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Villages in Devon: 10 of the best places to visit

PUBLISHED: 10:29 11 September 2018 | UPDATED: 14:43 30 November 2018

Beer (c) Alison Day, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Beer (c) Alison Day, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Alison Day

Villages in Devon are some of the prettiest in the South West. From beautiful little hamlets on the outskirts of the moors to seaside communities, we pick 10 villages in Devon you need to visit

1. Bigbury-on-sea

Situated on the South coast of Devon, Bigbury-on-sea is a perfect family destination, cherished for its soft, golden sands to sink your feet in to and rock pools to explore. For those of you into water sports, Bigbury has plenty to offer with large open waters ideal for surfing.

If you’re feeling peckish you can pop in to the Venus café, which serves homemade Devon beef burgers, artisan pasties and delicious breakfast baps all to be enjoyed whilst taking in the superb beachside views.

Burgh Island is Bigbury’s most famous landmark, serving as the inspirational setting for Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’ and home to the wonderful, art deco inspired Burgh Island Hotel. The island is connected to the mainland via the beach, but at high tide you can watch in awe as the route is swallowed by the sea. Visitors can still reach the island by taking a trip on the famous “beach tractor”.

2. Clovelly

Carved perfectly into the hillsides of North Devon is the timeless and unique village of Clovelly. Its cobbled streets are filled with stunning 16th century cottages with breathtaking views overlooking the small harbour 400 feet below.

Vehicles are not permitted in the village so for parking you’ll have to go to the top of Clovelly and travel down on foot or take the special Land Rover service. For a time donkeys were used to carry visitors down to the village, today, they enjoy a more peaceful life posing for photographs and giving rides to children in the summer.

You’ll find there’s plenty to do in the village, from getting creative in the craft workshops, to exploring the unique selection of shops dotted throughout. If you have a passion for history then the two museums - the Kingsley Museum and the Fisherman’s Cottage - are definitely worth a visit. There are two excellent restaurants in Clovelly - the Red Lion Hotel Harbour Restaurant and New Inn Hamlyn - both of which are committed to serving fresh, local produce.

3. Beer

Positioned on Devon’s east coast, Beer is known as one of the county’s most picturesque fishing villages. Pebbles beautifully decorate the beach down to Lyme Bay where gentle waves glide softly up to your feet and the white chalk cliffs create a perfect natural windbreak.

You will struggle to experience everything Beer has to offer in just a weekend: whether exploring the Beer Quarry Caves – home to the famous Beer stone – or walking through Pecorama’s family gardens, the area will certainly warrant more than a few days visit.

Boats bring in fish daily to deliver to the local stores, restaurants and businesses while the annual Beer Regatta attracts visitors with a week full of activities, food and market stalls. One eatery not to miss is the Steamers Restaurant where head chef/owner Andy Williams serves fish and shellfish fresh from the waters of Beer.

4. Appledore

Appledore is a small fishing village in North Devon that for centuries acted as a hub for shipbuilding, a history you can experience yourself at the North Devon Maritime Museum. The harbour, once filled with traditional fishing vessels, now shares its space with beautiful yachts offering trips to visitors up and down the estuary.

A leisurely walk through the village will reveal rows of brightly painted fisherman’s cottages stacked together along narrow streets and courtyards. It boasts an excellent range of small shops, art galleries and an assortment of fantastic cafes, pubs and restaurants – many of which are dog-friendly – such as Susie’s Tearoom and The Seagate.

For those looking for a bit of romance during their trip, there is a seasonal ferry to Instow, home to a beautiful 17th century quay and a sandy dog-friendly beach. Appledore is within close proximity to ancient market towns such as Bideford, Barnstaple and Great Torrington, making it perfect for a day of exploring.

5. Croyde

Found in the North between Woolacombe and Saunton, Croyde is a surfer’s paradise complete with spectacular sandy beaches and wide open vistas just begging to be photographed.

Children can build sandcastles and play on the beach while mum and dad lay back and catch some rays – Croyde really has it all. There is a huge selection of eateries dotted around Croyde such as the Thatch for traditional pub food and real ales, the Old Cream Shop & Tea Garden for those delicate treats and the Ice Cream Parlour for a cool dessert on those sunnier days.

Having benefited from the street food revolution, Croyde is the hometown of Lola’s Wings and is frequently visited by other trailers, trucks and pop-up stalls.

6. Combe Martin

A jewel of the North Devon coastline, Combe Martin is situated just on the edge of the Exmoor National Park and so benefits from easy access to the expanses of nature contained within the park.

The beach is a great place to spend time with family and friends: it’s safe and clean with a treasure trove of incredible rock pools that are teeming with aquatic life. The waves in the bay are usually nice and gentle, ideal for a day floating on your inflatable – keep an eye out for a cheeky dolphin trying to capsize you however.

Just a ten-minute walk from the beach is the Pack o’ Cards Inn, an ancient monument that, as the name might suggest, has been reconstructed to resemble a deck of cards. In the evenings you can indulge in some of Devon’s finest real ales and locally-sourced food all from the comfort of their riverside garden. With designated walking paths, water sports and rock pooling nearby, you will never find yourself at a loose end when it comes to things to do.

7. Mortehoe

Whether you’re looking for a spot to lie back and watch the world go by or you wish to embrace your inner adventurer and go exploring, Mortehoe is a North Devon village that will provide precisely what your soul requires.

It is home to what is arguably one of the prettiest stretches of coastline that our county has to offer: our favourite part - Grunta Beach - has a very steep Cliffside walk down to the sand but its secluded setting, clear crashing waves and excellent rock pools make it more than worth the walk.

For those wanting to find out more about the area’s history, head over to the Mortehoe museum for what locals call the “Mortehoe experience” and discover village life of times gone by and disastrous shipwrecks. For places to stay, the self-catered Combesgate Apartment has excellent sea-views to enjoy over a morning cup of tea.

8. Braunton

Braunton is at the heart of North Devon’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. With one of the largest sand dune systems in England, your jaws will drop the moment you lay eyes on Braunton Burrows.

You’ll find cosy cottages dotted alongside its many independent shops as well as many excellent local pubs and restaurants. Of Braunton’s numerous eateries, we recommend The Riverside, a tastefully decorated, relaxed restaurant serving breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and even the classic Sunday Roast.

Another great place to visit would be Squires fish and chip shop, a modern chippy with unbelievably light batter that will melt in your mouth. The fresh air, fabulous food and beautiful beaches make this Devon village an ideal holiday location.

9. Woolacombe

A dream for long boarders and surfers, Woolacombe is one of North Devon’s beauty spots: with three miles of pure sand, you’ll struggle to find a better place for a family day out than this award-winning beach.

Woolacombe has a few eateries to choose from including the Boardwalk Restaurant & Bar – an eclectic venue overlooking the waves – and the Red Barn surf bar-grill – a lively establishment with an emphasis on “beer, food, surf and music’.

There is also an impressive array of small independent surf and gift shops dotted around the area where the welcoming staff are always happy to chat to their customers.

10. East Portlemouth

This small Devon village is tucked away on the Southern end of the Kingsbridge Estuary and is the perfect destination if you’re looking for a bit of peace of quiet away from the crowds and tourist areas.

Set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the secluded beach is ideal for a family with young children or a couple on a romantic getaway – it’s also dog friendly all year round. With regular ferries to and from Salcombe it’s a handy base from where to begin a long day out.

For nature lovers there are stunning, mysterious coves to explore and extreme sports enthusiasts daring, water-based activities are found in abundance. Nearby National Trust walks – including the 3.9-mile East Portlemouth to Gara Rocks trek - provide views of many of the area’s best attractions like the Fort Charles ruins.

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