Before searching for the perfect North Devon holiday cottage, it’s worth reflecting on why this magnetic slice of the west country attracts visitors in their droves season after season, year after year.
With a varied landscape that ranges from craggy wave-battered cliffs to sprawling dune-backed sandy beaches, North Devon’s coastline is a thing of beauty, the testament of which can be found in the fact that 171 square kilometres (66 square miles) of it lie within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
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From boat-based sea safaris in Ilfracombe to coasteering in Croyde, North Devon’s myriad landscape bursts with opportunity for adventure and exploration. But outdoor escapading is not the only string in this beautiful county’s bow; craftsmen and women’s creations can be found dotted throughout its towns and villages as can a wealth of museums, historic buildings, fine dining restaurants and artisan eateries.
Places like Woolacombe Bay, Braunton Burrow and Combe Martin mention just a few of the many special places to be found along the North Devon coastline, and natural features ranging from biodiverse sand dune systems and windswept headlands to tor-strewn National parks and sheltered bays make it ideal for water sports enthusiasts as well as hikers, cyclists and adventure-seeking families.
There’s the fascinating Lundy Island (Britain’s very own Galapagos) to visit too which can be reached by a ferry hop over from either Bideford or Ilfracombe. This tiny, remote 3 mile long isle lying just 11 miles off the coast is a haven for a variety of sea birds and wildlife including puffins and Manx Shearwaters as well as deer and bats, and is a wonderful glimpse into an unspoiled lansdscape.
Home to world-class surfing beaches like Croyde and Saunton Bay as well as the famous Tarka Trail, holidays in North Devon can be as action-packed and energetic as desired, but for the less adrenalin-driven there’s also plenty to discover.
Whether you’re a keen surfer or landlubber sun worshiper, North Devon’s beaches offer something for everyone. A veritable watersports paradise, experienced surfers can head to Croyde Bay while beginners can take it easy in calmer waters at Westward Ho!, Woolacombe or Saunton Sands.
Lying between picturesque Baggy Point and Morte Point, Woolacombe is arguably one of North Devon’s best-known beaches and with its three mile sweep of golden sand it’s easy to see why its such a popular spot for visitors and holidaymakers. It also has a surf hire company operating from the beach making it the ideal place to take to the water.
Ranking right up there among top beaches in the area are Barricane Beach with its rock pools and beach café, Combe Martin with its sea caves and sandy stretch, the hidden gem at Broadsands Beach (not to be confused with its namesake in South Devon), Woody Bay and Puttsborough Beach.
After a day on the water or hiking the coastal path, tuck into a delicious meal at any one of these fabulous eateries and enjoy some amazing scenery at the same time.
Our favourites are Beachside Grill in Braunton which (naturally) overlooks the beach, The Red Barn on Woolacombe Beach (a surfer’s hangout), and The Boat House overlooking the river estuary in Instow. We also love crunching into some home-made pizza from the Flame Factory in Appledore, demolishing the Pie of the Day at Farmers Arms in Bideford and relishing Noel Corsten’s tasting menu at his NC restaurant in Woolacombe.
Some of the best-known and most picturesque North Devon seaside towns and villages include places like Clovelly, Instow and Appledore.
Others like Lynton and Lynmouth with their rugged surrounding landscapes lie on the coastal edge of Exmoor, while lesser-know Mortehoe (one of our favourites) perches in solitude on a clifftop within just a short distance of Grunta and Combesgate beaches.
Yes and it’s a stunner. Lynton and Barnstaple Railway is in the process of restoring its entire original line and visitors can now board a restored heritage carriages at the Woody Bay Station and travel the 25 minute journey to Killington Lane and back on a two-mile round trip behind a narrow-gauge steam locomotive.
The station’s tearoom is a delightful way to wrap up the adventure with a cream tea of cakes and warm scones.
Wander along the South West Coast Path past hidden coves or seal strewn rocky outcrops and witness some of the most dramatic coastal scenery in southern England.
The route from Baggy Point is particularly good and takes in incredible coastal views towards Bideford Bay and Hartland. Children will love the whale bones and the old wreck post, and it’s an easy walk that can be enjoyed by the whole family both young and old.
There’s also the must-do 180 mile figure of eight Tarka Trail whose route traverses unspoiled countryside, dramatic sea cliffs and beautiful beaches. Made famous by the novel ‘Tarka the Otter’ it is a great way to enjoy North Devon by bike as well.
A hidden gem that forms part of the Braunton Burrows nature reserve, Crow Point is a peninsula that extends into the Taw & Torridge estuary.
It is a vast expanse of sand, sea, dunes and has incredible views toward Instow and Appledore or Barnstaple (depending on which side you’re on). It’s perfect for children (and dogs) to run free, and is home to many types of sea and estuary birds.
Besides its world famous beaches and incredible outdoorsy lifestyle, North Devon boasts a handful of excellent family-friendly theme parks that are perfect for days out with the kids.
The Big Sheep in Bideford is not only home to hundreds of farm animals but also has rollercoasters, tractor rides, electric quad bikes and pedalos.
Also in Bideford you’ll find Milky Way Adventure Park which has several indoor play areas, a gravity rider slide, maze and fantastic outdoor displays from its Bird of Prey Centre!
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