Once described as the ‘little, white fishing village’ by Victorian novelist Charles Kingsley, Appledore still has the feel of a welcoming small community. Its whitewashed terraces on the quay have changed little since Kingsley’s day, while the maze of narrow lanes that drop down to the water are densely packed with pretty cottages painted in different pastel hues, their frontages hung with baskets of overflowing flowers. This is a village with a legion of fans, including, bizarrely, the Jackson 5, who came house-hunting here in 2008 (deciding, in the end, to stay in LA and not North Devon!).
But despite its celebrity status and popularity, this is still a peaceful Devon seaside village, a place to indulge simple pleasures like days at the beach, crabbing, boat trips, cream teas and fish & chips.
What’s there to do in Appledore?
The joy of Appledore is in soaking up its wonderful position. It sits where the Taw and Torridge rivers meet the sea, so you’re never far from the water’s edge. Wander its narrow lanes, browse in the craft shops and art galleries, go crabbing off the quay (a small piece of bacon helps!), or take a stroll along the front and drink in the views of Instow with its golden sands. In the summer, you can catch the ferry across for a bit of sunbathing, returning in the evening for a pint on the quay. Perfect days.
If you fancy a bit of adventure, Appledore Sails offers private sailing trips in a traditional (and locally) built lug sail boat around the beautiful Torridge Taw estuary. The boat takes up to four people, and children and dogs are welcome. Alternatively, head out to sea in an ocean-going vessel. The yacht accommodates up to five people, but sadly no children. Whatever your age or experience, these are trips that promise great views and a truly memorable day out. Safety equipment and life jackets supplied.
While we’re talking activity, Skern Lodge is the place to head for heart-racing fun, including climbing walls, rafting, a high ropes course and many other activities. You can also dedicate an entire day to learning kayaking or surfing.
When the weather isn’t great, children (and craft-loving adults) will love a trip to Sea Green. Josie, who owns the gallery, is passionate about making use of recycled objects, and runs workshops in which you can craft mosaics using glass, ceramics and gemstones. Alternatively, create your own driftwood mirror or mobile, incorporating seashells and other bits of natural beauty found on the local beaches.
Another rainy day option is The North Devon Maritime Museum. Guaranteed to cheer up even grumpy teenagers, the museum examines the rich sea-faring history and ship-building traditions of the area. There are seven exhibition rooms to enjoy, offering visitors a chance to learn more about World War II landing craft, ship wrecks and sail and steam vessels.
If you’re visiting in mid-September to October, the Appledore Book Festival is a real treat. It draws household names from the world of literature to this north Devon village to offer talks, workshops and book signings.
And if you happen to be visiting on Bonfire Night, you’ll be treated to an amazing firework display on the quay, reflected magnificently in the water of the harbour.
Where can we eat and drink in Appledore?
It’s rare for a village to be so blessed with excellent eateries, but Appledore has them in spades – all with distinct atmospheres.
The Champ has charisma by the bucketful. It’s a small place but normally packed, with visitors drawn by the pub’s excellent reputation for live music (Wednesday is Blue Nights, Sunday reserved for jamming) and delicious but simple menu of ribs, chicken wings and lavishly topped pizzas. They’ve even been known to let you eat your fish & chips from Sylvester’s if the kitchen’s busy!
Speaking of which, Sylvesters Fish & Chip Shop in Meeting Street may be small. It may have queues up to 20 minutes long on Saturday nights. But, as anyone who’s tasted their fish & chips will vouch, it’s worth the wait – with particular praise lavished on the fresh soft cod and crisp light batter. An Appledore institution.
With its beautiful view of the estuary, Braunton, Saunton Sands and Instow, and a very friendly welcome, The Beaver Inn is a great place to bring the whole family, with a staff that will bend over backwards to make sure you’re all comfortable (rustling up high chairs, if necessary). Its broad menu makes much of locally sourced meat and fish, with the catch of the day a popular choice, alongside steaks and burgers. Dine on the patio and soak up the views or, on cooler days, in the pub or restaurant. Dogs are welcome inside and, like The Champ, there are regular music and open mic nights.
With its delightful position overlooking the estuary, The Coffee Cabin already has a lot going for it. But this little gem is also contemporary in feel, with art on the walls and a team of friendly staff who serve up delicious cakes, sandwiches and light meals (quiche with red onion chutney, for example), as well as superb coffee and smoothies.
With its nautical vibe (think timber, life buoys and rope) and local art, The Quay has a lovely atmosphere. A two-storey waterfront restaurant and bistro with exceptional views of the estuary from the first floor, this cosy spot is famed for its ‘Appledore Quay Cream Tea’ as well as Exmouth mussels steamed with cider, Exmoor trout and Devonshire steak.
If you’re eating in, you’ll find all the ingredients you need – and a few treats beside – just outside Appledore. Marshford Organic Foods is a treasure trove. A family run business, it sells – you guessed it – only organic produce, including vegetables, salads and herbs grown on their own nursery. There are also eggs, dairy and meat products – all sourced locally – as well as a huge range of fresh fruit, chilled and frozen products. And did we mention wine, beer and special diet foods? Needless to say, it’s all certified organic.