As my partner hails from Bideford, our annual trip to north Devon tends to be based around there. This year I planned something different and chose to stay in Barnstaple to explore the nearby areas that we had neglected. What a delightful revelation the trip turned out to be!!
The Imperial Hotel
Staying in a lovely hotel like The Imperial helped to turn a perfunctory visit into a holiday. The hotel is by the bank of River Taw. From across the river the white-washed building looked imposing shimmering under the sunlit blue sky, tempered by passing clouds
The interiors oozed charm and elegance of a bygone era. Its proximity to the town centre made it easy for us to nip back to the hotel to deposit our shopping or retreat to our room for a rest after a day’s outing.
Marwood Hill Gardens
I learned of this private garden by chance. As it’s just 4 miles from Barnstaple, it was instantly included in our itinerary. The favourable reviews were fully justified, especially the national collection of Astilbes!
The Astilbes Collection
The harmonious displays of Astilbes between the upper and lower lakes were a joy to behold! The array of colours of pink in varying intensity begged to be photographed. Of course I gladly obliged! In fact I got carried away judging by all these photos, but they are just a few snapshots of this beautiful garden!
Around the lakes
Barnstaple was a prosperous and important port in the 18th century which account for the interesting buildings and structures dotted around, not least the iconic Long Bridge along Tarka Trail spanning the River Taw. The original structure was built in the 1200’s and has been widened a few times since.
Queen Anne Restaurant
Along Strand Promendade Queen Anne Restaurant is one of two eye-catching eateries. It was built in 1708 and was formerly known as Merchants Trading Exchange where the colonnade provided weather protection. The name is derived from the large statue of Queen Anne donated by a local benefactor
Tea by The Taw
Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon
The Museum was founded in 1888. It’s just a stone throw from The Imperial Hotel on The Square. It houses many interesting nostalgic items of the area’s social and cultural past
Pannier Market and Butcher’s Row
Pannier Market was built in the mid 19th century, originally known as The Vegetable Market. It now opens Tuesday to Saturday selling all sorts of things
The row of 33 shops opposite Pannier Market was originally occupied solely by butchers in the 19th century. Nowadays the shops are given up to eateries and artisan shops
I visited Ilfracombe a couple of times some years ago. However, when I picked up a leaflet about Ilfracombe I didn’t recognise most of the attractions. What a wealth of information I uncovered on our day trip this time!
When mixed bathing was frowned upon in the 1800’s, tunnels were carved for separate entrances to the Gentlemen’s Beach and the Ladies’ Beach. The former is now a popular wedding venue and is rarely open to the general public as the latter is. The elegant Bath House right next to the Tunnels Beach entrance is now a hotel
The Tale of two statues
Damien Hirst’s Verity at the Ilfracombe Harbour is being raved as a must-see attraction. The statue of over 20 metres high is on loan to Ilfracombe for 20 years from October 2012. As I am partial to all things graceful and elegant, the statue didn’t do anything for me and I thought it looked better from the back! However, there’s no denying that it’s an imposing landmark
On the other hand, I gladly climbed up the steps to Capstone Hill to see the statue with a pretty happy face. It’s called Katy and was commissioned by the parents of the 14-years-old Russian language student who sadly fell to her death from nearby Hillsborough Hill in July 2000.
Ilfracombe Harbour and town
We visit Westward Ho! every time we go to north Devon, but had never stayed there before. This time round we stayed one night at The Waterfront Inn so that we could walk along the beach to Northam Burrows, in the hope of catching a brilliant sunset.
Alas, there was no golden sunset with dramatical pink, orange and red. The light blue sky just gently gave way to denim blue until the sun disappeared behind the gathering clouds.
There’re no fridge magnets this time, but what a great time I had at this outing!