Best Things to Do in North Devon

Best Things to Do in North Devon

From its gorgeous coastline to its moorland expanses, North Devon is one of the best places to go for summer holidays and winter escapes. Offering all kinds of family-friendly activities, dog-friendly attractions, and jaw-dropping beauty spots, it promises something for everyone.

If you can’t wait to uncover all the area’s many gems, we’ve put together a list of some of the best things to do in North Devon. From the county’s most incredible walks to historic highlights, here are the area’s must-see places.

Admire the Scenery at Valley of the Rocks

The impressive rock formations and the sea beyond at the Valley of the Rocks in Devon

The Valley of the Rocks near Lynton and Lynmouth is one of North Devon’s most intriguing natural beauty spots. Set within the coastal fringes of Exmoor National Park, this stunning destination attracts attention for its unique geology, characterised by steep slopes that wrap around a large valley basin. With the wild expanses of Exmoor on one side and the ocean on the other, it’s sandwiched between some of the most stunning scenery in Devon and is a natural magnet for explorers, photographers and day-trippers of all generations. Making the valley all the more fascinating is its herd of resident goats, who you can often see grazing on the grassy slopes of the valley. Seemingly incongruous, the origins of this flock actually date back to the late 1800s.

Explore the House and Gardens at Arlington Court

The stately exterior of Arlington Court in North Devon

The National Trust-run Arlington Court near Barnstaple is one of the top visitor attractions in North Devon. A family estate on the edge of Exmoor, it's been home to the same family for over 500 years and features a range of indoor and outdoor attractions. A brilliant option for history and motor enthusiasts, the Carriage Museum at Arlington Court shelters and displays more than 40 vehicles from by-gone centuries. Outside in the grounds of the house, Arlington’s formal Victorian gardens merge with expansive pleasure grounds and an ancient deer park, just perfect for walks throughout the year. Spend time exploring the house’s historic collections and follow its waymarked walks and let the wonder of Arlington sweep you away.

Have Fun at a Family-Friendly Theme Park

A lamb nestled in the hay at The Big Sheep in North Devon

If you have little ones in tow, there’s no better way to keep them thrilled and entertained than with a trip to one of North Devon’s family-friendly theme parks. Uniting youngsters of all ages from tots to teens, these adventure parks are fantastic for all the family. Particularly popular with younger children, The Big Sheep farm and theme park in Abbotsham, Bideford, awaits with animal meet and greets, family rides and a big indoor play area with slides, soft-play, climbing areas and more. Also in Bideford, the award-winning Milky Way Adventure Park offers a further dose of fun with rides, rollercoasters, dodgems, mazes, adventure play and more.

Visit Devon’s Prettiest Fishing Village at Clovelly

Looking up from the harbour at the pretty sloping village of Clovelly in North Devon

One of the prettiest fishing villages in the country, Clovelly village sits within the Torridge district of North Devon. Once owned by William the Conqueror and the Queen of England, this history-rich village has origins dating back nearly 1,000 years and retains a gloriously old-world feel with its vintage aesthetics. Among the many highlights of the village, you can explore its steep, cobbled paths and lanes, historic quay, and court gardens with restored Victorian greenhouses. Whilst on your way, keep an ear out for the unmistakeable bray of the resident donkeys who, once an integral village workforce, now take up peaceful residence in Clovelly – much to the delight of visitors and locals alike.

Get Outdoors at Watersmeet

A pretty path following the waters of Watersmeet in North Devon

Watersmeet in Lynmouth is a fantastic destination for nature-lovers. A stunning gorge on the confluence of two rivers, it encompasses a 2,000-acre estate filled with ancient oak woodland and carved by flowing waterways. At the centre, Watersmeet House, a former hunting and fishing lodge, sits with an informative visitor centre and an attractive tea-garden where light lunches and cream teas are served in summer. Whether you can’t wait to fill up on delicious treats before you set off or you’re saving yourself for post-walk refreshment, you can set your perfect pace and look forward to lots to see and do here. Follow one of Watersmeet’s many trails and weave your way through its dog-friendly landscapes – the 5.5-mile Lynmouth is a particular favourite.

Cycle the Tarka Trail

A tree-lined cycle path along the Tarka Trail in North Devon

Following the journey of Tarka the Otter in Henry Williamson’s 1927 novel, the wonderful Tarka Trail is a 180-mile long-distance walking and cycling trail. Following a figure of eight loop from Sticklepath in the south to the northernmost reaches of Devon, this trail navigates some of the most heavenly countryside in the county and skirts dramatic cliffs to afford far-reaching views over the sea. One of the best walking trails in Devon, this epic trail provides one of the best ways to soak up the sights of North Devon – not to mention,  lots of places to eat and drink along the way too. Pick up your favourite part of the trail or try a new section and let your footsteps and gaze wander in harmony as you are treated to an endless supply of jaw-dropping Devonshire landscapes.

Savour the Blooms at RHS Garden Rosemoor

Lots of flowers and trees filling the scene at RHS Garden Rosemoor in North Devon

One of the top gardens in Devon, RHS Garden Rosemoor in the Torridge Valley is a multi-coloured sanctuary where seasonal blooms and evergreen trees delight garden-lovers of all ages. Covering 65 acres, it features extensive outdoor spaces, visitor and garden centres, a shop, restaurant and tearoom, all creating an idyllic medley of things to see and do. To make the most of your time at Rosemoor, a generous amount of time exploring its gardens, terraces, woodland and lake is a must, paying particular attention to its famous garden highlights. From a flourishing Hot Garden planted with vibrant flowers to wildlife-rich meadows, every turn provides a sensory feast.

See the Sights of Ilfracombe

The dramatic coast at Ilfracombe in North Devon

With its famous Tunnels Beach, historic harbour (the biggest harbour in North Devon), aquarium, and array of shops and eateries, the seaside town of Ilfracombe is an attraction in its own right. Set on the edge of the North Devon Coast National Landscape and only a stone’s throw from Exmoor, it’s perfectly placed for exploration, yet has more than enough to keep you from venturing far. Stroll along its pretty streets to admire pastel-coloured cottages and look out for the 20-metre-high Verity statue created by world-renowned artist Damien Hirst. For the best views of the town and coast, you can walk to the top of Lantern Hill above the harbour. Here the town’s iconic chapel, which was first built in the 14th Century, perches on an isolated pinnacle and boasts unbeatable panoramas.

Embrace the Beauty of Exmoor

A bird's eye view of the patchwork of fields across Exmoor National Park

Exmoor has drawn humans since the Mesolithic times and today remains one of the most magical places in the UK for wilderness escapes. Shaped over millennia by man and nature, its stunning landscapes are scattered with natural landmarks and historical relics (even some of its buildings date back as far as the 1300s) that wow onlookers. Easily one of the best ways to spend time in North Devon, Exmoor National Park has something for everyone within its moorland reaches, from beautiful walks along the cliffs, to rambles through the moors, to picnics by idyllic rivers and streams. What’s more, the park is peppered with a great many moorland pubs which cater to a steady stream of hungry diners looking to relax and revive after hours of exploration.

Walk on the Wild Side at Devon’s Wildlife Parks

A group of four ringtail lemurs at Exmoor Zoo in North Devon

Unleash your wild side with a trip to one of North Devon’s top wildlife parks. Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park and Exmoor Zoo offer a brilliant way for visitors of all generations to learn about different wildlife species, find out about local conservation efforts and come face-to-face with beautiful animals. Found in the parish of Combe Martin, the family-run Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park awaits with 28 acres of gardens, where animal experiences, dinosaur encounters, and family-friendly rides and attractions are just some of the things you can look forward to. Meanwhile, Exmoor Zoo (of We Bought a Zoo fame) in Barnstaple promises a huge range of daily features and special events, as well as the chance to see everything from tiny frogs to golden tamarins to regal cheetahs.

Beach Hop Along the Coast

The reaching golden sands and colourful beach huts at Woolacombe Beach in North Devon

What better way to enjoy the beauty of North Devon than with carefree hours spent luxuriating on one of its best beaches? Linked by the South West Coast Path, many of North Devon’s beaches are accessible on foot along the cliffs or via short walks from local car parks nearby. Whatever you’re looking for, be it a quiet suntrap cove in which to cuddle up with a book (think Barricane Beach and Tunnels Beach), a long sandy beach on which to stroll with your dog (Saunton Sands and Croyde Beach), or a bustling seafront with lots of family-friendly attractions (Woolacombe Beach and Westward Ho!), there’s something for you along the coast here. Bundle up your bucket and spade and enjoy.

Become a Beekeeper at Quince Honey Farm

A bird's eye view of the hexagonal Quince Honey Farm in North Devon

One of the biggest honey farms in the country, the family-run Quince Honey Farm in South Molton is the sweetest attraction in Devon. Receiving multiple awards over the years for the quality of their family-friendly attractions and tearooms, this working honey farm and visitor centre has something for everyone. Take your little bees to let off steam in the farm’s indoor play ‘hive’, go for a wander around the onsite nectar farm, enjoy a bite to eat in the nectary restaurant and head to the farm’s shop to pick up some honey-hued treats. From jars of pure honey, marmalades and chutneys, to curd and honeycomb, the shop’s shelves brim with deliciousness. They even sell honey-based candles and skincare products, too.

Soak up the History at Hartland Abbey

Looking across the dandelions at Hartland Abbey

Voted as the best country house and garden in North Devon, the iconic Hartland Abbey is a historic family home in Stoke, Bideford. Children may even recognise it as the setting for CBBC’s Malory Towers. Originally built in 1157, this former monastery is now open to the public throughout much of the year and offers an array of places to explore, including sprawling gardens that merge with bluebell woodland. Head over to take advantage of its divine gardens for leisurely ambles or follow its coastward trails to arrive at Atlantic Cove; walking Hartland and its surrounding landscapes is a real pleasure throughout the year. Meanwhile, seasonal events, including exhibitions, plays and flower days, offer extra excitement for all the family.

Take the Appledore to Instow Ferry

The Appledore and Instow ferry makings its way across the estuary under cloudless blue skies

The volunteer-run Appledore to Instow ferry provides a scenic passage between two of the prettiest villages in the county. Running from April to October every year, this seasonal foot ferry departs every 15 minutes or so and carries up to 12 people at a time across the estuary. Only taking around 10 minutes each way, the short but sweet journey offers a novel way to get around and rewards passengers with lovely views across the two villages, each famed for their picture-postcard aesthetics. Enjoy the blast of fresh sea air as you go and make the most of exploring these two idyllic hubs. If you’re staying in Appledore, you may also be lucky enough to round off your sea ‘voyage’ with some songs of the sea sung by the local shanty group, the Applecorers.

Can’t wait to start exploring North Devon? Discover our luxury cottages here.

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