Some of the Best Things to Do in Barnstaple, North Devon

Barnstaple is a picturesque historical town set in the heart of North Devon that’s a haven for nature-lovers, foodies and history enthusiasts.

There’s as an assortment of top visitor attractions and things to do in Barnstaple, ranging from picturesque walks, stunning gardens and estates.

Join us as now as we uncover the best-kept secrets and must-visit attractions in Barnstaple.

Whether you’re a curious traveller or a seasoned adventurer, our curated selection of experiences will ensure an enriching and memorable visit to this captivating corner of Devon.

1. Visit Arlington Court

First on our list of top Barnstaple attractions is this nineteenth century marvel.

Built in the 1800s, Arlington Court is a timeless symbol of architectural finesse, encapsulating a neoclassical style, nestled within North Devon’s lush greenery.

It’s a significant landmark, painting a vivid picture of the illustrious Chichester lineage, which thrived for over 500 years.

You can marvel at the mansion’s diverse exhibit, featuring an assortment of intricately fashioned ship models by French captives, a spectacular collection of antique pewter artifacts, and an array of oddities from the realm of nature.

Further accentuating the mansion’s charm is its surrounding Victorian-era garden, an alluring estate featuring crisscrossing footpaths, a beautifully maintained walled kitchen garden, and a stunning conservatory echoing with Victorian Gothic influences.

Also housing the National Trust’s Carriage Museum, Arlington Court unveils a plethora of horse-drawn vehicles, from the practical hansom cabs to the lavish state coaches.

A visit to Arlington Court is akin to a voyage back in time, captivating not only history enthusiasts but also those looking for the best things to do in Barnstaple.

2. Experience the North Devon (AONB)

North Devon (AONB)

Incorporating a varied terrain that stretches from rugged coastal cliffs and golden sandy shores to undulating farmlands and dune systems, North Devon AONB stands as a sanctuary of natural beauty.

This specially recognized area, lauded for its remarkable landscapes, serves as a serene haven for those exploring the South West.

It plays host to a wealth of wildlife and offers an array of outdoor pursuits such as hiking, cycling, bird-spotting, and surfing.

Whether your desire is for a tranquil coastal amble, a demanding cycling trail, or a scenic spot to drink in the magnificent vistas, North Devon AONB provides an idyllic canvas for a rejuvenating encounter with the great outdoors.

3. Visit RHS Garden Rosemoor

This stunning 65-acre garden, managed by the Royal Horticultural Society, is a must-see attraction in North Devon and an essential entry for any travel guide to Barnstaple.

It’s a horticultural haven, featuring a vast assortment of flora, from the vibrant displays of the Hot Garden to the serene Woodland Garden.

RHS Garden Rosemoor offers a sensory feast in all seasons, with plantings designed to provide year-round interest.

Beyond its aesthetic allure, the garden doubles as a learning hub, hosting a range of workshops, courses and events designed to enhance your knowledge about the fascinating world of horticulture.

A visit to the garden’s extensive plant centre also presents an opportunity to acquire a diverse array of plants and gardening equipment.

No matter if you’re an experienced horticulturist, an aspiring gardener, or simply a nature aficionado, an excursion to RHS Garden Rosemoor assures a mesmerizing journey through the wonders of plant life.

4. Follow the Tarka Trail

The Tarka Trail invites you on an invigorating exploration of North Devon’s breathtaking landscapes.

This popular route, extending over 180 miles in a figure-eight pattern, is inspired by the journey of Tarka the Otter from Henry Williamson’s famous novel.

The trail’s network of footpaths and cycle paths offers opportunities for all levels of fitness and interest.

The routes wends its way through unspoilt landscapes, pretty little villages and quiet rivers and streams.

Thee route is ideal of cyclers, nature-lovers ad rambles, providing a wonderful opportunity to experience the wildlife and natural beauty of North Devon.

5. See the Inhabitants of Exmoor Zoo

Black Leopard

Exmoor Zoo is a captivating haven for a all manner of animals and one of the most popular places to visit in North Devon.

Home to an impressive range of animals including the swift-footed cheetah and the unique black leopard, this attraction offers an immersive and enlightening exploration of the animal kingdom.

Beyond providing a delightful day out for families, Exmoor Zoo is dedicated to fostering awareness and active involvement in preserving endangered species, aiming to instil a profound respect for nature in individuals of all ages.

You can partake in an array of interactive activities, such as attending feeding sessions, engaging in enlightening talks with keepers and experiencing direct contact with certain animals under expert guidance.

A worth addition to our list of the best things to do in Barnstaple and the surrounding area.

6. Enjoy the Broomhill Sculpture Garden

At Broomhill Sculpture Garden, you’ll discover a captivating fusion of artistic expression and natural splendour.

This haven of creativity showcases a remarkable assemblage of contemporary sculptures, featuring the masterpieces of renowned and up-and-coming artists from across the globe.

The garden’s serene ambiance invites you to wander along meandering pathways, where over 300 sculptures harmoniously coexist with the surrounding landscape.

Crafted in diverse styles and mediums, these captivating works of art engage in a captivating dialogue with nature, stimulating introspection and evoking a profound sense of wonder.

Broomhill Sculpture Garden promises an unforgettable experience, especially for those of you looking for family-friendly attractions in Devon.

7. Experience the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon

This engaging museum unveils a vivid tapestry of time, showcasing an extensive collection of carefully curated artefacts, exhibits and interactive displays.

From the earliest traces of prehistoric settlements to the captivating tales of maritime exploits, the museum offers a comprehensive exploration of the region’s rich heritage.

You’ll be able to gain a true appreciation of the people who helped shape North Devon thanks to stories of courage, resilience, innovation and togetherness.

Whether a history boffin or a curious visitor,  Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon promises an enlightening experience.

8. Visit the Best Beaches Near Barnstaple

Saunton Sands Beach

Barnstaple offers access to several stunning beaches along the picturesque coastline – one of the most notable North Devon highlights.

These beaches near Barnstaple provide a range of coastal experiences, from surfing and water activities to peaceful walks and family outings.

Here’s more information.

Saunton Sands

With its vast shoreline, rolling dunes, and excellent surfing conditions, Saunton Sands is a popular beach for both relaxation and water sports.

Croyde Bay

Known for its consistent waves, Croyde Bay attracts surfers from near and far. The beach’s natural beauty and dramatic scenery make it a favourite among visitors.

Woolacombe Beach

Stretching for miles, Woolacombe Beach boasts pristine sands and crystal-clear waters. It has received numerous awards for its cleanliness and is ideal for families and sun-seekers.

Instow Beach

Situated where the rivers Taw and Torridge meet the estuary, Instow Beach offers tranquil surroundings and stunning views. It is perfect for a peaceful seaside stroll or a picnic.

Putsborough Sands

Nestled between Saunton Sands and Woolacombe Beach, Putsborough Sands is a quieter and less crowded spot, featuring beautiful sand and picturesque cliffs.

Westward Ho!

The only beach in the UK with an exclamation mark in its name, Westward Ho! offers a sandy expanse, rock pools, and opportunities for water sports.

9. Take a Trip to Watermouth Castle, Watermouth

Watermouth Castle is about 12 miles from barnstaple and is a Victorian-era castle-turned-theme park offering a unique experience for visitors of all ages.

Explore the enchanting castle interiors, complete with period furnishings and fascinating exhibits that showcase its rich heritage.

Step into the whimsical world of Gnome Land, a delightful garden filled with playful gnome figurines and charming landscapes.

Enjoy thrilling rides and amusements in Adventure Land, from the exhilarating Watercoasters to the exhilarating Thunder Luge.

The castle’s beautifully landscaped gardens, with scenic views of the coast, provide a serene setting for a leisurely stroll.

With its blend of history, fantasy, and entertainment, Watermouth Castle guarantees a day of magical memories for the whole family.

Perfect for visitors looking for things to do in Barnstaple and the surrounding region.

10. Explore Braunton Burrows

Braunton Burrows

Situated about 8 miles from barnstaple is Braunton Burrows – a captivating UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and an Area of Special Scientific Interest.

This expansive network of sand dunes and grassland offers a quiet escape for adventures and nature enthusiasts alike.

A number of trails wind through the dunes, some of which afford panoramic vistas and encounters with the remarkable flora and fauna that flourish here.

Braunton Burrows is home to a variety of rare and protected species, including the elusive sand lizard and the delicate silver-studded blue butterfly.

As you explore, you may also stumble upon remnants of World War II structures, which lend a sense of historical intrigue to the area.

Whether you seek solace in nature, a glimpse into the past, or simply an opportunity to revel in the awe-inspiring coastal landscapes, a visit to Braunton Burrows promises an unforgettable experience.

For more information about top visitora attractions and things to see and do in Barnstaple, see the official Devon tourism site.

Dale Shelabarger

Dale is the owner and founder of Cottages to Rent which he launched back in 2005. As well as promoting holiday cottages, Dale blogs regularly about top UK holiday destinations, visitor attractions and places of historical interest.