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.

34 thoughts on “North Devon: Clovelly”

  1. it’s funny you should post this today because, after the mother/daughter post I have mapped out two and although the first is to be the weekend in Rome, the second will be North Devon.
    Have you got another blog?

    1. I have four blogs Mrs C. Though I’m looking at merging a couple next year, maybe. I just felt that I needed to separate my photos from my writing, though you manage to blend the two fine. I suppose it comes down to the theme and whether words and photos work equally well. If you click on Travel Words you’ll see my other blogs on the right. They are all photoblogs though.

      Can’t wait to read your mother/daughter posts 😀

        1. I love postcards too! Sadly I don’t receive any nowadays, but I do still send them to my grandchildren who find them a huge novelty 🙂 I love reading my old postcards – take me back in time to when my parents were alive and my children were young and scrawled things like “saw a giant troitise today”. I used to have them all pinned onto the kitchen wall like a tiled splashback!

  2. You got some great shots Jude. I have been many times, but it was always rammed with (other) tourists, so pointless taking street scenes. Was it very early perhaps?
    Regards to you as always, Pete. x

    1. Thanks Pete. We went there mid-afternoon on a Wednesday during the Easter holidays (late April) but the weather was so lovely I am guessing many people headed for the beaches!

  3. It’s gorgeously quaint and another great capture of the spirit of this part of the world Jude. I hope you had a blast. Can’t imagine leaving my car on the outskirts of where I live! (spoiled me 🙂 ). I had to smile at the name Clovelly considering ours is 5 mins drive away xxxx from Cape Town

    1. Cheers Karen! It was lovely walking down the hill, though those cobbles can be tricky and it is easy to turn an ankle – we did get the Land Rover back up!

      Your Clovelly is very different to this one 🙂

    1. I’m not sure whether that cottage is a holiday let or actually someone’s home, but it is very pretty, though I’m not sure I’d want to go up and down those cobbles every day 🙂

  4. Looks delightful Jude, especially as it is so cold and wet and dark outside as I type this! Must pay this lovely village a visit next summer 🙂 x

    1. Mmm… these days are very short now aren’t they? Have you been to Clovelly then Sherri? I’m not sure how long you have been in the south west.

      1. Yes, they are very short indeed. No, I never have been to Clovelly but we keep talking about going, like so many places..sigh!!

        We’ve been in Somerset coming up 6 years. Thing is when we have spare weekends we go the other way to visit the boys in Brighton 🙂

  5. Famous Clovelly! 🙂 I’ve never been though I have an auntie who lived in Barnstaple for many years, and is still in Devon now. It looks thoroughly enchanting and I’m sure I could manage a head-over-heels or two on those cobbles. Jude.

  6. Your lovely photos brought back memories of 1985 when I went back to UK to visit my Mam and girlfriend and my friend took us on a memorable car trip around Devon

    1. I’m glad to hear that PP – has it changed much since then? I always feel that the south-west has remained in the 1950s!!

  7. I just love that so many of history’s treasures are now being sustained by tourism. This one looks lovely, especially the cottage. Well done!

    1. Hi Sylvia, thanks for letting me know about your new blog – I have had a rummage around it and look forward to reading about Costa Rica shortly! Have a great trip – and bring back another hammock 🙂

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