- Bryan Cath
North Devon's sand and surf
Distance from Combe Martin: 11 miles
Woolacombe’s beaches are renowned their pristine sands, with 2 miles of wide sandy beaches from Woolacombe village up to Putsborough. Then three more intimate beaches an be enjoyed at Barricane, Combesgate and Grunta beaches. The sea is safe for surfing and SUP’s, watched over by RNLI life-guards in season. Please take plenty of sun protection as it is so easy to get badly sunburnt without realising it, in the salty breeze.
This west-facing award-winning beach is nearly three miles long with clean water quality and golden sands from high to low tide. The surf is usually good for surfing and bodyboarding. The RNLI Lifeguards are on patrol every day from Easter to October. Beach huts are available from May to early September. Toilets are near the entrance to the beach.
Dogs are not allowed to the north of the stream from 1st April to 30th September. To the south of the stream, as far as the rocky outcrop called Mill Rock, dogs must be on leads from 1st May to 30th September. From Mill Rock towards Putsborough beach there are no dog restrictions.
There are many car parks to choose from, extra ones opening during the high season. Marine Drive car park goes along the top of the dunes, giving lovely views across the bay and better for those with dogs.
Putsborough Sands are at the southern end of Woolacombe beach. It can be a more sheltered beach tucked in below Baggy Point headland. This beach is accessed by small country lanes to reach a large car park above the beach. In season a beach shop, café and surf hire open, and toilets. This beach is dog-friendly all year except the far-left area of the beach.
This beach is a smaller beach protected by rocky outcrops to the north of the main beach. It has rock pools and lots of tiny shells to discover, washed in by the tides. This inlet is just below The Esplanade (the road to Mortehoe). Toilets are at the main beach and above Combesgate beach. Dogs must be on leads from 1st May to 30th September.
This is another beautiful beach north of Barricane beach with clean golden sands and rock pools. It is a quieter secluded beach as it is only accessible by steep steps at the far end of The Esplanade. Toilets are on the road opposite the beach. No dogs are allowed in summer. Parking is on the road or the main car parks in Woolacombe, a 10-minute walk away.
With its reef break which produces some very good waves. Woolacombe’s long shallow beach can be surfed on all tides and is perfect for learners and advanced surfers.
Not surprisingly, there are about six surf shops and schools at Woolacombe, and one at Putsborough.
Mortehoe is a small village at the top of the cliff at the far northern end of Woolacombe. Many good paths start from here, with the South West Coast Path passing close by. Walks out to Morte Point give spectacular views over Woolacombe Bay to Baggy Point and along the coast towards Bull Point lighthouse. The 13th Century church is worth a visit with its rare barrel-roof. You will find plenty of places to eat and drink.
Morte Point is so called because of the long spit of rocks that continue under the sea for quite a distance. These rocks have caused many shipwrecks, morte in French meaning death. When standing on the rocks at Morte Point you will see a marker buoy far out to sea, which marks where shipping must not come landward of. At certain states of tide, it is fascinating to see the currents criss-crossing themselves, caused by the rocks just below the surface.
This fascinating museum has exhibits on the shipwrecks along this dangerous coastline, and agricultural and wartime displays, and much more. In summertime they run tractor and trailer safaris out to Morte Point and Bull Point, which are great fun. There is a car park, picnic and play area next to the museum. For more information please visit their website at https://www.mortehoemuseum.org.uk/.