Offering a glorious stretch of coastline with breath-taking cliffs, powerful seas and long sandy beaches, combined with rolling hills and valleys further inland, plus Exmoor National Park, North Devon holds broad appeal to visitors looking for a great all-round experience. Parts of North Devon have a wild romanticism to them, and it’s easy to get off the beaten track when staying in this beautiful area.
Dotted throughout this evocative stretch of Devon are communities of various sizes, all offering some great choices for the visitor. Larger towns such as Barnstaple, Bideford and Ilfracombe have long established attractions, museums and shops, and an impressive selection of accommodations and eateries, and a host of smaller towns and villages offer great bases for holiday makers. But it’s what the area offers beyond its habitations that draws the attention as much as anything. Long sandy beaches with extensive sand dunes behind, a coastal path offering extraordinary views, steep sided river valleys that lead from lush woodland to green pastures, areas of great natural beauty, plenty of stories to tell, and a distinct lack of people make this a wonderful part of England to explore.
Possibly England’s oldest borough, and definitely North Devon’s largest town, Barnstaple was the administrative and commercial capital of this region at the time of the Domesday Book. It was part of the thriving wool industry from the 14th Century and also had its own mint and a bustling market, the latter of which still exists all these years later, serving as a great draw for visitors along with various other aspects.
A unique village, Clovelly has thankfully remained quite beautifully preserved, and a wander around this charming place provides the visitor with a genuine sense of a bygone era. Narrow, cobbled streets running down the steep terraced hillsides, winding between whitewashed old cottages to the sheltered 14th Century harbour, make Clovelly an enchanting village to spend time in.
Quite different from the small fishing village that it was up until the beginning of the 19th century, Ilfracombe these days is North Devon’s largest seaside resort, and a beautifully positioned one at that. In many ways a traditional English town by the sea where visions of deckchairs, amusement arcades and fish and chips are fulfilled, Ilfracombe also has some surprises up its sleeve to make it a rewarding destination for a holiday.
Lying about ten miles off the coast of North Devon, Lundy Island has had an interesting and turbulent history, having been fought over across the centuries by the English and a variety of enemies, including marauders and various other troublesome folk. These days it is quite different, however, and a place of tranquillity where nature abounds, and solitude is easily found.
An attractive and historical town resting alongside the River Torridge, it might be Bideford’s ancient bridge, dating from around 1300 A.D., that stands out as the finest architectural structure in the town, but there is plenty more to see besides. Decreed as a market town in 1272, the market here still thrives, and the history of the town leaves visitors with plenty of interest to discover.
The neighbouring communities of Lynton and Lynmouth are separated only by a 700-foot-deep gorge, and linked by the ingenious mode of transport that is the Lynton-Lynmouth Cliff Railway, as well as by road, of course. In a gorgeous location, Lynton and Lynmouth have plenty of stories to share with visitors, and as a base for walking and exploring the rest of North Devon, they are well located indeed.