Sheep and beaches abound in this southern corner of the UK
Probably best known for its award-winning coastline and AONBs, North Devon is ideal for outdoorsy types – some of the country’s best surfing spots can be found here, as well as stunning moors and family-friendly attractions. Main town Barnstaple is under two hours away from Bristol making the area a perfect half-term destination.
The beautiful Hartland Quay is one for the geologists and geo-philes – jagged rocks jut out from the cliffs revealing dramatic patterns and layer forms that are endlessly fascinating. Woolacombe, Croyde and Saunton are more sandy affairs, but will be slightly less than preferable if the storms continue unless you’re in the market for an free facial scrub. On a calm day these beaches are great for long, meandering dog walks broken up by cream tea stops.
North Devon’s towns and hamlets are well worth visiting if only for their names – Woolfardisworthy and Westward Ho! should surely be at the top of your list. The village of Clovelly is famed for its wattle and daub cottages and cobbled main street that’s too steep for wheeled traffic – goods are transported by sledges pulled by donkeys.
North Devon is home to the stocky Exmoor ponies – the endangered breed has possibly wandered Britain for 10,000 years and these days can be found in the wild on Exmoor. This national park is easily reachable from South Molton, Barnstaple and Tiverton and its coastal paths and hills offer amazing views of the rugged landscape. The Tarka Trail is a traffic-free cycling path that stretches all the way from Braunton to Meeth along disused railway routes and is ideal for family days out – rent some tandem bicycles for extra fun.
Ten miles outside Barnstaple is The Big Sheep, a sheep-farm-turned-attraction complete with sheep-shearing shows, an on-site brewery, laser tag, horse whispering, ball pits and Devon’s largest rollercoaster. Just down the road is Devon’s Best Large Attraction winner, The Milky Way Adventure Park, with outdoor rides, indoor dodgems and special half-term events.
Thrill seekers should definitely get out on the waves with a surf school or just practise some strokes in the February sea – the smug sense of achievement will make the pain worth it.