Great Torrington is The Garden Cottage's local town where you will find a selection of shops, which should be able to provide you with everything you need during your stay; these include a local bakery, delicatessen, butcher and green grocers. The town also houses a post office, bank, chemist and supermarket. A selection of films are shown at The Plough Arts Centre, where you can also listen to live music and watch a play. Torrington has a range of places to eat and a good selection for a take away, including Taff's for fish and chips, Maya for Indian and Chef Lin for Chinese.
To experience the history of the town, which was very important in the 17th century Civil War, head to Castle Hill on South Street to relive the 1646 battle of Torrington and take part in one of the guided tours of the town.
For something a little bit different visit Dartington Crystal, which is based in Torrington. Using traditional Swedish glass blowing techniques the company creates a selection of hand crafted crystal and glass products. Dartington is the last company still producing crystal in the UK and is a great place to see; you can also pick up a few souvenirs in its seconds shop.
North Devon's main town of Barnstaple is a half hour's drive from the cottage and has plenty to offer visitors. The large town has all the main high street stores, as well as three large supermarkets. Throughout the week the historic pannier market comes to life as locals sell various goods, including fruit and veg, antiques and crafts. Running alongside the Pannier Market is one of the town's oldest streets, Butchers Row, which has a butcher, baker, florist, fishmonger and green grocer.
The Queen's Theatre has a packed schedule and attracts plenty of household names to its stage and along the road is the multi-screen cinema showing all the latest blockbusters.
On the outskirts of Barnstaple is the leisure centre with gym and swimming pool, there is also the Tarka Tennis Centre where courts can be booked by the hour.
Sitting on the estuary of the River Torridge is Bideford. The quayside town has a pretty park and many shops and galleries. In the summer boats regularly leave the town en route to Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel. This beautiful island is only a few miles off the North Devon coastline and is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Marine Nature Reservation because of its varied wildlife and vegetation. It is a wonderful place to enjoy a walk, watch the birds or just relax in its one and only pub admiring the views of the ocean.
Just along the coast from Bideford is Appledore, a lovely seaside village with narrow streets and nice places to eat, including the Beaver Inn and The Quay, both of which have beautiful seaside views. The village also attracts lots of guest speakers to its book festival that is held every autumn. Whilst visiting Appledore, make sure you savour one of Hocking's ice creams, which are some of the best in North Devon.
Clovelly is well known for its car-free cobbled street, which leads down to a wonderful fishing harbour; and this quaint village is a lovely place to enjoy a relaxing day out. Clovelly has a series of pretty cottages, which are built into the steep side of the valley; there is also a collection of shops, a café and pub. As cars are not permitted on the main cobbled street you will need to park at the top and walk down to the harbour, but if you don't fancy the walk back up the hill you can catch a lift in the resident 4x4.
A trip to North Devon would not be complete without visiting one of its many beautiful beaches. From its secluded coves to its miles of golden sands, the North Devon coastline has it all.
Less than a 30 minute drive from The Garden Cottage is Westward Ho! Famously named after the Charles Kingsley novel, the village is the only place in Britain to legally have an exclamation mark in its name. This pretty village has a lovely beach, which is protected by a large pebble ridge, and it is ideal not only for sunbathing but also walking and water sports. In the evening end the day at The Pier House on Merley Road. Its sun-deck has beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean and Saunton Sands.
A little further away from the cottage are the more well-known beaches at Saunton Sands, Woolacombe and Croyde. All the beaches are within an hour's drive and offer vast stretches of golden sands and clean blue seas. All of these beaches are located within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and can be accessed via the South West Coastal Footpath.
Bucks Mills, Northam Burrows and Instow also offer good alternatives to the other more popular beaches.
Only a couple of miles from The Garden Cottage is RHS Rosemoor a stunning 65 acre garden. This enchanting attraction is perfect for relaxing and inspirational days out, with lots of colour and scents to discover as you wander around the gardens, explore the woodland trails, see lovely water features and admire the open spaces. To end the day why not enjoy a nice meal in the award winning Garden Kitchen Restaurant, and don't forget you can also buy a selection of the plants on view at the plant centre to take home and grow yourself.
Castle Hill near South Molton features an 18th century landscaped garden and park, which was created by Lord Fortescue to complement the main Grade 1 listed house. Now, home to the Earl and Countess of Arran, Castle Hill has become a wonderful place to visit with its variety of plants and flowers, and views stretching as far as Lundy Island.
On the outskirts of Barnstaple is Marwood Hill Gardens, a series of gardens, lakes, woodlands and unusual plants covering 20 acres of the valley. Highlights at Marwood include a birch grove and a pergola with 12 varieties of wisteria. Broomhill Sculpture Gardens are also on the edge of the town and lie in one of the most beautiful valleys in North Devon. The gardens are surrounded by woodlands and have one of the largest collections of contemporary sculptures in the West Country.
The 12th century Hartland Abbey was given to the Stucley family by Henry V111 and until the 1990's its garden had become overrun by trees and wild rhododendron. It was, however, restored by Lady Stucley and now has a long 'Ladies Walk' that winds down from the house to a collection of secret walled gardens that are hidden amongst the trees. These quirky gardens are lovely and informal with a nice romantic feel.
The Tarka Trail covers more than 180 miles of Devon and offers excellent walking and cycling routes. Named after Henry Williamson's 'Tarka the Otter', the trail crosses areas of Exmoor and Dartmoor, as well as including North Devon's dramatic coastline. As the route follows the course of the old railway line, which was closed in 1968, it is very level and will suit all levels of walkers and cyclists. You can easily access the Tarka Trail just outside Torrington at the Puffing Billy Pub, where you can also hire bikes. From here you can head south to Dartmoor or east to Bideford.
Today, Umberleigh is a small village in North Devon located alongside the River Taw, but it was once a large manor within the hundred of Tawton. The manor of Umberleigh was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 and was centred on the nunnery, which was given to the Holy Trinity Abbey in Caen, Normandy by William the Conqueror. The site was later used by the manor house, a large and grand Georgian farmhouse. Just along the road from Umberleigh is Kings Nympton, home to The Grove Inn, which has a friendly landlord and an extensive wine list, which can all be tasted by the glass. Another nearby restaurant is The Bell in Chittlehampton that has guest beers and themed nights.
Situated next to the River Deer is Holsworthy, a lovely market town, which was mentioned in the Domesday Book. The town has lots of history and wonderful period properties. Its popular pannier market is open every Wednesday, and its livestock market is one of the largest in the South West.
Travel south from the cottage and you will soon be on Dartmoor, a National Park covering more than 300 square miles. Dartmoor is famous for its tors and ponies and is ideal for long walks. On the northern edge of Dartmoor is Okehampton, which was founded by the Saxons and recorded as a place for slaves to be freed. Some of the town's more notable buildings include the Chapel of St James, which was built in the 15th century and Okehampton Castle, which is owned by English Heritage and open to the public every summer. The Museum of Dartmoor Life is also located in the town and has had many famous visitors, including Prince Charles.
With The Garden Cottage situated in such a wonderful central location it is easy to explore North Devon and beyond. Within a 60 minute drive is Exmoor, the beautiful National Park, which covers more than 200 square miles. This diverse landscape is home to the red deer and Exmoor ponies, and is a great place to have a picnic or enjoy a leisurely stroll. You can also see where Exmoor meets the sea at the Valley of the Rocks near Lynton and Lynmouth. The valley has a collection of rock formations and some of the highest cliffs in the country. In the summer you can watch the local cricket team play in the valley and enjoy one of the best cream teas at Mother Meldrum's Tearooms.
If you're travelling to Exmoor take some time to explore Lynton and Lynmouth, otherwise known as Little Switzerland. These pretty villages are connected not only via a road but also by the water powered Cliff Railway. There are several places to eat in the villages and plenty of galleries and small shops. Along the coast from Lynton and Lynmouth is Ilfracombe, a lovely seaside town with a beautiful harbour. Here you can enjoy locally caught fish in the seaside cafés and browse the art galleries, which feature Damien Hirst, an artist who in 2012 gave the town 'Verity', a 67 foot bronze statue that now stands proudly over Ilfracombe's pier.