Spring in North Devon

A couple of years ago we went to North Devon and stayed in a National Trust Cottage near the pebbly Peppercombe Beach.

The cottages were traditionally built out of cob in the late eighteenth century, to house the officers of what was then called the Preventive Service – tasked with policing this wild stretch of coast to prevent smuggling – and later evolved into the life saving Coastguard Service

There are three coastguard cottages down the remote track in a secluded wooded valley. No Wi-Fi . No mobile signal and only outgoing calls can be made from the payphone. It sounded ideal for a restful vacation, although I was slightly worried about the warning that low slung vehicles should ‘exercise particular care’ as I have a fairly low-slung vehicle. A 3/4 mile drive down a very narrow, unpaved road is not for the faint-hearted, but worth it to stay in one of the most relaxing spots I have been to. The road is pretty rocky and steep in places; I am so glad that the only time I met another car coming in the opposite direction it was a jeep which could move off the road for me!

(click on a photo to enlarge)

The cottage was all we had expected. The remoteness was wonderful even if the road to it was a little tricky. The only sounds we heard were those of the song birds with their dawn chorus and owls at night. We went to bed with the window open listening to the gurgle of the little stream running along our small patch of garden before drifting into a deep sleep. We could have spent the entire week here, but we didn’t.

North Devon is a wonderful area of the country, unfortunately outshone by its gentler and warmer south where the English Riviera is to be found, but the north is my favourite. It has an outstanding coastline and vast moorland with steep wooded valleys (coombes) plunging to the coast. Exmoor National Park is also partly in Devon with its lovely winding rivers and walking trails across the remote landscape and then there is the extraordinary Valley of the Rocks near Lynton and Lynmouth – two halves of a town joined by a funicular railway.

There are two large towns in North Devon, Barnstaple with its pannier market and Tarka Trail and Bideford, though we didn’t spend much time in either. Close to Bideford on the side of the River Torridge is the lovely Appledore, a delightful fishing village, Charles Kingsley’s ‘Little White Fishing Village,’ with water on three sides and pretty whitewashed cottages tumbling down to the sea and on the opposite bank you find Instow, an attractive area  with an easily accessible sandy beach that has always been popular with artists. Further  north are the famous surfing beaches of Saunton Sands, Croyde and Woolacombe. And of course here you find the only town in Britain to end with an exclamation mark – Westward Ho! I know nothing about Westward Ho! apart from it does boast a Blue Flag beach, and the aforementioned Charles Kingsley wrote a novel with that name, but my interests are no longer with the English seaside resorts and the bucket and spade brigade.

Instead I encourage you to go west and explore the wilderness of Hartland Peninsula  – it is a lost world of narrow roads winding their way to the coast. Visit Hartland Point, the Quay, Speke’s Mill Mouth  and the glorious Hartland Abbey where paths around the estate lead to the beach and Blackpool Mill Cottage where ‘Sense and Sensibility’ was filmed. Nearby St Nectan’s Church has been a landmark for sailors for generations with its tower believed to be the highest in Devon. Take a walk along the coastal path here for wonderful views of the rugged coastline, astonishing folds and rock formations and waterfalls and inland moorland, heath and wooded valleys. Be warned though, the path can be quite steep in places with lots of ‘ups and downs’. This was a very peaceful holiday in a very beautiful and unique landscape, with wild coastal walks, secluded beaches, and surrounded by nature.

Published by


I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

32 thoughts on “Spring in North Devon”

  1. You excelled yourself this time Jude, some really stunning shots!
    I know Bideford and Appledore quite well, as I have friends there. The hill near Lynmouth is an experience, and I have enjoyed trips on the funicular you mention. Don’t give up on the ‘bucket and spade’ resorts though! There is something charmingly English about these places, and they are going fast, with the lure of foreign climes sending them into the history books
    Ahh, sweet memories of my youth…
    Regards from a (currently) sunny Norfolk. As always, Pete. x

    1. Thanks Pete, glad you like the photos, it is an immensely photogenic region, with such stunning landscapes. I have to confess to not even visiting Westward Ho! but you are right, there is something quintessentially English about them – I do still enjoy Scarborough, but it is several years since I went there.

      1. Last time I went to Scarborough, it was sadly tacky. Gone the way of Clacton, and Hastings. Lots of good places left though. Bexhill- De La Warr Pavillion- sumptuous. Frinton – Art Deco houses wonderland.
        It is worth repeating that these were, both technically and aesthetically, some of your best ever photos.
        Regards as always, Pete.

    1. It was Sue, once you reached it – quite small, but charming and room enough for the two of us. The peace and quiet though was immeasurable.

    1. …and you are lucky enough to be close to it! I must admit we were tempted to look for a house there, but the steep cliffs are not so good for my OH who suffers from vertigo.

      1. Yes, we are not far at all! We love going for walks in the Quantocks bordering Exmoor and north Somerset. All beautiful countryside.

        I have suffered from vertigo (mostly thanks to not one but two whiplash injuries) so I am sorry to learn that your OH does so. Not pleasant.

        Hope you find your home sweet home soon 🙂

  2. Ah…we discovered north Devon last year – stayed near the Valley of the Rocks and had a wonderful time even though the weather was not kind. I love rugged landscapes and this definitely fits the bill. Fab pictures, as usual, Jude.

    1. We were very lucky with the weather Jenny, it was quite hot even though it was only the end of April. You are right about the landscape – rugged indeed! Thanks for the compliment 🙂

      1. LOL! I know you’re right, I just have this thing for England. The little country places are in my blood 🙂 I meant for a holiday by the way. I’m stuck to the tip of Africa like a barnacle.

    1. It most definitely is. Although the drive down to it can be a little stressful, once you are there it is as though the world has disappeared.

  3. Thrift on the rocks and Blackpool Mill Cove make me so keen to be there, Jude. You know I love my north east coast but I’d swop with this one for a while. 🙂

    1. I loved the Northumberland coastline, great beaches, but it is lacking cliffs 🙂 I love pretty much any coastline though I prefer sand to rocks.

Comments are closed.