Ilfracombe, North Devon

What with having a new baby in May, we kind of missed a summer holiday, which made us determined to do something before it got really cold. This turned out to be a really good decision as the summer has been fairly rubbish, weather wise, and our autumn break was mostly in beautiful sunshine.

Day One – On our way

A view of Capstone Hill from the patio of our cottage
A view of Capstone Hill from the patio of our cottage

When planning this trip I thought ‘an early start and miss the traffic’ was an ace idea. When the alarm goes off at 4.15am though it seems a bit less inspired. Drowsiness aside, we did make really good time and even with a few lengthy stops got there before midday.

Stopped in the lovely little village of Combe Martin and enjoyed the lovely sunshine while eating our lunch. In the afternoon we found our apartment in Ilfracombe that turned out to be really nice, cosy and its patio has a nice view over the town to the sea.

We had a quick wander around the town and ended the day with a take out curry. yummy.

Day Two – Tunnels/Beaches

Tunnels/beachs at Ilfracombe
Tunnels/beaches at Ilfracombe

I’d heard before we came that Ilfracombe doesn’t have a beach or at least not a golden sandy one. What it does have in a slightly mysterious way are the tunnels/beaches. You go through a series of tunnels cut through the cliffs that lead to a couple of small black-sand beaches with a tidal pool lido making for safe swimming.

Seeing as how my swimming has been coming along and I need a bit of sea practice I thought that I’d have a bit of a dip. I got stripped down, popped on the swimming cap and leaped in. What I hadn’t quite counted on was how bleedin’ cold it was going to be. I think I lasted about 45 seconds and got out. I really should have taken more notice of all the other people wearing wet-suits.

Spent most of the afternoon with a cream tea and nice read of the paper.

Day Three – Morte Point and Woolacombe

Woolacombe Bay
Woolacombe Bay

The weather was sunny, if a little windy so we wanted to get out and see that great coastline. We drove along to Mortehoe, a very pretty little village just along the coast, making mental notes of the cream tea situation (a day without a cream tea is like a day without sunshine!).

We harnessed Rose into the new baby carrier and set off for the point of death, named so for the large number of ships that have been wrecked on the shore. Interestingly enough there is a small bay on the point called ‘Grunta bay’ after a ship full of live pigs was wrecked there.

The walk was really pleasant with ace views down the coast to Baggy Point and Woolacombe Bay. We saw a shepherd herding his flock with his dogs and on the point we saw a bird of prey hovering effortlessly in the wind. Amazing.

Popped down to Woolacombe in the afternoon looking for a cream tea, but it was slim pickings. The beach here is marvelous and the light was fantastic in the late afternoon.

Day Four – Lynton and Exmoor

Coast path near Lynton
Coast path near Lynton

One of the reasons I was excited about going to this bit of the country was the opportunity to see Exmoor National Park. We thought we’d start off gently by seeing Lynton/Lynmouth and after a bit of fortifying cake and a coffee we had a really pleasant walk down the coast. The views here, like most of north Devon are absolutely wonderful.

In the afternoon we drove out onto the moor and ate our lunch looking over the bleak and slightly desolate heathland. Drove on to Simonsbath and had a little walk in the woods. Then it was onto Exford for what turned out to be the best cream tea of the trip. Yummy yum yum.

Day Five – Birthday Lunch

Lobster Salad at The Quay
Lobster Salad at 'The Quay"

Milled about our apartment in the morning, and then went for Deborah’s birthday lunch. I’d done a bit of research beforehand and it seemed that ‘The Quay’ owned by Damien Hirst was the best restaurant in the area. It was there that I’d decided to go.

For the full review, check out the blog post on ‘The Quay’, but in summary the food was excellent and the service fine, though a bit casual for the price. All together, a very pleasant experience.

In the afternoon we ambled about the town enjoying the fine weather. We finally got to the top of Capstone Hill with it’s stunning views of the town, harbour and surrounding rocky coastline.

A really nice day.

Day Six – Westwood Ho!

Stones from Westwood Ho! beach
Stones from Westwood Ho! beach

This was the day we’d set aside to go on a trip to the Isle of Lundy, something i’d been really looking forward to. Much to my surprise all 267 places on the boat were booked, even this late in the season. I was a bit gutted about this, but i’ve learned my lesson – book ahead.

Picking ourselves up from this disappointment we thought we’d go a bit further affield and, after glancing at the map, my eye was drawn to ‘Westwood ho!’. Any placename with an exclamation mark in it deserves a visit.

We arrived at this little seaside town, that was more ‘kiss me quick’ than twee and had a fine stony beach. We’d just sat down for our lunch when we realised that the tide was coming in and coming in quite quickly. We hurried off the beach and to the safety of a tea shop (very average). Had a walk and really got to appreciate the amazing stones on the beach. They were of a decent size and most had a pretty white marbling and I was tempted to nick some.

Not sure if it was quite worth the trip, but I do like that name!

Day Seven – Friends

Ilfracombe
Ilfracombe

I started the day with an early morning swim at the local pool. I tried to pay them, but they consistently failed to be around in the lobby, so I go a freebie. I may well be a wanted man in Ilfracombe.

Deborah’s friend Eleanor had recently moved back to Devon and it seemed natural that we meet up as we hadn’t seen her since our wedding last summer. Eleanor works down here as a vet and we got a number of fascinating though occasionally gruesome stories.

The weather was glorious, Rose was cute and all was well with the world.

A lovely and relaxing day.

Day Eight – Home
Sadly, all good things have to come to an end and it was time to go home. We had hoped to stop off somewhere nice on the way, but the south west was under a deep blanket of fog all morning so we just made fast for home. I’d been slightly dreading the long drives, but they both turned out to be fine in the end.

Summary
All in all, we had a really nice time, made all the more special for being Rose’s first holiday. To be honest, she barely seemed to notice the scenery, but it was a trip D and I will both cherish.

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