Walking the historic town of Barnstaple

I’ve heard it said that Britain is a nation of towns rather than cities (or words to that effect). And Barnstaple would be the perfect example of just such a town. The county town of North Devon, sat on the banks of the River Taw with a rich history that stretches back to at least the 10th Century when it became one of Alfred the Great’s Burhs – the defensive settlements created as a bulwark against Viking raids. Once a prosperous trading hub with a charter to export wool from its town centre quay, you can sense it’s been hit hard by the pandemic with its fine High Street marked by boarded up shops and people sleeping in doorways.

Barnstaple Castle
Barnstaple Castle
Barnstaple Guildhall
Barnstaple Guildhall

The walk around the town starts on its medieval Long Bridge (it’s been improved over the years) and passes along the river front to the mighty Barnstaple motte and bailey castle. From here we wind up the narrow streets to Joy Street, once home to the author W.N.P. Barbellion whose Journal of a Disappointed Man caused a sensation when it was published in 1919 shortly before Barbellion’s death. We pay home to the Pannier Market and Butchers Row and take in the medieval quarter around the parish church before ending our walk at the clock tower.


  1. Bryan Martin   •  

    Different and as usual very interesting. As you plan your walks this year any chance that you may consider the river Stort, Devil’s dyke and the lea valley. I know you’ve done them before but how about the same with more exploration. Sort of a wayward wander.

  2. Mick Treviss   •  

    Excellent walk John and I am so very pleased to have joined you on it! I must say that this is true of every walk that I have been on with you, thank you very much, Mick.

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