Barnstaple is the biggest town in North Devon, right on the River Taw and worth a pokey about. What you'll find is narrow streets lined with a lot of fine buildings and alleyways that make you curious; the shops are a mix of big brand names and family owned, and if you happen to be here when the Pannier market is open, well, you're in for a treat because the atmosphere is great - upbeat and lively with stalls galore and happy shoppers.
Barnstaple has its fair share of history too; it was granted its Royal Charter way back in 930AD, and was first licensed to export wool in the 14th century - that's the trade the town you see today was founded on. Interesting bits are the 13th century Long Bridge spanning the Taw (one of the largest medieval bridges in Britain), the colonnaded Queen Anne's Walk, now home to The Cafe on the Strand, the mound of the medieval motte and bailey castle, and the town museum where you can see the remains of the Barnstaple Elephant, discovered in the town in 1844 and dated to a species that became extinct over 115,000 years ago.
The town is also famous as the centre point of the Tarka Trail, a 180 mile walking and cycling trail that follows the route of Henry Williamson's fictional creation, Tarka the Otter. If you like a stroll, plan it so you end up at Tea By the Taw for a cream bun and a nice pot of tea; other good places to eat in Barnstaple are Fatbelly Fred's for sea food, Claytons and The Glasshouse for European dishes, and Lilico's for good Mediterranean and tapas.