For many who visit North Devon each year, the real highlight is a traditional taste of life in the slow lane. Think cute seaside towns and sleepy villages; locations with cobbled streets, traditional pubs, and shops. Places where local crafts and history thrive, while the giant chain stores and brands are absent.
If a perfect old-fashioned seaside village is your cup of tea, Clovelly has to be one of the most idyllic you might find anywhere in the South West. Cobbled and car-free, it lies just to the west of Bideford. Famous for living local customs and an old-world allure, it must be one of the most photogenic villages in the UK. The wonky and often steep streets only add to the charm- although one pet gripe with guests is an entry fee to see the village (seven pounds something is no fortune to preserve such a pretty village we think- and preferable to seeing it packed with cars and the usual high street brands!).
Here are a selection of must-try and must-see highlights for your trip to Clovelly:
1. Admire Devon’s cutest cottages and life in the slow, steep lane
If small is beautiful in your book, the village’s cottages are sure to win your heart. Look out for quirky decorations, woodcarving, and classic stonework. Many of these dwellings are the original fishermen’s cottages from the village’s rich past with the herring trade. Today, virtually every house on Clovelly’s main street is a listed building.
The no-car policy of Clovelly only adds to the relaxed feel. However, this was originally due to steep, dangerous slopes rather than any desire for pedestrianization. These same slopes mean that the best way of getting supplies about is by sled! These are not for tourists’ benefit, but a long-standing practical solution for the people of Clovelly.
2. Meet the Clovelly Donkeys
Clovelly’s most famous residents have hooves and big ears. Once burdened with the task of hauling goods up and down the village’s steep slopes, they have a happier existence these days. Kids can enjoy rides, while for just about any visitor, a quick selfie with the Clovelly donkeys is a must.
3. Take in a tour, or discover Clovelly’s history
Clovelly is a little place with a big story. Nor is it all about herrings and fishing (although these are important). Writers and artists have a long association with the place, most famously of all the village was a favourite of novelist Charles Kingsley, who lived here as a child and later did a lot to publicise the area. The famnous connections are many though, with Clovelly depicted by everyone from Dickens and Kipling, through to landscape painter J.M.W. Turner over the years.
These days you could always stop at Clovelly’s Kingsley Museum or take a walking tour with the locals. In and around the village you can also find a late Norman Church and an Iron Age hillfort at nearby Windbury Head.
4. Enjoy classic cream tea, or a pint from a traditional seaside inn.
After taking on the slopes of Clovelly, or better still a brisk walk on the South West Coast Path, what better reward than some traditional refreshments? A Devon cream tea is always a delightful afternoon treat at the Cottage Tea Rooms (avoid debates on the etiquette of cream and jam!). Or if you could use something stronger, opt for a pint of excellent cask-conditioned real ale at either of the villages classic pubs.
5. Explore Clovelly’s harbour
Providing safe haven for boats for centuries, Clovelly Harbour is the village’s pretty focal point. It can be busy in the summer, but is a must to capture a little of the spirit of the place. A handful of fishermen still operate, while you can also book boat trips to Lundy Island and chartered fishing trips. Sadly the quay doesn’t allow daytime crabbing and fishing, unless you visit in the winter season.
Stay at Northcote Manor, one of the best Country House Hotels in North Devon
With an idyllic rural location, delightful boutique hotel rooms and award-winning food, Northcote Manor is perfect for luxury minibreaks in Devon. Many of the region’s most beautiful and unspoiled locations are within a modest drive, making us a great base to explore the region at your own pace. For current hotel deals and news, see our Facebook page and special offers section.