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Instow Parish Council

Instow Sands

Note: The Dogs on the Beach (access times) section below has been updated on 29th April 2021

Beach Risk Assessment (March 2022)

The main part of Instow beach stretches from the Quay to the Cricket Ground, a distance of 1,200 yards, which includes an area of dunes. The beach has three particular characteristics: it is on the estuary of the rivers Taw and Torridge, it experiences a large rise and fall of tide, and the upper part has a wide expanse of soft, dry sand. Because it is on an estuary, it does not experience the rolling, breaking waves found on sea beaches, and it is largely sheltered from the prevailing wind by the rising ground across the river Torridge.


Girls on the beach. Courtesy of Georgina Curtis

For these reasons Instow Sands is ideal for playing games, building sand-castles, flying kites, sunbathing and enjoying picnics, and has been popular with families and walkers for generations.

The many benches along the river front encourage visitors to stop and enjoy the view of Appledore 700 yards away across the river.

To the north of the main beach area is a second beach about 800 yards long, which can be reached by the public footpath that passes the Cricket Club.  Though this beach is less attractive for children to play on, it is ideal for walkers and for exercising dogs.

Instow sits on the estuary between the confluence of the rivers Taw and Torridge. The combination of tidal water and river currents mean that great care and caution should be taken at all times when in the water. Other hazards include mud and sinking sand at low tide and various trip hazards associated with the boating community – moorings, anchors and 'wrecked' remains.

Beach Management

The beach is owned partly by the Crown Estate Commissioners and partly by Christie Devon Estates, and is categorised as an amenity beach.  At present by agreement with the owners, the beach is managed by Instow Parish Council in the best interests of all beach users.

For many years the Parish Council has arranged for a contractor who cleans the main beach every day from April to September and during other holiday periods.

The Parish Council decided to introduce a Beach Code of Conduct, which came into force in June 2018, and has been recently amended.  This code encourages dog walkers to not use the beach between the Quay to the south and just before the Boathouse to the north in July and August between 10 am in the morning and 5 pm in the evening.  In addition at all times during July and August visitors are asked to keep dogs on a lead on the upper part of the beach in the same area.  The village community welcomes visitors using the beach for recreation, and asks users to abide by this Code of Conduct.


People and dogs share the beach at Instow. Image courtesy of Mary Jane Scott

Dogs on the Beach

Instow is a dog-friendly village.  Nevertheless, for a number of years the Parish Council has been aware of the concerns of both local residents and visitors about the nuisances sometimes caused by dogs to beach users, in particular children, who may be disturbed or frightened by dogs.

We trust all can use the beach together and ask gently that dogs are kept under control at all times.

In case of need the dog warden’s number is 01271 388870.

Water Quality

Some people have expressed concern about the quality of the water on Instow beach, suggesting that it poses a danger to human health.  What are the facts?

Instow beach is not a bathing beach and the public are advised not to go swimming.  This advice was introduced by the Environment Agency (EA) in 2018 because the water at Instow beach has consistently failed to meet the exacting quality standard in the Bathing Water Directives and, despite considerable effort and investment, it is unlikely that the water will meet the minimum standard in the foreseeable future.  Nevertheless the EA has stated that the water is not grossly polluted.

Dog owners should bear in mind that if there are pollutants in the water that are potentially harmful to humans they are also potentially harmful to dogs.

Access to the Beach

The beach is within easy walking distance of the centre of the village.  Cars may be parked free of charge in designated areas on Marine Parade (limited to one hour from May to September).  The Parish Council operates a car park opposite the Quay in Marine Parade, which is convenient for the village shop, the Parish Hall, the Instow/Appledore ferry and for accessing the beach near the Quay.  There is also a large privately-owned car park at the other end of the main beach, close to the Cricket Club.


The moorings on Instow Sands are not free.  If you are interested in mooring a boat on the beach please contact Peter Short at Instow Marine Services on  01271 861081. Instow Marine Services manage the moorings on behalf of Christie Estates and Instow Parish Council.

Updated June 2023

Instow Dunes