Staying in a holiday cottage in North Devon offers the best of both worlds, with fantastic access to the stunning coastline and also to the moors. In fact, when it comes to moorland, you're spoilt for choice being sandwiched between Exmoor and Dartmoor. Both of these fantastic national parks provide wonderful spaces for all of the family to enjoy, each with its own distinctive landscapes.
If spending time at sea and on a remote island takes your fancy, then how about a quick trip to Lundy Island? Staying in a holiday cottage in North Devon means you’re perfectly placed for visiting Lundy, 12 miles off the coast. It’s a real must for wildlife enthusiasts and divers as Lundy’s waters are England’s only designated Marine Nature Reserve. But even if you just fancy a sea faring day trip and a brisk walk, you’re more than likely to spot seals, seabirds and a range of other wildlife. There is a regular ferry service from Ilfracombe harbour between April and October, and in winter you can catch a helicopter from Hartland Point.
If you’re staying in one of our Devon holiday cottages near to Hartland Point, this rocky outcrop is worth a look. It actually marks the point where the Bristol Channel ends and the Atlantic Ocean begins. Take a walk to it on the South West Coast Path which hugs the edge of the cliffs so you’re guaranteed spectacular views.
Close to Hartland Point is the picturesque old fishing village of Clovelly. With its steep cobbled streets and listed buildings, vehicle access is very restricted, but there is a car park and taxi service. However, it’s worth noting that those with limited mobility will struggle here. To get an idea of how steep the gradient of the village is, deliveries to the main street are made on sledges!
The tiny village of Welcombe is fantastically placed for your North Devon holiday, midway between Bideford and Bude. It has a pottery, pub and village store, but it’s also worth the walk down to Welcombe Mouth to see the modest but striking waterfall.
Hatherleigh is a traditional farming town just north of Dartmoor. It has a weekly livestock market, 3 pubs and a selection of small shops. If you’re taking an autumn break in Devon, pop along to Hatherleigh Carnival which is held every November and is famous for its blazing tar barrels.
Heading onto Dartmoor from the north you can take the main route towards Tavistock, where you might enjoy a stop off for a walk at Lydford Gorge to see the 30m high waterfall. Whilst most of Dartmoor is open access, meaning you are free to roam, there are areas in the north which the MOD use for live firing practice, so look out for warnings and please check firing times before straying too far!
If you take the road from North Devon towards Moretonhampstead down through the Teign Valley, it’s worth making a detour to browse the antiques shops of Chagford. But to get a true taste of Dartmoor’s history visit Postbridge and walk across the intact clapper bridge which dates back to the 12thcentury. There’s also a Dartmoor National Park information centre here to help you plan your visit.
You can delve even further back in time to prehistory with a visit to Merrivale. There is a pleasant pub here, and further up the hill you can take the short walk to see a number of Bronze Age monuments including long parallel stone rows, a stone circle and an impressive standing stone.
Dartmoor is perfect for dog friendly holidays, keen walkers, cyclists and climbers, however, it really is accessible even for those who want to take things a little easier. There are plenty of parking spots within the moors, allowing you to simply enjoy the view, or you can spend time in some of the quaint little moorland villages where we advise sampling a Devon cream tea!
The thriving, historic port of Bideford is situated on the picturesque Torridge estuary, famed for its lovely old bridge, and the pretty countryside that surrounds the town. Bideford is also well-known for its steep coastline that levels out onto some of the finest blue flag sandy beaches in the country, including Saunton Sands and Croyde, and the vast 3-mile sandy beach at Woolacombe beyond.
The town itself boasts a wide range of shops, amenities, pubs and restaurants to cater for the needs of visitors of all ages, whilst there are several charming villages nearby that are worth visiting, including Appledore, Instow and Clovelly. Another local highlight, popular among walkers and cyclists, is the Tarka Trail, one of the country's longest continuous traffic-free paths which winds its way through the beautiful, unspoilt North Devon countryside.
Rural High Hampton is well-positioned for exploring the most picturesque North Devon countryside, rugged Dartmoor, and the stunning North Cornish Atlantic coastline.
Nestled in the most tranquil countryside in the little-known area between North Devon and Dartmoor, this is old farming country: beautiful, hilly and wooded with unusual hilltop villages and towns complete with excellent, unpretentious pubs and individual, unique shops offering quality goods.
Visit nearby Okehampton to access the vast rugged moors on foot or bike, and a trip to Lydford Gorge is also a must, to witness its spectacular Whitelady waterfall.
Ilfracombe is well-positioned for exploring beautiful Exmoor and the spectacular north Devon coastline.
The town has long been established as a seaside resort, and its famous Tunnels Beaches date back to Victorian times when tunnels were excavated down to a number of coves where sea pools were created. You can still walk the tunnels and have a dip in the sea pool on the ladies’ beach. The gentlemen’s beach sea pool has long since fallen foul of persistent crashing waves. Visitors will be pleased to know that the strict Victorian rules on segregated bathing were finally lifted in 1905!
lfracombe itself offers an excellent selection of independent shops, cafes, galleries, restaurants, and a good smattering of Victorian architecture to admire too.
North Dartmooor provides an excellent base for exploring the moor and Devon's northern coastline too.
Belstone, a village steeped in folklore boasts a dramatic 'Tor' which rises up to a dizzying 1500ft. There are a number of Bronze Age remains within the parish. The most notorious is the Nine Maidens stone circle, named after a group of young women said to have been turned to stone as punishment for dancing on a Sunday. Confusingly, the stones are also known as the Seventeen Brothers, who allegedly suffered the same fate. Either way, the stones are said to “dance” at noon every day, so it’s worth a look to see if you can spot them swaying!
The town of Chagford is also well worth a visit for the numerous arts and crafts shops, homely cafes and pubs and legendary hardware store (yes, you read that correctly).
Nearby is Cheriton Bishop. A quaint little village situated on the eastern edge of Dartmoor allowing complete immersion in the wild whilst being only 10 miles from the thriving city of Exeter, with its excellent shopping, historic architecture and great art scene.
With over 600 miles of footpaths and bridleways, visitors to Exmoor can explore throughs woodland, along cliff-tops and over heather moorland, making it easy to keep active during your stay in a cottage near Exmoor. It’s a fantastic area if you’re looking for a dog-friendly holiday, and visitors can keep an eye out for the Exmoor ponies and our largest wild land mammals, the red deer.
Exmoor National Park also boasts 37 miles of coastline including the highest sea cliff in England and Wales; rising 800ft above the water, Great Hangman near Combe Martin is a record breaker and worth a visit if you’re staying in one of our north coast holiday cottages at Berrynarbor or Ilfracombe. You may also enjoy a visit to nearby Lynton and Lynmouth, two picturesque towns seemingly stacked on top of each other and connected by a steep cliff railway that dates back to the late 1800s.
Surrounded by conifer plantations, Wistlandpound Reservoir is a well-established nature reserve near Blackmoor Gate in Devon. The perfect place to visit for peaceful walks and a spot of angling, there is a marked circular walk that takes about an hour, and stout footwear is recommended. Fly fishing for rainbow trout is also available and day permits can be obtained from the Post Office in Challacombe, The Calvert Trust or tackle shops in Barnstaple and Ilfracombe.
Between Brauton and Meeth, the Tarka Trail is over 30 miles of cycling terrain that uses the old railways of North Devon. It goes through largely unspoiled countryside as described by Henry Williamson in his classic novel Tarka the Otter from 1927. To enhance the experience there are also 21 audio recordings that you can download to tell you more about the wildlife, history and heritage of the trail.
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Just a few miles from the beach in North Devon’s Tarka country, Bideford Bicycle, Surf Board and Kayak Hire does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, meaning they have everything you need to really get out and enjoy the area. They are open seven days a week from 9am to 5pm, so pop in and find the right pieces of kit for you!
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North Devon’s largest indoor climbing wall, Rock and Rapid Adventures is a fun and friendly experience based in South Molton. Geared towards both newbies and affectionately titled ‘mountain monkeys’, you can either learn the basics or set yourself a new challenge with the help of expert instructors. There are no age or ability restrictions, they even offer the chance to host parties there. They’re open seven days a week and if you’re really lucky you can have a cup of coffee as well.
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Established in 1976, Skern Lodge is about education and learning through adventure. An outdoor activity centre in North Devon, it’s set in 22 acres of grounds with tidal waters in the estuary. There’s a wide variety of activities and it’s always about safety first, so pop along and enjoy, surrounded by the beautiful Devon countryside.
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A dog friendly waterside pub with wonderful estuary and sea views serving local fish, along with other excellent locally sourced food and a choice of wines, beers and real ales. Dine on the terrace or in the bar or dining room and watch the fishing boats come in on the top of the tide, bringing home the catch of the day.
Beaver Inn, Irsha St, Appledore, Bideford EX39 1RY (T: 01237 474822)
A relaxed and social environment to enjoy a coffee, glass of wine or beer, or light meal during the day, and in the evening an extensive range of delicious tapas and sophisticated cocktails. Regular live music including jazz, blues, acoustic sets and DJ’s adds to the great atmosphere.
Lilicos Tapas Lounge & Bar, 3 The Square, Town Centre, Barnstaple EX32 8LW (T: 01271 372933)
Housed in an old station building overlooking the River Taw and The Tarka Trail, this is a great spot to stop off for a bite to eat whilst walking or cycling the trail which runs past the door. This friendly, family run café serves wholesome breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas including cream teas and a large selection of home-made cakes.
Fremington Quay Café Fremington, Barnstaple EX31 2NH (T: 01271 268720)
Visit this award winning restaurant for delicious food full of big flavours in stylish surroundings. The creative menus champion organic, fair trade and local produce, and there is plenty of choice for meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans alike. Outside wander around the hotel’s hillside garden dotted with over 300 sculptures for a truly memorable evening.
Terra Madre Restaurant Broomhill Art Hotel, Barnstaple EX31 4EX (T: 01271 850262)
Situated in a wild and beautiful bay with wonderful sea views, this family run pub and hotel was once the old customs buildings for the quay. Today the Wreckers Bar is a great place to enjoy a good pub lunch including excellent local fish, accompanied by a pint of local ale or cider. A good spot for refreshments after a day walking the South West Coast Path, or spent enjoying the pretty beach below.
Hartland Quay Hotel Hartland, Bideford EX39 6DU (T: 01237 441218)
Located between Hele Bay and Combe Martin, Watermouth Bay has a very sheltered and secluded harbour, shielded by the natural breakwater of Sexton's Burrows. The area is postcard perfect with spectacular views. It is famed for having created an ecosystem for many rare marine species, which makes it a very special experience to visit – you may even see porpoises, dolphins and seals when the tide is right. The bay is located within the hamlet of Watermouth and as an added point of interest, over the road from the harbour, you will find Watermouth Castle which is currently used as a museum and theme park. The beach is sandy and welcomes dogs throughout the year. Surrounding rocks shelter the waters from strong tides, making it a safe area for swimming.
A small cove on the edge of Ilfracombe, Hele Bay is a sand beach with lots of rock pools. Easily accessible via a short slipway, which is suitable for wheel chairs, the car park is several minutes from the beach on foot. There are toilets close by as well as a shop and café, so all the necessary amenities are near. It is tidal, so do be careful not to get stuck when the tide turns, and the currents can be strong so again be careful if you’re swimming. It’s a wonderful place for a good old fashioned family day out, you can walk from Ilfracombe and really take in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that it sits in. Don’t forget the binoculars and see how many big ships you can spot out at sea!
In Ilfracombe in North Devon, Rapparree Cove is famous as the site of the shipwreck of the London, which sank in 1796. Reputed to have carried gold and several African slaves who perished, debates, rumours and myths surround the wreck, fuelled by the discovery of bones claimed to be those of ‘freedom fighters’ from St Lucia in the 1990s. These days however, the rocky inlet is a pretty little beach accessible via steep steps. It is popular with dog walkers and musing over the history and tales that have been left in the ship’s wake.
Ilfracombe has been home to a port since the 12th century and has been a settlement dating back far longer than that. Today it is still a working harbour where fish and seafood are landed daily, but it’s also a holiday maker’s paradise. From here you can set off on trips to the uninhabited Lundy Island, go on coastal cruises and even sea life safaris. Pop into an abundance of restaurants, cafes, tea gardens and pubs, or simply head to the beach. Strand Beach is a sandy beach on the inner harbour itself where there is no access at high tide. Although the water is sheltered, you need to watch out for boats if you choose to take a dip. It’s recommended that you steer clear of the slipway at all times.
Wildersmouth Beach, otherwise known as Capstone in Ilfracombe, is a sand and rock beach in the town itself, where dogs are allowed all year round. Cafes, pubs and restaurants are close by as well as a museum. It’s easy to walk to neighbouring beaches and in addition to being enchantingly beautiful, the ancient cove has a history of being popular with smugglers, which always adds a wonderful sense of adventure. High sided cliffs drop down to a small rocky bay with shingle and sand, and it’s sheltered and peaceful despite the proximity to the town. There isn’t lifeguard cover so be careful if you choose to swim, and parking is available in the town itself.
Steeped in history, Tunnels Beaches are a network of hand carved tunnels leading to unique sheltered beaches and a Victorian tidal bathing pool. Privately owned, the beaches make for an inspiring trip for all ages. The four tunnels were carved in the 1820s and over time local entrepreneurs developed the tunnels and accompanying pools, and transformed Ilfracombe from a small fishing village into a popular seaside tourist resort. Today it is owned and cared for by Jamie and Zoe McLintoc and their children. There are water sports including kayaking available, a play hut, a café, and a beach shop, and of course the caves themselves are there to explore.
A small, secluded bay that’s excellent for rock pooling, Mortehoe Beach, otherwise known as Rockham, is a sandy rocky beach with a rich abundance of wildlife to discover. The beach is dog friendly, allowing four legged friends to visit throughout the year, but to reach it you do have to go for a 2km walk along the coast path from the car park in Mortehoe itself. The walk takes you down three flights of steep steps to reach the beach, so it isn’t the most accessible of places, but the scenery is spectacular, taking you past wild flowers growing on the cliffs. The sand is wonderful for children to play on, but do take a picnic as there are not any shops and facilities close by.
Accessed at the far right-end of Woolacombe, Combesgate Beach (also known as Barricane Beach) is picturesque, tucked in between the rocks and famous for cowries and other sea shells thought to have travelled from as far as the Caribbean. It is perfect for visiting with children thanks to a collection of rather fine rock pools. Set in a bay, the beach is quiet and secluded, only accessible at low tide, and offering beautiful golden sand to relax on in the summer sun. The beach is popular among surfers, and has a lovely coastal walk toward Mortehoe. It’s smaller than some of the other beaches in the Woolecombe area, but it’s perfect if you’re looking for a quiet day on the sand, swimming and building castles. The beach is popular with surfers, but be careful of the rocks. You can only reach it at low tide and need to be aware of getting cut off by the water – perhaps take a tide table with you. To get to the beach you need to go down more than 100 steps, so pack light and keep that in mind before you set out. There are shops and parking available close to the beach and dogs are permitted from October to April and on a lead in May to September.
An award-winning golden sand beach that’s three miles long, Woolacombe Beach is well served by Woolacombe village, a bustling seaside resort. Praised for its cleanliness, water quality and facilities, the beach is adjacent to the village that’s brimming with great pubs and restaurants. The laid back atmosphere is tangible as the beach welcomes surfers, families and walkers alike. Lifeguards ensure safe family swimming during the summer, and although dogs are welcome in the winter, there are restrictions from May to September, although in some areas they are allowed on the lead all year round. There are toilets close by and three car parks in the town a short distance from the beach, as well as some road parking by Barricane and Combesgate Beaches. All in all, it has everything you could possibly want for a charming family day on the sand!
Rumoured to be one of the finest beaches in the South West, Putsborough Sands stretches three miles north to Woolacombe and has been voted Best Beach in Britain, fourth Best in Europe and thirteenth Best in the World multiple times. Clear, gentle water make swimming in the summer months inviting, while the rock pools are wonderful sources of entertainment for budding adventurers. There's a beach shop and a café, toilets close by, and the location is famed for its excellent sunsets. Popular with surfers, especially long-boarders, Putsborough is the only beach in the area to have some protection from south and south-westerly winds thanks to the landscape, but if you’re heading into the water keep in mind that there’s no lifeguard cover. Dogs are allowed on the beach and there’s plenty of parking with easy access via a long, sloping path.
Very popular with swimmers and more experienced surfers, and of course sunbathers in the summer months, Croyde Bay is rated as one of the best surfing beaches in the world. Lifeguards operate from May to September for peace of mind, and there are beautiful rock pools at either end of the beach. Dogs are allowed on the beach although there are restrictions in summer months, and toilets are close by. The beach is popular with swimmers, and you can hire equipment for activities such as surfing, fishing and canoeing close by. Restaurants are within easy reach, and you access the beach via a slipway and beach car park with disabled parking, so it’s an extremely welcoming beach for all visitors.
A long straight sandy beach backed by the Braunton Burrows, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Saunton Sands Beach is popular with surfers and families alike thanks to the long stretch of tantalizing water. Suited to beginners and intermediate surfers, the waters are comparatively gentle (although obviously you should always be careful), and it is famed for having featured in Robbie Williams’ Angels music video. Restaurants, cafes, shops and toilets are all within easy reach of the beach, dogs are permitted all year round, and it is the only beach in North Devon to have a Landeez all terrain wheelchair so that everyone can have full enjoyment of it.
By the small seaside town of Westward Ho! is a comparatively huge and sandy beach, extending two miles north of the town. To the north it is is backed by a pebble ridge and behind that is Northam Burrows Country Park. You can access the beach from a number of places; via steps and a slipway in Westward Ho!, or by the ridge itself. Dogs are banned from most of the beach from May to September, but they are allowed north of Sandymere all year round. There are two small car parks by the sea front and plenty of parking behind the beach in Northam Burrows Country Park. Toilets are available in various locations and there are cafes and shops close by in Westward Ho! itself. The area is popular with surfers and happily there are lifeguards on hand in the summer months as well.
A wonderfully secluded beach two miles west of Ilfracombe, Lee Bay Beach is regarded by many as the jewel of Lee. Bordered on three sides by rolling Devonshire countryside and on the fourth by the Bristol Channel, it is in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty. The village nearby is heavily wooded in places with some spectacular walks, and in spring time the hedgerows are ablaze with scarlet flowers. Bathers should be aware there are no lifeguards and the area is known for its strong currents. There is slipway access to the beach, and a café and toilets close by as well as a car park that’s within walking distance.
There’s a National Trust Walking Trail that takes you on a gentle stroll through ancient woodland alongside the River Heddon, to where it meets the sea amidst some of England’s highest cliffs. Heddon Valley has been designated a site of Special Scientific Interest home to a variety of wildlife including otters and the rare high brown fritillary butterfly, and on the beach itself there is a 19th-century lime kiln. It’s a gentle two-mile stroll to the tiny secluded shingle beach. Strewn with boulders and shadowed by dramatic cliffs you can just imagine the tales of smugglers and U-boats coming to life.
Next to the North Devon town of Combe Martin, at the western edge of the Exmoor National Park, is a pretty sandy beach peppered with rock pools. Enjoying easy access and facilities close by, the beach is popular and has won awards for its high quality. The beach is also good for families due to the vast stretch of sand and rock pools that will keep children entertained for hours, dogs are not allowed on the beach from May to September and there are cafes and restaurants close by. It boasts some of the finest scenery and includes the reputedly highest cliffs in England, the gentle currents make the water perfect for swimming. There is a large car park above Combe Martin beach, a small car park to the north of the beach, and toilets by the main car park.
Hartland Quay is primarily a pebbles and rocks beach but low tide exposes sand and interesting rock pools to explore. It is splendidly isolated with no facilities but that's part of the charm. Car parking is available at Hartland Quay Hotel & Pub, EX39 6DU
Crooklets Beach, near Bude, offers golden sands and rock pools to explore. There is a cafe right on the sea front and access from teh car park is level. There are public toilets and an outdoor shower for sandy toes. Car parking is available at Crooklets Road car park EX23 8LG.
A secluded beach backed by cliffs with rockpools to explore and a waterfall to keeps kids happy. Accessed via narrow lanes and then a walk down a track which can put people off, but the effort it well worth it for what is a quiet and unspoilt stretch of golden sand and pebbles. Dogs allowed all year round.
A good choice for families, Instow is a pleasant sandy beach with safe swimming protected from swell by sandbanks at the mouth of the Taw estuary. There’s plenty to do including kayaking and windsurfing and lots of space for children to play. There are some good café’s to choose from, and the beach is easily accessible with a car park and toilets. Dogs allowed October to April.