Enchanting and peaceful, this tiny coastal town is a wonderful spot for a North Devon break. Its central location along the coastline allows you the opportunity to venture to the local larger towns, breathtaking beaches, or picturesque villages.
Enjoy the fun and excitement of a South West holiday by using this pretty village as a holiday base or spend your days sipping drinks down at the Instow waterfront. Its partially dog-friendly beach is a true draw for visitors while the tranquil atmosphere provides a traditional holiday feel for all who journey here. The best part of a trip to Instow? The views across the water to Appledore and Crow Point are truly spectacular.
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Bideford Quay and Barnstaple High Street
The Big Sheep
Food and drink
About the village
On the banks of the confluence of the Rivers Torridge and Taw in North Devon, Instow is an old fishing village filled with beauty and charm. The local area is full of family-friendly activities while the waterfront is settled with cafes and pubs, a fantastic rest-stop after a long day exploring the surrounding North Devon Coast.
A relaxed location with chilled atmosphere during the day, if you’re looking for excitement and a busy seaside location drive to the nearby town of Westward Ho! or take the ferry to Appledore, as Instow is all about peaceful waterfront walks, bike rides along the Tarka Trail and lazy afternoons taking in the view from a cosy pub. It’s a little corner of beauty ideal for adult groups or families looking for privacy and relaxation on their holidays. At nights, the pubs that line its waterfront fill with people creating a lively atmosphere after dark.
A sandy shoreline with views across to Crow Point and Appledore, Instow Beach is a sheltered spot with part of the beach dog-friendly year-round. There are shallow waters, perfect for children to paddle in and although it’s not suitable for swimming, it’s a tranquil seaside spot protected by the sandbanks that sit at the mouth of the Taw estuary.
Family-friendly Westward Ho! is a larger stretch of sand backed by a pebble ridge, only 5 miles away, and has amusement arcades, go-karts, and more waterfront pubs and cafes where you can sit and enjoy a beautiful view. Behind this beach, you’ll find Northern Burrows Country Park and golf course and next door discover Saunton Sands where you can clamber through the sand dunes.
Bideford Quay and Barnstaple High Street
Bideford Quay is 4 miles upriver from Instow and offers a beautiful waterfront while in the town centre there’s a winding high street filled with independent shops, boutiques and souvenir shops. Wander the town for a perfect morning then pick up fish and chips and sit on the steps by the river while you eat.
The largest town in North Devon, Barnstaple is a 7-mile drive away and is the place to go for a little retail therapy. Find big name brands alongside independent boutiques for a great day of shopping, and book into one of the restaurants or cocktail bars in the area. Tea on the Taw is a pretty riverside café that offers traditional Devon cream teas, while in town there’s a tasty Ghurkha-style restaurant called Everest that’s a special place to enjoy an evening meal. There’s limited table space so make sure to book ahead.
This tiny granite outcrop is a renowned wildlife reserve and was the first Voluntary Marine Reserve, established way back in 1971, before it became the first statutory Marine Nature Reserve in 1986.
It’s no surprise as this island is teaming with wildlife. The cliffs are home to puffins and Manx shearwaters while the water is home to seals, a variety of rare and unusual fish, and there have even been sightings of dolphins, whales and porpoises. The land itself is primarily farmland and as you explore you may come across rabbits, Sika deer, ponies and sheep grazing in the fields. As there’s no alpha predator on the island, these animals are quite tame and unafraid of humans.
Book onto a trip to the island which leaves from Bideford Quay and stop by the only pub on the island, Marisco’s Tavern, when you arrive before beginning your exploration.
This famed picture-postcard village of Clovelly is a 15-mile drive from Instow and a very special place to visit. An unusual place, this fishing village is built on a steep hill and the cobbled main street is a car-free zone. It’s bursting with shops and tea rooms, and has a heritage centre you can stop by.
The street is lined with pretty 16th-century houses and at the bottom of the hill is a pebbly beach where you’ll discover a pretty waterfall. From here a Land Rover is available to take weary walkers back up to the top of the village.
The Big Sheep
A family-friendly theme park that’s great fun for little ones. You and the kids can meet the farm animals, enjoy a tractor ride, watch the sheep races, have a go on the Swan Lake pedalos, play Battlefield Live or ride Twister.
Adults can enjoy a warming cup of tea in the café or investigate the on-site beer and gin distillery. This attraction often has special events happening throughout the year so keep an eye on their events page to find out what’s on during your stay.
Choose a cottage close to the seafront like the adorable Sandy Vista apartment for two, the family-sized Rivers Meet, or the astonishing Redlands House, which has space for up to 24 guests to stay, making it ideal for special occasion and get-togethers. For more choice, take a look at our wonderful collection of Instow cottages and find the perfect place to spend your holiday, where you'll find some wonderful romantic, luxury and dog-friendly cottages.
The food and drink
Instow has a great selection of waterfront pubs, dine at a different one each night! They are made up of Instow Arms, The Boathouse, The Quay Inn and The Wayfarer Inn, while down the road you’ll find the award-winning Johns of Instow, a deli serving delicious cheeses, home-baked items and locally produced goods.
The Tarka Trail
Named after the Henry Williamson books, the Tarka Trail is a cycle path that forms part of the Devon Coast-to-Coast Cycle Route. This picturesque trail begins in Braunton and leads all the way to Meeth but can be broken down into shorter sections. You could cycle the 13-mile route from Instow to Barnstaple (about 2 hours 30 minutes to complete) or follow the even shorter run from Instow to Bideford and back again that’s 6 miles altogether (about 30 minutes).
Cycle alongside the river, through woodland, past open fields and refuel at a café. After a full morning’s cycling, why not treat yourself to a cup of tea and slice of cake?
Instow is a beautiful spot for a holiday by the coast. Take a look at our selection of cottages, pick out the perfect holiday home and you’ll soon be sat sipping drinks on the waterfront or strolling along the beautiful sandy beach.