North Devon Coast Cottages
The picturesque coastline of North Devon is a true escape from the world with its ever-stretching majestic sandy beaches, magical hidden coves, picture-postcard villages and seaside towns. The shoreline-hugging coastal paths are a perfect way to explore this beautiful part of North Devon with every turning corner presenting another opportunity to view some more spectaular scenery.
The North Devon Coast is a destination for all ages. Whether it’s building sandcastles and paddling in the waves, surfing on some of the UK’s most impressive rollers, netting mackerel on a boat trip, striding out on a stunning stretch of coastal path, or relaxing in the garden of a pretty village pub, North Devon delivers it all – and so much more.
Where are the best beaches in North Devon?
That’s a tough question! North Devon is blessed with more than its fair share of stunning stretches. For a start, the coastline boasts some of the largest beaches in the country. Saunton Sands is one of the most famous, a magnificent three-mile swathe that’s become synonymous with surfing and sand-yachting. Woolacombe is just as popular, a big beach which attracts both families and surfers. And of course Putsborough, near Braunton, offers an ideal blend of soft sand and rock-pooling – a real family favourite.
Needless to say, such beaches attract visitors, so if you’re after more secluded experiences, you could head for Bucks Mill in Clovelly, a pretty and quiet spot which is situated in a rocky cove at the end of the fishing village. Combesgate is another lovely tucked-away beach. At the far-right end of Woolacombe, it’s the perfect place for rock-pooling but does get cut off at high tide! And for the more intrepid, Rockham Beach at Mortehoe is a quiet bay that’s free of crowds, but the walk is just over a mile – you’ve been warned!
What about walking?
The whole of the North Devon coastline is mapped out on the South West Coast Path, which includes dramatic treks along moorland and clifftops as well as softer jaunts along beaches, through woodland and pretty villages. For the views, the cliffs to the east of Ilfracombe – some of the highest in England – are hard to beat, offering magnificent glimpses of the Bristol Channel. There are also lovely walks up the wooded valleys of the north coast, including the Heddon and East Lyn rivers.
Are there any cycle paths?
As it happens, the North Devon coast offers cyclists a real treat – the level and traffic-free 21-mile Tarka Trail, running between Braunton and Meeth. Created along the route of a closed railway, it follows, for the most part, the River Taw (which was the setting of Henry Williamson’s 1927 novel, Tarka the Otter – which explains the trail’s name!). You can hire bikes at Barnstaple station from Tarka Trail Cycle Hire.
What attractions are there on the North Devon coast?
If you can draw yourself away from the coastline’s natural beauty, there are plenty of attractions to fascinate, delight and engage.
Visit the popular towns of Lynton and Lynmouth and you’d be mad to miss the funicular cliff lift that links them. Powered by water, the lift affords passengers glorious views of Exmoor and the North Devon coastline as it glides up and down 862 feet of track between Lynmouth, sitting at the bottom of the cliff, and Lynton, perched above.
For history buffs, the ancestral home of the Chichester family at Arlington Court (just inland from Ilfracombe) is packed with gems. Once the home of Sir Francis Chichester, the first person to sail single-handed around the world by the clipper route, Arlington Court houses a model of his boat, Gypsy Moth IV, as well as other nautical paintings and objects, not to mention the famous Carriage Museum, located in the stables.
There’s a further treat in store a few miles west of Clovelly. Built as a monastery in the 12th Century, Hartland Abbey was gifted in 1539 by Henry VIII to the Keeper of his Wine Cellar. Today, amazingly, his ancestors still live there. It’s a treasure trove for those who love British history – with architecture, artwork and decorative objects from the Mediaeval, Queen Anne, Georgian and Victorian periods – as well as a much-loved family home. There are paths across the estate, including one that leads down to the beach.
For children who don’t want to traipse round a stately home, there are plenty of fun days out. At Higher Clovelly, there’s the ever popular Milky Way, the biggest all-weather family day out in North Devon, with over 110,000 sq ft of indoor fun as well as acres of outdoor activities. Check out the Cosmic Typhoon, Devon’s longest, tallest and fastest rollercoaster and the indoor slides and assault courses, the perfect place to pitch Dad against the kids!
Just outside Bideford, children of all ages will love The Big Sheep, a day out that combines the wonders of the animal world with some good old-fashioned fun. There are animal shows such as sheep shearing, dog trials and duck races, as well as awesome new activities like the Jumping Pillows (imagine a huge, air-filled trampoline) and Battlefield Live, where children can compete against parents and grandparents firing invisible infra-red beams up to 200 feet (accompanied by battle-style sound effects!). All the fun of paint-balling, with none of the bruises!
What about four-legged friends?
The North Devon coast is the perfect excuse for a holiday with your beloved pooch. There are lots of dog friendly spots where they can run free. The whole of Saunton Sands welcomes dogs all year round, while Baggy Point and Heddon’s Mouth are just two of the lovely walks you can enjoy with a dog near the coast. The latter takes you through ancient woodland along the course of a stream to a tiny secluded cove.
Where are the best places to eat and drink on the North Devon coast?
The North Devon coast offers a dizzying array of eateries, from cosy thatched pubs that welcome children and dogs, to romantic restaurants and fine-dining in more formal surroundings.
It’s difficult to pick a favourite but for places that make the very most of their location, the Hartland Quay Hotel (and its Wreckers Bar) certainly deserves a mention. Directly on the South West Coast Path, the hotel has a garden where diners can eat and drink looking out to sea and the surrounding cliffs. Alternatively, if the sea breeze picks up or the rain comes down, cosy up in the Wreckers Retreat Bar and soak up the history and relics of wrecks which are displayed on the walls! A quiet place to enjoy a unique atmosphere – and some very special views.
By contrast, the Thatch in Croyde is a much more lively spot, a pub that attracts both tourists and locals looking for a party during the summer months. It’s fair to say this is not the place to head if you’re after a quiet pint!
Finally, a word should go to the Rock Inn in Georgeham, a lovely gastro pub which serves up legendary burgers and fish pie, local cask ales and wines drawn from an extensive list.