I recently spent a few days exploring north Devon, somewhere that I have visited in my younger years but haven’t been to for a long time since, despite spending a lot of time in Exmouth and south Devon.
And wow, I was amazed – so much so that we’ve already booked another trip down there. There are so many beautiful places to see in north Devon, that we didn’t quite manage to squeeze them all in on this trip!
North Devon is a rural, peaceful place, with its largest town – Barnstaple – having a population of just over 20,000 people. But uneventful, it is not. The coastline of North Devon, which starts just over the border from Bude in Cornwall, is dotted with chilled-out beach towns, all with their own unique atmosphere. The coastline then features jagged cliffs and isolated beaches before it enters the spectacular Exmoor National Park.
While beaches are certainly the most popular reason to visit this part of Devon, there are some beautiful spots inland too. But perhaps the best of north Devon’s beautiful places are out to sea – Lundy Island is a showstopper, and seeing the picturesque town of Lynmouth from the water is a must-do while in the region.
Small disclaimer: due to COVID-19, some of these attractions may be closed or inaccessible. If you do visit north Devon during the pandemic, please do follow all of the guidelines regarding social distancing and mask wearing. The region is currently experiencing a lot of tourists, which is great for the economy, but could be a cause for concern if people don’t follow social distancing guidelines. Also, make sure to support local businesses who may have struggled during lockdown.
The Most Beautiful Places to Visit in North Devon
There are so many fun things to do in Devon, but this list definitely features some of the most spectacular aesthetics-wise. Let’s delve into it. In no particular order, here are what I deem to be the most beautiful places in north Devon!
Actually, I lie – this might be my favourite one of this list of beautiful places to visit in North Devon. Some people know Lundy as the ‘Galapagos of the UK’ due to its array of wildlife. On a trip to Lundy, you might have the chance to see puffins, seals, crabs and all sorts of fish.
It’s also got a fascinating history due to its location between the Bristol Channel and the Atlantic Ocean; it has been a point of defence for centuries, often being fought over by the crown and various other parties.
It’s a peaceful place now, however, and has the ruins of a castle, a church, lighthouses and a small village to explore. You can also send a postcard using the island’s own postal system (you won’t need a UK stamp, just a Lundy Island stamp will do!).
You can visit Lundy Island on a day or multi-day trip. I’d recommend going for longer than a day if possible; there’s so much to see and do. It’s also possible to do a snorkelling or diving trip over to the island (guess what my next trip to North Devon is going to feature…).
We went to Ilfracombe merely because that’s where the ferry to Lundy left from, but I was pleasantly surprised. Nestled in the town centre is a small beach and harbour, offering great photos of all the boats, and out to sea are rocky outcrops for hiking.
The town is dotted with small souvenir shops and fish and chips restaurants, giving it a quintessential British seaside feel. Once you’ve seen the surface beauty, check out the quirky statue of Verity, a 20 metre tall bisected pregnant lady, looking out to sea.
Verity has been the subject of a lot of debate over the years – the statue is meant to symbolise resistance against gentrification, rebirth, and a multitude of other things. It is on loan from Damien Hirst to the town for 20 years. It’s not the prettiest statue, but it’s definitely unique.
From Ilfracombe, you can take a sightseeing cruise either east or west to enjoy more of the coastline from the water.
Valley of Rocks
Along the coast slightly, just within the boundaries of Exmoor National Park, is the Valley of the Rocks. This natural phenomenon is quite literally a valley of rocks, and from the top some fantastic views can be had of the park, coastline and sea. Take a five-kilometre round trip that encompasses the Valley of Rocks, Lynmouth and Lynton (see below for them!) and enjoy the coastal scenery, geologic features and the charming villages. This is also part of the South West coastal trail.
Sometimes known as ‘The Switzerland of England’, due to the hill vistas that can be enjoyed around the town and from the sea, Lynmouth is a small Devon beach town. The person who gave Lynmouth this title seemed to forget that Switzerland is a landlocked country, but it is gorgeous. Lynmouth sits by the sea, and its sister town Lynton is located above.
If the views aren’t enough to entice you to visit, Lynmouth and Lynton have the only water-powered funicular in the UK (there are only two others in the world). Taking the funicular from Lynmouth to Lynton is a great way to enjoy the coastal views of the town; you’ll understand how it has made it into this list of the most beautiful places to visit in North Devon!
Check out my things to do in Lynmouth and Lynton – full guide.
The charming village of Appledore, not far from Westward Ho! (the only place in the country with an exclamation mark in its name), is an underrated place to visit in North Devon. With streets of charming pastel-coloured houses, a beautiful quay with beach views over the Atlantic Ocean, and calm and tranquil beaches, it’s a welcoming village that will have you wanting to kick back and relax for a while.
It’s a small place, but it is perfect for an evening stroll and dinner. Check out the Beaver Inn for a great pub menu.
Clovelly is a famous privately-owned village. People do live here, but it is very tourist-centric; it has been preserved to maintain the style of a 19th-century fishing village.
Just seeing the village is an attraction in itself, but there are plenty of things to do in Clovelly. Enjoy are charming old buildings to enjoy around the steep cobbled streets, and spectacular views over the harbour can be enjoyed from the lookout. From the harbour itself, the village spreads upwards on a near-vertical street.
Out of the village, look for the Clovelly Gardens, a collection of Victorian-style flowerbeds and shrubbery which are definitely one of the most instagrammable places in Devon.
The majestic views of Croyde from the hills above town are unmatchable. This beach is said to be one of the prime surfing beaches in the world, and the town itself is dotted with country pubs and independent stores.
It’s not the most fun place for driving due to narrow, twisty country lanes, but the sandy beaches and blue waters more than make up for it.
Just along from Croyde is the slightly larger town of Woolacombe. Voted as the 20th best beach in the world in the 2020 TripAdvisor traveller’s choice awards, this location is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in North Devon. Enjoy the long, sandy bay with a backdrop of green rolling hills, and step into the cool but (sometimes) refreshing water.
Woolacombe is also popular with surfers, and has a pleasant esplanade walk that can be enjoyed at any time of day, but is especially beautiful at dawn or dusk.
Beautiful Places in Devon
I hope this list of beautiful places to visit in north Devon has whetted your appetite for exploring this area! I absolutely adored this part of the country, and am already planning subsequent trips to see more of the coastline and Exmoor National Park. Stay tuned for lots more posts about this spectacular region!