We all know what North Devon has to offer, and we all know the main beaches and attractions – but what about the places and businesses that are out the way and not so well known?
At the risk of being told off by locals for giving tourists our secrets, here are our top five favourite hidden gems in North Devon that you must check out if you can…
We start with some accommodation options. Watermouth Cove, pictured above, is situated between Ilfracombe and Combe Martin, and has a campsite, access to the sea for boats and watersports, a pub and a Castle turned family attraction.
The area is well known for welcoming dolphins, it doesn’t happen often, but when it does you’ll be perfectly placed to hopefully see them.
The campsite is Watermouth Cove – offering year round accommodation in the form of bungalows, chalets, and caravans. During the summer months, campers and tourers flock to the site for sea views, clean facilities, the shop and restaurant and the friendly staff. If you want to camp as close to the sea as possible, this is the place to be. Plus, the cove is where all the watersports and Jet Ski rides launch from.
Across the road is Watermouth Castle. It offers a unique and magical experience with entertainment for all ages. With a host of attractions, there is always something to capture the imagination, a perfect family day out.
The campsite and small beach is away from the main crowds of the well-known beaches, and driving past you wouldn’t even know it was all there. A true definition of a hidden gem.
Oh, and just around the corner is Broadsands beach. Yes, this is North Devon.
The beach itself is about half a mile from the main Woolacombe beach, and although tricky to get to, it’s worth the extra effort to be on the quieter section of sand. The main attraction in modern days is the cafe – which specialises in delicious Sri Lankan curry.
Barricane Bay is great for rock pooling and is popular among surfers – but nothing beats chilling on the sands with a mouthwatering curry in your lap.
With woodland walks, accessible paths and an abundance of wildlife, this reservoir offers a great day out for families, bird watchers and nature enthusiasts alike. It provides an opportunity everyone to get outdoors and rediscover nature.
There are two paths that can be used by wheelchair and pushchairs, which offer fantastic access around the reservoir but also ensure those with less mobility can get close to nature. Keep an eye out for the wildlife, including waterfowl and mallards on the water or look up for the buzzards. Pack your own lunch and set up a picnic in this quiet pocket of nature in this secret gem in the heart of North Devon.
Malmsmead and the Doone Valley
We know what everyone will say about the Doone Valley – isn’t it in Somerset? Well yes, and no. The tiny hamlet of Malmsmead is right on the border, and when you’re exploring the Doone Valley in the heart of Exmoor (the hamlet is about 4 miles from Lynmouth) who really cares which county you’re in. There’s a river that runs through the valley that divides the counties, stay on the left side and you’ll stay in Devon.
Doone Valley is a hidden gem because of how remote it is, and if you want a true taste of life on Exmoor, this is the area to visit, away from the more tourist focused Lynton and Lynmouth.
For a day’s visit, Malmsmead has facilities including tea rooms, a gift shop, toilets and a car park. There’s also the picturesque bridge and Ford, pictured above. From there you gain access to the beautiful valley with a variety of walks around the moorland. There are also connections to many of the places found within the novel Lorna Doone such as the medieval village at Hoccombe Combe and the water slide at Lank Combe.
For those who want to stay longer, there are a number of campsites in the area. Aside from Malmsmead and the handful of campsites, you’ll find the area quiet and remote – the perfect place to escape and forget the world as you hike around the countryside.
Mad Henry’s Vintage Tea Room
IMAGE, Mad Henry’s, as shown on their website: madhenrys.co.uk
Blink and you’ll miss it, because this cafe looks like a house and really is a local secret…so shhh.
Open since 2015, Mad Henry’s Tea Room is located on the River Torridge in Bideford and is only open over the weekend so booking in advance is a must. The views are simply wonderful, the best place to sit and enjoy afternoon tea, scones, cakes and drinks with views over the water. It really is picture perfect.
Likewise, the food is of the highest quality, and consists of Afternoon Tea followed by an evening Dinner Menu.
There’s not much more to add really – if you love cream tea in a location that needs to be seen to be believed, check out Mad Henry’s, but don’t tell anyone else.