Visiting North Devon – a guide to visiting the best villages and towns in this area

We've written lots of guides about Devon because we love the county, and our guides cover many of the towns in the county such as Sidmouth and Paignton, as well as the Exe Estuary Trail.

The North of Devon is where many of the best beaches are, as well as some really lovely towns and villages. We wanted to highlight this part of the county for anyone planning to visit this area specifically, let's get into it:


Braunton is often described as the largest village in England, and although it's a village and one of the smallest locations in the North of Devon, we still think it's really worth visiting. It's a mecca for surfers and is also home to the excellent Museum of British Surfing. We have an entire guide about Braunton here.

Croyde Bay

Croyde Bay in the North of Devon is considered to be one of the best places to surf in the entire UK, but even if you're not into surfing it is still worth visiting this beach, as well as the village of Croyde which has a number of excellent cafes and restaurants. We have an entire guide about Croyde here.

Ruby Country

The North of Devon isn't just beaches and sea - the Ruby Country part of North Devon has beautiful green scenery and includes the towns of Holsworthy and Hatherleigh. We have an entire guide about this area here.


Woolacombe has one of the best beaches in the UK, and that's not just our opinion either - the beach has won numerous awards over the years, including being listed as the 20th best beach in the world by Tripadvisor. It really is special, and what always amazes us is how clean and well-kept it is. It's great for everything from relaxing to surfing, and dogs are welcome in certain areas of the beach. Aside from the main beach, Woolacombe also has a great number of other beaches including Barricane Beach and Grunta Beach. Overall, if you're looking for an ideal place for a beach day, Woolacombe is about as good as it gets. Learn more about the town here -


Barnstaple is home to Exmoor Zoo which features an amazing variety of animals, with everything from Howler monkeys to Cheetahs. We also love the clocktower in the town (pictured), which dates back to the late 19th century and is Grade II listed. Learn more about Barnstaple here -


If you like to be next to water then Bideford is well worth a visit - it's a port town which is based on the estuary of the River Torridge. The quay here is stunning and it's a great place for shopping as you've got both the Pannier Market and the Atlantic Village outlet. If you've got kids with you then the award-winning Milky Way Adventure Park is an excellent place to visit and will keep them entertained for hours. Learn more about Bideford here -


Clovelly is a very interesting little fishing village which is privately owned, and which was once owned by the Queen of England. Because it's privately owned, you actually have to pay to enter Clovelly. But it's only a small cost and you'll be glad to know that the money goes towards the upkeep and maintenance of the village. The village has no vehicular access for visitors and so you'll likely be surprised by how peaceful and calm it feels in Clovelly. If you do one thing during your time in Clovelly, make sure you visit Clovelly Court Gardens - these Victorian kitchen gardens are stunning. Learn more here -


The Hartland Peninsula area of North Devon is our favourite part of the South West Coast Path, and is known for having a series of dramatic and beautiful cliffs which are a joy to walk along. The cliffs at Hartland Quay are especially impressive - they've been shaped by wave erosion and are very beautiful. In fact, you might recognise them from the recent 'House of the Dragons' tv series. While you're in Hartland Quay, take time to visit the very interesting Hartland Quay Museum (based within the Hartland Quay Hotel), which provides information about the area and provides incredible insight into shipwrecks that took place at Hartland Quay. Find out more about this area here -

Westward Ho!

Although the name 'Westward Ho!' makes this place sound like it could be an adventure park, it's actually a lovely little village which is just a stone's throw from Bideford. The seafront here is lovely as it has a good mix of sand, pebbles, and grassy areas, so it's ideal for a range of activities. It's also the only town in the UK to have an exclamation mark as part of its name. If you like old-fashioned British seaside locations then you'll enjoy the arcades and tidal lido in Westward Ho!, as well as the Go-Kart Track. Learn more about the village here -


This village at the mouth of the River Torridge is a great little place to stop at if you're travelling between Bideford and Barnstaple. You'll find the North Devon Maritime Museum in Appledore, which is a nice place to visit if you want to learn more about the village and the surrounding area. We love walking alongside the colourful houses in Appledore, as shown in this picture. Learn more about Appledore here -


Exmoor straddles both the West of Somerset and the North of Devon, but it's definitely worthy of a mention in this guide. Exmoor National Park is actually one of the UK's smallest National Parks, but you'll still find lots of natural beauty and stunning scenery there. Dunkery Beacon is the highest point of the national park at 519 metres, and from here you can enjoy amazing views of the surrounding area. Learn more about Exmoor here -

Great Torrington

Most of the villages and towns that we've mentioned so far have been based on the seaside, but Great Torrington is inland and offers a totally different experience to the seaside parts of North Devon. Instead of sea views, you can enjoy stunning countryside scenery from Great Torrington thanks to the hilltop position that the town has. Great Torrington is also excellent for shopping, and you'll find a number of great independent shops in the town, as well as lovely places to eat or grab a drink. Learn more about the town here -


If you get the chance to visit Ilfracombe during your time in North Devon then you really must. The harbour in the town is really special and beautiful, and there are regular trips to Lundy Island which can be taken from the harbour. You'll also find lots of restaurants and cafes around the quay which are great to sit in on a sunny day. Our favourite part of Ilfracombe is Tunnels Beaches, the private beach area which is accessed via hand-carved tunnels. It'll cost you a few pounds to access the beach, but so worth it in our opinion. Learn more about Ilfracombe here -
We hope this guide inspires you to visit North Devon! If you want to learn more about locations in Devon, we have guides about Bantham Beach and Totnes.

Finn is the editor of You Well and has been writing about travel, health, and more for over 10 years.

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