The Great Quay is represented by the sunken area in front of Queen Anne's walk. Here you will find a mosaic feature which represents the town's maritime history. Here ships would land and unload exotic cargos and it is from here that locally made cloth and pottery would be exported to places as far afield as North America and the West Indies.The...more
The tree covered man made mound is all that survives of the Norman castle. A scheduled Ancient monument, the Castle was sited in the prominent position at the meeting point of the rivers Taw and Yeo. It was originally thought to be constructed in around 1068, a motte and bailey wooden structure which was rebuilt in stone by the early 12th Century....more
In the 18th Century, Barnstaple's famous Pannier Market was held in the High Street and in 1806 a local writer commented 'A better market or worse accomodation rarely shall we see'. This comment led to the construction of the lovely covered Pannier market which we see today. Here you will find a wide variety of stalls selling local crafts, produce,...more
Butchers Row was designed by RD Gould, it was built in 1855 and was constructed with the aim of bringing the sale of local produce together in one area of the town. Butchers Row faces North and its shop fronts are perpetually shaded by the overhanging roof, ensuring the best possible conditions for displaying meat, the only produce sold on the...more
The Guldhall which stands in the centre of Barnstaple was built in 1862. Its' Main Chamber served as the town's Court room until the late 1960's. The interior of the Guildhall is open to the public at certain times. The dodderidge room upstairs contains an early 17th Century carved fireplace and fittings and incorporates windows from a former Tudor...more
The Albert Clock Tower takes pride of place in the Square. It was built in 1862, paid for by public contribution. It commemorates Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert who died in 1861 and was started exactly a year to the day of his death in a solemn public service at 11am. In 2009 the clock was subject to major renovation work which included...more
This lovely neo-gothic building holds a great waterfront position just across the Great Quay from Queen Annes Walk. It was constructed in 1874 by RD Gould, the town surveyor. Gould was responsible for many of the Town's victorian structures which demonstrate the then fashionable neo-classical style.more
The Long bridge is perhaps the only medieval structure to survive in the riverfront area, although it has been altered frequently over the years and widened at least three times. An idea of its' medieval width can be seen by viewing the underside of th bridge arches, it was originally no wider than 10 feet. The packhorse stone bridge was in place...more
Queen Anne's walk was rebuilt and elaborately decorated in 1708 on the site of an earlier merchants exchange. The building is a testament to he commercial success of the early eighteenth century in the town. Underneath its' covered walkway merchants would conduct public business transactions and seal deals with a handshake over the Tomb Stone. A...more
This is pretty much a perfect small town museum with a wealth of local information regarding the town itself as well as the surrounding area. The exhibitions, over two floors, cover every aspect of Barnstaple and North Devon's history commencing with the archeological and geographic and then following the human story from prehistory through to the...more
This is a very short cycle/walkway section of The Tarka Trail (about 2Km) along the River Taw to pick up the A377 heading south towards Eggesford and its main advantage is that it allows you to avoid the town centre traffic. It has the added plus that it is level until the hills before Bishops Tawton but once you arrive you do have to get off and...more
The Tarka Trail heading west (and slightly north) from Barnstaple once again follows the old railway line. This time for about 6 miles to the town of Braunton following initially the Taw estuary before turning inland at Chivenor.As with the trail going south the path is pretty much level and traffic-free and makes for a really pleasant cycle,...more
I'm not quite sure whether this is a "Shopping Tip" or a "Restaurant Tip" but for the time being I'll put it here (and I might put a variant under shopping too at a later date).I must have walked past this place 100's of times but for some reason was never tempted to pop in. Why? I don't know. It always looked like a nice little bakers but I never...more
The Royal Fortescue Hotel is situated right in the centre of Barnstaple. As we were wandering round the town we noticed the elegant Georgian building and the best thing was, there was a sign outside offering Carvery lunches and snacks so decided to investigate. Meals and snacks can be taken in the lovely comfy bar area or more formal restaurant...more
On a rainy late spring evening I was between pubs and heading for Marshal's when I realised I hadn't eaten anything that day and so decided to drop into the fish 'n chip shop next door. Wood's is actually excellent for takeaways (I'm surprised I haven't written about it before now) but with it raining outside I chose to sit indoors.Well there's...more
The secret of perfect pizza (once you’ve mastered the dough) is having a decent oven to cook them in. You need an oven that provides a fierce but even bottom heat so that the base cooks quickly, rising and crisping simultaneously, whilst the toppings merely glaze without overcooking.This oven here at Prezzo is perfectectly designed for the task....more
Chambers, on the corner of The Square and Boutport Street, is a buzzy modern brasserie in an elegantly refurbished former Victorian bank chambers. This isn't the first time I've been here but usually I've just dropped in for a coffee or a beer on my way back to the railway station. On all my previous visits I've been impressed by the fish offerings...more
...this looks well worth another visit purely to try the food.Every so often there's a little place that I stop by just for a coffee or a beer or whatever and then wish that i hadn't had that late breakfast elsewhere and this is one such. There is a real qualitative feel about this little cafe, despite its idyllic location which often tends to...more
Han Court is a few miles out of town but well worth the journey for some of the best Cantonese and Peking cuisine in North Devon. This is a spacious modern restaurant which has its obligatory fish tank but is otherwise subtley subdued in its Chinese-ocity (I know - I just made up that word!). The main road location and slightly austere building...more
Despite having been totally spoiled by Mexican restaurants in the US, and especially those in Southern California, I must take my sombrero off to this little place here on a slightly off-track Barnstaple sidestreet. This is a pleasantly atmospheric restaurant with the Mexican theme not so overdone as to render it kitschy but with all the necessary...more
OK this is part of a National chain: the Vintage Inns "concept" of the Pubco: Mitchells and Butlers, BUT it is a stunning Inn with great views over the Taw Estuary, friendly staff, good food and immaculately appointed interior. The building itself too is stunning with its crenellated wings and Devon stone - whether it was built as a coaching inn or...more
Following an initiative by various North Devon local government bodies and other interested parties the Stagecoach bus company trialled a "Surf and Cycle" bus service during the summer of 2011. Two normal double decker buses were specially refitted with the lower decks adapted for carrying surf boards and bicycles whilst their upper decks remained...more
Barnstaple is the transport hub for all of North Devon. From the bus station here in the town centre (Belle Meadow, at the end of Queen Street) there are regular bus services all over the area, as well as services to and from Exeter to access the south of the County.The two main service providers are First and Stagecoach (websites below) and there...more
Barnstaple is North Devon's main (and pretty much ONLY!) railway station, being the terminus of the branch line known as The Tarka Line which runs up through mid-Devon from Exeter. Trains run roughly hourly in both directions from about 7am until 10pm and the journey to Exeter takes about an hour.In the "Golden Age of Steam" Barnstaple's 2 town...more
I don't know how I'd forgotten about this little camera shop until now as it was to there that I went to buy the spare camera battery on the shopping list on my intro page. This is yet another example of that mysterious shopper's relationship that Barnstaple and I have.There I was in town with my shopping list and last on it was the battery - not...more
As befits it location on The Tarka Trail, Barnstaple has several bicycle sales and hire outlets including the National chain Halfords. The Bike Shed here however is part of a small Devon company with 3 outlets (Exeter and Crediton being nthe other 2) and prides itself on personal service and certainly lives up to expectations.On dropping in to...more
So there was Dee (the female half of my bosses) and I sitting in front of the fire back at the pub, having a late night drink and generally just shooting the bull as we do from time to time. The conversation ebbed and flowed as usual and at one stage we found ourselves discussing the pub layout and more specifically the furniture. "You know what...more
One of Barnstaple's more eccentric characters has been standing in the town's square since 1862, facing simultaneously in all four directions with the intent of providing both residents and visitors with the time of day.
This character is locally-known as the "Four-faced Liar" and is the clock tower and fountain built as a memorial to Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, who died in 1861.
The memorial was designed by the local Borough Surveyor, R D Gould, and built by a local builder, John Pulseford, with the total bill of 216 pounds being raised by public subscription.
Even from its inauguration the structure has attracted infamy. According to the North Devon Journal:
"On the opening day, December 13, a year after Albert's death, ex-mayor Mr Norrington set the 15ft pendulum of the clock going and it immediately struck the hour.
Before Mr Norrington could take the first drink from a new fountain built with the clock, a man stepped forward and threw "about a teacup-full of what his olfactory nerves soon convinced him was gin".
Norrington, a teetotaller, was horrified. The culprit was John Baker, the landlord of the Mermaid Inn, a Tory who had won his seat "by beer and bribery"."
This was the only occasion that all four faces of the clock actually showed the correct time as a design fault in the mechanism caused each face to show a slightly different setting of the minute hand.
In subsequent years the clock was never majorly repaired, making do with occasional readjustments when the timings became completely wayward. By another account, once again in the Journal, it seems that during a local Trades Exhibition in the 1930's the clock was covered in scaffold to hide its lying faces from visiting VIP's whilst at the same time local residents and businesses were pleaded with to spruce up their gardens. This prompted one local businessman, A G Symmonds, a Funeral Director, to enter a satirical replica in the carnival that year.
In 2008 the Square and the Memorial Clock Tower have been part of a major refurbishment of the centre of Barnstaple and the local council decided that the principle of "once a liar, always a liar" should hold true and so despite a complete refit the clock will still tell slightly different times on each of its faces - BTW the train station is a 10 minute walk away (give or take a couple of minutes)!
...the "Beaten Path" but it is out of town!!
The Tarka Inn is situated about 3 miles out of Barnstaple on The Tarka Trail heading towards Braunton and has one of the best views of any pub in the area, overlooking the Taw Estuary across to Fremington. This really is a beautiful spot to sit and chill in the well appointed garden with a well-deserved light lunch and a beer or two having cycled up to Braunton and back. Yep, definitely gets my vote! :)
I'm not a big fan of the national chain of Wetherspoons pubs as pubs but they do have their uses - the freebie Wi-Fi is a major bonus and the breakfasts are generally excellent value for money.One of the things I dislike about them as pubs is that they tend to be a bit souless and the staff usually come across as totally uninterested in either...more
On my last visit when I dropped in for an afternoon beer I noticed that Chambers now offers free WiFi and also has a couple of computers for general use - always useful! More info on my restaurants tip section. Chambers is a cafe/bar overlooking the square. No proper beer though but reasonably-priced Guinness during the afternoon "happy hour". The...more
The Barnstaple Tourist Information Centre (TIC) is situated on The Square in Barnstaple where The High Street meets the river and is an excellent information resource both for visitors and even those of us who live here. The staff are knowledgeable, friendly and helpful and can assist with just about any query that you have regarding not just the...more