Just realised - I forgot to mention that after years of searching, I've finally found a decent pub in Barnstaple. It's the Rolle Quay Inn, a two-minute walk from the northern end of the High Street. It's much bigger than it looks from the outside, and a bit chintzy on the inside - but none the worse for that. We had a couple of first class pints of Proper Job (it's a St Austell house), served up by a friendly and knowledgeable barman, and enjoyed them while we sat defrosting by the pub's fragrant woodburner. It was light years from the usual Barno boozers with their knots of shivering rollup smokers, karaoke, pints of vinegar and two-for-one WKD promotions.
(Didn't have my camera with me when we went to the Rolle Quay - these pics were taken on Westward Ho! beach a day or two earlier)