Things to do in North Devon
There is an abundance of things to do in North Devon, throughout the year.
Whether you are in the area for a day, are looking for holiday inspiration, or are planning on staying at the Calvert Trust Exmoor centre for a residential activity break, browse our guide about what to do in North Devon and Exmoor.
Exmoor National Park
Exmoor National Park is a stunning place to spend time. The picturesque landscape consists of rolling moorland and wooded areas, home of roaming ponies, Red Deer and postcard-worthy beauty spots.
Exmoor is one of the smallest national parks in the UK, so the area is easy to explore in a short time on foot and by car.
Whilst exploring, it is likely Exmoor ponies will make an appearance. These adorable and distinctive animals are endangered, so they are well looked after despite roaming free. Ponies can be seen on the moors, often crossing the roads as they please.
We recommend visiting these places to experience what Exmoor has to offer…
Right beside the Calvert Trust Exmoor centre, Wistlandpound Reservoir may be just outside the national park, but it is a popular attraction for those who enjoy walking through nature. The accessible paths zig-zag their way around the water and through woods. Whatever the time of year or weather, this is a beautiful place to escape the real world for a few hours.
In the middle of a valley, lies a historic clapper bridge – made of large stone slabs and boulders. At 55 meters long, Tarr Steps is the longest bridge of its type in Britain, possibly dating back to the Bronze Age. The bridge forms a part of a short circular walk through the wooded valley and along the riverbanks. It’s a popular location and walking across the bridge is a must-do. Technically Tarr Steps is in Somerset, but it’s not far from North Devon so we’ll include in our list of things to do.
Similar to Tarr Steps, Watersmeet is a place to see rapid rivers at the bottom of a valley. Named due to its location where two rivers meet, there are waterfalls and paths along the sides of the river, plus routes around the surrounding area. The river is home to otters and salmon, or look inland for Red Deer, herons, wood warblers and jays. There is also a National Trust tearoom, providing a place to relax amongst the surrounding nature.
Valley of Rocks
Found near the village of Lynton along the Exmoor coastline, the Valley of Rocks is a well-known tourist destination for families and walkers who enjoy the stunning views. The dry valley is home of feral goats that roam the steep hills and the stone towers that rise sharply into the sky. Paths loop around the area, providing views of the sea and cliffs that make for stunning photographs.
Great Hangman – England’s highest cliff
Found near Combe Martin in North Devon, the highest cliff in England is in Exmoor. Combe Martin is a good place to park (just 10 minutes from Calvert Trust Exmoor) before walking along the coast and up to the height of 1,044 feet. The views of the surrounding moors and cliffs are worth the hike up the sometimes tricky incline.
The highest point on Exmoor and the second-highest point in southern England, Dunkery Beacon is 1,704 feet above sea level. On a sunny day, it’s possible to see the Bristol and English Channels, the Brecon Beacons in Wales, Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, Dartmoor in Devon and even Cleeve Hill which is nearly 90 miles away in Gloucestershire. The beacon is found in the remote heart of Exmoor, surrounded by barren but beautiful moors – luckily the car park is just half a mile away from the peak.
Popular North Devon Tourist Attractions
North Devon is home to many family-friendly attractions, which are perfect for quick visits or complete days out.
Here are some top North Devon places that are worth a visit…
Quince Honey Farm
The home of honey and bees, Quince Honey Farm is 20 minutes from the Calvert Trust Exmoor centre, in South Molton. This small and quaint family attraction provides beekeeping courses and experiences, guide tours, honey tasting, candle rolling, critter encounters for children and more. There’s also a play area and a restaurant to round your visit off.
This conservation zoo is home to a range of animals such as wolves, cheetahs, African wild dogs, bugs and snakes, monkeys, kangaroos, and many varieties of cats including the famous ‘Exmoor Beast’ – black leopards!
Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park
Another family-friendly zoo, with the added twist of electronic dinosaurs. There is also an indoor soft play area for younger children. Animals include lions, penguins, sea lions (who do daily shows), wolves, monkeys, Amur Leopards and more.
Arlington Court is a National Trust property with a historic house, formal gardens, a carriage museum and acres of land to explore. The grounds are open all year round for walkers, with paths that go through forests, past lakes, and around fields where deer are known to forage.
The Big Sheep and The Milky Way Adventure Parks
These two theme-park type attractions are each a day out for all ages. They both have indoor and outdoor play areas, rides, live shows, games, and all-round family entertainment.
A visit to The Big Sheep includes cuddly animals and fun sheep racing!
Whilst The Milky Way has a space theme with bumper cars and a new ninja family area.
The village of Clovelly is unique, as it’s a working fishing village with no cars and historic cobbled streets that tumble down the hill to the harbour. A trip here starts at the visitor centre, before walking through time down the main path, past old houses, shops and museums to the sea below. Donkeys once pulled carts up the hill, but these days the donkeys enjoy the easy life, living in the stables and meeting passers-by.
Marwood Hill Garden – Tucked away in a quiet valley near Barnstaple, the 20-acre garden at Marwood is made up of three ponds surrounded by a collection of plants and trees, a lovely haven to relax and enjoy nature.
RHS Rosemoor – Just outside Torrington is the RHS Garden Rosemoor, a year-round attraction for the whole family. There are beautiful formal and informal flowerbeds and plantings, separated into many different gardens, alongside woodlands and meadows.
Castle Hill Gardens – Home to the 15th generation of the same family, Castle Hill is a grand building that dominates the hill it sits on. The 50 acres of gardens and parklands that surround it are open to the public, made up of woodland and formal gardens brought together by the family since 1730.
Towns and Villages to Explore and Shop
From small and quaint villages to large bustling towns, you’ll find a friendly place to spend time wherever you go in North Devon. We’ve listed just a few of the most popular here, but there are many more to be found, and some hidden gems tucked away…
Lynton and Lynmouth – Lynton is perched at the top of a hill whilst Lynmouth sits below at the bottom, connected by a 130-year-old Cliff Railway – the world’s highest and steepest water-powered railway. Lynmouth has a stone beach with a dramatic coastline and seaside town feel.
South Molton – known as the gateway to Exmoor, South Molton is a small and historic market town.
Barnstaple – the unofficial ‘capital’ of North Devon, Barnstaple is the place to shop popular high-street brands and independent retailers.
Ilfracombe and Verity – the seaside town of Ilfracombe has a little bit of everything; shops and restaurants, family attractions, striking coastal views, rock pools and beaches. The picturesque harbour is the focal point of the town, where a historical chapel overlooks the modern statue of Verity by Damien Hurst – the second tallest statue in the UK.
The North Devon beaches are always worth a visit, at whatever time of year. They are popular because of good surf, long golden sandy beaches and the stunning surrounding countryside. Some dominate the landscape. Whilst others are small, secret and hidden away.
Looking for a long sunny day on the beach? Or want to blow the cobwebs away with a walk by the sea during the winter months? These are some of the beaches you could visit…
Saunton Sands is a classic beach, with three and a half miles of sand that disappear into the distance, blue seas and dramatic dunes. Facilities include a large car park, café and beach shop for a full day out. Lifeguards are on duty for most of the year, making it a safe place to swim, surf or play on the beach.
Woolacombe beach is multi-award winning. Like Saunton Sands, there is a long expanse of sand and sea, with lifeguards, shops and facilities. The beach is backed by the village of Woolacombe, which has additional shops and restaurants.
Again, Croyde is a sandy beach, popular with surfers and sunbathers alike. This beach is perfect for rock-pooling as it’s set in a small bay, with rocks on either side of the sand. Facilities are on site, with lifeguards in summer. Croyde village is nearby, with coastal walks to the village and around the bay.
Now for something different. Broad Sands is not a large and well-known beach, it’s a secret gem that many locals wish to keep to themselves. Broad Sands is a small cove hidden on the coast of Exmoor, and it’s an adventure to get to. It’s not reachable by road, but by parking at the top of the cliff and taking a path and 200 steps down to the sand. The path goes through woods and offers spectacular views. Once at the sand, the beach is quiet, remote, picturesque, and perfect for a swim.
Ilfracombe Tunnels Beaches
Found in the town of Ilfracombe, the Tunnels Beaches are unique. Originally a historic Victoria bathing bath, the shingle beach has a ringed rock formation that creates a natural swimming pool, with the rocks separating the still water from the sea. To get to the beach requires walking through the cliff, using the large hand-carved tunnel. The pool is a calm place to swim. Tunnels Beaches has Blue Flag beach status and the Quality Coast Award. There is also a lifeguard on duty, and it’s been listed as the safest beach in North Devon.
We’ve summarised just some of the many things to do in North Devon, there are plenty more places and attractions to be discovered.
If you would like to visit and need accessible accommodation in North Devon, enjoy an activity break at Calvert Trust Exmoor. Stay for a weekend, Monday to Friday, or for seven days and you’ll have time to visit some of the places we’ve mentioned, in between doing exciting activities.
Phone 01598 763221 for more details and to book. We look forward to welcoming you in for a North Devon break soon.