Region Focus – North Devon Coast and Exmoor #adeoontheroad
You may have had a pleasure of working with one of our agents, Luke? Luke hails from North Devon and we recently had the exciting opportunity to visit his home-region together. Using the last weeks of summer, this was a great opportunity for me to get to know the area and, of course, share my experiences with you!
Devon is a stunning and somewhat underrated county of England. Often skipped-over in itineraries because of neighbouring Cornwall (another spectacular county), Devon is definitely worth visiting when exploring the South West England. Reachable by road and rail, it is located approximately 2.5 hrs from Bath.
Valley of the Rocks
From our base in the charming town of Barnstaple, we headed north towards Lynton & Lynmouth and the North Devonshire coast. On our way though, we stopped at the Valley of the Rocks in Exmoor for some astonishing views over the waters of the Bristol Channel. With a little bench inviting us to sit down we spent time simply enjoying the moorland the views, it is a perfect photo stop in Devon.
Lynton & Lynmouth
Reaching Lynton and Lynmouth, I learned that they are actually two separate but connected villages. Lynton is set up high up at the top of Glen Lyn Gorge, stretching to the Valley of the Rocks; and Lynmouth lies below at the estuary of the East Lyn River flowing from Exmoor. After parking the car in charming Lynton, walking amongst narrow streets and enjoying a spot of window-shopping, we walked our way down to Lynmouth via North Walk Hill way and South West Coast Path. As you can see on the photo, the view of the coast from the top was breath-taking. Although we decided to take a gentle walk downhill, you can also take a picturesque cab ride on the funicular Cliff Railway. Taking you from Lynton to Lynmouth and back, it is a famous local attraction and an easy and fast way to get up the hill between the villages, while taking photos of the forest and seaside from a bird’s eye perspective. The return ticket costs only £7 GBP.
Lynmouth would make a great base to explore the area; with many family-run accommodations and hotels, a variety of local shops selling home-made and hand-crafted items, artsy & crafty gift and souvenir shops neighbour with bakeries, restaurants and traditional pubs, and many attractions around, including manor houses, castles, gardens, animal centres and of course plenty of places for walks and hikes.
Exmoor National Park
Driving through the Exmoor National Park, we stopped for few minutes to admire the vast moorlands, woodlands, valleys and farmlands, where wild ponies roam free, high cliffs drop into the Bristol Channel and historic churches still ring their bells to announce the time. Combining wilderness, tranquillity and dramatic views, the park was vastly covered in purple and pink heather in the late Summer. We enjoyed a little walk to admire the panorama of the moors and the seascapes, before returning home.
There is a plethora of activities to do in Exmoor though and I wish we had more time to do them all! From nature observing & activities (landscapes, wildlife, foraging, farming, sheepherding), through sports (hiking, kayaking, cycling), to visiting local villages, historic buildings, cosy pubs and charming tearooms serving delicious local produce.
North Devon’s Beaches
As it was summer, the main focus of our trip was “beaching”. Stopping at various points on the coastline throughout my stay, I had a pleasure to see stunning beaches including those at Croyde, Saunton and Lee Bay. It was the Woolacombe Beach however I remembered the most. Having a dip in salty waters of Woolacombe was amazing and freeing. Accompanied by hot sun, a strong cool breeze and perfect waves for surfing, we had so much fun jumping over them with Luke and his black Labrador, Luna.
I am an admirer of nature and my favourite place of the trip was a visit to Hartland’s rugged coast. Dramatic waves crashing on the craggy rocks, the roaring ocean and white foam on the blue from clear skies water stole my “hart”. Stark rocky cliffs covered topped with grass, the feeling of the wind in your hair and of course the heat of the sun. It was just perfect!
After parking the car, we walked to a secluded spot; to reach the stony beach pictured above, we had to clamber over a rock at the mouth of little river (right photo above) and try not to fall! That was fun! We then stayed and admired the power of those waves and simply rested a bit with the view.
Within a 10 minute-drive there is Hartland Abbey & Gardens; a former monastery and a home to the Stucley family. With surrounding grounds and colourful gardens, the house is full of portraits, murals, figures and sculptures, but also features original and antique panelling, ceiling, furniture, chandeliers or fireplaces. The house, gardens & grounds, beach-walk, exhibitions and museum are open to visitors for under £15 GBP. After the tour, you can visit a gift shop with local memorabilia, gifts, arts & crafts, or simply relax with a hot drink and sweet treat at the Old Kitchens Tea Room.
Our next stop was one of the most unique places I have ever been to – Clovelly village. This is a must for anyone who appreciates seaside villages but is not for the faint-hearted as you might find the place a bit steep…! The village clings to a cliffside over a tiny natural harbour and bay, with main “street” consisting of a winding path of steps and slopes. It is steep to the point that Clovelly’s inhabitants use wooden & metal sledges transport goods up and down to their homes! It’s no surprise considering when cars are not allowed in the village (mainly because the roadway is too steep!).
Even though you cannot drive, you can spot many adorable donkeys walking the streets. They help the villagers in daily chores and are of course a great tourist attraction. Make sure you stop by to pet them and take a photo.
There is also the Fisherman’s Cottage Museum showing the life of fish catchers and Clovelly’s fishing heritage; the Clovelly Court Gardens with carefully tended flower, fruit & veg gardens in restored Victorian greenhouses selling local produce; the Kingsley Museum in memory of a writer and social reformer, Charles Kingsley; and family-run craft workshops with pottery and silk.
A traditional Devon Cream Tea was another point on our bucket list we just had to tick – of course respecting Devon’s way of eating scones where clotted cream goes first, and jam is put on top! I am glad we did it in Clovelly with astonishing views of the sea and the tiny Quay with bobbing boats.
As Clovelly is a privately village, there is an entrance fee of around £9 GBP, however that gives you a free return visit within 7 days and the visit is definitely worth its price with all extra attractions I just mentioned. Make sure you stop for few hours to experience a bygone age in Clovelly, where time passes slower.
Appledore & Instow
Our final visit was at Appledore for a delicious ice cream with extra clotted cream for good-measure from the local parlour. Ice-creams in hand, we enjoyed a stroll with views of nearby Instow town and beach. With plenty of restaurants, pubs, eateries, bakeries and shops, both Appledore and Instwo are lovely little seaside towns to stop by.
Hopefully I convinced you a bit to visit Devon. The views are incredible, the nature shows itself in its purest form, small towns and villages are full of character and charm, and there is a lot to do outdoors and indoors! Maker sure you spend few days in this county on your way to stunning Cornwall.
November 1, 2022