The My Favourite Cottages Holiday Guide to Westward Ho!

What Makes Westward Ho! Special?

  • ‍Sandy Blue Flag beach
  • Set in North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • Breathtaking views across the Atlantic to Lundy Island
  • Charming coastal village
  • Great places to eat and drink
  • Fun seaside amusements
  • Amazing surfing conditions, surf shops and schools
  • Secluded rocky coves and fishing villages nearby
  • Stone’s throw from North Devon’s top family attractions
  • Overlooked by rolling hills, fields and woods
  • On the Southwest Coast Path

What Can We Do in Westward Ho!?

  • ‍Watch the sun set on the Atlantic.
  • Sunbathe, swim and build sandcastles on the beach.
  • Book surfing lessons.
  • Explore the dunes and grasslands of Northam Burrows Country Park.
  • Enjoy a round of golf at Royal North Devon Golf Club.
  • While away an afternoon at Carousel Amusements.
  • Spot seals and dolphins from the Southwest Coast Path.
  • Experience sheep-racing at the Big Sheep.
  • Take a rollercoaster ride at the Milky Way.
  • Wander through the cobbled lanes of the fishing village of Clovelly.
  • Browse antique shops in Bideford market town.
  • Cycle the Tarka Trail.
  • Board MS Oldenburg from Bideford to Lundy Island.
  • Visit the woods, waterfalls and pebble bay at Bucks Mills.
  • Go sailing with Appledore Sails.
  • Pop into a cosy pub for a pint of local ale or cider.
  • Treat yourself to a fresh seafood meal at a seafront restaurant.
  • Take a drive inland, to the rolling hills and fields of Devon.
  • Discover towering cliffs and ancient woodland on the rugged Hartland Peninsula.

Where Can We Stay in Westward Ho!?

  • ‍Book a static caravan at one of the village’s classic family holiday parks.
  • Stay in a cosy bed and breakfast, a stroll away from the beach.
  • Pick a seafront hotel such as the Waterfront Inn or Westbeach Resort.
  • Book a holiday cottage by the beach, in the heart of Westward Ho! or in the green hills overlooking the village and ocean.   

All About Westward Ho!

Westward Ho! is a laid-back resort with a spectacular sandy beach, on the North Devon coast just north of the market town of Bideford. It faces west into Bideford Bay with breathtaking views across the Atlantic Ocean, towards Lundy Island. Named after a popular Victorian-era novel by Charles Kingsley, it is the only place in Britain to have an exclamation mark in its title. The village itself is a welcoming community of seaside homes, surf shops, cafes and restaurants, while the beach is a stunning, underdeveloped stretch of golden sands, backed by an unusual pebble ridge and the wild dunes and grasslands of Northam Burrows Country Park. The coast and countryside surrounding Westward Ho! is some of North Devon’s finest, with ancient fishing villages, rolling hills, towering cliffs and secret rocky coves to discover.

For a small village, Westward Ho! is packed with great places to eat and drink. Tea on the Green is a must for delicious Devon cream teas and homemade cakes. Moran’s is a relaxed restaurant serving a mix of Thai and British food prepared with the best local ingredients. The Pig on the Hill is a friendly pub just outside the village, offering hearty meals and a good selection of local ciders and ales. And Café Italia is the place to go for pizza or pasta right by the beach.

Self-catering holidays in Westward Ho! would be incomplete without visiting a couple of the neighbouring market towns and fishing villages. A couple of miles to the south, Bideford is a delightful town with a pedestrianised High Street packed with cafes, antique shops and opportunities to pick up fresh produce from the surrounding countryside. It’s also well worth taking a drive inland, where the glorious Devon countryside is scattered with sleepy villages which time seems to have forgotten.

Westward Ho! is one of North Devon’s best surf spots, with consistent conditions and a sandy, gently sloping shore which is perfect for surfers of all levels. There are a number of surf schools and shops near the beach, offering equipment hire and lessons if you need a little guidance to catch your first wave. Unlike many beaches along the coast, where rocks and difficult access limit when it is possible to surf, the long, sandy beach at Westward Ho! makes it possible to surf and any stage of the tide, with loads of space for beginners to get to grips with this exhilarating sport.

Westward Ho! is hard to beat for walking holidays in North Devon. The Southwest Coast Path runs right through the village, with stunning views along the coast and across miles of unspoiled countryside. Follow the path north and you will make your way through Northam Burrows Country Park before reaching the picturesque fishing community of Appledore, on the Torridge estuary. Head south and you will cross craggy clifftops on your way to Bucks Mills, a spectacular rocky bay with waterfalls, overlooked by a steep, wooded valley. Continue along the coast and your next stop will be Clovelly, a lovely fishing village where a tangle of cobbled lanes descends to a working harbour, where you can enjoy a meal or pint of local ale at the pub by the water. Further west, the Hartland Peninsula has a particularly rugged coast, with ancient woods, a historic abbey with stunning gardens, and a rocky quay where you can watch waves crashing against the cliffs.

Westward Ho! is great choice for a family holiday in North Devon. There’s loads of space for kids to play on the beach, which has been awarded the Blue Flag for its safe, clean environment. The seafront is packed with amusements and the village is a stone’s throw from some of the region’s top family attractions. A few miles west, the Milky Way is a fun-packed adventure park with rides, dodgems, play areas and a wakeboarding park. Nearby, the Big Sheep is a unique amusement farm park, where you can watch sheep races and meet newborn lambs.

Golfers won’t want to miss the Royal North Devon Golf Club, just a mile from Westward Ho! village and the country’s oldest links course. Founded in 1864, it draws golfers from far and wide, and is fondly known as the ‘St Andrews of the South’. It’s also known for challenging even the best players, and recently appeared in Golf World’s Top 100 Courses in the World that every golfer ‘must play’.

Westward Ho! History

Westward Ho! is noted for its peculiar name, which comes from Charles Kingsley’s 1855 novel, ‘Westward Ho!’, which is set in the neigbouring market town of Bideford. When the book became a bestseller, local entrepreneurs seized the opportunity to develop tourism in the area, and in 1863, the Northam Burrows Hotel and Villa Building Company was founded. The company stated that its aim was to attract holidaymakers to the beautiful North Devon coast with “sea bathing, combined with the invigorating breezes of the Atlantic.”

Westward Ho! Hotel and a number of adjacent villas were constructed, all taking the name of Kingsley’s novel. As the resort continued to expand, the wider community also became known as Westward Ho!, intentionally including an exclamation mark as part of the village’s name. Westward Ho! has two churches, Westward Ho! Baptist Church and Holy Trinity Church. Shell middens and a submerged forest dating back to the Mesolithic period have been excavated off the shore from the village. Much of Westward Ho! lies within the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which was designated in 1959 and covers 66 square miles, from the border with Cornwall at Marsland Mouth to the Taw and Torridge Estuary and the border of Exmoor National Park, at Combe Martin.

How Do You Get to Westward Ho!?

Whether you are travelling from the UK or further afield, Westward Ho! is easily accessible by car, train, coach or air. National Express Coaches stop in Barnstaple, which is a short local bus or taxi journey from Westward Ho! London is approximately five hours from Barnstaple by coach, with good connections to the rest of the UK. Barnstaple is also the closest train station, with regular trains to and from Exeter. From Exeter, you can take a direct train to Bristol, London or Cornwall, with connections to towns and cities across the UK.

Exeter is the closest airport to Westward Ho! with routes to cities in the UK and Europe, and a 90-minute drive or roughly two hours by public transport. Bristol airport is a two-hour drive away with a greater variety of flights to the UK and cities across Europe. Travellers flying from outside Europe will generally need to fly to a London airport and hire a car or use public transport to get to Westward Ho!.

Driving to Westward Ho! is simple, as the village lies just off the A39 or ‘Atlantic Highway’, which follows the coasts of North Devon and Cornwall. Coming from east of Westward Ho! take the A361 from Tiverton, the A377 from Exeter or the A39 from Somerset and join the A39 towards Bideford and Bude at Barnstaple. From the west, follow the A39 east and take a left for Westward Ho! between Bude and Bideford.