If you’re exploring North Devon, visiting all the best things to do in Clovelly is a must!
Located on the western end of the north Devon coastline, Clovelly is a privately-owned village that has been restored to its 19th-century glory. While people do live in Clovelly, it is extremely popular with tourists and helps visitors see exactly what life was like in this area of the county in the 1800s.
Clovelly high street is dotted with quaint historic buildings. As you walk down the very steep road, it will be easy to imagine what this village was like 200 years ago. The buildings and sweeping views over the harbour give it a somewhat romantic appeal. Still, if you enter into some of Clovelly’s museums, you will learn about the hardships faced by people in this village, when fishing was the only reliable source of income.
There’s plenty to learn about in Clovelly. Things to do include visiting museums to educate yourself about historical life in these fishing villages, looking out for bollards made of cannons used in the Spanish Armada, and a small waterfall with a cave where Merlin was supposedly born.
Things to do in Clovelly
The town of Clovelly is an attraction in itself; many visitors just visit to do the steep walk down the street and marvel at the views! However, if you want to go that little bit deeper, some individual attractions are definitely worth seeing. If you are wondering what to do in Clovelly, read on!
Walking down from the visitors’ centre, one of the first things that you will see is the craft workshops. The Clovelly pottery workshop offers guests the chance to make and decorate their own pot, as well as purchase from local artists. There’s also a lovely soap shop where you can buy locally made soaps.
The donkey stables are also in this area; they weren’t around when I was there, so I can’t really comment on how they looked health-wise. I’m not a fan of using animals for tourism like this, and I have seen plenty of donkeys on British beaches which are far too overloaded, but I’m not sure about these ones. If you have been and seen them, drop me a comment and let me know how well they are looked after!
Mount Pleasant Memorial
A little further down the hill is Mount Pleasant. The hill has a nice, albeit slightly covered by leaves, view, and there is a memorial there to all of the fallen soldiers of World War II who lived in Clovelly. If you’ve just walked up the hill, it’s a great place to stop and rest a for a while!
If you want to look at the village and sea from above, there is a cliff walk that takes it all in. If you walk up Hobby Drive, you’ll reach the cliffs.
Down on Clovelly high street, there’s a cottage that has been made up to resemble a fisherman’s dwelling in the 19th century, and it is one of the most interesting things to do in Clovelly. Complete with historic furniture and even the fisherman’s clothes, it’s a compelling building to walk around and absorb the history.
This Clovelly Museum is dedicated to local author Charles Kingsley, who wrote the book ‘Westward Ho!’ which the nearby town was named after. At the museum, you’ll get the chance to read a bit more about the history and listen to a poetry recital (featuring a memorable line ‘the men must work, and the woman must weep’, which made me very grateful that I wasn’t born in a 19th-century fishing village).
You’ll learn about the perils of fishing here, with juxtaposes with the beauty of the village. Fishing was pretty much the only industry in the village, and it was vital for boats to go out to be able to afford to pay the lord of the manor. But, these Atlantic waters are dangerous; and people being lost at sea was common (which is why all the women were weeping).
Upon leaving the museum, there is a traditional sweet shop.
Lookout over the harbour
After learning about this history, the steep road will take you down to the lookout. Take a perch on a bench here and enjoy the sweeping vistas of the harbour, and has been a meeting place for village people throughout the ages. It is also where people would look out for fishing boats coming back to Clovelly. Nowadays, it is a serene and beautiful place and is a great spot to take some photos of the coastline below.
Waterfall and Merlin’s Cave
A short walk down Fish Street and along the pebbled beach is a small waterfall and behind, a cave where Merlin was allegedly born – how true that is, I’m not too sure. You can, of course, enjoy the beach, although it’s not great for sunbathing!
The harbour is a pleasant place to sit and look out to sea while enjoying the houses dramatically climbing the hill. Be sure to look out for the bollards made out of cannons from the Spanish Armada. The views and atmosphere of the harbour area mean that sitting here taking it all in is certainly one of the best things to do in Clovelly. North Devon is full of beautiful historical scenes, but this may be the best!
Notable historical houses
All of the buildings in Clovelly are quaint and beautiful, but some are more remarkable than others. Look out for:
- Oberammergau Cottage, which used to be a doctor’s surgery and is located near the lookout. It is unique due to its bright wood carvings, which were created in Oberammergau in Germany (hence the name).
- Crazy Kate’s Cottage and the other dwellings located on Fish Street, near the harbour
- Temple Bar Cottage, which hangs over the footpath going down towards the beach
Places to eat in Clovelly
For a small village, there are plenty of places to eat in Clovelly.
The Cottage Tea Rooms
This tea room, located towards the harbour at the bottom of main street, serves up cream teas, quiches, and freshly made sandwiches – and tea and coffee, of course! It’s even possible to get tea, sandwiches and scones for one if you are travelling solo or are the only person who fancies cream tea in your party. There are plenty of vegetarian options, but it is slightly lacking on gluten-free and vegan dishes.
The Red Lion Hotel
The Red Lion Hotel serves seafood and other locally sourced products, with a view overlooking the sea. Again, slightly lacking on vegetarian food and nothing vegan. The hotel also does takeaway tea and coffee.
The New Inn
Further up the hill is the New Inn, a Clovelly hotel that has a restaurant called Hamlyns. Call in here for English breakfasts, afternoon tea or pub dinners.
There is one catch about visiting Clovelly; you need to pay to enter. There’s only one way in, and that’s through the visitor centre (which, by the way, is award-winning apparently). It costs £8 for an adult to enter the town.
Once you’ve entered, all of the museums are free of charge.
This means that there’s only one Clovelly parking option; by the visitor’s centre. Parking is free here.
COVID-19 reminder: you will need a mask to enter the visitor’s centre, museums, shops and takeaway food venues in Clovelly, unless you are medically exempt.
Things to do near Clovelly
Clovelly estate encompasses the village and surrounding area. If you want to see a different (much less touristy!) side of the village, check out the Clovelly Court Gardens. These colourful Victorian gardens feature colourful flowers, herbs, and vegetables, and make for a pleasant stroll. There is also a small church and graveyard, as well as the manor house.
Clovelly is close to lots of other beach towns, including Westward Ho!, the Hartland Coast, and Bude which is located just in Cornwall. I wouldn’t recommend staying in Clovelly, but there is plenty of accommodation in Bude, Westward Ho!, or further up the coast in Woolacombe and Ilfracombe. You could even drive all the way down to Port Isaac and check out its beautiful harbour!