Short Breaks in North Devon
With magnificent sandy beaches, hidden coves, pretty villages and windswept moorland, North Devon sure packs in the attractions. So if you’re heading to this stunning corner of Britain for a short break, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
But the question that’s probably on your lips is: ‘With limited time, where do I start?’.
Well, we reckon the best thing to do is pick an activity, must-see attraction and cracking pub from our suggestions below. That way, you’ll get a taste of North Devon that will hopefully have you coming back for more!
What’s the best beach in North Devon?
Everyone has their favourite beach in North Devon. Woolacombe is repeatedly listed in the UK’s top ten beaches, while Croyde is popular with surfers. If you’re not one to run with the crowds, why not try Putsborough, near Braunton. It’s a real family favourite, with a fabulous mix of soft sand and rock-pooling.
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. If you’re pushed for time, we recommend the well-signed Coleridge Way. It starts in the Quantocks in Somerset but, for its latter portion, crosses the north end of Exmoor. It’s a route that takes you through the landscape that inspired the poet, ensuring plenty of pit stops in villages with tea rooms and pubs. There’s also a delightful short route near Liscombe, a circular jaunt along the riverside that involves crossing Tarr Steps, the longest clapper bridge in the country!
Where’s the best cycle track?
The level and traffic-free 21-mile Tarka Trail, running between Braunton and Meeth, is the perfect cycle track for those who’ve not got the time to plot their own route. There’s no need to bring bikes as they can be rented from Tarka Trail Cycle Hire at Barnstaple station. Simply enjoy the ride! 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!).
What about pretty villages?
That’s a tough question as there are some lovely spots throughout the area. But perhaps the most fun introduction to North Devon – and a place where you get a two-for-the-price-of-one deal – is Lynton and its neighbour Lynmouth. Linked by a funicular lift that’s powered by water, these are lovely Victorian villages blessed with tea shops, pubs and a fair sprinkling of excellent restaurants. Be sure to take the lift for glorious views of Exmoor and the North Devon coastline.
What’s the best stately home to visit?
There are plenty of grand homes to visit in North Devon but the one blessed with both fascinating history and a stunning situation is Hartland Abbey. Unlike many National Trust or English Heritage properties, this is a house that’s still owned by a family, so it’s both a historical gem and a home. Even more interesting, the family are direct descendants of the original owner, who was keeper of Henry VIII’s wine cellar. Originally built as a monastery, the house was gifted to the family in 1539. 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. The estate is just as magical, with paths leading all over the landscape, including one that takes visitors down to the beach.
Where’s a good pub for a short break in North Devon?
It depends on what you’re after!
For fantastic views, try the Hartland Quay Hotel (and its Wreckers Bar). Their garden offers diners a dramatic view of the sea and the drama of the surrounding cliffs.
For a special occasion, then it’s probably a toss-up between a coastal boozer and one deep in the country. For those who are staying closer to the sea, the Rock Inn in Georgeham is a lovely gastro pub which serves up legendary burgers, fish pie, local cask ales and wines drawn from a 48-bin list. For those inland, The Masons is just as popular with foodies. A 13th century thatched pub in Knowstone, just south of Exmoor, with oak beams, log fires and a Michelin star, it boasts a kitchen led by Michel Roux’s former Head Chef at the Waterside Inn, Bray – so fine dining is guaranteed!