Taw and Torridge Lighthouses

A number of lighthouses have marked the Taw and Torridge Estuary. The Taw and Torridge Rivers flow from Bideford and Barnstaple, converging at the estuary. Navigating this entrance is tricky as there are a number of sandbanks obstructing the entrance. As a result, four lighthouses were built in 1820 by Trinity House.

Braunton High and Low Lighthouses

Braunton High and Low Lighthouses were built as leading lights to guide ships over the bar, near Crow Point.  The lights were also sometimes referred to as Braunton Sands or Bideford Lights. 

Original Taw and Torridge Lighthouses
The original Braunton High and Low Lighthouses
Photo: John Frost Collection

Braunton High Lighthouse was an octagonal tower, 86 feet high with struts protruding from the tower into the roof of the keeper’s cottage.  It was painted white with a vertical red stripe.  Joseph Nelson was responsible for its construction in 1820.

Braunton High Lighthouse
Braunton High Lighthouse
Photo: John Frost Collection

The lighthouse was altered in 1889 and was demanned in 1945 after the structure became unstable.  A new lighthouse replaced it in 1954.

Braunton Rear 1970s
The second Braunton High Lighthouse
Photo: John Frost Collection

The Low Lighthouse was also built in 1820 and was a 15 feet high hut on legs also painted white with a red stripe, displaying a fixed white light.  It was altered in 1832 and 1902.  A ball was mounted on a mast which when raised indicated it was safe to enter. 

Later a red and green light system replaced the ball but this was discontinued in 1954.  The lighthouse was demolished in 1957.

Braunton Low Lighthouse
Braunton Low Lighthouse
Photo: John Frost Collection

The original lights were donated to the Christie Estate Trust in 1966 for use at Braunton Burrows Nature Reserve as hides.

One of these was re-used as a temporary light in 1972 when Bull Point Lighthouse collapsed during a landslide.

Bull Point postcard
The temporary light for Bull Point Lighthouse

Crow Point Lighthouse

Crow Point is located on a sandy peninsula at the bend of the River Taw, converging with the Torridge. Large sandbanks are exposed here at low water.

A new lighthouse was built at Crow Point in 1954 replacing the Braunton High and Low Lighthouses. The tower was originally powered using acetylene gas.

Crow Point
Photo: John Frost Collection

The lighthouse was converted to solar power in 1987 and was modernised again in 2001.

Crow Point
Crow Point Lighthouse
Photo © Roger Cornfoot (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Crow Point Lighthouse also features in the Ann Cleeves novel Two Rivers.

Crow Point can be accessed from a number of routes.

Instow Front and Rear Lighthouses

A pair of lighthouses were also built in 1820 on the eastern side of the Taw and Torridge estuary.  Instow Front Range Lighthouse was a wooden tower close to the river bank.  A 58ft high lattice tower replaced it in 1964. 

Instow Rear Range Lighthouse is located on the hillside and was also replaced in 1964 by the current tower.

Instow Rear Lighthouse
Instow Rear Lighthouse
Photo: Patrick Tubby

On 25th January 1990 the Instow Front Lighthouse was damaged during a severe storm and a steel lattice tower replaced it.

Instow Front Lighthouse
Instow Front Lighthouse
Photo: Patrick Tubby

The Tarka Trail flanks the Taw and Torridge Estuary.  Numerous habitats include sand dunes, saltmarsh, woodland, marsh and meadows.

A ferry operates between Appledore and Instow, and there are numerous walks and places to explore.

Braunton High LighthouseEstablished: 1820 Discontinued: 1954 Engineer: Tower Height: Light Character: Range: Fog Signal: Elevation: Automated:
Braunton Low LighthouseEstablished: 1820 Discontinued: 1954, demolished 1957 Engineer: Tower Height: Light Character: Range: Fog Signal: Elevation: Automated:
Crow Point LighthouseEstablished: 1954 Discontinued: Engineer: Tower Height: 7 metres Light Character: Fl W R 2.5 s Range: W 6 miles, R 5 miles Fog Signal: Elevation: 8 metres Automated:
Instow Front LighthouseEstablished: 1820 Discontinued: Engineer: Tower Height: 18 metres Light Character: Oc W 6 s Range: 15 miles Fog Signal: Elevation: 22 metres Automated:
Instow Rear LighthouseEstablished: 1820 Discontinued: Engineer: Tower Height: 9 metres Light Character: Oc W 10 s Range: 15 miles Fog Signal: Elevation: 38 metres Automated: