Contrary to what you may think Westward Ho! is not an exclamation. Instead, it’s quite literally the name of a North Devon Town. A town named after a book. Set along two miles of sandy shoreline, this seaside resort town of Westward Ho! was constructed during the Victorian era and has attracted visitors from far and wide ever since…
A Visit to Westward Ho!
We’d never intended to visit Westward Ho! But sometimes it’s best to just follow the signs and follow wherever they might lead to. (And besides, did curiosity really kill the cat?) Driving through the North Devonian countryside following a visit to nearby Clovelly (which is supposedly the prettiest village in the UK), we couldn’t help but notice the signposts for a name with an actual exclamation mark in it. In fact, it turns out that the town is the only one in the UK to include punctuation marks.
Located just over a mile down the coastline from ever popular Bideford, you’ll find Westward Ho! Once the site of a Mesolithic forest (now submerged under the sea but dating back to 10,000 years ago), it’s here where plenty of families and couples vacation each year, looking for a place to relax among the waves. Construction of the town began in 1865 during the Victorian era and was built in a style typical of resort towns in the 19th-Century. The house façades are high and palm trees are everywhere.
Westward Ho! The Novel by Charles Kingsley
Published in 1855, the novel Westward Ho! was an almost immediate success. Written by native Devonian, Charles Kingsley, the book follows the adventures of English Corsair Amyas Preston. Set in the 16th-Century, the story follows the Corsair’s (fancy word for pirate) journey to sea with Francis Drake (a famous confidant to Queen Elizabeth I). The book includes fights with the Spanish in the Americas, searches for gold and life in Devon.
The book is written in pretend Elizabethan and is named after river boats on the Thames in London. During the Elizabethan period, sailors would shout ‘Eastward Ho!’ or ‘Westward Ho!’ depending on the boat’s final destination. The full novel’s title is:
‘Westward Ho! Or The Voyages and Adventures of Sir Amyas Leigh, Knight of Burrough, in the County of Devon, in the reign of Her Most Glorious Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, Rendered into Modern English by Charles Kingsley’.
Imagine if they’d named the town that!
In fact, Charles Kingsley’s novel proved so popular that there was a renewed interest in North Devon among wealthy Victorians. Rich businessmen in nearby Bideford saw the tourism potential almost immediately. And the Earl of Portsmouth founded a hotel named ‘Westward Ho!’ Soon enough, other villas started to pop up nearby. And thus, the town of Westward Ho! was born.
Westward Ho! Beach
Now, of course, the main attraction of Westward Ho! is its long sandy beach. After all, the village was first built as a resort specifically to serve the shoreline and act as a gateway to the great expanse of gold that stretches as far as the eye can see. Altogether there are almost two miles of sand, reaching the horizon on either side of the town. And just one trip here shows you exactly why the Victorians chose to build along these shorelines.
Westward Ho! Address Book:
In comparison with other Devonian towns (even the nearby large town of Bideford), Westward Ho! is a fairly new addition to the landscape, meaning that there aren’t too many historic buildings of interest about. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t interesting things to do (and spots to eat at).
The Pig on the Hill. A little outside of the village, you’ll find the quaint little pub of The Pig on the Hill. As the name suggests, the eatery is located at the very summit of a hill and provides amazing views over the surrounding countryside.
Holy Trinity Church. This little church was built in 1870. Fairly modern as churches go, it was built in a much older style and overlooks the sandy beach the town is so famous for.
Westward Ho Pier. A typical British pastime is strolling along the pier (wooden walkway on the edge of the sea) and playing on the many little games located there. Newquay, Brighton, and Blackpool all have one. They’re a throwback to the Victorian Era and typical of a seaside resort town. And, of course, Westward Ho! is no exception.