Tumbling down to the harbour in row after row of picturesque white cottages, the village of Clovelly nestles in a tree-hugged nook etched into the cliffs. Originally part of an estate owned by William the Conqueror, the village has quietly stood aside from the passage of years and is characterised by an authentic charm and timelessness, quite apart from anywhere else. 

With its roots dating back to the 9th century when William the Conqueror gifted the village to his wife, Clovelly was passed from Royal hand to Royal hand until well into the 1200s. Acquired by the Norman-born Giffard family in 1242, Clovelly has since then been looked after by a succession of, impressively, only three families. Today, Clovelly remains the seat of the Rous family, direct descendants of the Hamlyns who have privately owned the village, estate and manor house Clovelly Court since 1738.

Should you feel like tracing the streets of this unique little fishing village, the Clovelly Visitor Centre provides admission for a small fee. Wend your way down, following the steep cobbled paths towards the ancient working harbour and 14th century quay, passing no traffic but for the town’s traditional sledges and donkeys. With breath-taking views as you go, you will soon fall under the spell of Clovelly and be captured by its fascinating Royal and maritime history. 

Having familiarised yourself with ‘Up-a-Long’ and ‘Down-a-Long’ streets, you will find plenty to see and do during your visit to Clovelly. To really understand the village’s vast history, learning about the soldiers, sailors and smugglers who once strode its passageways, a guided tour is a great option. Meeting near the Visitor Centre at the head of the cliffs and lasting a couple of hours, the tour really brings the village to life and reveals many secrets and tales you would otherwise miss.

As well as the tour, it’s also worth taking the time to visit the Lifeboat Station and the Charles Kingsley (author of the Water Babies) and Fisheman’s Cottage museums. A real treat for kids, you should also ask the Visitor Centre about the Children’s Fun Trail – there’s a chance your little one could win a prize! For the green fingered among you, the Clovelly Court Gardens situated at the top of the village are a real draw too. Home to one of the most attractive walled Victorian gardens in North Devon, you will discover a wealth of plants, thriving in the warmth of the Gulf Stream.

With both of the village’s popular inns, the New Inn and the Red Lion, supplied by Clovelly’s kitchen gardens, you can reward your efforts with a sit-down meal and delicious fodder. Tired out by a day exploring the village and walking the coast path to nearby Mouthmill Cove, the delicious tastes of homegrown produce nurtured under warm Devon sunshine will be a real delight. 

Feeling inspired? Take a look at our luxury cottages in Devon here.

Clovelly, nr Bideford EX39 5TA | 01237 431 781 


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