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Planning Retirement Online

Travel & Holidays in later life


One of the joys of having grandchildren is taking them on holiday and what better location than the North Devon coastline. Lots of sand and sea, plenty of attractions and hopefully decent weather. Tabitha Mudalier is not old enough to have grandchildren but enjoyed visiting this destination with her daughter Rhiannon

Bideford long bridge


Ah Devon… I will forgive you for instantly picturing charming little fishing villages, sweeping sandy beaches and creamy ices dripping their buttercup goodness down your fingers. You will indeed find all these treasures when you visit, but don’t let that put you off. If you’re looking for a perfect, yet typically English beach holiday, with the obligatory buckets, spades, sand in your pants and mountains of cream teas, then hurrah - Devon is the place for you. However, are you looking for something a little different? A symphony of art, culture and nature, lovingly arranged with friendly warmth? All served up with a side order of the finest seafood on the British Isles perhaps? Well, you are in luck. Devon is the place for you too. Let me prove it.T

Taking children on holiday is not easy is it? It’s always a toss-up between being trapped in the purgatory of a PVC clad play-zone and a vain attempt to consume a cool white wine in peace. I have found the latter seems always to be accompanied by the dulcet tones of “I’m bored!” ringing in my ears. You are nodding in agreement aren’t you? I feel your pain: Devon is the anaesthetic.

BidefordWe, my young daughter Rhiannon and I, arrived in the land of beaches and cream a little after 6pm after a remarkably easy motorway drive from Scotland to the tropical south. An eight hour car drive may sound hellish but I recommend it. Our journey incorporated three rest stops, two Cornish pasties bought in the Midlands and two much loved audio books of Harry Potter. No dramas. On a practical note, it was the cheapest option by far. Although at first glance, flights from the north to Exeter look amazingly reasonable, additional trains or buses consequently bump up the cost. Anyway, do you really want to take a child on a twelve hour, four changes journey? Rail is not much better; it’s a three change trip and still ends in a bus ride. Also, to really enjoy the best of Devon, you need a car so you can freely explore, park up and really see the place by foot. Our home for the week was in Bideford, North Devon. It’s a lovely coastal town and central to all the attractions and top spots within a forty mile radius.

Travel Facts



Travel Insurance for over 50s

Visit our  holidays, breaks and travel options pages


How to get there

By car:

M5 to Exit 27 and follow A361 to Barnstaple. then take the A39 to Bideford

By public transport:

train or coach to Barnstaple and then by Bideford ( about 20 minutes) 

Where to stay

Holiday Cottages

Tourist Information 

North Devon


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Tabbith and RhianonBideford has a wonderful Pannier market where local farmers bring their produce and you can indulge in the finest cuts of meat from master butchers. You will also find a wonderful selection of artisan stalls showing off beautifully made arts and crafts. The weather is so mild and pleasant down there you will enjoy a morning wandering around the stalls taking in the aromas and sampling treats. Rhiannon loved it too. Not a single, “I hate shopping Mum” passed from her lips. She was fascinated by artists who demonstrated their skills and took on the job of chief cake taster with dedication.

The water front in the town is lovely and we recommend a stroll along it. There you will be rewarded with fine views of the town on both embankments of the river Torridge, with its lovely buildings and houses descending up the hills on either side. Bideford was an important ship building centre and port during the 18th and 19th centuries. Glimpses of its industrious past can be seen all along the shores of the river; the Quay today is still busy with sailing boats and cruisers. We spent a little time down by the water just watching the water and the boats. Beautiful, tranquil, free and a brilliant way to use up an hour as you eat your picnic lunch. Our picnic was made up of the fresh local produce we had bought earlier at the Pannier Market.

The Tarka Trail Cycleway crossing the Torridge |Source= Own work |Date= See metadata |Author= P Smith |Permission= GDFL } The Tarka Trail
was our afternoon’s entertainment and what a lovely trail for cyclists and walkers it is. The trail was inspired by Henry Williamson's popular novel 'Tarka the Otter', and visits many of the actual locations mentioned in the book. The full trail is a figure of eight of 180 miles/290km which winds its way through North Devon literally following in the footsteps of Tarka the Otter . We walked along a lovely section of the trail right at Bideford and enjoyed a three mile walk along the wooded river valley just outside the town. There are varying levels of difficulty and terrain along the whole trail but it can easily be split into manageable sections and bike hire is available in Bideford if you feel like exploring on two wheels rather than by foot. Rhiannon had read the book previously and consequently was enchanted by the whole experience, attempting to spot an Otter the whole way along. If you and the children haven’t read it yet, we recommend you do, it brings the whole walk to life in a wonderful way. Sadly, no Otters were spotted during our ramble but we did enjoy a wonderful day out in nature. It was free, Rhiannon was exhausted when we got home and I was able to enjoy a cool glass of white wine as my friend and I watched the sun set over the valley. Double bonus!


Check out these alternative West Country destinations:

BATH - weekend in Jane Austen territory

CORNWALL - choosing low season

CORNWALL - NORTH for beaches, cliffs & legends

DARTMOOR - Freedom to roam and explore

DAWLISH - Pioneer railway age resort

EXETER/EXMOUTH - Tour base for South Devon

LYNTON & LYNMOUTH - Devon's Siamese-twin resorts

SIDMOUTH - Devon's Regency gem

SOMERSET - Choosing a farm cottage for a walking holiday

UP THE OTTER IN DEVON - A winter cottage haven


Books to read - click on the cover picture or click on the links below

The Rough Guide to Devon and Cornwall  - Robert Andrews - Covering the wider West Country region, and packed with accommodation recommendations, especially in the lower-cost sector.

Exmoor - High-quality text and photographs by Brian Pearce, in this official guide to the National Park. 

AA Leisure Guide Devon & Exmoor - Features ten recommended walks and two car tours, with information for cyclists. A handy pocket guide suitable for a short stay.



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