The seaside resort of Westward Ho!'s biggest claim to fame is the exclamation mark after its name - nowhere else in Britain has one! It is also unusual in the fact that the name actually came before the village. It was Charles Kingsley's 1855 adventure novel Westward Ho! and an opportunity spotted that sparked the creation of this very Victorian seaside resort.
Kingsley's novel of derring-do was penned whilst he stayed at the nearby Royal Hotel in Bideford and was set in the surrounding area. It became an instant hit at a time when there was a strong feeling of patriotism with Britain at war in the Crimea. All these served to raise the profile of North Devon as a potential holiday destination - unfortunately, at the time there was nowhere for visitors to stay and no real tourist attractions.
Enter the Northam Burrows Hotel and Villa Building Company in 1863. Chaired by Lord Portsmouth they set about the development of the western end of the bay at Northam Burrows. A hotel was built and this was named the Westward Ho! Hotel and the rest is history as they say.
Since its Victorian heyday Westward Ho! has fared less well. Most of the holiday camps that thrived up until the 1960s have gone with just the Surfbay Holiday Park and Braddick's Holiday Centre remaining.
Today the biggest draw to Westward is it the fantastic sandy beach. Stretching over a mile towards the mouth of the Taw and Torridge rivers Westward Ho! beach has consistently been awarded Blue Flag status. So you can rely on both the safety and cleanliness of this beach along with all the facilities you'd need for the whole family. Westward is also a great spot to learn to surf with the gently sloping sand providing a gentler, more forgiving kind of wave than nearby Croyde.
At the far end of the beach are Northam Burrows, an area of around 700 acres of salt marshes, grasslands and dunes. This Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is rich in flora and fauna and is a good spot to see migratory birds.
Westward Ho! beach is also the site of some archealogical interest with the remains of a submerged forest dating back to the Mesolithic period having been uncovered. Evidince of human habitation dating back to the same period has also been found.