North Devon: Clovelly

The other must-do in North Devon is a visit to the village of Clovelly, where you have to park (and pay) to enter at the top of the village. Like Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire, this village is inaccessible by car. Originally the main occupation of the village was fishing – for mackerel and herring. Nowadays the fishing is only done on a limited, sustainable basis and the main income is from tourism. The steep and uneven cobbled streets run down to the harbour where you can visit the Red Lion Hotel for a welcome drink or food or grab a snack from the Quay Shop or Seafood Shop. You can hop on a Land Rover for the return trip if you don’t feel like hiking al the way back to the top! At a price, of course. And you can get a ferry from here out to Lundy Island, that lump of rock seen in the background of some of my photos in this region where the Atlantic meets the Bristol Channel.

(click photos to enlarge and for more information)

Before heading down to the harbour we took a walk along the Hobby Drive which was created as part of the Romantic Movement of the early 19th century. The three-mile drive winds its way through the woods and offers glimpses of the village below and across Bideford Bay.

Once in the village you can visit the Fisherman’s Cottage to get an idea of what it was like to live here in 1930. Inside it is dressed as it would have been when a family lived in it and like all the cottages in the village it is built of cob and stone. Baskets or ‘mawns’ of fish were carried up the steep cobbles streets by donkeys and there is still a donkey stable at the top of the hill today. Today the donkeys give rides to children and the villagers use sledges to haul their heavy goods up and down the streets.

Charles Kingsley a Victorian writer and social reformer lived in the village from the age of 11 for five years and returned often. His writing encouraged visitors to this part of Devon and this is how he pictured it

“Suddenly a hot gleam of sunlight fell upon the white cottages, with their grey steaming roofs and little scraps of garden courtyard, and lighting up the wings of the gorgeous butterflies which fluttered from the woodland down to the garden.”

The Kingsley Museum is worth a look – you can listen to Joss Ackland recite one of Kingsley’s most famous and moving poems, the story of three fishermen’s wives waiting in vain for their husbands to return during a terrible storm in Bideford Bay.

Shops Down-A-Long include the village stores, a gallery and a donkey shop selling souvenirs. Clovelly may be a little twee, but it hasn’t changed in years – I remember visiting it in the 1960s and it probably looks just the same now. My advice is to go in the shoulder seasons when it is less busy, avoid the summer school holidays at all costs!

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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.

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