The Westward Ho! beach is one of so many beautiful, large, sandy beaches in North Devon. It is a Blue Flag beach and in the summer the beach is patrolled by RNLI lifeguards – see RNLI pages for more info on dates and times.
Using the beach is one of the main attractions of the area. When the tide is in there is no beach left and it can come in quite quickly – particularly over the rockpools. Take particular care if you are walking on beaches nearby which have cliffs which will limit your ability to escape an incoming tide. Local tide time information can be found on the met office website.
There are the remains of three shipwrecks on the beach which can sometimes be seen at very low tides. However, often they are not seen for many years at a time as they are covered by the shifting sands.
There are public toilets in the village behind the green.
There are three well stocked convenience stores in Westward Ho! The Spar is closest to the apartment, just next to the green and there is a Londis on Nelson Road. Tesco Express can be found on Golf Links Road towards Westbourne Terrace. The nearest big supermarket is Morrison’s in Bideford.
However, there are also lots of opportunities to buy from local and independent producers. Westward Ho! has a butcher and bakery and there is an organic farm shop in Northam. There are delis and fishmongers in Appledore (with a new wet fish shop at the Quay in Appledore) and other surrounding towns. It’s also worth considering the many markets in the local area including Bideford and Barnstaple and a relatively new farmers market in Appledore on the first Saturday of the month.
Westward Ho! has plenty of coffee shop options and snack huts around the slipway. Hockings Ice Cream has its factory based in Appledore and is the most local ice cream that you can get! There are two of the distinctive yellow and red Hockings vans based in Westward Ho! come rain or shine throughout the summer season from March till October – one traditional van on the front by the green and the only Hockings flavour van by the slipway. Westward Ho! also boasts several shops where you can buy tasteful seaside décor, souvenirs, kit for the beach like buckets and spades, a kite shop, hardware store, pharmacy, and an angling shop.
Food and Drink
For a small village Westward Ho! is also awash with places to eat with plenty of bars and restaurants. These are just some of the restaurants and takeaways that are particularly local and/or we’ve tried and tested!
Click an item below to reveal more details.
Excellent fish and chips just across the green – if it’s not busy you can be there and back in a matter of minutes from the apartment. There is a ‘click and collect’ option available via their website or download the app for the utmost in convenience! https://atlanticbayfishandchips.com/
A family run restaurant which serves great British and Italian food. It also has a takeaway menu for collection or delivery including burgers, pasta, pizza, vegetarian and vegan options and desserts. https://www.thedriftrestaurant.co.uk/
a family run bar and restaurant specialising in Thai cuisine and traditional English dishes. Alongside an extensive wine list they also specialise in cocktails. Food also available to takeaway. https://moransrestaurant.co/
Located along the promenade to the South, Pier House has a large outdoor terrace and indoor seating with amazing views (including views of the remains of the old pier if the tide is right). They serve tea, coffee and cake in the morning, lunch and dinner including a Sunday carvery. https://thepier-house.co.uk/
The Pig on the Beach offers a relaxed seaside eating experience with coffee, cakes and freshly filled sandwiches during the day to wood fires pizzas, burgers and a new Taco bar in the evening. The Pig on the Beach also hosts regular music nights. https://thepigonthebeach.co.uk/
Activities in Westward Ho!
The biggest draw is the beach. It presents all sorts of opportunities ranging from simply watching others participate in adrenaline sports to having a go yourself. The beach stretches for two miles until you reach the estuary of the Taw and Torridge rivers but the view goes on much further, right the way up to Saunton Sands.
There is plenty to do if you are after adventure including surfing, kite surfing, windsurfing, stand up paddle boarding (SUP) and land yachting. The North Devon Surf School runs surfing lessons and hires surf boards, body boards and wetsuits. Their lessons book up quickly and can be sold out during peak times.
Westward Ho! has become the first UK village to ban the sale of polystyrene bodyboards from its shops. This is because they tend to break easily and get abandoned on beaches creating a lot of plastic waste. In 2021 Plastic Free Torridge and Kitemare – Surf and Kite Shop in Westward Ho! will be running a FREE2HIRE wooden body board service with all boards made locally.
For other activities you will need to bring your own equipment and use the ‘watersports’ zone of the beach which is up towards the estuary and away from the crowds of the village. You can park at Sandymere, approx. two thirds of the way along the beach. Follyfoot Riding School offers horse riding on the beach.
There are amusements and activities for small children near the slipway and you can fuel them up with doughnuts, waffles and ice cream from the many outlets nearby.
Along the promenade there are lots of rock pools for exploring the underwater world and the ‘rock pool’ – Westward Ho!’s outdoor, salt water swimming pool. It is very popular even during the winter and offers a protected space for a sea swim.
The Northam Burrows Country Park backs onto the beach. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest with salt marsh, sand dunes and grasslands where ponies and sheep graze freely. The Burrows Centre can be found adjacent to Sandymere, about two thirds of the way along the beach. There are toilet facilities, a small souvenir shop, Ranger services and information about walks, trails and an audio trail can be found on the website.
The Royal North Devon Golf Club is also located in the Northam Burrows Country Park and is the oldest links course in England and has the oldest ladies club in the world. Information about playing as a visitor can be found on their website.
Fishing, particularly for bass is possible from the beach. Summerlands Tackle, the angling shop in the village has information on their website. There are also sea fishing boat trips available from Appledore Quay.
The South West coast path runs along the promenade and through the village. There are some relatively easy circular walks from the front door – just search ‘Westward Ho!’ on the South West Coast Path website for a range of options. The relatively fit can walk to Appledore or along the cost to Clovelly (12 miles).
The Tarka Trail runs through Bideford and so it is technically possible to cycle to Bideford and beyond from Westward Ho! (although it’s some climb up out of Westward Ho! on a bike!). The Tarka Trail is a 180 mile figure of eight walking and cycling trail centred around Barnstaple and follows the route travelled by Tarka the Otter in the novel by Henry Williamson. The southern section of the route includes the longest, continuous off-road cycle path in the UK (30 miles between Braunton and Meeth). There is bicycle hire available in Bideford.
Westward Ho! history
Westward Ho! is the only place in Britain to have been named after a book (an adventure novel by Charles Kingsley) and the only town in Britain whose name ends with an exclamation mark.
In 1854 Charles Kingsley came to Bideford and wrote his best-seller Westward Ho! One of his favourite places was the beach and the pebble ridge, in what is now called Westward Ho! named, after the success of the novel. So successful was it that readers came to Bideford as tourists to see the real sites used by Kingsley for his story’s setting and this started the areas tourist industry. Unfortunately Kingsley was not a fan of the project to develop Westward Ho! into a town and never visited the new resort of Westward Ho! He wrote in a letter ‘How goes on Northam Burrows scene for spoiling that beautiful place with HOTELS and VILLAS I suppose it must be, but you will frighten away all the sea-pies (oyster catchers) and defile the pebble ridge with chicken bones and sandwich scraps.’.
You can spot Oystercatchers on the rocks outside the apartment and as long as all our visitors help to keep the village free of chicken bones and sandwich scraps hopefully Kingsley will be proved wrong.
The site of the apartments used to be the Bath Hotel – hence the name Bath Hotel Road. The baths were filled with heated seawater pumped by a steam engine. The building later became an amusements hall and chip shop before being demolished in 2004. The apartments were built in 2008. There are photos of the old hotel site here.
Rudyard Kipling, creator of 'The Jungle Book' and the 'Just So Stories' as well as poems such as ‘If’, attended the United Services College at Westward Ho! for four years from 1878. He later wrote a book based in Devon called ‘Stalky & Co.’ based on the adventures of himself and his two closest friends at the College. There is an interpretation board about Kipling on the promenade just outside the apartments and you can read his poem ‘If’ as you walk along the promenade.
This website dedicated to the history of Westward Ho! has lots of further information and pictures of the village over its time.