North Devon Coast

An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)

The North Devon coast has some of the best coastal scenery in the country. It covers a coastal strip from Combe Martin in the east along the coast to the Devon/Cornwall boundary in the west.

Travelling from Combe Martin in a westerly direction, either by foot or by car, you soon pass the sheltered Watermouth Cove, overlooked by Watermouth Castle, (see attractions page) now an attraction. One then reaches the sheltered Hele Bay with its sandy and shingle beach. Moving on eastwards one reaches Ilfracombe harbour, setting off point for Lundy Island. You will find the Ilfracombe Aquarium (see attractions page) and the RNLI life boat station here, as well as Verity, Damien Hirst’s statue. There are plenty of places to relax and eat.

On foot, following the South West Coast Path, one follows the Torrs Walk to Lee Bay, a picturesque cove with a sandy beach at low tide and lots of rockpools at higher tides. By car, the roads go inland here, with small country lanes down to Lee Bay and on to Mortehoe.

Keeping to the coast path one passes Bull Point lighthouse and on to the quiet Rockham Bay before venturing out to Morte Point. This is aptly named as the rocky outlet goes far into the sea and used to catch many an unwary ship on its rocks. You can see the buoy far out to sea marking the point and at certain tides you can see the underwater rocks causing unusual criss-crossing wave patterns.

From here one soon reaches Woolacombe with its impressive sandy beach stretching about 2 miles to reach Putsborough. The coast path rounds Baggy Point with its high cliffs before reaching Croyde and its small but delightful sandy beach, great for surfing. Rounding Saunton Down the massive expanse of Saunton Sands opens up with the extensive Braunton Burrows running along the back of this beach.
Blackpool Mill, near Hartland Quay
Hartland Point
Watermouth Cove, near Combe Martin
Braunton Burrows is an internationally famous UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, recognising it for its unique flora and fauna, a great place to explore. One then reaches the Taw and Torridge river’s estuary. The River Taw rises on Dartmoor and passes through Barnstaple. The River Torridge rises in North Devon and passes through Bideford. The Tarka Trail cycleway follows around the estuary.

The other side of the estuary one finds the large sandy beach of Westward Ho! with its shingle ridge backing the beach. From here the coast becomes rugged again and the road once again goes inland to Bude. The coast path continues through Clovelly, a wonderful, original, unspoilt fishing village with a steep pebbled path to its harbour, with no cars allowed. Passing through coastal woodland the path then reaches Mouthmill Beach with the amazing Blackchurch Rock, a double rock-arch.

The coast path then continues along to Hartland Point with its lighthouse, soon passing through Smoothlands. Smoothlands valley is a perfect example of a 'sea-dissected valley'. The sea has eroded the northern bank of the valley, causing the stream to cascade over the edge before reaching the sea. The next valley is Blackpool Mill where the Abbey River flows to the sea. Hartland Abbey is just along this valley and makes an interesting detour. One soon reaches Hartland Quay with its museum of shipwrecks. The rock formations here are most impressive.

The coast gets very rugged again, passing St Catherine’s Point, another unusual coastal feature caused by sea-erosion. Soon one reaches Spekes Mill Mouth and its tall waterfall. The coast path continues along the cliff tops before reaching Welcombe Mouth where Devon meets Cornwall and the North Devon AONB finishes.
Lee Bay, near Ilfracombe
Ilfracombe Harbour and Verity
Blackchurch Rock, Mouthmill Beach
Address: Combe Martin Museum/Information Point, Cross Street, Combe Martin EX34 0DH
Telephone: 01271 889031
Email: info@visitcombemartin.com