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Historic town is close to coast and country

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 22, 2013

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If you are looking for a lively market town with some good houses and lovely countryside nearby, then Barnstaple certainly ticks all those boxes – and more.

Dating back to the Norman conquest, this harbour town on the River Taw in North Devon has so much to offer house-hunters these days.

Barnstaple has a prosperous past and for centuries was Devon's third richest town, after Exeter and Plymouth. As a result, you'll find handsome period properties, notably the sea merchant's homes from the 1600s, when it ran a thriving trade with America, and the later Georgian and Victorian family homes.

The town received another boost in 1989 when the A361, the North Devon Link Road, was built. This brought the M5 and Tiverton Parkway rail station within reach, at just over 30 minutes' drive away – as long as you don't get stuck behind a lorry, as parts are still, unfortunately, single carriageway.

Barnstaple's once-thriving harbour lost a lot of trade to nearby Bideford from the 17th century onwards, when the River Taw silted up. But these days, the town is weathering the recession well and is lively all year round despite the area's heavy reliance on tourism.

People living in the town have a wealth of countryside and coast to choose from when it comes to spending their leisure time. Surfers head for the top-quality breaks at Croyde, Woolacombe and Westward Ho! while those in search of quieter waters go sailing in the sheltered estuary at Instow. If country walking is your thing, then both Dartmoor and Exmoor are within easy reach, not to mention the lovely coastal footpath hereabouts.

For cyclists, the Tarka Trail starts at the town's railway station and offers a figure-of-eight route covering 180 miles in total. Much of it runs along disused railway lines and a decent day of level, off-road cycling can be had if you head to the fabulous Yarde Orchard cafe near Torrington, grabbing a wholesome bite to eat before making the return journey.

Famous people from Barnstaple include serial killer Rosemary West, who was born here in the 1950s. But don't let that put you off, as she moved to Gloucestershire in her teens. More encouragingly, the renowned England rugby player Phil Vickery was also born in this delightful little town in North Devon.

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