, plus two for luck.

Woolocombe Sands

Backed by tall dunes, this three-mile strip of golden sand offers all the space you need for beach cricket, sand castle building and some great wave bombing. Woolacombe Sands is also a great surfing beach. There are plenty of surf shops where you can buy or rent boards, wet suits etc, as well as arrange lessons virtually all year round. The small resort has plenty of cafes, bistros as well as surf-wear shops selling all the top brands.

Putsborough

Putsborough Sands lies at the quieter end of Woolacombe Sands. Nobody is ever quite sure where the name changes, but the best way to get to Putsborough is via the village of Georgham and the road to the beach car park. This is essentially a sloping field with a beach café, surf-hire and ice cream shop (what more do you need for a day on the beach?). Putsborough lies in the lee of Baggy Point, a large promontory jutting out into the Atlantic, so the waves are a little gentler, but still good for surfing or wave-bombing. If beach life is tiring (fat chance!), take an hour or two to do a circuit of the headland and maybe see a few seals. If you want to eat, then whether for lunch or dinner, there are two great pubs, The Kings Arms and The Rock Inn in the pretty village of Georgham that serve up fine fayre and ales in equal measure

Croyde

Perhaps the best known of North Devon’s beaches and a venue for top international surf events,

Croyde lies at the heart of the South West surf scene. However, even if you don’t want to ride the waves, the big wide flat beach has plenty of room for everyone. There are a number of permanent beach volleyball nets staked out on the soft sand for those who want an active beach day without going in the water (bring your own ball). Croyde Village is well-endowed with beautiful thatched cottages, as well as good pubs, ice cream parlours, cafes, surf hire and clothing shops. In high summer, a little celebrity spotting in The Thatch Inn can occasionally reap rewards.

Barricane Beach

A largely unknown little cove tucked away under the low cliffs between Woolacombe and Mortehoe. It’s a lovely spot for an evening paddle and watching sunsets. On summer evenings, (Thursday, Friday, Saturday) the small beach hut standing at the top of the beach serves up wonderful curries. Take your picnic chairs, glasses, rugs, candelabras for a feast and a paddle on the beach.

Rockham Bay

It’s a 10-minue hike across fields from the campsite car park at Morethoe to reach this little rock and shingle beach (the sand appears as the tide recedes). It’s rarely busy and is a nice tranquil location to indulge in a little rock pooling, discovering scattered cast-iron remains of past ship wrecks or just relaxing in the sun to a hypnotic soundtrack of waves and sea birds.

Saunton Sands

Another of North Devon’s Big Surfing Beaches with more miles of sand and surf. Much quieter than Woolacombe, Saunton has a good beach car park, an excellent beach restaurant and a beach shop selling everything from buckets and spades to seaside souvenirs. There is a surfboard and wetsuit hire shack on the beach.

Instow

A little seaside village with a promenade at the head of the River Torridge Estuary, the best way to reach Instow is to start from Barnstaple Station car park. Hire bikes for all the family (and trailers for infants) at the station and cycle to it (7 miles) along The Tarka Trail, a coastal cycle path built on an old railway line. Instow is under an hour’s ride. It has a sandy beach and, as the tide rises on summer weekends, you can relax and watch a host of sailing boats gliding up and down the estuary. In season, take the little ferry across the Torridge to the old fishing village of Appledore to explore its little shops, pubs and galleries. Replace the calories you burned off getting to Instow by indulging in a Hocking icecream sold from a 1950’s style van at the far end of the Promenade. They are totally tasty and, if you ask for a ‘gurt dollup’ of Devon clotted cream to be dropped on top, seriously wicked. You will burn off the calories on the way back to Barnstaple!

Lee Bay

The sleepy, picturesque seaside village of Lee just along the coast from the Victorian resort of Ilfracombe has a small beach that disappears as the tide rises. It’s worth a visit because it’s one of the best places for rock pooling. Combine this with some strolls along the coastal footpath to tiny shingle bays, throw in a lunch at the child and pet friendly Grampus Inn and there you have the perfect seaside day out.

Lee Abbey Beach

Further along the coast near Lynmouth, Lee Abbey is another of North Devon’s sleepy little coves. It nestles against a beautiful backdrop of steep, wooded hill, Take a picnic or tuck into a Devon Cream Tea in the gardens of the charming Tearooms (pets welcome here too). While here, take time to walk through the nearby Valley of the Rocks and do some wild goat spotting.

Combe Martin

Little more than a 15-minute drive away, Combe Martin is a little seaside village with sandy beach, wonderful rock pools and reputedly, the longest High Street in England. Offering a fine choice of pubs, tea rooms and restaurants, it is also a great starting point for coastal walks up Great Hangman Hill and along the top of the highest cliffs in Europe with wonderful Atlantic views across to Wales.

Further afield:

Head west beyond Bideford and there are more beaches at Westward Ho! Northam Burrows and on into North Cornwall If you are going that far, include a stopover in Clovelly or the awesomely dramatic Hartland Quay (especially when the wind is whipping up the Atlantic Rollers: you can watch them crash on to jagged rocks for hours).

Country walks

Walkers in North Devon are spoilt for choice at any time of year even without including its many beach walks. From stunning coastal footpath walks along the tops of the highest cliffs in Europe to riverside and woodland walks in Devon valleys. For coastal walks, stroll from Combe Martin to Woody Bay, or for a more genteel experience, from Hunters Inn (great food) to the small rocky beach at Heddon’s Mouth, U-boats once hove to here in the war to top up their freshwater supplies. For riverside walks, it’s an idyllic stroll through Exmoor-country along the River Barle from Withypool to historic Tarr Steps (and back). There’s a little tearooms in Withyppol serving big slices of chocolate cake and an equally impressive pub, The Royal Oak for longer lunches or dinners. A little closer to home, there are lovely walks through bluebell woods on the estate of the National Trust’s Arlington Court.

Closer to home, there’s a delightful scenic walk around Wistlandpound Reservoir. It’s an access trail, so perfect for all the family and accessible for those in wheelchairs or little ones in buggies.

For the more serious ramblers, there are a host of moorland walks across Exmoor including Lorna Doone country, Dunkery Beacon or along the Exe Valley.

Location
Guest Comments

We had a very enjoyable stay. Felt at home, comfortable and relaxed, finding everything we could possibly need - and more! We made the most of the weather, enjoying lovely circular walks around Lynton ...

Helen, Tony, Robyn (15) and Ollie (11), Dorchester
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