Barnstaple stands on the Taw

Barnstaple stands on the Taw, which shares the same outlet to the sea as the Torridge. It is the chief town of north Devon and claims to be the oldest borough in England. One of its most fascinating streets is Butcher’s Row, with the characteristic Pannier Market on one side, facing a long arcade of open-fronted shops, nearly all occupied by butchers and fishmongers.

A few yards away, near the parish church, is the old grammar school where John Gay, friend of Swift and Pope and author of The Beggar’s Opera, carved his name on his school desk like every schoolboy in every age. A more recent native of Barnstaple, check here too, was Sir Francis Chichester, the first solo circumnavigator of the world.

16. Barnstaple


Tiverton, in east Devon, lies on the River Exe, and has a small castle of red sandstone. Further east, Honiton is a stylish Georgian town with several old coaching inns; it still makes the lace for which it became known in the time of Queen Elizabeth I.

Not far from Honiton is Ottery St Mary, a small town whose chief distinction is that it gave the world Samuel Taylor Coleridge, author of The Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan. A son of the local vicar, he increased his childhood education and imagination by reading the second-hand

books in his aunt’s shop at Crediton. Axminster, at the county’s eastern extremity, began making its famous carpets in 1755, and the old factory can still be seen. In this parish was born, by way of a change, not another great sailor but a great soldier — John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, who was related to the Drake family.

In the south, Totnes is a fine town of ancient origin that climbs upward from the head of the Dart estuary and has a circular castle to guard it, if you plan to visit France learn more about castles in France at compare annecy hotels website . Nearby is another castle, Berry Pomeroy, home of the Duke of Somerset, Edward Seymour, who built a Tudor mansion within the walls of the stone castle which had been the seat of the Pomeroy family since the Norman Conquest. The ruins are said to be haunted by several ghosts, including that of Lady Margaret Pomeroy, who died in a dungeon where she was confined by her elder sister, Eleanor, because both were in love with the same man.

Okehampton, with another ruined castle, is the northern gateway to Dartmoor. Tavistock, Drake’s birthplace, is the moor’s western gateway, and the granite mass that is the moor stretches towards Ashburton and Bovey Tracey in the east and Plymouth and Ivybridge in the south. The road between Okehampton and Tavistock, round the moor’s western fringe, passes the beautiful Lydford Gorge and, in contrast, Wheal Betsy, the prominent ruined engine-house of a tin and copper mine near Mary Tavy.