Possibly England’s oldest borough, and definitely North Devon’s largest town, Barnstaple was the administrative and commercial capital of this region at the time of the Domesday Book. It was part of the thriving wool industry from the 14th Century and also had its own mint and a bustling market, the latter of which still exists all these years later, serving as a great draw for visitors along with various other aspects.
Sitting picturesquely at the head of the Taw Estuary, Barnstaple’s town centre still retains some of its medieval character making it an interesting town to explore. For shoppers, the Pannier Market is open most days of the week (please check before visiting), and there is a good selection of other shops, including those in the charming Butchers’ Row, a Victorian series of buildings that were once exclusively occupied by butchers.
Throughout the town there are some appealing, historical buildings to look out for, including the 17th century Horwood’s Almshouses, and the 15th century St. Anne’s Chapel which was originally built as a ‘bone house’, a building where the bones of the dead were once stored. These days it serves as an arts centre and community resource, so is rather more uplifting in its purpose! Queen Anne’s Walk was completed in 1713 as a meeting place for the town’s traders, and these days is used as a café, so a visit to appreciate this attractive building can include some tasty self-indulgence.
There is plenty of accommodation choice in and around town, so all in all Barnstaple makes for a good central location from which to explore the rest of North Devon.