Discovering the hidden gems in North Devon
Words: Lucy Connors
Croyde Beach from afar
After previously taking you to the secret spots of South Devon, today we continue our journey around the Southwest by bringing you to some of the gems of North Devon. With the whole coastline being a dedicated Area of Outstanding National Beauty, there is a whole host of fantastic spots to explore. Whether you are more of a surf lover and thrill seeker or prefer to stroll around idyllic villages, there is something for everyone. Here are some of our favourite hidden gems in North Devon.
The sister national park to South Devon’s Dartmoor is North Devon’s Exmoor. Encompassing 267 square miles and ranging from wild moorland and woodlands to high cliffs and coastal views there is no end to the exploration you can undertake across the land and seascapes.
If you’re looking for an organised jaunt, one of our favourites is the Exmoor trail-running event by Endurance Life. These events allow you to explore the lesser-known trails across England and this, the toughest course in their series, takes you along the exquisite coastline over 2000ft of elevation, wooded combs, historical ruins, and dizzying cliffs. Exmoor boasts the highest sea cliffs in England and this route takes you right to their edges. It’s certainly a challenge, but they offer 10km, half marathon, marathon, and ultra-marathon distances – something for everyone!
The stunning landscape of Lynton
You must seek out Lynton and Lynmouth. This idyllic coastal pairing of the quaint and quintessential British seaside is surrounded by awe-inspiring natural scenery. Take the world-famous Cliff Railway to get between the two historic villages and save yourself from climbing the 500 feet cliffs with a truly unique experience on the highest and steepest water-powered Victorian railway in the world. Spend a slow afternoon exploring the winding streets of Lynton’s Old Town filled with eclectic and artisanal shops and cafes, then head a mile and a half out to Watersmeet. This former fishing lodge stands at the bottom of a gorge, firmly within the landscape of inspiration for the romantic poets and has offered a tearoom since 1901.
While this next location is a not-so-well-kept secret, we have to include the surfer’s paradise of Britain: Croyde. Visit Croyde Beach or its two neighbours Saunton Sands and Woolacombe Sands to experience the dreamy surf, sand, and if you’re lucky, sun that they’re known for. Walk up to Baggy Point for a different perspective, then get “Stoned” and sit on the beach. Stoned, the pop-up wood fired pizza company has been operating since 2013 and offers a fantastic takeaway option for those endless summer evenings and post-surf cravings. Croyde offers perfect versatility, with convenient beach-side campsites or quaint holiday rentals and B&Bs, catering to all. A visit to Croyde is also not complete without heading to Billy Budds for your after-beach beers, or The Thatch for some indulgent pub food.
The picturesque village of Lynmouth
For an exquisite al-fresco dining option, head to Barricane Beach. The tiny café tucked in the cliffside turns into a Sri Lankan restaurant in the evenings, and their homemade curries are spectacular. Bring your own beer and enjoy a dinner set to match the brilliant sunset on the beach. They operate from 5pm until they run out, so we’d advise getting there early to ensure you’re not disappointed.
Continue just past Barricane Beach to reach Mortehoe; the gateway to a wild coastline that holds a long history of shipwrecks and smugglers. Don’t neglect the walk out to Morte Point where you have both panoramic views but also the opportunity to watch the seals basking on the rocks below.
Surfing at Woolacombe Beach
Finally, we have Clovelly. This picturesque fishing village is steeped in history and nature, situated running down a 400ft cliff. Clovelly offers a feast of activities; museums, craft workshops, shopping, and a perfect harbour wall for crabbing: but if you get bored of trying to catch your own, the Harbour Restaurant will be waiting with their famous Clovelly Lobster. It’s not one to miss.