The North Devon Coast in England’s South West has much to offer. Whether you’re a tourist, or a rambling enthusiast, or a holidaymaker in search of a quick UK break, the beautiful North Coast Devon offers pleasures in spades.
The beautiful and diverse North Devon Coast
A dramatic, craggy coastline with ancient cliffs soars above sandy beaches – while a hop skip and a jump inland you’ll find picture postcard scenery and rolling green hills.
Johanna Castro‘s family home is in North Devon, and her roots there go deep and strong.
“For my entire life I’ve been returning once a year to visit family and friends, so I hope my recommendations about the best beaches in North Devon, seaside resorts, and top places to visit help you plan your own stay in glorious North Devon.”
North Devon Beaches
North Devon beaches offer golden sands, long walks and some great surf. You’ll find some of the most expansive and unspoilt beaches of England situated in North Devon.
They’re photogenic at any time of year offering picture postcard views especially when taken from high up on the cliff sides along the rugged North Devon coastline.
Devon beach holidays are laid back and no-fuss. Buckets, spades and surfing. A little of what you fancy at a nice beachside restaurant at night, or maybe fresh fish and chips with a cold beer on the beach taking in a magnificent sunset.
Woolacombe, Saunton Sands and Croyde beaches are well known, then there are those at Lee Bay, Westward Ho, Putsborough, Wildersmouth Beach and Wild Pear beach among others to explore if you have time.
North Devon Seaside Resorts
On a sunny day pick any North Devon seaside resort and you’ll wonder why you ever bother holidaying overseas. Devon holidays by the sea can encapsulate all that is best of fabulous scenery, literature and history.
The North Devon destinations of Clovelly, Appledore, Woolacombe, Croyde, Lynmouth (known as Devon’s ‘Little Switzerland’, Lynton, Instow, or Hartland are just a handful of scenic places you might choose to base yourself to explore the North Devon coastline.
From old hotels dating back to Victorian times, to modern B & B’s or AirBnB’s you can take your pick – that’s if you don’t want to camp or stay at one of the many holiday resorts in the region.
10 Best Places to Visit in North Devon
Since the Victorian boom of seaside holidays Westward Ho has been a popular holiday resort and dates back to around 1863.
With quaint coastal cottages and a beautiful stretch of beach with a great pebble ridge which separates the sand from Northam Burrows this seaside holiday village is popular in peak season.
On a clear day you can see all the way to Lundy Island and Saunton Sands, with the hotel shining like a beacon of white light, in the other direction.
Westward Ho! was named after Charles Kingsley’s swashbuckling novel of the same name (1855), and Rudyard Kipling’s Stalky and Co. was based on his schooldays at the former United Services College, now a block of flats.
Hockings Ice cream is a local institution. Some say it tastes better than Italian gelato! Whatever, you have to try a cone or a ’99’ when you see this van parked up in Westward Ho on a sunny or even not-so-sunny day!
If you visit Westward Ho! during the August Bank Holiday weekend, you should catch the vintage car mini rally which starts in the centre of the village and then heads out to Hartland.
The Northam Burrows lie parallel to Westward Ho! beach and consists of 253 hectares of grassy coastal plain, salt marsh and sand dunes.
It’s a beautiful spot to walk the dog, visit the informative visitor centre, and spot coastal birds; skylarks, wheatears and curlew.
You’ll also find many horses and sheep – ‘potwallopers’ (local residents of Westward Ho!) enjoy an ancient right to graze livestock for free on the Burrows.
The Royal North Devon Golf Course also shares right of way. It’s the oldest golf course in England, but perhaps not the swankiest – expect to dodge sheep and ponies as you navigate the 18 holes.
Ilfracombe enjoys a picturesque setting amidst hilltops, grassy knolls and impressive cliffs on the North Devon coast. It was a medieval port which became a popular Victorian resort.
A pretty harbour, Victorian buildings, small beaches, and an interesting chapel on Lantern Hill are among the most significant things to see.
Don’t miss Verity. Not quite the Statue of Liberty, but this stainless steel and bronze statue created by artist Damien Hirst is 20.25-metres (66.4 ft) tall and stands on the pier at the entrance to the harbour in Ilfracombe looking out over the Bristol Channel towards South Wales.
The name of the piece refers to “truth” and Hirst describes his work as a “modern allegory of truth and justice.
Ilfracombe is a seaside resort and civil parish on the North Devon coast. It has a picturesque harbour surrounded by cliffs and lots of nooks and crannies to explore.
The resort is hilly, the cliffs imposing, the architecture Victorian and the vibe is chilled.
Woolacombe Sands Beach
Another lovely beach along the North Devon Coastline is Woolacombe Sands beach which is 4.8kms in length.
A popular surfing beach flanked by sand dunes, known for its dramatic cliffs and Atlantic waves.
Like some other British beaches it’s privately owned. From 1122, during the reign of King Henry 1, until 1948 it was owned by the Chichester family. When Lady Chichester died the land around Mortehoe and Woolacombe along with the family’s estate at Arlington Court was willed to The National Trust but the beach was taken over by the Parkin family.
The Coastal Walk from Mortehoe to Morte Point
You’ll love Mortehoe. It’s a picturesque village that can trace its origins back to the Domesday Book. Once a base for smugglers and wreckers, the area supports a farming community, with tourism now a mainstay of the economy. The walk from Mortehoe to Morte Point is a pleasant 1.5km walk with fabulous views across Morte Bay to Bideford Bay and beyond.
Contorted beds of sandstone and shale make the Hartland Peninsula a lesson in ancient geology.
Rocky beaches and dramatic rock formations dominate the high cliffs around Hartland Quay where you’ll find a hotel/pu servicing refreshments. Walkers will enjoy the walk south along the coast path to Devon’s largest waterfall at Speke’s Mill Mouth just over a kilometre away.
Tiny fishermen’s cottages, cobbled streets and a history of shipbuilding give Appledore a maritime feel.
Situated at the point where the rivers Taw and Torridge meet, Appledore is set back from the sea but has a lively quay that dates back to 1845.
Cross the estuary via a small ferry and you’ll be on a lovely stretch of golden beach in minutes, at Instow, where there are a number of pubs and restaurants on the waterfront.
But Appledore’s charm will reveal itself if you walk around its back streets. The irregular charm of colourful cottages, pubs on the waters’ edge, small gift shops and a locally famous fish and chip shop will assure you linger longer.
North Devon Coastal Path to Clovelly
Pick any stretch of the coastal path and you’re in for a treat. A stretch I know well is the one from Westward Ho!, to Clovelly – about 17kms.
The Path undulates along the coast line, before climbing steeply and going into a stretch of beautiful woodland before reaching the pretty village of Clovelly.
You can’t help but fall in love with Clovelly. When I first visited as a child, you could walk down the village for free, but these days there’s a charge and you start at the Visitor Centre and then walk down to the viewpoint at Mount Pleasant.
The cobbled street becomes steeper as you wend your way deeper into this ancient fishing village. Along the way pop into a fisherman’s cottage preserved with old fashioned furniture, or discover the cottage in which the novelist Charles Kingsley often stayed.
The streets are too narrow for cars and the locals transport their goods by hand-drawn sledges.
The quay dates back to the 14th Century, while the the Red Lion Hotel at the quayside dates back to the 17th century.
Lee Bay is a tiny enclave dwarfed by cliffs of folded shale at the end of a winding lane which in summertime is called Fuschia Valley, due to the abundant Fuschias that bloom in many different colours.
The village of Lee is about 350 metres from the sea, and has around 100 period properties. Lee has a pub, post office, shop and a craft gallery in the Old Schoolroom further up the lane, but the best thing to do is take a picnic down to Lee Bay Beach and just sit and enjoy this remote and stunning spot.
North Devon Accommodation
Devon beach holidays make for perfect family memories, so find somewhere nice to stay and give yourself the freedom of a lovely base to return to after a hard day lazing on the beach or walking the coastal paths.
We recommend getting the best deal at the best price you can for your Devon accommodation. For this reason our preferred hotel and guest house comparison websites are :-
If you’re thinking of visiting North Devon, don’t forget to take out travel insurance. We never travel without insurance and depending on our needs we get quotes from both 1 Cover Travel and Cover-More, both of which we’ve found perfect for our travel requirements.
For a quick quote and the best price click 1 Cover Travel.
Get a second quote from Cover-More and compare before buying the insurance most suited to your travel needs.
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