You’ve reached the end of another crazy week at work with most of your sanity intact, but it’s time to hit the pause button on work and fuel your wanderlust – time to swap your Jimmy Choos in favour of bare feet and take a weekend break to one of the most beautiful coasts in the UK.
Ditch the device - tbh you’ve got more chance of finding a Northern Rail train running on time (if at all) than you have of getting a 4G signal anyway – grab a toothbrush, some flip flops and catch some feelings for the North Devon Coast.
It’s difficult to know where to start. Coast? Countryside? Café culture? Whatever your ‘thing’ is, North Devon is the perfect antidote – relief from routine.
Let me take you through some of our best bits…
For the thrill-seeker, no-one’s gonna beat ‘ya
Braunton, Croyde, Woolacombe
You’re the one who loves the great outdoors and trying new things. You’re fearless, intrepid and love an adrenalin-fuelled life. You love to take others on the ride and so for your weekend escapade it has to be the surfers’ paradise locations of Braunton, Saunton, Croyde and Woolacombe. Places to ‘sea’ and be seen.
You know you can’t start the day without the perfect breakfast and The Riverside in Braunton has a ridiculously good breakfast (and any other time of the day) menu with everything you’ll ever need to fuel your adventures, from a full English to granola, epic American-style pancakes or Insta-worthy avocado toast. Mind you, the choice is so vast you might be opening the door on the food-envy ogre…
With your hanger satisfied, you need to move on before the laid-back vibe of the village sucks you in making you just want to spend the day relaxing: things to do, people and places to see and all that.
But you're in North Devon so don't waste the coast – it's time to get on the water. If it's surfing you want, then head to Croyde – a pretty consistent world-class beach break where you can hire all of the equipment you need. After an intense session head to Biffen's Kitchen just off the beach to recharge with some delicious surf-inspired street food that will brighten up your Insta feed. Croyde can get hairy with crowds when the surf is cranking though, so if you’re more of a novice, then head to the 3 miles of sandy beach at Woolacombe, where the waves are mellower and the expanse of sand means the crowds are thinner. Or there's Saunton - more of a longboarder’s playground with the Beachside Grill which sits just metres from the Atlantic Ocean. With a terrace for al fresco dining and open until late you can make the day stretch way beyond sundown.
If the surf is slop, a day on a SUP (stand up paddle board) is enough to quench your thirst to be on the water. Start out from Watermouth Cove in Ilfracombe with Active Escape and explore hidden coves and inlets – some of which are so perfect you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d left British waters. For those willing to up the ante, instead of skimming the surface, plunge yourself into those briny rollers with a session of coasteering, but be warned, this is not for the faint-hearted: Neptune can be volatile.
As the sun sets, choose your evening entertainment. The Thatch in Croyde offers a horizontal approach to dining; with local ales, great food and the occasional night of live music, you won’t be out of place with windswept hair and sandy feet. Or you could head to the Red Barn at Woolacombe. Found right by the beach and with live music on a Friday, you can surf, drink, surf, eat, dance, surf, sleep, repeat.
The morning after…
Hike the coastal paths to Baggy point or avoid the throngs and pack a picnic and visit Crow Point – either way, it’s space to breathe and just be. Keep the phone in your pocket and see the world for real.
In the evening, before you head home, there’s just time for an authentic Sri Lankan curry on the beach at Barricane, (May-September). Once one of North Devon’s best kept secrets, its reputation and spot-on location have now made it (almost) infamous and 557 excellent trip advisor reviews can’t be wrong, right?
Timing is everything in North Devon (particularly when you need to get the last bus home – miss it and you’re stuffed…) and during certain weekends the edgy, relaxed vibe of this part of North Devon is ignited by some not-to-be-missed events. Fight your FOMO and get your life admin sorted by booking tickets early.
Sunset, DJ sets, al fresco street food and sundowners – this is what weekends were made for, and this experience is likely to be one of the highlights of your summer. With Tarquin’s Gin Bar, Ciroc Cocktail Bar, the Jägermeister Shot Bar and the Ca Bolani Prosecco bar along with your mates, marquees, music and a great location – what more could you want from a night out? (Unless of course it’s a night bus home … in Devon, you’ll be out of luck…).
Croyde Bay welcomes a stellar line-up for the 20th year in what is definitely one of the best surf and music festivals in existence. With headliners including Craig David, Tom Odell, The Cuban Brothers and a real eclectic mix of music, this is the event which could really kick-start your summer.
Where can I stay?
- The Old Cider Barn, Croyde, sleeps 8
- Oceans Away, Woolacombe, sleeps 6
- Croyde Retreat, Woolacombe, sleeps 2
For the wanderer, relaxer and ponderer
Lynton, Lynmouth and Exmoor
You’re the one who thinks spontaneity is the spice of life and you love searching for hidden gems, travelling off the beaten track and heading off on unplanned adventures. Last-minute escapes are your thing and you’re not afraid to go against the grain in terms of destination or adventures; take in the natural beauty and absorb the local culture.
Beautiful Lynton, at the top of a hill, will take you a million miles away and if you’ve forgone your usual ski trip this year or memories of the Swiss Alps are long gone, this area where Exmoor meets the coast is strangely reminiscent of that landscape. Full of wild beauty, take the South West Coast Path and find magical story backdrops of cliffs, castles, waterfalls and rivers that will inspire your creativity: you may even finally realise what your English teacher and Shakespeare were banging on about for years.
In fact, take the easy walk to the Valley of the Rocks where words can’t really do the scene justice – a place full of drama which changes intensely with the weather and is worthy of a film backdrop (or a Shakespearean play). It’s a place where you can think deeply, and the chances are if you’re anything like me, 99% of those thoughts will be food-related.
If you like your eggs served in a cake (obviously) then head to Watersmeet Lodge, a beautiful National Trust-owned café by the water which knows that this is no time (or place) for salad. The Old Rectory Hotel at Martinhoe also does an amazing afternoon tea.
Otherwise, if you love a walk, but have no sense of direction and Siri is paying no attention in the depths of the North Devon countryside, then take the circular walk up to Heddon’s Mouth on the coast. Everyone loves a circle - including the druids – probably because they are the shape of pies, cakes and many a good biscuit, and the best part about this circle, other than avoiding the embarrassment of getting lost because you finish where you started, is that there is a fabulous pub, the Hunter’s Inn, with unique ales, great menu and a cracking Sunday roast.
When night falls make the most of looking up. Exmoor, the first national Dark Sky Reserve, allows you to re-ignite your imagination. Take a blanket and some binoculars and hope for a clear sky. Pack snacks and drinks and you’re all set: tea, coffee, mojito…
Keep this to yourself…
Lee Bay rocks – but we like to keep in on the downlow. At low tide, the water pulls back like a curtain revealing hidden depths. At the western edge of beach, clamber between the first set of rocks and discover a hidden beach, amazing rockpools and a dreamlike labyrinth of tall rocks to get lost amongst. Slip between these and you’ll be rewarded with the sight of a further secret beach amongst the gullies and rocks. But beware the incoming tide, the speed of which may catch you unawares.
Where can I stay?
- The Hoe Cottage, Lynton, sleeps 4
- Gulls Way, Combe Martin, sleeps 6 with 2 dogs welcome
- Violet, nr. Combe Martin, sleeps 6 with 2 dogs welcome
For the retreater, that quintessential hide-and-sleeper
Appledore and Instow
You’re the one who wants to get away from it all. You love a digital detox, getting lost in a good book and lounging around in a cosy cottage or by the sea for a long weekend. There’s likely a retreater in all of us: someone who wants to hide away from the chaos of everyday life and enjoy the simpler things for a little while.
Stay in the fishing village of Appledore with its rows of bright fishermen’s cottages and narrow village streets and browse the shops and galleries – including Raspberry Rings Glass Studio so you can take a little piece of your holiday home.
Between April and October you can catch the ferry across to the great little village of Instow to explore what this location has to offer. Whilst you may be used to public transport delays due to strikes, roadworks or maintenance, the only thing stopping this boat from running will be Mother Nature, but fear not, it’s a short 5-mile drive around and there’s a regular bus service.
Instow, with its sandy shoreline and views across to Crow Point and Appledore, is a foodie heaven with some excellent pubs, restaurants and cafes right on the water. Slow things right down and take the time to linger (and eat of course) in The Boathouse, Instow Arms or Wayfarer. If you want to take the party onto the beach, John’s deli around the corner supplies some great takeaway food in the shape of pies and sandwiches and in high season, there’s even a hut on the slipway, so you don’t even have to walk that extra 300 yards from where you’ve been lounging on the sand and wondering why on earth you didn’t get a job in North Devon.
This isn’t a place to rush, so pack some of your favourite reads, find a comfy spot and allow the atmosphere to wash over you… just don’t drop off and let the water wash over you...Instow isn’t suitable for swimming!
In the evening, The Beaver in Appledore (a pub not a large-toothed rodent) can provide some excellent evening entertainment with a live band or two, or simply take the time to cook your own dinner and look out on the water with a glass of wine.
Don’t tell anyone…
Visit Appledore from 20th September and be a part of the biggest cultural event in Devon, the Appledore Book Festival which features renowned authors, speakers and artists from all over. Word to the wise, you need to buy tickets well in advance…
Not your scene? Instead find yourself far from the madding crowd at the secluded rocky inlet of Bucks Mill Beach or Welcombe Mouth Beach – perfect places for sitting and reading or thinking about food. Just be warned, another thing Devon does brilliantly aside from beaches are very narrow roads and potholes, so you might want to get to Welcombe Mouth on foot – but believe me, it’s worth it!
Where can I stay?
- Quay Close Cottage, Instow, sleeps 2 with 2 dogs welcome
- Gibbs Lane Cottage, Appledore, sleeps 2 with 2 dogs welcome
- Sea & Tee, Westward Ho!, sleeps 6 with 2 dogs welcome
See you soon?
So that’s it – just a few great places in North Devon. But believe me, we’ve barely touched the surface so it looks like you’ll just have to keep coming back...or you could always move here…
If we've managed to inspire you (and we're pretty sure we have) then check out our full collection of North Devon accommodation and get yourselves to the South West - what are you waiting for?
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.