Barnstaple is a small town located in the heart of Devon, England. This historic town is home to a number of different attractions, which makes it the perfect place to visit for a weekend getaway. If you’re looking for things to do in Barnstaple, here are 34 options that will keep you entertained.
Barnstaple is a few miles away from the western boundary of the Exmoor National Park, while the wild beaches of the North Devon coast, like Woolacombe and Saunton, are within reach.
The best things to do in Barnstaple
Castle Hill house and gardens have a long and rich history dating back centuries and have been home to the Fortescue family for many years.
Today, the Earl and Countess of Arran love and cherish the property, and it has become a wonderful visitor attraction. Visitors can explore the castle hill’s open gardens and enjoy refreshments at the new tearoom.
This North Devon beach is a local favorite, even though it isn’t as well known!
If you’re looking to escape the crowds, head to the beautiful beaches of Woolacombe and Croyde.
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Miles of sand will greet you at this North Devon beach!
Popular with surfers and sunbathers, Saunton Sands is a beautiful place to enjoy the waves and bask out on the shores.
The UK’s largest dune system, Brauton Burrows, is just a short walk from Saunton Sands.
Saunton Sands may be the closest of the most spectacular beaches, but don’t forget about the rocky cove at Barricane Beach, the surf beach at Croyde, and the wide open sands of Woolacombe Beach.
South West Coast Path
This 630-mile walking route, which tracks the peninsula of South West England, is known for being the most challenging of the UK’s national trails.
And nowhere is this truer than on the 70-mile leg between Barnstaple, the northern trailhead, and Minehead.
You’ll need at least six days to complete this walk through the Exmoor National Park if you’re up for the test. This walk leads you along the highest coastline in Britain.
Six days may be too much for some, but it’s well worth taking a stroll through Exmoor during the autumn months. The heather’s purple flowers are in bloom and the feisty red deer stags are rutting, making it a truly magical experience.
For a more leisurely walk on the South West Coast Path, you can follow the Taw Estuary for a couple of miles down to Ashford, enjoying the waterfowl, water birds, and little rocky beaches along the way.
RHS Garden Rosemoor
RHS Garden Rosemoor is a beautiful place for a day out in North Devon. With its stunning gardens and picturesque setting, it’s the perfect place to spend a day exploring and enjoying the outdoors.
Rosemoor garden is a beautiful place to explore with 65 acres of beautifully planted flower beds set within a wooded valley.
Home to exotic blooms, you’ll get to wander around some beautiful gardens, which fuse a range of different types of flora to create a stunning montage.
The on-site garden tea room is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a refreshing cup of tea.
Come and bounce around at Air extreme’s indoor trampoline park in Barnstaple, North Devon! With trampolines filling the entire space, you’re guaranteed to have a blast at the massive indoor trampoline park. Be sure to book online in advance to avoid disappointment.
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This Victorian castle has a family theme park hidden behind its walls, with rides, a maze, dungeons, play areas, and beautifully landscaped gardens. Kids will love the castle treasure, the water show, and the toboggan run, while adults can learn about the castle’s history and secretly enjoy the rides, too!
Skern Lodge Outdoor Centre
Try and experience an amazing range of sports with expertly trained staff. Activities include climbing, zip wire, archery, surfing, bodyboarding, and kayaking.
The Tarka Trail
One of the most popular attractions in Barnstaple is the Tarka Trail.
This 180-mile route traverses much of North Devon, following the Taw River through Barnstaple.
You can explore Barnstaple and Instow Beach by bike or on foot (about 10 kilometers), and then travel up the Torridge Estuary towards Bideford, or even down the other side to Appledore if you desire!
You’ll experience beautiful riverside views and unique fauna. It’s a weather-permitting activity, but it’s an enjoyable day out and a great way to see more of North Devon without needing a car.
If you don’t have bikes with you, Two wheels await you at Tarka Trail Cycle Hire, ready to explore the great outdoors!
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The zoo is a great place to take the family on a day trip. With its close-up views of excellent animal exhibits, it’s sure to be a hit with everyone.
The closest zoos to here are Exmoor Zoo, which has the only pair of black leopards (or Exmoor beasts if you believe the legends) on exhibit in the UK, and Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park.
It is a prehistoric park, which has a variety of exotic animals alongside plenty of dinosaur animatronics.
Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon
This museum is the perfect place to learn about life in Barnstaple and North Devon. If you’re interested in what it’s like to live in this attractive market town, this museum is a must-visit!
Located in the centre of town, the museum tells the stories of the people who call North Devon home and its fascinating and alluring landscape.
This museum is the perfect place to spend a rainy day in Devon!
Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park
This Devon wildlife park is a combination of every kid’s favorite things (well most): animals and dinosaurs. Visit Combe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park in North Devon to see lions, wolves, sea lions, primates, meerkats, and penguins.
In addition to life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, there are botanical gardens, a miniature railway, and a gigantic indoor soft play area for wet days.
Approximately 25 minutes away from Barnstaple, you can find the Combe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park.
The Barnstaple Hotel is the perfect place to stay for those who enjoy bowl clubs.
It is conveniently located for many local bowls clubs including Bideford Bowling Club, Bideford Victoria Park Bowls Club, Torrington Bowling Club, South Molton Bowling Club, and Kingsley Indoor Bowls Club at Westward Ho!
Affinity Devon Shopping Outlet
If you’re looking to do some shopping trip while you’re in North Devon, be sure to check out Affinity Devon Shopping Outlet.
The stores here sell clothes and shoes at hugely reduced prices, so there’s a lot of fantastic shopping to enjoy from famous national brands such as children’s play area, food and drink, clothes and regular events!
Broomhill Sculpture Gardens
Broomhill Sculpture Gardens is home to the largest collection of sculptures in South West England, with over 200 on display.
It’s a great place to get amongst art and enjoy nature at the same time, with lots of contemporary sculptures.
Dogs are always welcome at the outdoor seating area, and it is open from 9 am to 9 pm during the summer months.
Sometimes there are discounts at the entrance to the sculpture park entry.
Let’s go ten-pin bowling!
Let’s Go! is great fun for the whole family to enjoy, right next door to the Barnstaple Hotel.
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The Milky Way Adventure Park
An all-weather theme park with something for everyone. From the Cosmic Typhoon roller coaster to the gravity rider donut slide, maze, and fantastic outdoor displays from the North Devon Bird of Prey Centre, Droid Destroyer Dodgems, and the Milky Way Railway – we can guarantee you won’t be bored when spending a day here.
Hartland Abbey & Gardens
A day at Hartland Abbey is a perfect way to explore a stunning valley and experience a stately home that has been popular in film. The award-winning house has fascinating interiors and decoration, beautiful woodland walks, walled gardens, and parkland. The same family ownership has the property for generations, providing a warm welcome to visitors.
Exmoor Adventures provides an unforgettable experience with a range of award-winning outdoor activities including kayaking, coasteering, mountain biking, rock climbing, and abseiling.
Indeed, raft building, stand-up paddle boarding, archery, tree climbing, orienteering, and team building activities across north devon, Exmoor, west somerset, canoeing, and the Quantock hills.
Tarka Pottery is a pottery painting studio offering or that offers an exciting range of fun, creative activities for kids, teens, and adults alike! It’s a great opportunity to get creative and relax in the pottery studio, where plenty of help is on hand.
You can choose from making a bowl on the potter’s wheel, painting a pot, or joining a clay workshop or pottery class.
Quince Honey Farm
On a guided tour of the displays and exhibits, learn fun facts about the honeybee before taking a closer look inside the working hives. Nowhere else in the world can you get so close to living bees without needing protective equipment!
The Happy Bee play hive is a large indoor soft play area where you can also find the café offering homemade food and our special Devonshire cream tea with honey!
Quince Honey Farm is a mere 15 minutes from the bustling town of Barnstaple.
Tapeley Park situated between Instow and Bideford is one of North Devon’s best-kept secrets. Marvel at the magnificent views of the Torridge Estuary and the sea beyond the Italian terraces, or take a stroll through the beautiful gardens. Enjoy the peace and tranquility of this special place.
Arlington Court is a beautiful and perfect family estate that has been held by the Chichester family for over 500 years. With excellent gardens, an impressive house, and a unique carriage museum, it is truly a one-of-a-kind property.
The Tarka Line, named after the Henry Williamson novel Tarka the Otter, is a very scenic stretch of the Great Western Railway between Barnstaple and Exeter.
The 39-mile route weaves through the Taw and Yeo river valleys in gentle, lush countryside.
This branch line, which opened in 1854, is not only a scenic way to reach the cathedral city of Exeter, but also a safe means of reaching country pubs.
The Tarka Line rail ale trail is a journey through some of the best pubs in Devon. With 18 (as of 2018) establishments on the route, there are plenty of opportunities to sample the local brews.
The historic market town of Crediton is a recommended stop while Eggesford is the site of the UK’s first state forest planted in 1919. Staying on the Tarka theme in Barnstaple there’s the Tarka Trail bicycle trail which has its own bike rental centre based at Barnstaple Railway Station.
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This award-winning attraction provides a fascinating insight into the watery world of North Devon, all while being fun and educational. It’s the perfect activity for a rainy day!
The aquarium is home to a wide variety of animals, displayed in beautiful recreations of their beautifully recreated natural habitats and offers Local Aquatic Exhibits.
Keypitts Activity Centre
Come to the fantastic activity centre near Ilfracombe for a fantastic time! They offer Quad Biking, Axe Throwing, and 4×4 Land Rover Experience.
Barnstaple Pannier Market
The Market is the perfect place to find local produce and browse for fresh food every day of the week. It hosts regular food festivals, it’s the perfect place to explore new flavors and find your favorite new butcher on Butchers Row.
H20 Outdoor provides unforgettable experiences by combining high-quality activities with the outstanding natural beauty of this area.
There’s no shortage of excitement when it comes to water-based activities in Cornwall.
Coasteering, kayaking, surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, and wild swimming are just some of the many ways to get your adrenaline pumping. And what’s more, you can enjoy them all in one go with an exhilarating adventure package.
OSKC Water Sports
Come explore the watersports centre of Combe Martin with kayak and stand-up paddle board activities rentals and guided tours!
This quaint fishing village from the 17th century is a popular tourist destination in North Devon.
Nestled among historic buildings and cobbled streets leading down to a shingle beach with rock pools and caves, Clovelly is an ancient fishing village that feels like it’s stuck in time.
There are plenty of things to do in this town, from visiting historic cottages to exploring museums.
Clovelly is also home to art galleries and shops selling local produce.
To visit Clovelly, you’ll need to pay, as it is privately owned.
It’s like stepping into a time machine and being transported to a quaint village that hasn’t changed in centuries.
The world famous range of Dartington Crystal factory is a must-see for any visitor to the area. Learn about the company’s rich history, see some of their famous creations, and shop till you drop for homeware and gifts.
Then, take a tour of the factory to see the glassmakers at work, blowing and shaping glass to create pieces you may have at home.
Marwood Hill Gardens
Marwood Hill Gardens, only 4 miles from Barnstaple, is an excellent private garden with 20 acres of lakes, a Garden Tea Room, and wonderful views.
Lynmouth and Lynton
The world-famous Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway is the highest and steepest water-powered railway in the world! The Cliff Railway connects the twin towns of Lynton and Lynmouth, providing stunning coastal views that will be the highlight of any visit.
Combesgate – a dog-friendly North Devon beach
The beautiful Barricane beach, also known as Combesgate beach, is a must-see for shell hunters. This small rocky cove is home to shells from a far-off Caribbean island that has somehow floated all the way here. It’s a phenomenon that has made it a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Dogs are always welcome on the beach but must be kept on a lead during the summer months. There are plenty of shops and parking spaces nearby, so you can make a day of it!
You can find paradise in just half an hour when you travel to Barricane and Combesgate Beach from Barnstaple.
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Is Barnstaple worth visiting?
This is not a coastal town which makes it not the most recognizable town in North Devon but it adds an element of charm and offers excellent experiences of the village life. Barnstaple offers an exciting array of family attractions, hiking with spectacular views, outdoor activities, and educational activities.
What shops are in Barnstaple?
The shops at Barnstaple High Street, including the Greenlanes shopping centre in Barnstaple, are a delight for shopping alcoholics from major high street chains such as Pandora Primark TK Max boots, and Wilkis and M&S to lesser chain shops.
What is Barnstaple known for?
Barnstaple is renowned for flower displays and horticultural products. Five minutes away is the Arlington Court National Trust Statehouse, boasting a fascinating antique carriage collection.
Barnstaple is a charming town with a lot to offer visitors. If you’re looking for things to do, there are plenty of options that will keep you entertained. From exploring the historic castle hill to taking a stroll along the South West Coast Path, there’s something for everyone in Barnstaple.