Walk - Torridge Ships & Shipbuilding

3.0 miles (4.8 km)

Bideford Quay - EX39 2HW Bideford Quay

Easy - Quiet streets and lanes, and footpaths that may be wet or muddy, on mostly level ground.

Leaving from Bideford Quay, stroll along the shoreline of the River Torridge to the delightful fishing village at Appledore, where the North Devon Maritime Museum offers some fascinating insights into the rich shipbuilding and seafaring history of the area. After passing some elegant riverside houses with private moorings, there are glimpses through the trees of the ribs and hulls of boats and barges in all states of preservation from brand new to rotten. As you reach Appledore you pass the still-thriving shipyard, with a long history of building vessels from container ships and superyachts to tall ships and ferries. Allow time for a Hockings ice cream on the seafront and a browse through the tiny streets of fishermen's cottages before taking the bus back to Bideford.

There are a range of wonderful places to lay your head near the Coast Path for a well-earned sleep. From large and luxurious hotels, to small and personable B&B's, as well as self-catering options and campsites. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

Corner House B&B

500 yards from the quayside, family run and homely welcome. Single night stays. ROOMS ENSUITE

Catboat Cottage

A stone's throw from the beach and a two minute walk to restaurants, pubs and cafes. Our comfortable 200-year-old cottage sleeps 8 guests. 4 bedrooms/3 bathrooms

Baker's Cottage

A relaxing, hideaway cottage in town with restaurants, pubs, shops & quayside nearby. Sleeps 4 in 2 bedrooms. Space on deck for bicycles. Luggage drop-off available.

Moreton House

Self catering holiday apartments located within a stately home sleeping from 2 - 10 people. Group bookings available.

Tarka Trail Camping

Tarka Trail Camping is right on the South West Coast Path. There are Showers and Toilets on site with a Local Ale Brewery next door. We are an ideal spot to stop off.

Westacott Farm Camping

Enjoy the peace and tranquility of the North Devon countryside at our working family farm. Situated within an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the North Devon coast.

Moorview Enterprises

Moorview House B&B luxurious, private, in room breakfast in quiet gardens close to Tarka Trail
You'll be spoilt for choice for where to eat and drink along the Path. With lots of local seasonal food on offer, fresh from the farm, field and waters. Try our local ales, ciders, wines and spirits, increasing in variety by the year, as you sit in a cosy pub, fine dining restaurant or chilled café on the beach. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

Pig and Olive

Refuel with our award-winning contemporary Neapolitan-style Pizza. Grab a special to-go or linger in our casual dine-in area. We also serve fresh coffee and ice cream.

Johns of Instow & Appledore

Using our artisan delis as our larder, the Johns cafés offer unrivalled freshness & quality in our picturesque locations.

What is on your list of things to do when you visit the Path? From walking companies, to help you tailor your visit, with itineraries and experts to enhance your visit, to baggage transfer companies and visitor attractions there are lots to people and places to help you decide what you'd like to do. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

Northam Burrows Visitor Centre

Cafe, exhibition area & shop set in area of dunes and coastal grassland on SWCP, part of Northam Burrows Country Park

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the bridge end of Bideford Quay, with your back to the medieval Long Bridge and its 24 ill-assorted arches, walk straight ahead along the quayside. Carry on through Victoria Park, continuing along the South West Coast Path at the far end.

Across the park stands the Burton Art Gallery and Museum. Established in 1951 by local businessman Thomas Burton and successful artist Hubert Coop, the gallery was opened to commemorate the untimely death of Burton’s daughter, Mary. In a letter to the Bideford Gazette, Coop wrote: ‘It’s a happy chance that two old townsmen have come together to make a last effort to leave the town richer than they found it. The gallery should be a peaceful haven where one may take a quiet look at beautiful things'. Among the 'beautiful things' on show is a detailed scale model of the many transformations of Bideford Bridge (see the Torridge Estuary Walk).

  1. Approaching the high Torridge Bridge, bear right after the small roundabout to go under the bridge. Go straight ahead past the cottage and along the stone wall to return to the riverside, following the Coast Path waymarkers. Turn left at the river to walk along a low cliff at Lower Cleave and past the old Cleave Quay. Carry on along the road ahead and straight on along the Coast Path when another path crosses yours. Here the Coast Path heads inland again, around the backs of riverside houses, before carrying on through woodland above the river.
  2. Bear right onto Windmill Lane. If the tide is low you can cross the dyke ahead, but otherwise you will need to take the detour to the left. As you approach the shipyard, the Coast Path turns left to follow the fence around its landward side, coming out on the Wooda Road.

Torridgeside has a maritime history going back through many centuries. Sixteenth-century Devon adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh was said to have landed his first consignment of tobacco at Bideford. His distant cousin, Richard Grenville, was Lord of the Manor of Bideford and admiral of the Elizabethan fleet responsible for establishing a military colony off the coast of North Carolina in 1585. Building on the 1272 town charter granted to his ancestor, also Richard Grenville, he created the Port of Bideford in 1575, transforming it from a quiet fishing town to a major trading centre.

The area's shipbuilding tradition also goes back many centuries. Traveller John Leland noted in his 1540s 'Journey through the South Western Counties’ that Bideford had an entire street of ‘smiths and occupiers for ship crafts’. The earliest recorded vessel built by Bideford shipwrights was a 250-ton ship, made in 1566 for an Exeter merchant.

Like many of the creeks and rivers around the south west in medieval times, the hills flanking the Torridge valley were covered in oak woodlands. This provided the curved timber for the frames and outer planking of early ships; while the elms and pines growing a little further inland were ideal for the keels, masts and spars.

The last wooden merchant ship to be built here was launched in 1912, when the earliest riveted wrought-iron vessels were constructed in Appledore's 'Iron yard'.

The First World War brought an urgent demand for ships to replace those sunk during the hostilities. Later, during the Second World War, there was a need for wooden mine sweepers, as steel ships were vulnerable to the magnetic mines now being used. The Torridge was an ideal place for the testing of top secret weapons and equipment, and the shipyards were kept busy, building, repairing and modifying craft for the Admiralty.

Orders kept coming in from both the Admiralty and NATO, even after the second World War, as well as from the private sector, which wanted motor fishing vessels and commercial and leisure craft. Between 1946 and 1964, more than 80 ships were launched in Appledore by shipbuilders PK Harris. Nearby a smaller specialist yard was kept busy with the construction of replica ships such as a Roman galley, a Viking longboat and Sir Francis Drake's 'Golden Hinde'.

Appledore Shipbuilders was founded in 1965, with Europe's largest covered yard, built over a massive dry dock. In the next four decades, nearly 200 registered vessels were built here, including tankers, container ships, ocean survey ships and tugs.

  1. Turn left on Wooda Road and walk a short distance to take the public footpath opposite, signed between the gateposts. As the drive curves to the right, the footpath turns left and follows the left-hand hedge through the field, turning left again at the far end and following the next left-hand hedge to come out on the left-hand side of the house ahead, on Pitt Hill.
  2. Turn right and walk down the road to the main A386 road into Appledore. The bus stop for the return to Bideford is on your left once you reach the main road; but to visit the Maritime Museum first, turn right instead to walk the short distance to Odun Road, opposite, following the brown signs to the museum.

The seven exhibition rooms of the North Devon Maritime museum present a wonderful tale of Second World War beach landing experiments, smugglers and shipwrecks, sail and steam vessels. The museum is open most afternoons from Easter until October, with extended opening hours during the high season. For further details see www.northdevonmaritimemuseum.co.uk

Public transport

Buses travel regularly between Bideford and Appledore throughout the day. For details visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.


Riverside car park by Bideford's Victoria Park


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