North Devon is a glorious part of the world, blessed with beaches, national parks, cliffs, and beautiful coastal towns. We spent four days there but could explore it for a lifetime. Here we want to share the stunning places that we visited and ideas for things to do.
Firstly, we would like to mention The Lazy Mare in Berrynabor (10-minute drive from Ilfracombe). It is a quirky, cozy, and truly comfortable Airbnb, run by the lovely Bex and Steve. The Lazy Mare is a converted horsebox and has absolutely everything you need for a wonderful stay. Bex contacted us before our arrival with a list of meals and other items that we could request in advance, plus a list of attractions and excursions we might enjoy. One of the really special experiences here was the outdoor cinema night that they offered (weather dependent). It was an awesome evening, with delicious loaded nachos made by Bex, prosecco, and Deadpool…everything you need for a romantic evening! Every meal that we pre-ordered was fabulous and Bex and Steve made sure we were so well looked after. If you are looking for somewhere unique and memorable, then the Lazy Mare is the place to stay.
Our top coastal towns to visit
Lynmouth & Lynton
This is a lovely little harbor village in Devon and well worth stopping at.
We wandered around, bought sandwiches from the Harbourside café, and found a spot along the West Lyn River for lunch. There are lots of pretty sights and shops to explore here although it did feel very much like a tourist attraction and the prices reflected this. From Lynmouth, you can get the Cliff Railway up to Lynton a little town that sits 700 feet above Lynmouth. The queues, when we visited, were extremely long so we didn’t get a chance to do this, but we drove through Lynton (which is also an incredibly pretty place).
Lynmouth has an interesting history; in 1952 Lynmouth was flooded by a freak storm, hundreds of homes and twenty-eight bridges were destroyed and lots of people died or were made homeless. Later the village was rebuilt and the river was diverted around it. It was also the site of one of the most extraordinary lifeboat rescues of all time. On 12th January 1899 a fully rigged, 1900-ton ship from Liverpool, the Forrest Hall, ran into trouble and was in imminent danger of running ashore. To get to her the lifeboat crew had to take the lifeboat (named Louisa) thirteen miles, over hills, and through valleys using eighteen horses. They had to knock down gates and walls and all in the middle of a storm at night. It took them ten hours to even get the Louisa to a launch point but in the end, they rescued the Forrest Hall. There was also a film made about this – Louisa: An Amazing Rescue. Needless to say, Lynmouth is an interesting place to visit as well as being very beautiful.
Clovelly is a little village about 20 minutes from Hartland Quay and if you are in North Devon it is a must-visit!
Clovelly is unique and beautiful being owned by only one family and there are no individually owned houses or cars there. There is a car park at the top which is free, but then you have to pay an admission charge to get into the village (adults £7.95) the fee is worth it. Clovelly might be lovely but part of its charm is the steep and cobbled high street so you need to wear appropriate footwear. You can follow the high street down, past beautifully maintained houses, to the small picturesque harbor at the bottom. There are lots to do and see in Clovelly; we got a drink and relaxed at the harbor, and wandered around the old streets. There are beautiful gardens there that you can explore, donkey stables, as well as the visitor center, workshops, and coastal walks.
Croyde is a gorgeous little seaside village and also has a beautiful sandy beach surrounded by huge sand dunes. The village itself is very pretty and it had a really nice relaxed yet vibrant vibe about it. There were also lots of places where to eat and drink but we went to Billy Budds for a pizza which we would definitely recommend.
Ilfracombe is a seaside resort in Devon and it has some very pretty and interesting attractions. The harbor area is busy and typical of a resort town; it has lots of ice cream parlors, touristy shops, and booths where you can book excursions. It is also home to the very impressive (and in all honesty, creepy) Verity.
Verity is A Damien Hirst creation; she stands on the pier at the entrance to the harbor with a huge sword pointing to the sky. She is pregnant, holding the scales of justice, and also standing on a pile of law books; and in true Damien Hirst style, half of her has skin and the other half doesn’t. Hirst describes her as a ‘modern allegory of truth and justice’. Maybe we’re just not very enlightened but we didn’t really get it or particularly like it. She is definitely worth a visit though.
One thing we did find in Ilfracombe is that while there are lots of places selling food, there were not many restaurants or nice places that we could go in for lunch (although this may just be another side effect from the pandemic). We did find manage to find a lovely little café however – No 28 The Cookery who did amazing, sandwiches, paninis, and coffee, and they were super friendly.
Woolacombe is a fantastic place to spend the day, and we went back there multiple times during our 4-day visit. It is another seaside resort but much smaller than Ilfracombe and despite this we found it to have so many more places to eat and drink and so we spent most of our time here. We would definitely recommend the following:
Gobblebox (seasonal so check if its open) – Takeaway burgers, chicken, seafood, and fries (they also do veggie & vegan options)
Sea Breeze Café – A great place for ice cream coffee, shakes, doughnuts
The Captain’s Table – Sit down restaurant with a fully licensed bar, they do incredible seafood at reasonable prices
The Red Barn – Great place for drinks and to spend a few hours
The Tides Inn – A lovely restaurant and bar with great views over Woolacombe Beach
Our favorite beaches
This beach was voted the happiest view in the UK and the one that brings us Brits the most joy! It is a beautiful beach, although there are about 200 steps to get down to it, even if you don’t do down to the beach itself, the views from above shouldn’t be missed.
We loved Woolacombe Beach so much; it is a wide, sandy beach 3 miles long and has amazing surf, we spent an afternoon there sunbathing and watching the surfers and we also went back in the evening after spending a couple of hours at the Tides Inn, with a takeaway from Gobblebox to watch the sunset. We’ve traveled a lot and this was one of the best sunsets we’ve seen.
Wildersmouth Beach is right in Ilfracombe. This beach is so just so cool and has some of the most dramatic rock formations we have ever seen. The rocks almost look like razors all pointing towards the sea. Just above Wildersmouth Beach is Capstone Hill which you can walk up (a steep but very short walk) and you will get beautiful views over Ilfracombe and Wildersmouth Beach.
Croyde Beach is another wide and sandy beach, surrounded by huge sand dunes and perfect for surfing – it’s even rated as one of the best beaches for surfing in the world. There are also good rock pools at either end of the beach and also lots of public footpaths for those who don’t like to sunbathe or surf.
Saunton Sands is a long straight sandy beach backed by the Braunton Burrows a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This beach is more suited to intermediate swimmers and surfers than Croyde. Robbie Williams also used Saunton Sands in his Angels music video!
Our best places for walking
Valley of Rocks
The Valley of Rocks is simply spectacular! The landscape and scenery here will take your breath away. It is also quite famous for its herd of feral goats although we didn’t see any. There is a car park here although, as we found with everywhere we went to Devon, you have to pay for parking. The rock formations here are incredible, as are the sheer cliffs that drop into the ocean. This is a truly stunning place and there are lots of walks and exploring you can do here. We spent about an hour at the Valley of Rocks but could have easily spent the whole afternoon there.
South West Coastal Path – Ilfracombe to Woolacombe
We took the coastal path from Ilfracombe out along The Torrs, where you get great views of the coast and some very dramatic scenery. We walked past Tunnels Beach (we couldn’t go there unfortunately as the caves that lead there were closed due to Covid) and took a very steep ‘path’ (it was narrow and slippery, and we fell over a lot!) down to White Pebbles Bay. We didn’t see another person the entire time we were in the Torrs so it was pretty special.
You can also walk all the way to Hele Bay along the Coastal Path.
Hele Bay is a 5-minute drive from Ilfracombe and again is a very pretty little coastal village, it has a little beach and you can walk all the way up to the top of the hill by the beach (also part of the coastal path that links Ilfracombe and Woolacombe) for truly spectacular views of Ilfracombe. It is a long steep walk and probably took us about 30 minutes, but it is very beautiful.
Hele is also home to the Hele Corn Mill which is a fully functioning corn mill and award-winning tea room, again thanks to Covid it was closed, but we did stop there anyway because it looks so beautiful and will hopefully get to go back there one day when it re-opens.
Spekes Mill Mouth Waterfall & Hartland Quay
On our last day in Devon, we drove about an hour to go and visit Spekes Mill Mouth Waterfall. This is a beautiful waterfall that falls 48 meters down 3 levels. If you want to visit you need to put Hartland Quay into your satnav; using Spekes Mill mouth will not take you to the right place, as we discovered!
You can park at Hartland Quay on the 2nd level car park and from there you follow about a 40-minute walk (depending on how many photos you stop to take along the way) until you reach the waterfall. The walk itself is stunning and the contrast between the wildflowers, jagged rocks, cliffs, and the ocean is out of this world.
After we had spent time exploring, climbing over the rocks we went back to Hartland Quay, where there is a hotel, pub, small museum, and an ice cream shop. It’s a lovely little place to stop and enjoy a drink and an ice cream.
We only explored a very small part of North Devon, but we would love to go back and carry on, it is just one of the most diverse and beautiful places.