About the area - places to go,
things to see and do.
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Merton is a small village in the rural heart of the North Devon countryside, lying almost equidistant between Bideford, on the river Torridge, and Okehampton on Dartmoor’s northern edge. The North Devon coast is at its closest at Instow or Westward Ho!, both some 16 miles away. The village is famous as the birthplace of General George Monck, who was perhaps the leading player in British seventeenth-century politics.
Merton provides an ideal base from which to explore the varied attractions of this beautiful and tranquil area. Access to the Tarka Trail, for those who enjoy cycling or walking, is only 1 mile away at Petrockstowe. From here a disused railway line provides an easy and safe off-road route to Great Torrington, Bideford, Instow, Barnstaple and Braunton.
For visitors with horticultural leanings the Royal Horticultural Society’s Rosemoor Gardens are only five miles distant, providing year-round colour, interest and inspiration. Several other gardens nearby can be found on the NGS website. Especially recommended are Heligan’s “Lost Gardens, Docton Mill and Marwood Hill Garden. The Eden Project is also easily accessible via the nearby A30.
Lovers of history, heritage and culture are also well catered for by a range of nearby National Trust properties, countryside and coastline, The historic fishing village of Clovelly is a short drive away and Great Torrington with its Civil War associations is our nearest town. While there you can also visit the famous Dartington Crystal and see - or even have a go at, the art of glass blowing.
Both Bideford and Barnstaple have their own historic pannier markets and Exeter offers a wealth of both excellent shopping and cultural interest. The nearby towns of Hatherleigh and Holsworthy are certainly worth a visit, especially on their centuries-old market days.
Visitors with sporting interests are equally well served by excellent local golf courses, angling, (coarse, fly and sea) surfing, watersports, and, of course, miles of walking and cycling opportunities well off the beaten track.
The surrounding area is a diverse habitat for wildlife, well documented in Henry Williamson’s novel “Tarka the Otter” set on the river Torridge. Whilst even for locals a glimpse of an otter is a rare thing, deer, foxes, badgers and a wide spectrum of bird-life and other creatures can be found here in relative abundance. The nearby Halsdon Nature Reserve is a great place to explore.
As well as Henry Williamson, the North Devon area also has many other literary associations.
The wilds of Exmoor will be forever remembered as the setting for R D Blackmore’s “Lorna Doone” and also where Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan” was penned. The late Poet Laureate Ted Hughes is commemorated by a stone on Dartmoor and wrote many of his best-known works in the area. Dartmoor is of course also the setting for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” Westward Ho! is named after the Charles Kingsley novel, and further south Agatha Christie lived at Greenway near Brixham, now open to the public. Perhaps lesser-known literary figures are the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould of Lewtrenchard Manor, the author of the hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers” and avid chronicler of British folk songs in “A Garland of Country Songs.” The Rev R S Hawker wrote the Cornish anthem “Song of the Western Men” at Morwenstow, and is widely credited with the reintroduction of the harvest festival. Slightly further afield visitors can explore Thomas Hardy’s Wessex and the Cornish locations which were the inspiration for the novels of Daphne du Maurier, such as “Jamaica Inn” and “Rebecca.”
Appledore, South Molton and Honiton are recommended for lovers of art and antiques and for music fans there are various events throughout the year.
Click here for a full calendar of what's on.
Altogether the area provides something for every interest, and not just in the (hopefully!) balmy summer months. First time visitors to the area will relish the peace, beauty and tranquillity of one of England’s least inhabited areas, whilst those returning will remember quiet roads, stunning scenery and wide open spaces. Whether it’s a cream tea in the sunshine, outside a rose-bedecked thatched cottage, or an exhilarating winter walk on a storm-tossed and deserted beach, North Devon has something for you.