North Devon is a walkers paradise! Set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty there are so many footpaths that crisscross the countryside offering opportunities to get away from it all, go for a hike or just stretch your legs and explore. Plus of course, we have the South West Coast Path on our doorstep which offers magnificent coastal walks right by the sea. Just heaven! Here are some of our favourites all within 20 minutes of Nutcombe!
The Hangman Hills are our closest access to the South West Coast Path. At 1044 feet, or 318 metres, Great Hangman is England's highest sea cliff so not a walk for the faint hearted! From the the top the views are magnificent over the surrounding countryside and the sea. There is a great circular walk that takes in the ragged peaks of both Little Hangman and Great Hangman, including the secluded Wild Pear Beach (difficult to access but possible with extreme care), plus the old silver mines which was once an important commodity for Combe Martin. For a more detailed route take a look at the South West Coast Path website. For a shorter walk just up to Little Hangman which is just as beautiful click here.
Just 4 miles from Nutcombe, the walk from Hunters Inn offers a lovely, peaceful escape down through ancient woodland full of wildflowers in the Spring to the secluded, rocky cove at Heddons Mouth. Following the River Heddon all the way down there are a few places you can stop and paddle in the cool waters, listen to the birdsong, enjoy a picnic or, if you are lucky spot the Dippers bobbing in and out of the crystal clear waters. The rocky beach is surrounded by steep, scree-clad hills and dramatic cliffs and has an ancient, ruined lime kiln; the perfect spot for kids to explore. There is the added bonus of finishing the walk with a visit to Hunters Inn for a well deserved drink or maybe even a cream tea! The pub is also very dog friendly. For a details route take a look at the South West Coast Path website.
Valley of the Rocks
A stunning place noted for its rock formations and herd of feral goats and ponies; almost like a medieval landscape. The coast path along from Valley of the Rocks to Lynton is fairly level and tarmacked so a good walk if a bit muddy. Be warned though it is close to the edge and if you suffer from vertigo, it could be a problem for you. You can take a short walk to just explore the valley or follow the coast path into Lynton and Lynmouth for a longer walk. The scenery is stunning and the sunsets from here are amazing. Why not finish the walk with a cuppa and cake at Mother Meldrums Tearoom and Gardens. For a details route take a look at the South West Coast Path website.
Morte Point- Morthoe (Woolacombe)
This walk is our absolute favourite. From Morthoe (near Woolacombe) village walk up past the church and after passing the church yard enter through an iron gate onto the oasis that is Morte Point. A haven of peace and tranquillity where all you can hear are birdsong and the crashing of the waves and baaing of the sheep. Once through the gate there are several paths that take you around the point. If you pass to the right take the time to stop and look out for seals in the water or basking on the rocks.
From the point, looking back along the rocky spine along the ridge, you can see the landward extension of the 'devil's teeth' rocks which made the headland such a disaster zone for shipping. On the tip of the point is the dreaded Morte Stone, a sunken reef of jagged outcrops tilted almost vertically. The Normans dubbed it the 'Death Stone', and claimed that 'Morte is the place which heaven made last and the devil will take first.'
Despite it's history, Morte Point is stunning and in Spring time you will spot swaithes of beautiful primroses, patches of pink sea drift and an abundance of wild birds including, Swallows, Chiffchaffs, Sand Martins, House Martins, Wheatears, Wrens, Willow Warblers, Linnets and Dunnocks, making it a paradise for bird watchers. Don't forget your binoculars!
If you want a longer walk, you can include a walk to Bull Point Lighthouse and continue along the coastpath towards Morte Point which makes the walk about 6.5 miles long. For an alternative longer walk take a look at the South West Coast Path website.
A bit more of a gentle walk around Baggy Point from Croyde Beach taking in Putsborough beach is great for blowing away the cobwebs. Strolling along to the breathtaking windswept headland that forms the barrier between Croyde Beach and Putsborough Beach, Baggy point is home to many nesting seabirds, unusual wildflowers and is a haven for butterflies in summer. It is exposed so dress appropriately. Take a break at Putsborough beach in the beach cafe for lunch or take a picnic and sit on a bench high on the hillside overlooking the stunning bay through to Woolacombe.
On returning to Croyde, finish your day with a cream tea or ice cream from the National Trust Sandleigh Tea Room and Gardens. for a details description, see the South West Coast Path website.
This is a great walk from Lynmouth that winds up the valley following the East Lyn river from its mouth up to Watersmeet where it joins the Hoar Oak Water. You are rewarded with a fantastic National Trust Tea Room to refresh before the walk back down or continue up to Countisbury Hill for a longer walk. This is steep though so not for the faint hearted! The tearoom is an oasis surrounded by water with a magnificent waterfall. Plenty of outside tables to sit and soak it all in and dog friendly too! Check the National Trust Watersmeet page
Voted one of the best beaches in the UK, Woolacombe has 3 miles of golden sand. You can walk from the Woolacombe end of the beach down to Putsborough at the other end where there is a café for refreshments and toilets. A lovely gentle stroll taking in the sun (hopefully), sea and sand with views out to Lundy Island, Morte Point and Baggy Point. Great place to let your dog run and dig! Or why not walk back along the coast path at the back of the beach along Marine Drive and stop at the newly opened Porthole Cafe.
There are so many stunning walks long the coast path, so far too many to mention. So just explore!
We are lucky enough to have some of the best surfing beaches in the country here in North Devon. The west facing beachbreaks mean there’s always a place to surf waves and the beaches are reliable year round, with sheltered spots drawing in crowds. The most popular surfing spots are:
Woolacombe: Great for experienced surfers or beginners as there are many surf schools. Lifeguards operate during the summer months. With a reef break, the surf produces some good waves.
Croyde: Thought to be one of the best places to surf in the UK. The best waves are at low tide but they can big big and fast, so best place for more experienced surfers. Lifeguards operate during the summer months but it can get very busy.
Saunton: Waves can be just as good as Woolacombe or Croyde but not as popular so a good spot to practice.
Putsborough: The other end of Woolacombe beach so the surf is just as good but a little more sheltered, so waves tend to be cleaner.
Combe Martin is set in North Devon's Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with a beautiful, scenic and sheltered bay bordered by the highest sea cliffs in the country. There are around 3km of coastline you can explore safely full of inlets, caves and secluded beaches to explore and no better way than by kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Wildlife such as dolphins, porpoise, seals, oyster catchers, gannets, fulmars and peregrine falcons are often spotted throughout the year, making your paddling experience truly magical.
There are two kayak centres in Combe Martin, Sufside Kayak Hire or Outdoor Shop and Kayak Centre that offer guided tours or take lessons from a fully qualified instructor. You can hire kayaks or paddleboards from anything form an hour to 2 weeks! For visiting paddlers, Combe Martin has a very active British Canoeing affiliated club - www.combemartinkayakclub.co.uk where a warm welcome awaits on one of their club paddles.
For those looking for a bit more of an adrenaline rush, there are so many outdoor activities for all ages in the area. Why not try Coasteering, Mountain Biking, Abseiling, Canoeing, Raft Building, Archery, Paddle-Boarding, Tree-Climbing, Orienteering or Coastal Rafting to name a few. We have a couple of local centres who specialize in providing adventure filled activities. Active Escapes is our closed and is based at Watermouth Cove between Combe Martin and Ilfracombe and has exclusive use of the cove. A bit further afield there is Exmoor Adventures is based in Porlock, Skern Lodge in Bideford or The Ultimate Adventure Centre also in Bideford.
If you want to get up close to our magnificent sea-life along the North Devon coast, then why not try a boat trip. There are some great boats that operate out of Ilfracombe Harbour where you can cruise along the coastline exploring hidden coves and caves, go seal spotting and if you are really lucky the odd dolphin. Or take a trip across to Lundy Island to see the puffins.
The Ilfracombe Sea Safari offer two Humber ribs "Lundy Explorer" and "Pioneer" that are safe stable boats used to get you 'up close and personal' with North Devon's wildlife. Travelling up to 20 knots along our coast of outstanding natural beauty with padded seats for comfort. These boats are suited for passengers who do suffer from sea sickness due to the vessel's exceptional stability. Suitable for all ages and dog's are welcome.
The Ilfracombe Princess is a large comfortable catamaran with an open deck and undercover seating and is Ilfracombes largest passenger vessel. It has upper deck seating area as well and toilets and commentary on all its trips. Dogs are welcome on the lower deck and children under 4 go free! They travel along the coast from Ilfracombe to Baggy Point or Combe Martin spotting seals, dolphins and nesting birds along the coastline.
If you are feeling a bit more adventurous how about a trip to Lundy Island. Lundy Island is the largest island in the Bristol Channel and lies 12 miles off the coast of North Devon. It is only 3 miles long and half a mile wide, with just 27 residents living on its 1000 acres. Visitors to Lundy Island will be impressed by the sense of space, it's beauty, the silence and of course the stunning scenery. It is a haven for birdwatchers, divers, climbers, plant enthusiasts, archaeologists, geologists and historians. You can visit the island by boat between end March and end of October on Lundy’s own ferry and supply ship, the graceful German-built MS Oldenburg, which is an experience in its own right. Built in 1958 the vessel retains many of her original brass and wooden fittings providing comfortable heated saloons, a bar, buffet, a gift shop and an information desk. The ships sails at least three times a week from either Bideford or Ilfracombe and the crossing takes about 2 hours each way, allowing between 4 and 6 hours to explore the island depending on the day you choose to travel.
Whether you are a beginner or scratch player, there are many excellent golf courses in North Devon. Some are very informal and others insist on strict etiquette and dress code. Courses nearby include Saunton Sands Golf Course (the links are of championship standard), Ilfracombe Golf Club, Woolacombe and Morthoe Golf Club, Portmore Golf Park in Barnstaple (including driving range), The Royal North Devon Golf Club in Northam. So plenty to choose from.
North Devon with it's beautiful scenery and quiet lanes, is a great destination for cycling enthusiasts as well as families wanting to enjoy a gentle bike ride. In 2018 the Tour of Britain cycle race came through North Devon including Combe Martin and local villages. For novices though, the main attraction is the wonderful Tarka Trail which is a 180 miles of traffic free footpaths and cycle paths in a figure of eight that covers a large part of North Devon.
If you don't have space to bring your own bikes, it's no problem. there are plenty of cycle hire companies especially along the Tarka Trail.
If you love horses and want to have a go at horse riding while on holiday, there are a few riding stables that offer riding instruction or, for experienced riders hacks in some beautiful scenery.
The BHS and ABRS approved Dean Riding Stables are our closest stables and offer tuition and escorted hacking for all ages and ability levels, especially welcoming of the novice and the nervous 'from tiny tots to galloping grannies'.
There's a variety of show jumping training and equipment for that available. Their welcoming facilities include an all weather 60 x 30m arena, a full set of show jumps and fillers, Round Pen and Lunge Ring. Plus of course they'll happily take you all on some superb hacking across the charming and eclectic mix of terrains on their doorstep, including moorland, woodland, and coastal paths with stunning views!
If you fancy the idea of riding on horseback along the beautiful sandy beach at Woolacombe, take a look at Woolacombe Riding Stables. The stables are situated at Eastacott Farm and visitors can ride over 200 acres of countryside as well as rides across the sand dunes and the 3 mile long stretch of golden sandy beach. They are also the only riding stable approved by Parking Estates, the owners of Woolacombe beach has licensed to ride the length of the beach.
Our nearest public swimming pool is at Ilfracombe Gym & Swimming Pool and offers a 25m pool as well as a learning pool and 30 station Gym. There is also a public pool at Tarka Leisure Centre in Barnstaple, where you will find a 25m swimming pool, 102 station gym, sports hall, 3 squash courts, spa, soft play and a friendly onsite café.
For a fun swim why not try Cascades at Ruda Holiday Park in Croyde. Tropical Adventure Pool with rapids, 230 foot water slide and a heart-pumping giant flume, providing endless excitement. Open to non-residents.
The Bristol Channel has the 2nd biggest tide in the world which makes it an excellent venue for sea fishing. You can fish for Pollack, Bass, Smooth Hound, Bull Huss, Conger, Tope, a variety of Rays and Dogfish during the Spring and Summer months. There are several charters who operate out of Ilfracombe Harbour for both experienced anglers and beginners. Many boats provide rods, bait and tackle or you can use your own. It is probably wise to book as they can be very popular. Here are just a couple of charters that work out of Ilfracombe.
There are several fishing lakes scattered across North Devon where you can fish for Carp, Tench, Bream, Golden Tench, golden Orf and more. Here is the closest to Nutcombe.
For those you can't resist a bit of retail therapy, our largest town is Barnstaple and offers the usual array of shops set in a pedestrianized high street with an indoor shopping centre called Green Lanes. Barnstaple Pannier Market is a must visit while you are there offering one of Britains largest indoor markets.
Largely unchanged in over 150 years, Barnstaple's historic Pannier Market has a wide range of stalls, with everything from fresh local produce, flowers and crafts, to prints and pictures, fashion and much more.
Barnstaple Real Food Market takes place every 2nd Sunday of each month. This Farmers and Street Food Market showcases local producers, with entertainment from local bands and musicians. A great opportunity to grab lunch on the go, enjoy a great fresh coffee, or just to soak up the atmosphere.
If you are happy to travel further afield, you may like a trip to the outlet shopping experience of Affinity Devon in Bideford. Affinity Devon is North Devon’s unique outlet shopping village. With over 30 stores offering up to 50% off rrp every day. You’ll find a huge choice of famous name brands at incredible discounts and you’ll be sure to pick up a bargain. There is free parking, free Wi-Fi and they are open every day with late night shopping every Thursday until 8pm.