The largest town in North Devon is Barnstaple on the River Taw. This ancient town was granted its charter in 930 AD by King Aethelstan - the grandson of Alfred the Great. It lies to the north of Dartmoor and to the west of the beautiful Exmoor National Park. There are some lovely beaches not far away around Saunton and Woolacombe.
The town was a prosperous place in the past, at one time a major port particularly for the American trade. It remains a thriving market town with a traditional Pannier Market. Today Barnstaple has a partly pedestrianised centre and features many fine buildings and attractive narrow streets and alleys. The oldest surviving part of town is the Norman mound and remnants of the original Norman castle wall can still be seen. There is also the ornate Queen Anne’s Walk
and the 13th century Long Bridge
. Close by is the Museum of North Devon.
Barnstaple is a good base from which to explore Tarka Country
and the 180 mile Tarka Trail
. It is possible to walk or cycle along a stretch of the trail or take a trip by rail along the scenic Tarka Line
Exmoor National Park with its spectacular scenery and excellent walking lies on the doorstep of the town. The Park covers a large part of North East Devon stretching right across into Somerset. In addition, the Exmoor Steam Railway runs from Bratton Fleming near Barnstaple.