Barnstaple is a town and civil parish in the local government district of North Devon in the county of Devon, England, UK. It lies 68 miles (109 km) west southwest of Bristol, 50 miles (80 km) north of Plymouth and 34 miles (55 km) northwest of the county town of Exeter. The old spelling Barnstable is now obsolete. It is the main town of the district and claims to be the oldest borough in the United Kingdom. It was founded at the lowest crossing point of the River Taw, about 3 miles (5 km) from the Taw's seafall at the Bristol Channel. By the time of the Domesday Book, Barnstaple had its own mint. Its size and wealth in the Middle Ages was based on it being within the staple, a staple port licensed to export wool, and its importance is still obvious in the town's name. The wool trade was further aided by the town's excellent port, with five ships being sent in 1588 to aid the fight against the Spanish Armada.