Across the River Taw Estuary is the historic fishing village of Appledore with a lively community spirit and home to the RNLI lifeboat station and the ‘Mollie Hunt’ lifeboat, which it often seen moored just off shore in the estuary. A pleasant 10 minute walk along a quaint narrow street of old fishermen’s houses, will take you to the lifeboat station and passes 2 historic pubs on the way.
With slipways running between the houses, it is easy to imagine times when the village had a much busier working quay and dry docks and the ferry man still crossed to Crow Point and Vellator Quay in Braunton.
Today there are still fishing boats moored at the Quay, and upriver the boatyards and yards where stone is off loaded. Most recreational boats are moored over the Torridge estuary at Instow, and make for a lively water scene at high tide. The day we visited a Gig race was taking place in Appledore.
Appledore hosts an annual book festival in September, and with Jeremy Vine as patron this festival is growing in status year on year. We went to hear Tim Waterstone speak very candidily of his early life and his business philosophy. With authors such as Raynor Winn, George Alagiah, Lemn Sissay and Jenny Eclair is really was a big success and something to book ahead for next year.
Appledore is also know for the visual arts and has an Art Festival every year too. There are a number of artists based around the village, so it’s a fun place to explore for galleries.
Boats at Appledore
We did a little research on the cafe scene whilst there too! Our favourite in Appledore is still The Coffee Cabin, it is a tiny cafe, with great standards and a super selection of breakfast, lunch and cakes. With my dairy and gluten intolerance, I am always on the look out for a tasty cake and that day they had a layered honey and cinammon cake which ticked my free-from boxes and was loaded with flavour.
Market Street Kitchen is tucked away on one of the narrow lanes behind the Quay and has a hidden garden though the back of the cafe. It does some delicious sandwiches and light lunches.
If you fancy an ice-cream than the local Hockings ice cream is the one to try. Considered the best in the area, the Hockings van can be found at the corner of the Quay near the bus stop.
If you are travelling by Satgecoach 21A you can grab an ice cream whilst you wait for the return bus! Some of the Stagecoach buses run from West Meadow Road, our nearest stop, all the way to Appledore. You’ll want a little patience and a comfy seat as the bus goes via Barnstaple bus station and all the places in between, so it’s not the quickest trip!
If you are cycling the Tarka Trail, then Appledore is across the River Torridge from Instow. A ferry runs April to October for as little as 2-3 hours a day, so although it looks quite near, check the timetables before you plan this, or be prepared to cycle inland to the bridges that cross the Taw closer to Bideford.
Making the most of our journey around the estuary we continued on to Northam Burrows and parked up for a walk on the pebble ridge. From here you can see the views back to Saunton Sands and enjoy the wildness of the estuary mouth.
To make your stay a bit more fun, here are our food and coffee tips from the area near the Gallery Lodges, including some gluten free options.
We have started with our most local food places in Braunton, then some recommendations at Saunton, Croyde, and Georgeham. Keep reading to find out what’s in store on the beaches, and finally some ideas for eats if you are heading further afield around the North Coast to Exmoor.
Braunton top picks:
Siam Bistro if you like Thai try this local gem. Increasing in popularity year on year you may need to call ahead to book a table or a take out. The lunchtime specials are incredibly good value and in the evening, mixed starter is recommended. Will do gluten free if you ask (check the soy sauce). http://www.thesiambistro.co.uk/
The Riverside Restaurant A favourite alrounder for breakfast, lunch and evening meals. Very reliable chef and service with some really tasty, locally sourced food. Outside the peak season this place does the most amazing restaurant style Sunday Lunch. Cater for Gluten Free and a new vegan menu in 2020. http://www.theriversidebraunton.co.uk/
Wild Thyme Café fun and trendy surf café for coffee, cakes, breakfast and lunch. Our favourite for atmosphere although can be a little busy with mothers & toddlers sometimes! Has gluten-free options, sometimes including GF scones. http://wildthymecafe.co.uk/
Squires Fish & Chips is a complete all rounder – filling and perfectly cooked Fish & Chips. At peak times you have to queue for the restaurant, but it is great value. For the take out, we recommend using their CLICK & COLLECT option. Can’t beat their chips; they are perfect! The gluten-free among us should try Poached Cod. The chips are always fried separately too. http://www.squiresfishrestaurant.co.uk/
Tambapanni, Sri Lankan Food takeaway van. Our favourite food choice in 2020. Simply heaven. We eat here every week! Authentic Sri Lankan Food cooked with a passion. Served from their food van at Braunton Tesco and Croyde on certain days of the week (usually Friday and Saturday respectively). Delicate flavours, meat, veg, gluten and dairy free and Vegan options. Heaven on a plate. Check out their facebook page for times and days. https://www.facebook.com/tambapannicurry/
Gaining popularity for evening dishes with fresh seafood, and also a good place for a sandwich and cake at lunchtime. https://atonedining.co.uk/
The Williams Arms is the thatched pub in Wrafton – the Barnstaple side of Braunton, so about 2 miles away from The Gallery Lodges, they offer a traditional Sunday lunch carvery. http://www.williamsarms.co.uk/
St John’s Garden Centre at Ashford, is on the main road to Barnstaple. Now a locally run garden centre, they have a great formula for breakfast and lunches as well as a nice selection of cake as well. A good range of gluten free and vegan cakes, as well as gf fish and chips. There is also a delhi and re-fill shop located at St John’s. https://www.stjohnsgardencentre.co.uk/st-johns-lane-barnstaple/
Coffee coffee coffee…
51 degrees North – a take out coffee stop can be found outside Tesco Braunton most mornings. Justin is a perfectionist and you will be delighted by his coffees. Eco conscious, happy to serve you in your reusable cup. https://51degreesnorthcoffee.com/
Saunton and Croyde Another top recommendation is: The Beachside Grill at Saunton Beach. You can enjoy al fresco dining on the terrace with a range of food from burgers to vegan that is sure to please. The management is alert and the waiters will look after you well even if you just want a tea or a glass of wine. https://www.beachsidegrill.co.uk/
The Thatch is a bit of a local landmark. The place for surfers and visitors to enjoy good food and beer. It’s a little pricey due to it’s reputation, but the atmosphere is lively and food ticks all the pub food boxes from steak to nachos and classic puds. Live music nights. https://www.thethatchcroyde.co.uk/
Blue Groove in Croyde is open from breakfast to dinner and has some popular favourites such as moules marinere and Caribbean lamb curry: their mains menu is called from Pakora to Pies… It’s a creatively decorated place with a fresh and bright atmosphere in their sunrooms. http://www.blue-groove.co.uk/
Still more coffee… The Stores is Pete’s recommendation for an excellent coffee in Croyde and they also have a delhi and some tasty cakes and light meals on offer. https://www.thestorescroyde.co.uk/
Country Pubs Georgeham If you want more of the country pub experience and some great food try either of the two pubs in Georgeham. A bit of a drive so best to call and book ahead, about 10 to 20 mins but well worth it for that cosy country pub vibe. The Kings Arms – http://kingsarmsgeorgeham.co.uk/live music nights
and The Rock Inn –http://therockinn.biz/.
In peak season when Georgeham is a bit too busy, then for a more local pub experience you could try The Ebrington Arms at Knowle, or The Crown Inn at West Down.
Putsborough beach operate their own food take-out with a small beach shop. You can get drinks and a bacon butty or cheesy nachos but the down-side is that all come in take-away containers. https://www.putsborough.com/
Woolacombe – Marine Drive The Porthole is a new and welcome addition to Marine Drive. Located about 1/2 way between Putsborogh and Woolacombe, the Porthole is a small cafe with a creative and tastey lunch and cake offering. With tin cups and plates to keep it beach friendly it’s worth a visit on a walk along Woolacombe beach or dunes. If you like to cycle then this could be a destination for you. https://www.facebook.com/theportholewoolacombe/
Woolacombe – Barricane Beach Café
As if one Sri Lankan Food option wasn’t enough here is another. A bit of a holiday tradition for many families, especially if you get a sunny day with low winds, take your own drinks and eat your curry on the beach as the sun starts to go down. A plated meal with one Meat or Veg option. 20 min drive away at Woolacombe. Seasonal and weather dependent so do check on facebook https://www.facebook.com/Barricane-Beach-Woolacombe-163881457003060/
Places to Eat on your North Devon and Exmoor Days Out OK the choices are vast and personal so it’s hard to know where to start! Ilfracombe and Lynmouth both have a lot of different cafes and snack bars and part of the fun will be in the discovery, I am sure. Here’s just one of two more remote places that you might like to consider:
Watermouth Harbour Between Ilfracombe and Combe Martin, Storm in a Teacup is a tiny cafe in a converted lifeboat and they serve great lunches. A little tricky to find (enter through the holiday park entrance). Worth calling by if you are exploring out that way. https://www.boatcafeilfracombenorthdevon.co.uk/local-area/#directions
National Trust Café, Watersmeet at Lymouth. Great woodland valley location and some nice food. Accessed by a scenic walk along the river or by a steep 1/2 mile path from a roadside car park. See maps in the Lodge.
Hunters Inn at Heddon Valley. The pub is in a stunning location and a you can couple this drive with a beautiful woodland walk to the beach or up around the headland. See maps in Lodge. Narrow scenic roads to access, plenty of parking. Now manged by the National Trust.
Marwood Hill Gardens and Cafe. If you want to get away from it all, here is the place about 20 min drive, peaceful valley and gardens with an old fashioned cafe run by volunteers. https://www.marwoodhillgarden.co.uk/
Treat your partner to a romantic break at The Gallery Lodges.
Braunton is the gateway to North Devon’s sunset coast.
As I finished some hedgerow maintenance today, I was greeted by a stunning winter sunset over the reed grasses in the neighbouring nature reserve. I down-tooled and enjoyed the colours and the sounds of the birds going to roost. Caught up in the moment, I forgot to take a photo but inspired by the romance of the moment, I decided to share some ideas for the most romantic ways to enjoy the setting sun.
Romance at Sunset.Braunton is just a 5 minute drive from Saunton Sands. Here you can take a walk along the expansive beach and find your own private hollow in the dunes to tuck away and watch the setting sun. Take a cosy blanket to snuggle up together, against the sea breeze and maybe open a bottle of fizz (remember to bring all your bottles and waste away with you). I also recommend heading back to the excellent Beachside Grill for a G&T on their sea view terrace. With views from Hartland Point to Lundy Island, this is a big sunset scene.
Sunset Drive. Drive along Down End Headland between Saunton and Croyde and see the sunset in all it’s glory. You might find a pull in on the roadside or park up at Down End car park and take a short walk onto the rocky shoreline where you will discover the perfect Secluded Beaches for your sunset romance. This is also a wonderful place to collect some driftwood and make a small beach camp fire. Maybe cook some corn on the cob, jacket spuds or toast marshmallows. Bring out the guitar and serenade your loved one too!
Surf into the sunset. Saunton Sands and Croyde Bay are surfing hotspots and on a long, warm summer evening there is nothing like bobbing about in the waves as the sun goes down. Soak up the atmosphere beyond the break, where the sea takes on a new sparkle, the sky becomes ablaze with colour, and the sea quietens your mind. Whether you are a swimmer, surfer or stand up paddle boarder this can be a romance in itself, so don’t forget your partner on this one!!
Sunset Yoga. For a truly freeing, uplifting and relaxing experience how about having a yoga session on the beach at sunset. Relaxing to the sounds of the sea, with the sky above and the sand below is unforgettable. Croyde Yoga run a Wednesday drop in session at Croyde Village Hall and take to the beach on summer evenings. Find their up-to-date schedule on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/tiffany.shapland/ Or how about a private yoga session with SeatoSoul, just for you and your partner. https://www.seatosoul.co.uk/yoganew
Sunset View points. If you both enjoy a coastal walk we recommend the short climb up Middleborough Hill to see the views out to sea over Croyde Bay or walk along the coast path towards Baggy Point. Find a bench to watch the seabirds heading on shore to roost, and the waves rolling in. Both offer wonderful vantage points for watching the sunset and are easily accessed from the National Trust Car Park at Croyde.
And finally, simply unwind into an evening together at The Gallery Lodges. Sitting outside on your deck with a glass of wine or taking a walk in the meadow you will be able to see the colourful skies and watch nature turn in for another day, you might catch a fleeting glimpse of the barn owl. What’s more you will find at least one of Pete’s stunning sunset paintings in your lodge, which have been inspired by our life in Braunton and the beautiful sunset coast.
Autumn Apple Picking – share in our autumn fruit harvest during your stay.
The Gallery Lodges are set in 7 acres of land and since Pete started his art studio about 12 years ago, he has been planting lots of trees, including orchard trees. We’ve been adding to the orchard over the years and currently we have 70 apples trees, 9 pears, plums and cherries.
Some of the trees have grown quickly and fruited for a good few years now whilst others have struggled a bit in the wetter corners of the meadows, or been caught by the spring frosts and winds, and are yet to bear fruit. We’re still learning and getting to know all the varieties, and how and when to eat them.
This year we’ve had a fantastic crop of apples. I’ve been a part time volunteer ranger with the National Trust for the past year and one of my newly learned skills is orchard tree pruning, so this last winter I was opening the crowns and shaping the trees up a bit. I like to think that has contributed to a great crop this year, but I think the warm spring sunshine, which got the pollinators buzzing, and then the hot summer weather is mostly to credit!
Every year the trees grow and of course our apple harvest grows bigger too! We’d love to share our apples with our guests and so you are welcome to go scrumping and fill yourself a fruit bowl or a bag to take home! Different apple trees are ripening from August to November, but late September and October are the best months.
Pete’s tip to picking nice ripe fruit, is to give the apples a gentle twist and if they come off easily they are more likely to be ripe. Another sign that the fruit is ready to eat, is finding fallen apples at the foot of the tree. We will be happy to point you in the right direction and show you which are sweet eaters and which are best for cooking.
The Gloster with it’s strikingly ruby red hue is looking very eye-catching right now, but could do with a little longer to fully ripen. We’ve got eaters like the King of the Pippins which gets a pretty orange hue as it ripens – it’s great fresh off the tree for an afternoon snack.
A rosy variety of Bramley cookers is ideal for making apple sauce and has a waxy skin that helps it to be stored. Plenty of others are great for pies and juicing too. (We are still waiting for our sweet pink cider apples to have a bumper crop, so we can give this a try).
After all the picking and storing is done, (I was cooking with stored apples into March last year), we can look forward to next year’s buds and beautiful, abundant spring blossoms. So if you can’t make it for the autumn apples how about visiting when the blossoms are out in April instead?
When the sea is calm and the sun is out how about visiting Tunnels Beaches, Ilfracombe’s hidden seaside?
These private beaches charge £2.50 for adults. Accessed by tunnels carved in 1823, you can step into a secluded area beneath the cliffs, where there is still an original bathing pool as well as lots of rocky outcrops and beach.
The tunneled entrance has historic signs and old news paper stories from the beaches.
No dogs are allowed on the beaches, but expect a few seagulls nesting in the cliffs behind the beach.
We visited on a hot, still June afternoon and even dared a cooling swim in the cold water off the rocks, which was beautiful. Lots of seaweed in the rock pools is a testament to the clean waters and the beach was beautifully litter free too!
Most were bathing in the pool which no doubt warms up much more quickly than the open sea and is of course much safer as there are usually waves making rock swimming more hazardous!
If a dip isn’t for you, then deck chairs are available.
The beach has a small snack bar and shop. There was a limited choice of eats so we headed back into town for lunch, (we could have re-entered on the same entrance fee). There are a good selection of places to eat along the front at Ilfracombe near North Devon Theatre, including a busy Weatherspoons with a rooftop sun-terrace, which is open if the weather is right.
Whilst in Ilfracombe it’s also worth a walk to the lovely harbour and to take a look at Damien Hirst’s scuplture – Verity, who looms over the harbour mouth. Follow this link to see the sculpture. http://www.damienhirst.com/verity
North Devon has two of the finest links golf courses in England. Some of our guests come to stay especially to play these courses, whether for championship matches, competitions, or just for pleasure. I’m not a golfer but I drive past Saunton Sands Golf club on my way to the beach and you can be sure to see the car park bustling with life, even in the early morning, so clearly this course is very popular!
I’ve been looking into what makes them so special.
Both Saunton Sands Golf Club and The Royal North Devon Golf Club are coastal, links courses and are part of the 6 Atlantic Links Courses, which stretch from Burham in Somerset to St Ednoc in Cornwall following the Atlantic Highway (A39).
Saunton Golf Club is a championship links golf course with 36 holes. The courses are situated on the picturesque Braunton Burrows, which is an area of hilly sand dunes. It’s potentially a windy spot as it’s so close to the coast with a largely treeless landscape. Our visitors playing competitions often comment on the unforgiving nature of the wind when it’s up! English Championships are played on the 18 hole East course which was designed by Herbert Fowler in 1920’s. Its had the status of a premier course ever since.
Reviews on Trip Advisor suggest the course is in great condition, the greens are true and the golfing experience will not disappoint. The general manager, Russell Mayne, is clearly running a great Club.
The Royal North Devon Golf Club is the oldest Golf Course in England. Designed by Tom Morris in 1864, it got the royal title from King Edward VII in 1867. The course is situated on the other side of the Taw estuary at Westward Ho! The 170 acre course is located on the common land, part of the Northam Burrows. This is another coastal links course which is managed to look as natural as possible within the environment. This must be quite a challenge with wildlife and the sea itself threatening to swallow some of the holes in stormy conditions!
Reviews on Trip Advisor suggest the course has firm and fast greens and visiting golfers will receive a warm and friendly welcome from the Club house and members.
There are, of course, other golf courses in the area including Portmore Golf Club near Barnstaple, Willingcott Valley Golf Club near Woolacombe and the stunningly located Ilfracombe Golf Club with clifftop sea views.
The Tarka trail from Braunton to Instow and back is about a 20 mile round trip, or just 10 miles if you just go to Barnstaple and back.
You can extend this trail with options at both ends, but I’ve focused this blog on the sections most accessible from here at The Gallery Lodges.
What a treat this trail is and this has been made all the better with a plethora of tempting food options along the way. You follow the estuary for nearly all of the trip and catch stunning views and spot all the estuary bird life. Our only word of warning for this route is check the wind – it can be quite exposed and a lively westerly will make this otherwise flat route become unexpectedly demanding – especially on the way home.
Starting at The Gallery Lodges head to the start of the Tarka Trail along Saunton Road into the village, about 1/2 mile. You will pick up signs by the village car park to get onto the trail itself, which starts close to the Tesco supermarket at Vellator Quay. There is a new cafe her now, for those who feel just getting the lycra on deserved a coffee stop! Otherwise you really should crack on…
We can also recommend an alternative start (or finish) to this ride via the ‘back lane’ and Braunton Marshes to Vellator Quay, with a good chance of seeing swans, swallows and warblers this is a lovely 1 1/2 mile addition.
Along the first section of the trail about 2 miles you leave the new developments of Braunton on your left and the Chivenor RAF base on your right. Soon you will come to the open estuary and, just off to your right so keep an eye for the sign, Waterside Cafe with great views up the Taw estuary towards Barnstaple.
Then just metres on from there there is Heaton Court which you should bear in mind for the way back for a celebratory beer and wine with a stunning panoramic view over the estuary (Or Thursday and Fridays at the Waterside cafe).
The next stretch of the Trail is open and affords good bird watching views: oyster catchers, egrets, curlew, gulls and many seasonal visitors.
Please remember to use your bicycle bell or politely alert walkers of your presence as you cycle along.
Three or so more miles and you reach Barnstaple where you can head over the new bridge or detour into town. Tea by the Taw is just alongside the river there, as its name suggests… https://www.facebook.com/teabythetaw/
There are bike stands near the cafe and also further along the waterfront by the Museum and Square.
Over the bridge the railway station cafe is another handy stop with the bikes, but a more famous railway cafe the Fremington Quay Cafe is just a few miles further along the South side of the estuary on the way to Instow. https://www.facebook.com/fremington.quay/
Arriving into Instow you will pass nearby one of the most scenic cricket grounds in the UK (with think). Open to the elements and coastal erosion, this must be one of the finest places to have game of cricket, but potetntially also one of the windiest!
Soon after the cricket ground you will cycle past The Oyster Shack serving up some Caribbean vibes and seafood.
With great estuary views from the beach front this is a great place to take a break. Here also the Torridge River meets The Taw and this wide, tidal mouth is the home of Instow yacht club.
Johns Deli and cafe is a real treat with all sorts of fresh baked goodies, bread, local produce and some rather special boutique gins. Ideal for picking up a picnic lunch, but don’t forget to save the gin for when you have got back to Braunton!
For those of you with steam left there is an optional extension onto Bideford and Appledore by trail and road. And tide and weather dependent is a rather amazing ferry from Appledore to Instow. http://www.appledoreinstowferry.com/
Check out our Appledore blog.
The way home is the reverse trip of the way out. Happy cycling!
For a much longer day out or another ride entirely the Tarka Trail carries on up the trail to Torrington and Meeth. This is an inland river route of a different character.
If you stay at the Gallery Lodges Braunton, then don’t forget your bikes and take this epic evening bike ride out to Crow Point from the Lodges down beautiful ancient lanes, dirt tracks, beaches and a private toll road.
Bays, beaches, inlets, boats,swans, and bags of wild flowers and wildlife are in abundance here alongside views over to Appledore and Bideford and up to Barnstaple.
You can hire bikes in Braunton if you forget them or use the nearby car parks to walk this stunning coastal walk. You can also do this walk directly from the Lodges also if you really want to stretch your legs by cutting through the ancient and rare Great Field Habitat on the edges of the Braunton Biosphere a UNESCO Site.
The Gallery Lodges lie on the edges of this rare habitat of the Braunton UNESCO biospehere and look over a Marshland SSSI reserve and another SSSI of ancient woodland. (SSSI is a site of special scientific interest for its unspoilt flowers and natural habitats.).
You can book the Gallery Lodges at www.thegallerylodges.co.uk and visit the Art gallery of Pete Caswell the owner, www.petecaswell.co.uk.
It’s a perfect day at The Gallery Lodges, Braunton: sunny and beautiful. The sea is warming up and the surf is on it’s way, but for now we are happy to be taking in the views from dry land. Here is a short walk we enjoy when the beaches and car parks are open.
Just 2 minutes drive up the road from the Lodges we park on the small grassy area behind St Anne’s church at Saunton. This is the start of one of our favourite short walks.
We take the track up past the stunning historic manor house and gardens through carpets of blue bells and wild garlic.
Climbing up the steep open field track, we pause and take in the views back towards Braunton.
In late summer this is also a great spot to look our for field and horse mushrooms.
At the top the vista of Saunton Sands and the sand dunes comes into view, along with the distant Hartland Peninsular.
We keep walking beyond the ruined house and take the final brow to look over at Croyde Bay, before back tracking to find the stile leading to the stepped path, through the trees down to Saunton Beach. Here’s our chance to stop for a coffee and a cake, or squeezed in a pasty at the beach cafe. Rested and refreshed we head back on the coast path linked to the car park exit road. 400m back along the main road we cut thourgh St Anne’s church yard and back to collect the car. Now you would think we couldn’t eat any more and life just couldn’t get better.
But then we took a short trip round the headland to Croyde for the Saturday night Sri Lankan curry -Tambapanni.
Booking for the Lodges at www.thegallerylodges.co.uk or pm me.
If you want to know where this stunning walk in you will have to visit us at the Lodges or at the art studio www.petecaswell.co.uk