15 secret North Devon beaches holiday cottages

15 secret North Devon beaches

Clare W 15 March 2022

It's well-known that North Devon’s coast is home to beautiful beaches such as Woolacombe, Croyde and Saunton - but there is also a multitude of hidden beaches and coves dotted along the gorgeous shoreline.

Showcasing striking scenery, from towering sea cliffs to large stretches of golden sand, interspersed between the surfing beaches and holiday hot spots there are some truly beautiful gems - unbeknownst to even some of the most learned North Devonians! Read on to discover North Devon's secret beaches, many of which can be enjoyed from our coastal cottages and North Devon cottages... Shhh, though - you can't tell anyone...

1. Barricane Beach, Woolacombe

Tucked between rocks, Barricane Beach, on the outskirts of Woolacombe, harbours exotic shells carried in by the waves from the Caribbean, thousands of miles away. Barricane is a great spot for getting away from the crowds on Woolcombe’s main, award-winning and very popular beach. 

Barricane Beach, Woolacombe, North Devon

The beach is within easy walking distance of Woolacombe's great range of cafes, bars and restaurants where you can enjoy some delicious local food. Visit just before sunset for front-row seats to the epic view.

  • ๐Ÿ–๏ธ Beach type: Sandy
  • ๐Ÿš— Location: EX34 7DB
  • ๐Ÿถ Dog-friendly: Yes, but dogs must be kept on a lead from April 30th to September 30th
  • โ›ฑ๏ธ Lifeguarded: No
  • ๐Ÿ…ฟ๏ธ Nearest parking: Restricted parking along Mortehoe Road. More parking along The Esplanade and two paid car parks in Woolacombe (5-minute walk)
  • ๐Ÿ‘ฃ Accessed via: The grass headland along Mortehoe Road

2. Tunnels Beach, Ilfracombe

The private beaches in Ilfracombe were hand-carved in the 1820s, making them almost 200-years-old! The four tunnels leading to the beaches provide a unique experience, while weddings and parties can also be held here. The beaches are £2.50 to enter for adults, and are open daily from Good Friday (at the latest) until the last Sunday in October.

Tunnel's Beach, Ilfracombe, North Devon

Step through the tunnels and you’ll discover a beautiful rocky stretch split into the Gentlemen’s and Ladies’ beaches – a remnant of the beach’s history as Victorian bathing pools. The tidal pool still remains and can be accessed three hours before and after high tide, so check the tide times if you fancy a dip!

  • ๐Ÿ–๏ธ Beach type: Shingle
  • ๐Ÿš— Location: EX34 8AN
  • ๐Ÿถ Dog-friendly: No
  • โ›ฑ๏ธ Lifeguarded: No
  • ๐Ÿ…ฟ๏ธ Nearest parking: Bath Place Car Park – pay and display
  • ๐Ÿ‘ฃ Accessed via: Paved tunnels, suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs

Ilfracombe cottages

3. Rockham Bay, Mortehoe

Rockham in Mortehoe, near Woolacombe, is a stunning secluded bay. Although it's a short walk from the village down to the beach, it's well worth it for the peace and serenity on offer. Make sure you check the tide times before visiting, as access is restricted at high tide.

Rockham Bay, Morthoe, Devon

Rockham also makes a great stop-off on walk on the South West Coast Path from Woolacombe, out to Morte Point and up to Bull Point Lighthouse – you can even see across the Bristol Channel to Wales on a clear day!

  • ๐Ÿ–๏ธ Beach type: Sand and rock
  • ๐Ÿš— Location: EX34 7EF
  • ๐Ÿถ Dog-friendly: Dogs allowed, no restrictions
  • โ›ฑ๏ธ Lifeguarded: No
  • ๐Ÿ…ฟ๏ธ Nearest parking: Mortehoe pay and display car park.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ฃ Accessed via: A 2km coastal walk with stunning views, and then steep steps down the cliffs to the beach

4. Putsborough Beach, Croyde

Probably the least "secret" of our featured beaches, but one that we feel deserves to be as well known as its neighbours, Croyde and Woolacombe! Found just past Croyde, a walk along the beach will lead you to Woolacombe where you can refuel in the resort's top range of eateries.

Putsborough Beach, Croyde, Devon

Putsborough is one of the North Devon surf spots most favoured by locals, especially on a windy day. The headland of Baggy Point provides ample shelter from the coast’s famous south-westerlies so it’s a must-visit if you’re a keen wave rider.

  • ๐Ÿ–๏ธ Beach type: Sand
  • ๐Ÿš— Location: EX33 1LB
  • ๐Ÿถ Dog-friendly: Dogs allowed all year round, but selected areas have a ban in place from April 1st to October 31st
  • โ›ฑ๏ธ Lifeguarded: No
  • ๐Ÿ…ฟ๏ธ Nearest parking: Paid beach car park
  • ๐Ÿ‘ฃ Accessed via: Two access points – sloping path or steps

5. Speke's Mill Mouth, Bideford

Just north of the Devon/Cornwall border near Hartland lies Speke's Mill, a tranquil, rocky beach that offers the best of both worlds - a quiet spot to reflect and uncover some of the best surfing waves in North Devon. Make sure you visit the spectacular waterfall - and take your camera!

Speke's Mill Mouth, Bideford, North Devon

This area of North Devon is pretty deserted and that’s why we love it – so make sure you bring sturdy shoes for scrambling over rocks and some refreshments for when you get to the beach. Although we’d also recommend a walk along the coast to Hartland Quay where you can enjoy a pint of local ale while watching the waves crash over the rocks below.

  • ๐Ÿ–๏ธ Beach type: Shingle and rocks
  • ๐Ÿš— Location: EX39 6DU
  • ๐Ÿถ Dog-friendly: Yes
  • โ›ฑ๏ธ Lifeguarded: No
  • ๐Ÿ…ฟ๏ธ Nearest parking: Best option is Hartland Quay
  • ๐Ÿ‘ฃ Accessed via: 1-mile walk along the coastal footpath

6. Wringcliff Bay, Lynton

So here's one we'd never heard of before writing this piece - a beach at the bottom of the Valley of Rocks! The beauty spot on the outskirts of Lynton and Lynmouth is well-known to most North Devonians, but the beach is something special. Take your comfy shoes, as it's a bit of a walk down.

Wringcliff Bay, Lynton, North Devon

On the way down, you might get to spot some of the Valley of Rocks’ most famous residents – the Lynton Goats! These wild creatures cling precariously to the craggy heights so keep an eye out for them on your next visit.

  • ๐Ÿ–๏ธ Beach type: Sand and shingle
  • ๐Ÿš— Location: EX35 6JJ
  • ๐Ÿถ Dog-friendly: Yes
  • โ›ฑ๏ธ Lifeguarded: No
  • ๐Ÿ…ฟ๏ธ Nearest parking: The Valley of Rocks
  • ๐Ÿ‘ฃ Accessed via: 0.5-mile walk along the road, onto the coast path and a steep path down to the beach

7. Broadsands Beach, Combe Martin

Voted "Britain's Happiest View" in 2018, this gorgeous little cove near Combe Martin is one of the region's prettiest hidden gems. It's quite a walk down to the beach from the road - 200+ steps! - but it's well worth it for the peace and quiet found on the shores. If you'd rather, hire a kayak from Combe Martin and paddle your way around.

Broadsands North Devon

The sheer number of stairs mean that this secret beach is rarely crowded and, more often than not, you’ll have the place to yourselves. So, pack a little picnic or a bottle of something special and enjoy the views – in fact, if it wasn’t for the very British sea temperature you could kid yourself you’re on your own tropical island paradise!

  • ๐Ÿ–๏ธ Beach type: Shingle
  • ๐Ÿš— Location: EX34 9SW
  • ๐Ÿถ Dog-friendly: Yes
  • โ›ฑ๏ธ Lifeguarded: No
  • ๐Ÿ…ฟ๏ธ Nearest parking: Drive down the narrow track, going straight on when the road bears around towards the caravan park - there are a few spaces to park in the wider section
  • ๐Ÿ‘ฃ Accessed via: Steep descent down 200+ steps

8. Bucks Mill, Clovelly

A gem found near Clovelly, Bucks Mill is, according to a member of Stay In staff, "possibly the most beautiful, unspoilt beach in the world"! With a secluded cove, waterfall and serenity awaiting you at the end of a half-a-mile walk, we can't really argue with that notion!

Bucks Mill, Clovelly, Devon

Lovers of art will enjoy a visit to this beach too – at the top of the steps down to the water lies a charming little cabin which was once the summer residence of two painters. The building has been untouched since the 1970s and has since been listed by Historic England. It is now managed by the National Trust which often holds open days there for artists in residence.

  • ๐Ÿ–๏ธ Beach type: Rocky
  • ๐Ÿš— Location: EX39 5DY
  • ๐Ÿถ Dog-friendly: Yes
  • โ›ฑ๏ธ Lifeguarded: No
  • ๐Ÿ…ฟ๏ธ Nearest parking: Free car park
  • ๐Ÿ‘ฃ Accessed via: 0.4-mile downhill walk along a quiet road and a steep paved path to the beach

9. Lee Bay, Ilfracombe

Found in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Lee Bay is a wonderfully secluded spot near the picturesque village of Lee, between Woolacombe and Ilfracombe. Bordered on three sides by rolling Devon countryside, cliffs and hills, the bay looks out onto the Bristol Channel.

Lee Bay, Ilfracombe, North Devon

Lee is often called ‘Fuchsia Valley’ due to the abundance of bright red flowers found adorning the village’s vegetation in the right season, and the sheltered cove enjoys a balmy climate, so a visit to Lee Bay really feels like you’re a world away from everyday life.

  • ๐Ÿ–๏ธ Beach type: Rock, shingle and sand
  • ๐Ÿš—Location: EX34 8LR
  • ๐Ÿถ Dog-friendly: Yes
  • โ›ฑ๏ธ Lifeguarded: No
  • ๐Ÿ…ฟ๏ธ Nearest parking: Pay and display car park
  • ๐Ÿ‘ฃ Accessed via: Short walk along a quiet road, and then a slope to the beach

10. Welcombe Mouth Beach, North Devon

Sometimes grouped together with Bude or North Cornwall's beaches, Welcombe is actually just in Devon, near Hartland village - so we're definitely claiming this beauty spot as one of our own! Another serene spot which boasts a waterfall, the beach is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), due to its fascinating geological features.

Welcombe Mouth Beach, North Devon

The beach is found at the end of a very bumpy track which means it’s often secluded, allowing an abundance of natural life to thrive. However, if you want a little hint of civilisation, the pub at the top of the village is very well regarded by locals – and a pint of cider tastes even better after a day spent on the beach!

  • ๐Ÿ–๏ธ Beach type: Rock and sand
  • ๐Ÿš—Location: EX39 6HL
  • ๐Ÿถ Dog-friendly: Yes
  • โ›ฑ๏ธ Lifeguarded: No
  • ๐Ÿ…ฟ๏ธ Nearest parking: Small car park at the end of a rough track
  • ๐Ÿ‘ฃ Accessed via: A short path

11. Wild Pear Beach, Ilfracombe

This little gem is found just outside of Combe Martin - but be warned, it's a designated naturist beach so you might get some birthday suits alongside swimsuits! Again, it's a steep ascent down to this beautiful spot, but it's another that's reachable via a kayak around the coast.

Wild Pear Beach, Ilfracombe, North Devon

The cove nestles the sand and protects it from the wind, which is perhaps why the area is so popular for sunbathing. However, if you are baring all – please be aware that the Ilfracombe pleasure boat The Queen of Cornwall does pass rather close to the beach once a day!

  • ๐Ÿ–๏ธ Beach type: Sand and rock
  • ๐Ÿš— Location: EX34 0DJ
  • ๐Ÿถ Dog-friendly: Yes
  • โ›ฑ๏ธ Lifeguarded: No
  • ๐Ÿ…ฟ๏ธ Nearest parking: Car parks in Combe Martin
  • ๐Ÿ‘ฃ Accessed via: Steep 2km cliff scramble down the path behind Foc’sle Inn

12. Grunta Beach, Mortehoe

Visit at low tide, as Grunta isn't accessible when the tide's in. The sandy little cove near Woolacombe sits in front of the village of Mortehoe, and is said to be named after a ship which was carrying pigs... and crashed into the beach! The locals were woken by the sounds of grunts and squeals from the pigs.Grunta Beach, Mortehoe, Devon

This is another great little beach along from Woolacombe’s busier stretch. As it’s only accessed at low tide, the receding water leaves lots of little rock pools which little ones will adore investigating – so make sure you pack a net and bucket and they’ll be happy for hours.

  • ๐Ÿ–๏ธ Beach type: Sand
  • ๐Ÿš— Location: EX34 7DZ
  • ๐Ÿถ Dog-friendly: Yes
  • โ›ฑ๏ธ Lifeguarded: No
  • ๐Ÿ…ฟ๏ธ Nearest parking: Mortehoe pay and display car park
  • ๐Ÿ‘ฃ Accessed via: 0.4-mile walk along the road and coastal path with steps to the beach

13. Woody Bay, North Devon

A fantastic beach for wild swimming, Woody Bay, near Lynton and Lynmouth, sits at the bottom of striking cliffs covered in woodland. Found on the Exmoor coast, there's a manmade rock pool here, accessible at low tide, while it's also adjacent to the South West Coast Path, so you can visit while winding your way around the coast.Woody Bay, North Devon

If you’re choosing to wild swim at this spot, you might not be alone – it’s not uncommon to see seals bobbing in the turquoise waters a little further out from shore. You could also coincide your visit to Woody Bay with a trip on the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway – a steam train that puffs through the glorious Exmoor countryside.

  • ๐Ÿ–๏ธ Beach type: Rock and shingle
  • ๐Ÿš— Location: EX31 4QX
  • ๐Ÿถ Dog-friendly: Yes
  • โ›ฑ๏ธ Lifeguarded: No
  • ๐Ÿ…ฟ๏ธ Nearest parking: Small car park next to the road, high above the beach
  • ๐Ÿ‘ฃ Accessed via: A winding path through woods

14. Crow Point, Braunton

One of the prettiest and most peaceful river beaches in the South West, Crow Point is a must-visit for anyone staying in the Braunton area. There's a wreck out in the middle of the beach which makes a perfect photo-op, while if you follow it around you'll find yourself on Saunton beach.Crow Point, Braunton, North Devon

The beach is reached via toll road over the Braunton Burrows where you’ll drive (very slowly) past cows and waterfowl, giving you a feeling that you’re completely in the middle of nowhere. When you get to the beach, you’ll gain a unique viewpoint of the Taw/Torridge estuary, taking in Instow, Appledore and Westward Ho!.

  • ๐Ÿ–๏ธ Beach type: Sand
  • ๐Ÿš—Location: EX33 2NX
  • ๐Ÿถ Dog-friendly: Yes
  • โ›ฑ๏ธ Lifeguarded: No
  • ๐Ÿ…ฟ๏ธ Nearest parking: Park at Crow Point Car Park at the end of the toll road
  • ๐Ÿ‘ฃ Accessed via: A footpath off the car park

15. Mouthmill Beach, North Devon

Another fantastic spot near Clovelly, Mouthmill is a wonderful rocky beach with waterfalls and striking rock formations to enjoy, such as Blackchurch Rock, the pointed, triangular rock shown in the photo above. It's surrounded by sheer cliffs, while there are also the remains of an old limekiln.Mouthmill Beach, North Devon

We’d recommend visiting this beach in spring – the walk from the car park will take you through Brownsham Woods where you’ll be met with a scene from a fairytale. A trickling stream, dappled sunlight filtered through the trees and – best of all – a carpet of bluebells as far as the eye can see. It’s truly magical. 

  • ๐Ÿ–๏ธ Beach type: Rocks
  • ๐Ÿš— Location: EX39 6AN
  • ๐Ÿถ Dog-friendly: Yes
  • โ›ฑ๏ธ Lifeguarded: No
  • ๐Ÿ…ฟ๏ธ Nearest parking: National Trust Car Park at Brownsham
  • ๐Ÿ‘ฃ Accessed via: Downhill walk through woodland

Clovelly cottages

We hope you enjoy these wonderfully secluded beaches, but please check tide times before visiting all of the beaches, and be mindful that some might get cut off as the tide comes in. For more inspiration read our Devon beach guide for more beachy content!

Or, if you’re now dreaming of a holiday in this beautiful county, take a look at our full collection of North Devon cottages and coastal cottages in Devon, offering you the chance to enjoy the best both of our coastlines have to offer.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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