The north Devon coastline swirls and nooks alongside the Atlantic Ocean, one minute drawing you into its charming bays in search of crabs in tiny rock pools, the next throwing out long, sandy beaches to run along and feel the breeze. There are seaside resorts to suit every taste from bustling, family-friendly Minehead to tourist honeypot Clovelly and up-and-coming Ilfracombe. Framing the area is England’s smallest National Park, Exmoor. In 1869 a Victorian blockbuster called ‘Lorna Doone’ was published and brought an air of romantic passion to the area. Well worth a visit.
I’m going to share with you a few of my favourite places along the very north coast from Lynmouth to Woolacombe.
Lynton and Lynmouth – often said together like ‘Brighton and Hove’, this area is the most popular part of Exmoor. Artists have been coming to Lynmouth for over a hundred years to capture the sense of the quaint village, the river cascading through the woods and a backdrop of those famous moors. Wander around the harbour of Lynmouth and takes photos of the colourful fishing boats.
Visit the little museum where you can find out about the Lynmouth Flood of 1952 which killed 34 people and destroyed many of the buildings. There’s another literary connection here as the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley honeymooned with his 17 year old wife at what is now The Shelley Hotel. The Cliff Railway takes visitors 500 feet up the hill to Lynton, a small town with lots of souvenir shops and places to quench thirst and stave off hunger. Back in Lynmouth make time for a drink at the 14th century thatched pub, The Rising Sun.
Watermouth Castle - going west along the coast you come to pretty Watermouth Cove, overlooked by an impressive castle. It’s not as old as it looks; Watermouth Castle was built in 1825 by Arthur Davie Basset for his bride Harriet and is now a popular family attraction.
The Victorian Castle is full of quirky treasures, historic displays and curios, a theme park including rides and play areas with beautiful landscaped gardens. When we we went, there was a medieval fair on and the children had a go at archery and juggling and watched a feisty jousting display.
Woolacombe – what used to be a classic seaside family resort is now a very cool surfing town. The Atlantic waves thunder onto the beach making it a surf magnet for affficianados, not only from the UK but around the world. There are a many surf schools catering for all levels from beginners to professional. Surfing competitions are held regularly and there are numerous related events that bring the young and trendy to the area. Families crowd onto the beaches on hot summer days so get there early to get a place in the sun.
All around Woolacombe there’s a lively buzz with plenty of pubs, restaurants and cafes for all budgets. The town is within the North Devon Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, famous for its dramatic coastal cliffs and landscape. Take a bracing walk from Woolacombe to the hamlet of Mortehoe along the cliff tops and treat yourself to a tasty seafood meal at Mortehoe Shellfish, once described as ‘the most eccentric restaurant in Britain’.
Nearby Croyde, a charming village, jostles with visitors all summer, here to enjoy surfing, swimming and sandy picnics. Off the coast lies lovely Lundy Island, owned by the National Trust, which attracts birdwatchers and those who want to escape the madding Devon crowd. So many places to see, so many delightful things to do – discover the north Devon coast for the perfect British holiday.
You can read more entertaining articles by Zoë Dawes in her award-winning blog The Quirky Traveller where she shares secret places off-the beaten track and travels around the UK and the world. Follow her on Twitter @quirkytraveller and ‘like’ her page on Face Book.