A local’s guide to… Bideford

Bideford North Devon

We love Bideford – the maritime town is based in the heart of North Devon and is a tourist hotspot. As locals, we’ve compiled a list of everything we think you should know about Bideford…so you know what to expect during a holiday here.

Unexpected Surprises

You can always expect the unexpected in Bideford. The town is a hub of art features and figures, such as the hand figure below, the ring of historical Cannons in Victoria Park, and the latest addition; Tarka the Otter along the waterfront.

Walk along the river by night and you’ll see the bulbs lighting up your way; following you along the footpath. Throughout the year, spontaneous events take place, such as Yarn Bombing where locals create colourful creations to display around the town. Then there’s the carnival, the fair, the fun build up to Christmas and New Year – and recently a big upcoming film was shot here, closing parts of the high street. There’s always something going on.

The best way to see what Bideford has to offer? Enjoy the area, walk around and discover the surprises the town has, and if you’re lucky you may catch something unexpected happening.

Check out our what’s on guide to see what might be taking place in Bideford next time you’re here.

Bideford in North Devon

Image: Caroline Campbell

Hocking’s Ice Cream

Have a glance at the image above, what’s that hiding behind the tree? It’s a Hocking’s Ice Cream Van – the signature ice cream of North Devon.

From late spring until early autumn, you’ll find a Hocking’s van around the town, usually on the corner of Victoria Park; a walk around the park with an ice cream, whilst the kids play, is always a good way to spend the day.

Not much more to say really, if you’re in Bideford it’s simply a must do!

The History

The famous bridge across the Torridge was first built in about 1280 as a packhorse bridge. This wooden bridge was then replaced by a ford – it’s believed this ford is the source of the town’s name (by the ford = Bideford). In the 16th century, the stone structure we see today started to take shape and the town around it formed, moving up the hills.

Bideford Bridge North Devon

The town has many additional stories. For instance, Charles Kingsley, best known for writing The Water Babies, published a novel called Westward Ho! in 1855. It was based on Bideford and became the name of the famous beach resort up the road.

Also, the last witches to be put to death in Britain came from Bideford. The three women were accused of witchcraft after unnatural encounters with animals, and were put to death.

We study these facts and other exciting things you probably didn’t know about North Devon in our blog: 11 things you probably didn’t about North Devon.

Holidays in Bideford

Us locals can keep adding our own knowledge and experiences of Bideford all day long, but what are the town and surrounding area like to visit on a holiday?

Bideford is best described as a key focal point in North Devon. Whilst Lynton and Lynmouth are at the centre of Exmoor to the East, and Barnstaple is known as the “capital of North Devon” in the centre of the region – Bideford owns the title of being at the centre of life to the West of the area, bordering Torrington and acting as a gateway to Cornwall.

In the centre of town are national shops and restaurant chains, rivalled by local companies making their own products from hand. Towards the outskirts, you’ll find McDonalds and Starbucks, but move to the centre and the Pannier Market offers a little step back in time as stalls offer local products alongside quaint cafes.

Bideford Pannier Market

Then around the town, you’ll find all the other great holiday destinations: Westward Ho! and Appledore, Instow and Clovelly, Hartland and Great Torrington. If you love your holidays to be filled with as much as possible, pick Bideford as your base to then explore everywhere else.

Atlantic Village

Atlantic Village Bideford

Also on the edge of Bideford – and a key focal point for the town is Atlantic Village.

The Village is North Devon’s unique outlet shopping centre, with over 30 stores offering up to 50% off rrp items; including Nike, M&S and GAP.  Plus, with free parking, free Wi-Fi and year-round opening hours, they are the place to grab a bargain. This is also the home to Atlantis Adventure Park (for the kids, as much as you’ll want to play too), and there is an abundance of ways to enjoy meals too.

Bideford holiday accommodation

Of course, every holiday needs amazing accommodation. You’ve got a number of options, so we recommend doing some research and taking your pick of what Bideford has to offer. But to break down it down a little…

Bideford Hotels

Right in the heart of Bideford is the Royal Hotel, part of Brend Hotels who have award-winning hotels across the South West. The 3 STAR Royal Hotel is right opposite the old bridge for easy walking access to the town. If it’s luxury you want, you know where to look.

Royal Hotel Bideford

Plus there are other choices such as The Pines at Eastleigh which is a short drive away from the town, and Yeolden House Hotel on the road between Bideford and Westward Ho!

Bideford Holiday Parks

There’s a couple of great holiday park options not too far down the road from the town of Bideford. One is The Ultimate Adventure Centre and the other is Bideford Bay Holiday Park, pictured here.

Bideford Bay Holiday Park

Both offer a great range of family facilities and accommodation, for an action-packed holiday. Located close to the town centre, and nearby to The Milky Way Adventure Park and The Big Sheep, there’s no reason not to book the whole family in for an exciting getaway!

Self Catering Cottages

Again, not far from the town, in the rolling hills of the North Devon countryside, is Robin Hill Farm Cottages – self-catering cottages that welcome dogs. It has beautiful cottages to stay in along with an indoor pool and hot tub facilities. Family holiday, sorted.

Alternatively, for a B&B in the centre of Bideford, check out No.89 B&B, for your home away from home during a break in North Devon.

Bideford Waterfront

If you’re reading this and know Bideford well, we’d love to know what else you’d add to the list of what to expect when holidaying in the area. Contact us via our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to let us know what we missed out.

Also, if you’re visiting Bideford soon, let us know what you’re looking forward to the most.

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