Stay in Mortehoe and you’ll experience a delightful double holiday. The peace and tranquillity of a small Devon village just up the coast from buzzing and laid-back Woolacombe, with it's justly celebrated three-mile stretch of golden sand.
You’ve got pubs, wonderful walking, gob-smackingly beautiful coastline and an ideal base for exploring Exmoor or the rest of North Devon. What’s not to like?
What’s there to do in Mortehoe?
With Woolacombe beach so close, the obvious answer is swimming and surfing. The bay is famed for its surf, with the Atlantic delivering some pretty impressive breakers. If you’re a beginner and keen to learn, book a session with The Nick Thorn Surf School, which is located at the Boat House on the slipway down to Woolacombe Beach.
If surfing’s not your thing, fear not because Woolacombe beach is plenty big enough to cater for all tastes, with zoning in the summer months for other activities, including swimming, sea canoeing, windsurfing and sailing. And if you’re concerned about your little ones, rest assured the beach has resident RNLI lifeguards on the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, and from 5th May to 30th September.
Smaller and more intimate than mighty Woolacombe, Barricane beach is just on the outskirts of the village. It’s a sandy cove perfect for families with low ledges that are great for jumping off. There’s also the wonderful (but seasonal) Barricane Beach café, serving up the distinctly un-Devon flavours of Sri Lanka!
Back inland, the stunning countryside and coastal views are perfect for bike rides. A particularly lovely journey is Mortehoe to Croyde, and back again. It starts down a smooth road with the bay stretching into the distance to the right. You then get your first glimpse of lovely Woolacombe beach and, behind, the rump of Baggy Point. The ride then takes you through Woolacombe, up along a cliff-top path which then drops down into Croyde. When you’ve had your fill of sunbathing or swimming, the ride home is equally lovely.
For those who prefer their riding on the back of a horse, Woolacombe Riding Stables offers led beach and coastal path hacks. Ponies and horses are chosen according to riders’ abilities, so children or nervous adults won’t find themselves on top of wild stallions. It’s a truly magical way to experience this unique stretch of coast.
As for walkers, there’s a spectacular circular-ish jaunt from Mortehoe that offers some of the very best coastal views and rock formations of any stretch of the South West Coast Path. Head north-east out of Mortehoe to Bull Point, then cut south-west along the coast path, taking in Rockham Beach and Morte Point. Here there are spectacular views. Gaze out to sea to Lundy Island, and inland at the extraordinary rock formations that bear more than a striking resemblance to the spiky armour of a stegosaurus.
If you’re after thrills, then H2Outdoor, which is based in Woolacombe, offers a huge range of activities for adrenaline junkies. There’s mountain biking, wild swimming, high ropes, coasteering (think swimming, followed by climbing, followed by leaping back into the water!) and comparatively genteel kayaking.
What can you eat and drink in Mortehoe?
From swish seaview restaurants to beach cafés and unusual chippies, Mortehoe and nearby Woolacombe have enough eateries to keep you sated.
There’s nothing that conjures up seaside holidays better than fish & chips. Well Mortehoe village certainly has a fish & chip shop, but this one is rather special. Not content with just selling wonderful fish & chips, Mor-Shellfish-T-Eat in the village square also offers a range of shellfish platters, cockles, whelks and prawns in cartons, and the very popular ‘fish-in-foil’ for your barbeque or oven. You can take home tuna, cod, haddock, sardines, sea bass and more, with additional options of garlic, chilli, basil or lemon infused oils. Fish, made simple and delicious.
Also in the village, The Chichester Arms offers visitors (and their dogs) a traditional village pub, with hearty home-cooked food and a good range of real ales and ciders on tap.
Just down the road in Woolacombe, Eddy’s is more Mexico than Devon, but no one’s complaining. It’s a small, rustic-looking place but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in portions. Expect delicious Mexican chicken or duck quesadillas with plum sauce, and fabulous tortilla and home-made nachos. Out of season opening hours are Wednesday to Sunday. Booking advisable for evening meals.
For atmosphere, the Barricane Beach Café is unrivalled. By day, it serves a selection of freshly made baguettes, ciabattas and homemade cakes. Then, as the day softens and sunset approaches, it transforms into a Sri Lankan beach shack serving authentic homemade South Asian curry. The choice is simple – either a vegetarian or chicken-based curry served with a lentil dhal dish, coleslaw dish, rice and poppadums. An awesome setting and the friendly staff will even lend you plastic cups to pour your wine into. A true one-off!
For informal dining with an unbeatable view of Woolacombe Beach, head to The Boardwalk Bar and Restaurant. Lunchtime dishes include jumbo fish finger sandwiches, bacon and brie baguettes and Boardwalk burger. In the evening, as the sun sets over the bay, enjoy a more sophisticated menu, with mains like pan-fried mackerel with garlic and lemon, moules mariniere and Piri-Piri marinated chicken breast.
A little further afield, The Blue Groove Restaurant in Croyde manages to be all things to all men and none the worse for it. There’s a friendly laidback vibe to the place, with original artwork and murals adorning the walls, and an eclectic menu inspired by the flavours of Europe. There’s Spanish tapas, Greek mezze, Peking duck, Mexican pancakes, chicken rogan josh and the restaurant’s legendary Exmoor burger, which comes in a wholemeal bap, with hand-made chunky chips and spicy ketchup. And if you just fancy a beer in the garden and have little ones, you can let them loose on the climbing frame. Everyone’s a winner!