Holiday ideas in and around Woolacombe, North Devon

Woolacombe on the north Devon coast is such a beautiful place, three miles of golden sands. I’ve spent many hours wandering along the beach, sitting on the dunes, taking in the view with a drink at the Red Barn. Letting the cares of the world drift away. What’s not to like?

Woolacombe beach looking out to sea on a sunny day
Woolacombe beach

Some ideas for what to do in and around North Devon:

  • From Woolacombe, walk up the steep, and I mean steep hill to Mortehoe for a cream tea at The  Town Farmhouse.
  • Spend and afternoon in Ilfracombe, wandering around the harbour, see Damien Hirst statue Verity statue and check out the beach through the tunnels.
  • Cycle the Tarka Trail along the riverside and disused railway route from Barnstaple to Instow, then picnic on the beach.
  • Take the Tarka Line train and enjoy the scenery from Barnstaple to Exeter [].
  • Visit the picturesque village of Clovelly, walk down the cobbled hill to the harbour. And when I say down, I mean doooown…
  • Explore Lynton & Lynmouth taking the cliff railway down to Lynmouth harbour.
  • Walk along the beach at Saunton Sands.
  • For the kids there is The Big Sheep near Bideford. 
  • Bust mostly just enjoy the relaxing atmosphere in Woolacombe, sitting and playing on the dunes, eating pasties for lunch, and fish and chips as the sun goes down, before a drink at the Red Barn.
  • Play pitch and putt on the lawns in front of, or just take in the views from the Woolacombe Bay Hotel lounge.

Things to do in South Devon

Updated, April 2014: If I was going back home for a short break in or around south Devon, I’d do any of the following:

Torquay/Torbay based:

View from Torre Abbey Sands, Torquay
Panorama across Tor Bay from Torre Abbey Sands, Torquay, by me

Slightly further afield, but with a short drive of south Devon:

Teignmouth beach looking across to Shaldon
Teignmouth beach looking across to Shaldon, Devon
travel, writing

Review: Holiday in St Ives, Cornwall

Enjoying a British-based holiday is greatly enhanced or ruined by your luck with our moody-teenager style climate, as well as being somewhere popular during school holiday time. This particular week in St Ives was greatly benefited by near perfect June sunshine, not too hot, not too cold, not too busy, just right.

Clear water on Porthmeor beach at St Ives
Clear water on Porthmeor beach at St Ives

Five of us spent a week in a self-catering cottage in the centre of the small town, a former hub of the local fishing industry on the north Cornish coast, situated just north of Penzance between Land’s End and Newquay. St Ives, voted Britain’s best seaside town by The Guardian in 2007, delivered a perfect 7 days: temperatures not much above 22C, perfect for not doing a great deal, with barely a hint of cloud. This needs to taken into consideration when reading my praiseworthy review. Now I don’t want to rub it in, so lets just get it out of the way early.

In the heart of the town, now a popular haven for holidaymakers, is Tucker’s Cottage, nestled along one of the winding streets. Recently redecorated in a modern Shabby chic style, it’s 5 minutes from the harbour and 2 of the 3 main beaches. And I don’t mean 5 minutes in brochure-speak, it was literally 5 minutes from inside the cottage to sitting on the beach. The town isn’t too big, so wherever you stay you won’t be more than a short stroll from the gloriously rugged sea views.

The bedrooms continued the distressed antique style with the additions of the digital age: a flat screen TV and iPod dock, but most importantly very comfy beds and feather pillows. A few low ceilings had to be carefully monitored, but it was all part of the charm of the fishing village cottages. Your complimentary rooftop seagull alarm call was not ideal, but it comes with being at the seaside, and after a few days you start to block them out.

Sunset on Porthmeor Beach, St Ives
Sunset on Porthmeor Beach, St Ives

The town is now awash with holiday cottages, as visitors come to enjoy the beauty of the north Cornish coast, coupled with the milder climate and stunning beaches, what’s not to like (disclosure: being from the south west, I’m heavily biased). One issue was the limited parking around the town which can be a problem for visitors on changeover days and peak holiday periods, something to bear in mind before embarking on the seemingly endless trip down the M5. You can also get here by train, as St Ives is connected to the London Paddington to Penzance route.

The beaches all came with fine golden sand (think the consistency of soft light brown sugar); serviced by the cool, clear waters of the Atlantic. I spent an afternoon or two watching tide roll in, then watched it roll away again on Porthmeor Beach. Sitting behind me on that Atlantic facing coast, the Tate St Ives peered out through its modern white façade, an indication of how the town is now a hub for artists and galleries. The stunning scenery and more generous climate are surely inspirational.

The harbourside has several bars, cafes and restaurants together with more as you explore the winding cobbled streets further into the town, all generally exuding a relaxed atmosphere. The most random thing seen whilst wandering round the town’s shops: without doubt The Russian Shop, one of two in the UK? I’m sorry, the what shop now. No really.

There were plenty of families holidaying, granted there aren’t many attractions in the town, apart from the perfect beaches, but it’s a great base for exploring most of Cornwall without too much travelling.

There were several restaurants serving fresh fish, I can recommend The Beach Restaurant overlooking the harbourside, where I enjoyed a trio of fresh fish: sea bass with fennel, monkfish wrapped in prosciutto and pan-fried cod on a bed of rocket mash. The cryptically named Seafood Restaurant, 5 minutes into town was just as good. I can recommend the Sea Bass here, amongst a wide appetising variety.

Inside the tropical biome at the Eden Project
Inside the tropical biome at the Eden Project

There are, as you would stereotypically expect, more pasty shops than you could shake a sausage roll at in these parts. But there are plenty of flavours to try, and frankly they are far more enjoyable than any fast food restaurants you care to mention. For a treat, I recommend Willy Waller’s Ice Cream‘s on the harbourside, offering a vast selection of flavours.

Beware the seagulls, particularly along the harbourside, this is not an idle tale, it’s a Crimewatch-goes-to-the-seaside style warning. I’ve seen innocent holidaymakers have their ice creams, pasties, and more whipped from their grasp, in front of their faces. And the gulls aren’t fussy about the quality or whether the ice cream has a flake. I suggest eating any food indoors, under-cover or away from the harbour front.

But I don’t want to end on a sour note, as it’s a small inconvenience when in such blissful surroundings. Overall a beautiful place to relax, unwind and enjoy some sea air and good seafood. I just hope the weather is as kind to you!


Minack Theatre, Cornwall
Minack Theatre, Cornwall

Eat and drink:

Places to visit: