The ultimate guide to North Devon holiday cottages

The ultimate guide to North Devon

With a sublime mixture of stunning coastline and rugged countryside, North Devon is the ultimate destination for a UK break. Enjoy a slower pace of life wandering through its quaint villages, action-packed adventures on the world-class surfing beaches, and an array of delicious foods found on every corner - not forgetting a freshly-baked scone - served the Devon way of course! It doesn’t matter if you’re travelling as a couple, a family or with multiple generations, there’s plenty to please everyone within this little gem of a holiday destination.

If you’re thinking about holidaying in North Devon, here’s near enough everything you’ll need to know before you go…

A sign for the South West Coast Path in North Devon

Things to do in North Devon

There are so many things to do in North Devon, from the perfectly picturesque walks and an array of water sports to Michelin-star dining experiences, incredible ice creams and plenty of vegan eateries too.

One of North Devon’s biggest draws is, of course, the glorious golden sandy beaches that line the coast. To get the low-down on the best spots for surfing, families and where to witness the natural beauty of this spectacular stretch of coast, these are our most recommended beaches in North Devon – all personally tried, tested and verified by us. If you’re heading on holiday with your four-legged friend, you’ll be pleased to hear that there are more than 20 dog-friendly beaches all year round, and more than 25 with seasonal bans in place. For those in search of lesser-known coves where you can enjoy the serenity of the sea in peace, you’ll definitely want to read our secret North Devon beach guide.

Adrenaline junkies should head to The Ultimate Adventure Centre to take on a Total Wipeout-style course, or the Milky Way is another fantastic option, especially with the kids. The array of family-friendly attractions and activity centres in the local area will have them thinking this is their best holiday EVER.

For those embarking on a romantic trip, why not take to the old fashioned 2p machines in Woolacombe arcades, enjoy a leisurely bike ride on the Tarka Trail or snuggle up on the beach at Croyde Deckchair Cinema?

Your biggest challenge on a stay in North Devon won’t be finding things to do but narrowing it down to fit into your break. We’ve pulled together a list featuring the best of the best in the area to help you to plan, so take a look at our ultimate summer bucket list: the Devon edition for inspiration.

A woman looking at a map in Devon

Where to visit in North Devon

Each town and village in North Devon has its own unique charm and personality, so it’s worth staying in one that matches your needs. These are the places we’d recommend visiting on your stay. It might be a little tricky to squeeze them all into one week (we’d love to see you try) but most of these areas aren’t too far apart, so you have plenty to explore without wasting too much time travelling!


Pastel houses in Appledore

The quaint fishing village of Appledore welcomes visitors to explore the winding cobbled walkways, taking in the beauty of the pastel-lined streets and indulging in the seaside pleasures of the coastal stop. A haven for foodies and art lovers, this is a great location for couples and families alike.

We’d recommend staying at:

Local's tip: Make a trip to John's of Appledore for an incredible gin cream tea - served with raspberry gin jam and a pink gin and tonic!


Barnstaple square, North Devon

Steeped in history and a lively town known as North Devon’s ‘capital’, Barnstaple is a great base from which to explore the surrounding area, with good transport links and lots of fantastic bars and restaurants. Head to the Pannier Market for local foods and trinkets, the Queens Theatre for entertainment and the trampoline park of Air Extreme for a full-body workout.

We’d recommend staying at:

Local's tip: Visit Butcher's Row for amazing baked treats, the most incredible range of cafes, specialist beer shops and a nook dedicated to all things chilli!


A view over the river to Bideford, North Devon

The ‘Little White Town’ of Bideford is a thriving port with plenty of points of interest. Discover the olde-worlde Pannier Market, the creative galleries and array of pubs and restaurants, or venture slightly further afield to the beaches of Westward Ho! and Appledore for a more coastal experience.

We’d recommend staying at:

Local's tip: Head to Victoria Park to escape the busy town and you'll find a paddling pool perfect for the kids, and a Hocking's van serving up Devon's best ice cream.


A view over Braunton village

The quiet village of Braunton is a great place to base yourself if you want to enjoy the small-town vibe with independent boutiques and quirky cafes, whilst making the most of the gorgeous coastline and the busy town of Barnstaple.

We’d recommend staying at:

Local's tip: There are some fantastic Geocaching trails in and around Braunton, especially the figure of eight that starts and ends at Heanton Punchardon.


Boats in Clovelly, North Devon

Clovelly is one of the most unique places in the whole of Devon. It’s traffic-free streets and fishing heritage come together to create its character. The privately-owned village is certainly worth a visit whether you choose to stay or just visit for a day.  

We’d recommend staying at:

Local's tip: Be sure to visit The Clovelly Soap Company for incredibly scented, handcrafted products!

Combe Martin

A view of Combe Martin by the sea

Combe Martin is a stunning village located on the North Devon coast and is an ideal spot for kayaking and paddleboarding. Here you’ll find total relaxation within chocolate box cottages, quaint beachside cafes and independent shops, alongside some of the most magical walks in the region.

We’d recommend staying at:

Local's tip: Walk the 200+ steps from the road to Broadsands Beach, otherwise known as "Little Thailand" to see it's hidden beauty, which was voted "Britain's Happiest View" in 2018.


The view of Croyde beach in North Devon

The surfing mecca of Croyde is a vibrant village that oozes ‘cool’. Head to the much-loved local pubs for the famous ‘Thatch nachos’, the ice cream parlour for local delights and the beaches for endless entertainment throughout the year – including a number of fantastic festivals!

We’d recommend staying at:

Local's tip: The locally famous entrepreneur who started his pizza business on the beach, Stoned, often hosts pop-up events by Croyde Village Stores during the summer months.


A view of the sea in Ilfracombe

Ilfracombe is great if you’re looking to enjoy a sea excursion, with plenty of opportunities to head on a sea safari or the MS Oldenberg over to Lundy! For foodies, there are several restaurants, art lovers can marvel at Damien Hirst’s Verity and families will love the beaches and exciting events that take place throughout the year.

We’d recommend staying at:

Local's tip: Head to Watermouth Cove for some of the best water sport opportunities - the paddleboarding here is particularly spectacular.  


A view over Instow beach

Instow is a pretty village perfect for living life in the slow lane. Enjoy some of Devon’s finest foods at the local deli and ice cream van before hopping on your bike for a tour of the Tarka Trail; or step aboard the little ferry and enjoy a short trip across the estuary to visit the beauty of Appledore.

We’d recommend staying at:

Local's tip: Pick up a picnic from John's of Instow of your choice, whether you opt for a fine crab platter, a selection of deli delights or to pick your own from inside the shop and they'll provide you with a cooling wicker hamper for your trip.


A view of Valley of the Rocks, Lynton

Base yourself on the northern edge of Exmoor and get to know the twin resorts known as ‘Little Switzerland’. The scenery is dramatically stunning where the moorland meets the sea at the rugged valley of the rocks and in the harbour, so you’ll not be short on things to see!

We’d recommend staying at:

Local's tip: If you can brave the walk to the bottom of Valley of the Rocks, we'd recommend visiting Wringcliff Bay, a beautiful hidden cove that you'll usually have all to yourself.


A view towards Mortehoe

If you want to visit the beauty of Woolacombe but wish to stay somewhere a little quieter, Mortehoe is the perfect destination. A great little holiday spot in its own right, this village offers a number of breathtaking coastal walks, quiet beaches and fantastic pubs and cafes to fuel your adventures.

We’d recommend staying at:

Local's tip: The local fish and chip shop, Mor Fish T Eat, not only offer freshly cooked fish, but also lobsters and other tasty fish treats for you to take home and pop on the BBQ!

South Molton

South Molton, North Devon

Enjoy the perfect balance of coast and countryside from South Molton, with Exmoor right on your doorstep, along with a historic market town and easy access to some of North Devon’s most beautiful beaches.

We’d recommend staying at:

Local's tip: Enjoy one of the best breakfasts in the area at The Log Cabin Diner, where not a single calorie is spared in making your food as tasty as can be.

Westward Ho!

Westward Ho! over the pebbles

With all the charm of a Victorian coastal resort; seafront gift shops, vibrant arcades and a golden sandy beach; paired with the modern cottages, a golf course and plenty of places to dine on fine local foods!

We’d recommend staying at:

Local's tip: Make sure you visit Pizza on the Pebbles after spending the day in the amusements for delicious wood-fired dough.


A campervan near Woolacombe beach

When it comes to beachside breaks, Woolacombe is one of the best destinations you’ll find in the UK. The beach itself is stunning, as are the nearby coves of Barricane and Combesgate. Surfers and water sport enthusiasts will be in their element, and the flat stretch of sand is ideal for families to spend their days.

We’d recommend staying at:

Local's tip: During the summer months, there's a shipping container that's air lifted onto Barricane Beach (just a little further down from Woolacombe Bay) that serves up cafe food by day and Sri Lanken curry by night with a BYOB policy.

Ready to book your escape to the rugged coast of North Devon? Take a look at our full collection of cottages in the area and find your ultimate retreat!

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