North Devon is a really beautiful place. With clusters of villages nestled along a peaceful coastline, it’s somewhere where a more relaxed pace of living can be enjoyed, while taking in some of the most spectacular sights of the South West, of course!
This guide will show you how to do a North Devon road trip, starting near the border with Cornwall and ending in Somerset. So you’ll span the entire northern area of this county on this trip – and it only takes a maximum of five days.
How to get to North Devon
If you are driving from London, you’ll take the M3, A303 and A358 to join the M5 at Taunton, and then travel one junction before another string of a roads to reach Clovelly, the first point on this North Devon itinerary.
From Bristol, or any cities north of London, you’ll join the M5 and take it to junction 27 (Tiverton) and then follow a roads to reach the north Devon coast.
For more information, read my how to get to Devon post.
Where to stay in North Devon
I will be including some recommendations for campsites and guesthouses at each stop in this north Devon itinerary. However, because it is quite a small region, you could opt to just stay in one area and still follow this itinerary, or select two accommodations from the list. The choice is yours!
Things to do in North Devon
This itinerary will show you the best things to do in north Devon, and exactly how to visit them all, but here’s a quick list so you can see what you’re in for:
- Exploring the 19th century fishing village of Clovelly
- Surfing on one of the many surf beaches
- Seeing colourful houses and Atlantic sunsets in Appledore
- Hiking sand dunes in Sauton
- Experiencing one of the world’s top beaches in Woolacombe
- Cruising along the Exmoor coastline by boat
- Riding on the UK’s only water powered funicular railway in picturesque Lynmouth
- Day tripping to the ‘Galapagos of the UK’; Lundy Island, a place famed for its rare wildlife and epic views
Sounds like a good holiday, right? Let’s get stuck in!
North Devon Itinerary
Day 1: Clovelly, Bideford, Westward Ho!, Appledore
Your North Devon road trip will begin in beautiful Clovelly. You’ll need to pay to get into this privately-owned village, but it’s worth it – it’s without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in North Devon. Although people do live there, it has been preserved to represent a 19th century fishing village, and although it is very touristy, it does the job well.
I’ve wrote a full things to do in Clovelly guide that should give you more information about the place, but my top three recommendations would be to visit the Fisherman’s Cottage to see how a fisherman lived in those days, have tea at the Tea Rooms, and admire the view of the village sprawling at a near vertical angle from the harbour.
From Clovelly, it’s about half an hour drive to Bideford.
Away from the coast, Bideford is an ancient market town. It was the UK’s third-largest port in the 16th century, but nowadays it is a fairly small town.
There’s a statue of Tarka the Otter, a couple of parks, and some quaint buildings, but the main reason that I would advise stopping in Bideford is that it has a range of restaurants. There’s more on offer here than Clovelly and Westward Ho!, so it’s a great place for lunch.
It’s about a 15 minute drive from Bideford to Westward Ho!
The only British town with an exclamation mark in its official name, Westward Ho! Is a holiday-centric kind of place, with surfing lessons, go karts, lots of food stalls, and a funfair.
We got unlucky when we went – the beach wasn’t looking great, so we kind of wrote it off – but I’ve seen some beautiful photos since of the beach looking absolutely wonderful.
If it’s a nice day, or if you want to surf or enjoy the other attractions, Westward Ho! could be a very worthwhile stop on your North Devon road trip itinerary.
It’s a 10 minute drive from Westward Ho! to Appledore.
Appledore is a small but tranquil village, with a beautiful coastline and several authentic pubs. Its other main attraction is the street of coloured houses, which makes for some great photo opportunities!
Stop here and have dinner; the pubs by the waterfront are wonderfully scenic and really encompass the scenery and atmosphere that makes up north Devon. I recommend The Beaver Inn.
Places to stay in Appledore and Westward Ho!
We stayed at Skern Lodge Campsite. The camping facilities are basic; just a field, drinking water, toilets, showers and washing up facilities – but that was certainly all that we needed!
Skern Lodge is located in Appledore, just a 10 minute walk from all of the pubs and the colourful houses. It also has waterfront views from the campsite itself. Skern Lodge offers various water sports that guests can partake in.
The Seagate is one of Appledore’s popular pubs, and is also a high-end B&B. It has lovely boutique rooms and luxurious bathrooms, some with roll-top baths! The service is rated as exceptional and the breakfast is rumoured to be fantastic. Click here for more information.
Westward Ho! Has a variety of accommodation options; it was literally made for tourists. Ocean Star is rated particularly well and has waterfront views. Reviews state that it is cleaned to very high standards and the reception is welcoming. Click here for more information.
Day 2: Barnstaple, Saunton, Croyde
Take a quick trip inland to Barnstaple; this may be the UK’s oldest borough, and there are a few attractions worth doing here. Check out the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon, browse the Barnstaple Pannier Market which sells local produce, or visit the Broomhill Sculpture Gardens which is the biggest contemporary collection of art in the South West.
There are also plenty of restaurants in Barnstaple, should you fancy a hearty breakfast or early lunch!
From Barnstaple, drive to Sandy Lane Car Park. Here, you can take a couple of hikes through the sand dunes to Saunton Sands (about an hour return). There are maps available at the small visitor’s centre, which will tell you about some local flora and fauna of the area. It costs £2 to park for as long as you want – and you get a free coffee!
The beautiful town of Croyde is another prime surfing destination and has an absolutely beautiful, tranquil bay. There’s a great food van there too – check out their Instagram here – and a few other shops and restaurants.
I’m hoping that you’ll have better weather than we did, and can enjoy the rest of the day chilling out on the beach!
Places to Stay in Croyde and Woolacombe
The George Inn is located in nearby Braunton and has boutique-style rooms with a pub downstairs. Recent reviews state that the cleanliness levels are excellent and they are taking good social distancing measures. Click here for rates and to reserve your spot.
Sunnymeade is in Woolacombe and offers twin or double rooms with en-suite bathrooms. Breakfast is included, and pets are allowed on site. Click here for more information.
If you are after something luxuriuos, check out Saunton Sands Hotel. Offering a pool with epic views over the Saunton Sands beach, you’ll think you’re in the Mediterranean! Also on site is a spa and wellness centre, gym, and restaurant. The rooms are all furnished to the highest standard and some have gorgeous sea views. Click here for more information.
Day 3: Woolacombe, Ilfracombe, and a boat cruise!
It’s a short drive from Croyde to Woolacombe – there’s some windy country roads here, so driving in can be a bit hair-raising but it’s definitely worth it. Woolacombe Beach was once voted the 13th best beach in the world, so it’s definitely worth squeezing it into your North Devon itinerary!
If it’s nice weather, by all means, of course enjoy the beach! Taking a stroll around the esplanade is lovely, and there are a few restaurants and bars to enjoy in the town itself, like the Boardwalk Bar and Restaurant and NC@EX34.
Ilfracombe is a small harbour town that is currently the gateway to Lundy Island (boats also leave from Bideford, but not at the moment). It has a beautiful harbour with a few picturesque fish and chip shops, a rather garish statue of a pregnant lady looking out to sea, and rocky outcrops that can be hiked on.
It won’t take you too long to see Ilfracombe on land though; so I would really recommend doing a boat trip. These leave the harbour at various times per day and go to lots of different locations. We did one with Ilfracombe Sea Safari and sailed all the way to Lynmouth, where we admired the town from the sea and the bay views, saw the Valley of Rocks, and some seals!
It was raining and got very, very wet when we went out – as in, I was sitting in a puddle and had to empty out my shoes when I got on dry land, so I would only recommend this if the weather is dry. The trip was still awesome, but it did take a long time to dry off afterwards!
Places to Stay in Ilfracombe
Rocky Cove Bread and Breakfast is highly rated due to its super friendly staff, great location, and delicious breakfast. Click here for more information.
Carlton Hotel is in prime location by the Tunnels Beaches, and is just a 10 minute walk from the quay and harbour. The rooms are furnished beautifully, with a luxury touch, and there is a bar and restaurant on site. Click here for more information.
Day 4: Lundy Island
This is it. The peak of your North Devon road trip. Actually, this one’s a boat trip – you’ll need to be back at Ilfracombe harbour at about 9am to take the boat over to Lundy. After about two hours, you’ll arrive at one of the most special islands in the country.
Lundy is sometimes called the ‘Galapagos of the UK’ due to its range of wildlife. Here, you can snorkel with seals (you’ll need to book another day trip for this though), see puffins, and marvel at a range of birds.
You’ll also be able to learn about the history of the island; due to its position between the Bristol Channel and the Atlantic Ocean, it’s been home to a lot of intriguing history throughout the centuries. You can do a free Warden Tour to educate yourself in this – just look out for the tour sandwich board when you get off of the boat!
Or you can just enjoy the beaches, dramatic cliffs, and slower pace of life; it’s a really special place.
You need to book your day trip to Lundy Island in advance. Click here for more information.
Places to Stay on Lundy Island
Because of ferry times, you can’t just stay at Lundy Island for a night, but if you would like longer on the island (I would recommend it if you can – there’s so much to do here!), you can stay for a few days. Click here for more information about booking accommodation on Lundy Island.
If you only make it to Lundy for a day, take the boat back to Ilfracombe.
Day 5: Lynton and Lynmouth
From Ilfracombe, it’s a short drive to Lynton. I would recommend parking in the Valley of Rocks car park and visiting the Valley of Rocks first. This is possibly the most scenic part of Exmoor; rocky boulders and outcrops dot the clifftops, right by the ocean. Check out my full guide to the valley of rocks here.
Then, it’s an easy walk into Lynton and Lynmouth. I would recommend checking out the model railway, Glen Lyn Gorge, and taking in all of the beautiful scenes of the town from below, before enjoying some food at Esplanade Fish Bar or the Pavilion.
Then, you can take the water-powered funicular back up to Lynton. A short drive from Lynton is Watersmeet, a gorge for hiking and a Georgian tea room.
Check out my full guide to Lynton and Lynmouth here.
Places to Stay in Lynton and Lynmouth
There are a few lovely B&Bs in Lynton and Lynmouth. These aren’t really for the budget traveller, but if you are happy to pay a little more, waking up in this tranquil seaside town is an ideal way to round off your North Devon road trip.
Check out Rock House, a pub with boutique-style rooms, located right in the heart of Lynmouth. Click here for more information.
Another option is the friendly Lyn Valley Guest House which overlooks the river and has a very highly-rated breakfast! Click here for details.
On a budget? Want to explore more of Exmoor? I recommend Porlock Caravan Park, which is about an hour’s drive away from Lynmouth. There are stationary caravans and a large field for camping here, as well as epic coastal views!
Where to from here?
You’ve reached the end point of your North Devon road trip! If you still have time on your holiday, the natural continuation would be into Exmoor National Park, which takes you into Somerset.
Check out villages like Porlock and Dunster, do hike up to Dunkery Beacon, the highest point of Exmoor, and extend your stay into the beautiful Quantock Hills.
Or, if you’ve done this North Devon itinerary in reverse, head down the northern Cornish coast, to Bude and Newquay!
There are so many places to explore in this part of the country…