North Devon: Places to Visit
We hope that this page will give you a few ideas to help you get the most out of your leisurely or action-packed holiday in North Devon, as well of course as enjoying all the facilities at Muddlebridge and nearby Fremington Quay. Depending on your interests, there are plenty of other things to do and places to visit in North Devon, including several small museums, art galleries, potteries and craft centres. However if you run out of ideas during your visit, we'll always be happy to give you a few more suggestions.
Barnstaple is just over 2 miles east of us, with Braunton 5 miles north of Barnstaple on the other side of the Taw Estuary. Beyond Braunton, the Victorian seaside town of Ilfracombe is experiencing a regeneration, assisted by the presence of Damien Hirst with his restaurant and renowned 'Verity' statue in the harbour. In the other direction, the pleasant little estuary-side village of Instow is a quick drive, just over 3 miles west of Muddlebridge, offering the nearest beach, several good places for couples and families to eat and some spectacular sunset views. The Royal North Devon Yacht Club is based here. A couple of miles further are the old port town of Bideford, the quaint village of Appledore with its narrow streets and strong roots in fishing and ship-building, and the two-mile sandy beach at Northam Burrows, where the Royal North Devon Golf Club links course is located.
On the north side of Barnstaple, usually reached in 20-25 minutes by car, are the fabulous long sandy beaches of Saunton Sands, Croyde and Woolacombe/Putsborough (recently voted one of the 10 best beaches in the world). All three are wonderful for beach games, surfing (standing up and lying down varieties!), and Saunton has some fascinating dunes immediately behind the beach. The north end of Woolacombe also offers a couple of tiny coves with rock pools, shells and brightly coloured pebbles at Barricane and Combesgate beaches. From Croyde, there is a lovely coastal walk along to Baggy Point, with the option to continue round to Woolacombe.
Sports and Leisure
In total, there are now about seven golf courses within about a 20-minute drive of Muddlebridge. The nearest, Portmore, on the outskirts of Barnstaple offers a 9-hole par-3, an 18-hole and a driving range. Just 15 minutes away, the popular Royal North Devon club offers a delightful 18-hole links course on Northam Burrows where grazing sheep and horses mingle with the golfers. Saunton Sands provides two challenging championship standard 18-hole courses on the edge of the spectacular Braunton Burrows. Horse riding or trekking is available at Westward Ho!, Croyde and at several stables on Exmoor. Extensive indoor sports facilities (lane swimming, badminton, squash, indoor bowling, gymnasium) are available at the nearby North Devon Leisure Centre in Barnstaple. Tennis is catered for at the Tarka Tennis Centre, with six indoor courts, on the edge of Barnstaple and adjacent to the Leisure Centre. Ten-pin bowling and karting are also available in Barnstaple.
Farm and Activity Parks
Because the milder weather of the West Country has helped to encourage the lengthening of the holiday season, there are now at least a dozen different family attractions in the area, catering for most interests and ages, open for 7-8 months of the year and, a few, even at weekends during the winter. The best half dozen can usually entertain a family for about two-thirds of a day, and virtually all of these are within an easy half-an-hour's drive of Muddlebridge, though a couple are closer.
There are a number of beautiful gardens in the area open to the public (RHS Rosemoor, Marwood Hill, Tapeley Park and Docton Mill); all are within a 20-minute drive, as is the National Trust's Arlington Court, whose fascinating house and lovely rambling grounds recently won it the title of 'Best National Trust Property' (as voted by the public). There are at least five other renowned National Trust properties within about an hour's drive.
Countryside and Villages
Within half-an-hour's drive are most of the rugged but beautiful sections of the North Devon coastline: south at Clovelly, Hartland, Bucks Mills, Welcombe, etc., and north around Lynton and Lynmouth (connected by a fascinating cliff railway), with fabulous walks to Watersmeet and the stunning coastline at The Valley of the Rocks, and the bays and coves of the small villages on either side of the intriguing Victorian resort of Ilfracombe. Alternatively, a 30-minute drive from Muddlebridge will take you well up onto the spectacular countryside of Exmoor National Park, to open isolated moorland or to some of its pretty villages, both being ideal bases for the many recognised walks which Exmoor offers. Tarr Steps, Landacre Bridge and Dunkery Beacon are just a few of the beauty spots well worth visiting on Exmoor, as well as the villages of Exford and Winsford.
While up on Exmoor, you could consider carrying on to the lively seaside resort of Minehead, home of the well-known West Somerset Railway which offers steam-hauled trains for a 20-mile trip east along the coast and on towards Taunton, or to the nearby picturesque and centuries old village of Dunster, where the well maintained Castle is another National Trust property, or to Porlock Weir, taking in the famous 1-in-5 Porlock Hill with its spectacular views.
Just in case North Devon and Exmoor do not have enough scenery to cater for those who like rugged countryside and coastline, you could always consider venturing south into North Cornwall, possibly as far afield as 'King Arthur Country', the coastline around Tintagel and Boscastle.
A 45-minute drive south-east from Muddlebridge takes you inland to the pretty market town of Hatherleigh, which has many old listed thatched houses, and a large livestock and general market on Tuesday mornings. About half way to Hatherleigh is the historic town of Great Torrington, the home of Dartington Crystal, offering factory tours and a large 'seconds' shop. Hatherleigh and the nearer market town of South Molton both offer a number of antique shops. Just beyond Hatherleigh is Okehampton and the northern edges of Dartmoor.
Barnstaple has grown a lot in the past 20 years or so and now offers an indoor shopping precinct, with many national retailers but also a number of interesting local shops, and the fascinating Butchers Row, adjacent to the bustling Pannier Market, which offers stalls selling general goods, produce, crafts, antiques/curios, etc on a rotating daily schedule. For several years, Barnstaple has won top national and international awards for its summer floral displays, including the Gold award for 'Prettiest Floral Town in Europe' in the Entente Florale Competition. Bideford also offers an interesting selection of smaller local shops, some hidden away in side streets or alleys, or in its own Pannier Market. The cathedral city of Exeter is just over an hour away by road or by train, the latter being a scenic ride on the popular Tarka Line which winds its way through some very attractive countryside. The thriving city centre offers excellent shopping, including a new mall.