Planning your next UK beach break? The South West Coast Path is well worth exploring , and one of the most beautiful stretches of the route can be found in North Devon. But be sure to pack your wetsuit; your hiking holiday might just turn into a surf-cation.
What to do in North Devon
See? No, that should read ‘sea’. It’s all about the beaches in this beautiful part of the country. The South West Coast Path (currently celebrating its 40th year) is a 630-mile national trail stretching from Minehead in Somerset to Poole Harbour in Dorset; and if you’re in North Devon for the weekend (or longer), you’d be crazy to miss taking in some of the most beautiful coastline in the country with the routes detailed on the SWCP site, such as this one from Woolacombe to Braunton. If you’re with little ones, or have mobility issues, there are some easier walks to try, such as the Baggy Point itinerary listed on the National Trust site, or you can even get yourself to the beaches and enjoy long leisurely walks along the sand (for example Saunton Sands beach is three – beautiful – miles long).
When you’ve exhausted the beach scene, take to the waters. You’ll find plenty of surf schools dotted along the beaches at Woolacombe, Croyde and Saunton Sands. We tested the waters with Freddie at Croyde Surf Academy, who had us standing within the hour; look out for the big blue double decker bus in the car park. Listen to our podcast to hear from owner Julian Swanne, and Max from Walking on Waves at Saunton Sands; the beaches of North Devon are amongst the best spots in the world for beginners and good teachers are in abundance.
North Devon is all about surfing and walking, but when you’ve had your fill, venture inland to shop the independent boutiques nestled between pasty shops and beach cafes where local artisans sell painted ceramics, local textiles and furniture, all of which is worth taking home (but some of which will be too heavy for your hiking pack).
The foodie scene in North Devon is one on the rise. While in Woolacombe, pay a visit to the award-winning Noel Corston, whose chef’s-table-style fixed tasting menu displays the best of North Devon’s local, seasonal ingredients. You’ll find Michelin-starred dining in Ilfracombe at Thomas Carr’s at The Olive Room and The Masons Arms on the edge of Exmoor. Local heroes include Devon beef, sheep milk cheese, asparagus and, of course, shellfish.
The coast of North Devon is undeniably beautiful, but don’t let the lure of the sea prevent you from exploring inland. Roughly a 30-minute drive from the coast is the picturesque village of High Bickington, where you’ll find Rose Cottage, a picture-perfect holiday cottage, which is part of the Milbrook Estate. With two bedrooms, a hot tub, copper bath for two and log burners for snuggling in front of, it’s the perfect setting for a romantic getaway or weekend escape for a young family. The hot tub will help ease any aches and pains from surfing and hiking, and the freshly-made still-warm bread on arrival (complete with Devon jam and butter) is a really nice touch. The pub next door (the Old George Inn) is the friendliest pub in the county (probably) and serves the best fish and chips inland (almost definitely). The open seafood lasagne is also a must-try if you’re dropping in for dinner.
Listen to our podcast episode to accompany our trip.